A Tale of Two Worldviews

One of the most disturbing news items of the past week was the decision of a middle school in Maine to make birth control pills available to its students, which mostly are 11-13 years old. While students need permission to use the school’s health center, the treatment received there is confidential. Therefore, students and health care providers are not even required to inform the parents about the contraceptive services provided at the school, let alone obtain parental consent.

This decision, fueled by a number of unwanted pregnancies in the school, has justifiably been criticized by parents and Church officials alike. Bishop Richard Malone of Portland, Maine called the decision tragic, and expressed “outrage and disbelief” as he called for the school to rescind its decision.

Perhaps one of the more predictable yet still exasperating statements in favor the school’s decision came from this supporter: “This isn’t encouraging kids to have sex. This is about the kids who are engaging in sexual activity.” This is like saying that handing out bullet-proof vests to students in a gang-invested area isn’t encouraging a gunfight. This supporter is either criminally naive or more likely a faithful foot soldier of the “sexual left,” which is hell-bent on undermining traditional sexual morality.

It’s really a tale of two worldviews. The school’s decision, while limited to a little corner of the United States, is symptomatic of today’s secularist worldview. This worldview is telling our youth that they are disposable, that they’re junk. Many of their potential classmates have already been legally killed in the womb, and the rest are valued by what they do or contribute, and not for who they are. We want only the “perfect kids” who look like Barbie dolls or who have Arnold Schwartzenegger’s muscles or Albert Einstein’s intelligence.

In the context of sexuality, they’re mere animals who can’t be expected to exercise self-control, so we cross our fingers and hope at least they’re “safe” even as the sexologists do all they can to destroy their innocence and get them to “feel comfortable” with their sexuality. They’re machines with interchangeable parts that can be cut off, mutilated, adorned, or surgically altered on a whim. When they’re an old dog or their machine-like body gives out, they shouldn’t expect anything from the secularists but a lethal injection.

I could go on, but the point is that our society doesn’t think much of our youth. Whether we acknowledge it or not, they’re under siege.

But there’s another worldview. It’s the perennial Christian worldview, but it has been articulated with particular poignancy and urgency by Pope John Paul II for the past quarter century, especially in his magnificent “theology of the body.”

The Church’s message–good news–is that our children are masterpieces. They have the spark of the divine in them. They have God-given dignity, which entails both rights and responsibilities. They have been entrusted with dominion over our world. They have been called to a sublime vocation in Christ as God’s own children by adoption. Making the Lord’s words his own, Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict calls our youth to cast out into the deep, to step out bravely in faith. The Church exhorts our youth not to be afraid, but to understand that giving our lives to Christ is not only radical, but eminently practical if we want life in abundance.

Children need formation and guidance, not condoms and pills. As Bishop Malone points out, the school’s decision “communicates to young people that adults have given up on forming them in virtues like chastity.” Rather than just give up because of relentless societal pressure, we should redouble our efforts to safeguard our children’s spiritual and sexual development. The parents have a huge responsibility here. We must recognize the universal tendency to become unchaste, and yet at the same time affirm our youth’s ability, with God’s grace, to choose to be chaste. After all, human nature has been wounded by sin, but it hasn’t been completely obliterated such that all we can do is wave a white flag.

The young person must not only learn to fight temptation, but also to nurture a life of prayer that will allow him or her to receive the grace of purity. That’s not happening at public school, but it must happen at home.

For the Church’s teaching on authentic chastity education, check out these Faith Facts by Catholics United for the Faith:



16 responses

  1. Leon is right that our youth are under siege.

    I find it absolutely frightening that any parents would feel comfortable having their eleven-year-old daughter exposed to the perils of birth control pills, even if they deny the other dangers and psychologically detrimental effects of sexual activity at such a young age. Many adult women who have no moral objection to birth control will not use pills because of the risks and dangers. Eleven-year-olds are not equipped to make such judgments. Our youth deserve more from their parents.

  2. Let’s face it, the first worldview reflects the newest man-made religion, just as the second one reflects the worldview of the Creator. The “secular humanism” you expose here is so pathetic in it’s perception of the human being – as you put it “animalistic” and “mechanical,” incapable of reasoning, of exercising virtue, of life to the fullest. This worldview is the “culture of death,” couched in the language of moral relativism: sensitive and meaningful in encouraging one to be enslaved by one’s own passion. Yes this leads to the destruction of the aged and handicapped as well. What would one expect of those who defend both the slaughter of innocent pre-born and the total corruption of those who survived that holocaust?

  3. From its very beginnings CUF had noted the destructive influence of the amoral sex education that had won its way into public schools, and even into parochial schools, Catholic universities and colleges (remember all those “Sexuality workshops”?) , and even into Catholic seminaries where porno-theologians (following in the wake of
    Charles E. Curran) who had been assaulting Humanae Vitae had entrenched themnselves. The clerical paedophilia-sex scandals were but the logical consequence of the book “Human Sexuality” promoting the New Morality which had received the approval -no less-of the Catholic Theological Society of America! After many years the Vatican Pontifical Council for the Family issued its magnificent document “The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality” (January 1996) to support that Education in Chastity desired by CUF and many other parental groups to be implemented by parents and in parishes and all other agencies involved in the moral formation and religious education of children and youth. Unfortunately, secular humanism and its sexual immoralism has well nigh triumphed in our society, with the Church and its morality in retreat before the battering ram of contemporary Media. There is desperate need for the Church’s teaching on morality -if it is to once again find appreciable impact on the souls of today’s “moderns” –to be reinforced by the ending of silence in pulpits and religious education programs about the “Last Four Things”- and namely a much needed emphasis on the eternal consequence for the serious sins of sexual immorality- namely Hell. In too much “Chastity Education” going on in parishes and Catholic schools is bound to be ineffective where there is an excessive Pelagian orientation (sex is good, sex is wonderful, sex is holy- grace is not necessary); and where the force of sexual concupiscence in fallen human nature is ignored. as is the malice of sin and the eternal consequence of dying in mortal sin, namely the loss of salvation and eternity in Hell. Much of what passes for “Theology” or even the “Theology of the Body” (I am thinking of Pam Stenzel and Christopher West) today ignores traditional Catholic Eschatology and this proves to be particularly dangerouos in the treatment of sexuality.

  4. Sex is sacred, there is no question on this matter. Yes, Maine is a small section of the USA, but isn’t obvious that our Lord calls for us to pray for those involved, the seven who voted to provide the pill, the parents of the children attending the school, and of course the children. I ask anyone who reads my response to pray a Holy Rosary for this intention. I have to believe that thru prayer and the sacraments, our Lord will guide us especially the fathers of earthly families to lead our individual families to holiness. One family at a time, and by doing this, He will build holy communities one at a time etc. The toughest criticism is self criticism. I am not sure how much I can do from Kansas City regarding Maine, but I know I can, at the very least is pray for the renewal of that school, it members and again especially the children. And of course then go about leading my family with all of my faults to follow the path our Lord as laid out for them. For this I ask you to keep me in your prayers too!

    God Bless,

    Greg Sanchez

  5. What is really sad is the fact that parents are responsible for everying that happens to a minor, but has no right to know if they are taking pills, having abortions, or doing other medically unsound activities due to the laws regarding privacy…

  6. I do not think Christopher West denies the necessity of grace to restore the divine life of sanctifying grace in the soul or to maintain the virtue of purity. Judging by his EWTN appearances, his is more a theoretical adherence while in practice the emphasis on grace is submerged by an essentially naturalistic approach to human sexuality which results in a coarse irreverence towards the sexual sphere.Largely absent is a sense of the delicacy with which the sexual sphere must be approached and a needed sensitivity to the reality of the force of sexual concupiscence inclining one to sexual sin. The result is the crude, sometimes street language he does not hesitate to use and a diminishing of the malice of sin itself which is simply not communicated well to his audiences. The temporal physical misfortunes and ruining of “relationships” accruing to those misuing sex are highlighted but the eternal consequences of impurity are glossed over. This is not surprising among sex educators contaminated by secular humanism but it is surprising among those who pretend to be implementing Pope John PauL II’s “Theology of the Body” with its strong defense of moral norms and the need to take strong measures for the salvation of one’s soul.
    CUF is to be commended for its intrepid defense of parental rights in both religious education and sex education which, alas, has been betrayed by all too many parents themselves.

  7. Jim,

    Here is my two cents on this:

    Theology of the body by its very nature takes an approach to human sexuality that could be off-putting to an older and/or more traditional crowd, especially when that crowd has also seen the devastating effects of the “sexual revolution,” classroom sex education, etc. in recent decades. The Pope can get away with that, especially since his presentation was on a headier, more philosophical plane. But guys like Christopher West and Jason Evert who try to break all this down for young people are natural “targets” of criticism, deserved or not.

    I don’t consider myself an expert on the theology of the body (frankly, I think God was having an off day when He made my body anyway!), but I’ve tried to steer a middle ground in all this. The “theology of the body” is truly capturing the imagination of people, including youth, Protestants, etc. And Christopher West has probably done more to get this teaching out to people than anybody, and he’s done an enormous amount of good.

    At the same time, he can be deliberately provocative, and he’s not afraid to address the audience at their level. Sadly, he has to get down in the muck to speak to today’s youth. And he has something of a celebrity persona on top of it, which gets thrown into the mix. So, I would agree that sometimes more decorum and modesty would be in order. Also, some of his teaching (at least earlier teaching) was soft on the effect of concupiscence in terms of mastering our sexual urges. And clearly when he speaks to youth he needs to be more mindful of the Church’s pedagogy when it comes to this sort of subject matter.

    Unfortunately, in too many people’s minds, Christopher West is synonymous with “theology of the body.” That’s why we ran a phenomenal series by Dr. Ted Sri on this subject in Lay Witness (www.cuf.org), which happened to be one of the most popular series we ever published. I think what West does is important, but let’s hear from others, and let JPII be our principal teacher in all this.

    At the same time, I’ve tried to guide our younger members, who rightly love theology of the body, and who think Christopher West is the best thing since sliced bread. They think older CUF members who are concerned about West are from another planet. While we reject those “critiques” that are uninformed, overstated, uncharitable, and/or otherwise unhelpful, I think at least some criticisms of West along the lines you set forth are valid. It’s just that right now we’re in a war zone, and his MASH unit (i.e., his theology of the body presentation) is rescuing many people, so I wouldn’t criticize him too severely for not being a better surgeon. But if we can build better MASH units/hospitals, let’s do it.

  8. Dear Leon,

    Two years ago, on a trip to Australia, I was “introduced” the the writings and commentary of Christopher West. A young couple was quite concerned about his work. After reviewing some of that information, I must say I was APPALLED by hearing (on his introductory CD’s) the use of the words “crap” and “crapola”, both words of which I’m sure John Paul II would not be in agreement! You may think Christopher West needs to get into the mud to reach the young, but I disagree with you. To lift one UP, you don’t lower yourself or your principles and standards! You know, Leon, when one gets in the mud with the pigs, one ALWAYS comes out dirty! Chastity of mind (thoughts and words!), purity of heart (to be like Jesus), and modesty of body and soul (like Our Lady) is what Christ asks of us. As with most of these kinds of programs, too much emphasis is actually being placed on the body!Christopher West is just the latest sex-ed guru, who is being promoted as one who truly loves and cherishes the Catholic Church. Yet, I find him to be a DECEIVER, LIAR, and a PHONY! (I’m in that “old-age” bracket, of course, so I suppose that will discredit me, even though I do know what the Church believes and teaches.) Innocence and purity are not only lost on the young, but can also be lost on the elderly. Mr. West has spoken all over the world. Wow! Does anyone know if he has been asked to return? A few years ago he was a featured speaker at a Catholic seminary in Melbourne, and because his “presentation” was “over the top” (according to an Australian priest who holds a Doctorate in Moral Theology), he was NOT invited back! Other Australian priests have said he was “obsessed” with sex, and a “problem” when he was “down under”. (Their words, not mine!) Is sodomy a sin in the Roman Catholic Church? My American Heritage College Dictionary (2000) defines sodomy as: 1. Anal copulation of one male with another. 2. Anal or oral copulation with a member of the opposite sex. 3. Copulation with an animal. [Also know as beastiality.] Is this what the Church teaches? Is this what the Church believes? Yes! However, Christopher West seems to have a problem with an outright condemnation of sodomy, acts which I find repulsive. I cannot imagine any woman, other than perhaps a prostitute, being subjected to this kind of behavior (as defined in my dictionary), much less in a “loving” relationship in marriage! This is an OUTRAGE! (See “Good News About Sex and Marriage”, pages 92-94, Servant Publications, 2000.) Mr West states: “…there are many troubled consciences out there looking for sound guidance on this issue.” How profound! Why are their consciences “troubled”? That could be a good sign! Mr. West believes there is “nothing wrong per se with oral stimulation of the genitals as foreplay to intercourse.” It is my opinion that it is just one instance where he lies and deceives. As to an explanation of anal sex, Mr. West writes: “Again, it depends what you mean by the term.” Huh? Who does he expect to define the term? Me? You? The dictionary? The Catholic Church? He writes about health risks for couples engaging in anal intercourse, as if that is the only reason not to engage in this filthy and perverted act! I assure you, the risks to one’s soul, because of the sin of sodomy, would be more alarming to me, and should be to all Catholics! Anal and oral sex copulation cannot, in any way, promote purity or chastity in a marriage (much less without benefit of marriage). These are immoral and often violent acts, and only bring a woman down–literally and figuratively–to the basest of human behaviors. Are we not ALL to be like little, innnocent children? How does one remain innocent, when people like Christopher West can deceive and lie to the very Catholics who should be chaste, pure, and modest–not only in their demeanor, but also in their speech? He fails these young people on so many levels, but, Satan knows who is with him and who is against him, and how to use us for his destruction of souls…

  9. It is truly sad to read that you are willing to accept Christopher West’s bawdy interpretations of the Church’s teaching on human sexuality, The fact that younger CuF members think that older people are from “another planet” who are concerned about Christopher West, gives no legitimacy at all to West, but speaks volumes about their level of understanding as to what the Church means by the sacredness of human sexuality. But West’s approach is not new. Others preceded him, with what they thought was a “cool” and “with it” style. After twenty some years of “chastity education” employing their demeaning and irreverent style, the “educators” have produced from the sale of their classroom instructions, CDs, tapes, presentations and conferences, mostly “war zone” wounded souls, somehow in need of “rescuing” by Christopher West’s even more crass and vulgar presentations on a papal document. Somehow, I can’t imagine John Paul II or any other pope, from what I’ve read, looking kindly on the trashing of their teachings, in their names.

  10. Regarding the distribution of contraceptives to children:

    Giving contraceptives to kids is not about making them feel more comfortable about having sex. It is about making their parents, teachers, and the rest of us adults feel more comfortable about them having sex.


  11. Good point, Will. It also is about parents, teachers, and the rest of us adults resigning ourselves to the fact that they’re going to have sex anyway, that we’re unable to communicate to them in a compelling fashion the Church’s traditional moral teaching. I for one am not about to throw in the sponge on this.

  12. Leon’s right, but I think there is more to it. At some level, I think that society wants to sexualize their children at an increasingly younger age in order to support their own (adults’) “right” to completely unfettered sexual expression.

    I think that this is the unspoken reason, going all the way back to Griswold. Debates about who should have what contraception are not about the welfare or rights of the contraceptors, rather, they are about the “rights” of the rest of society to have sex with whomever, whenever, and however they desire. Sex without the naturally arising consequence (pregnancy) is “free.” (So free, in fact, as to be rendered cheap.) And the only way to overcome the natural repugnance to this sort of behavior is for society to render all sex meaningless.

    Thus, to be true to this demonic creed necessitates the providing of contraceptives to children, because, hey, it’s not like it means anything anyway.


  13. Regarding the comments by Nancy and Sarah, I received an email today from a colleague who has done graduate work in this field. Here are his comments, which seemed on the mark to me:

    “I’ve heard that some people are put off by West’s frank or ‘bawdy’ treatment of sexual subjects, but I’ve found such objections either to be (a) split across generational lines, or (b) part of a larger war over sex and Church teaching between two camps I’ll call the ‘personalists’ and the ‘teleologists.’ The former draw from the language of Humanae Vitae and JPII’s philosophy, whereas the latter prefer older arguments, based on the God-designed purposes of bodily organs, and a more censorious approach to sex (and sex-talk). Your blog respondent who called West a ‘deceiver’ for stating that oral genital stimulation prior to intercourse is licit, certainly comes from the second camp.

    “I’m pretty neutral on West, myself. I think he does a lot of good for many people, but that he may go overboard at times in his attempts at popularization. (I’m also probably a tad jealous of his success. . . .)

    “For what it’s worth, I spent several years in a diocesan family life office, putting on workshops for engaged couples and trying to explain the Church’s sexual-moral teachings to them. In that experience I found that the ‘personalist’ approach found more traction with people.”

    It’s admittedly a tough balance. The permissive agenda of the “sexual left” (described very well by Will and also in Dale O’Leary’s new book that I’ve been promoting of late) could easily produce a reaction that comes off as repressive to today’s youth, thus giving renewed momentum to the common misconception that the Church thinks sex is “dirty” or “sinful.” JPII’s genius comes through in a singular way in his “theology of the body” which I think provides a framework for a profound, God-centered understanding of human sexuality. Attempts to unpack this teaching for youth will likely meet with some difficulties, but I think we should understand that we’re talking here about something different in kind from the SIECUS-type sex ed indoctrination that has been going on now for decades.

    Speaking of the greater good (cf. The Incredibles), I was just called for dinner.

  14. Perhaps something more should be said about the “theology of the Bawdy” which certain cool sex educators engage in while attempting to reach “modern youth” in an attempt to convince them of the truth of the Church’s moral teachings. They do not hesitate to violate the virtues of modesty and reverence which Catholic catechesis seeks to strengthen in the human person. Modesty is not a generational matter and reverence is not inculcated by those who do not hesitate to impose sex education materials and their “sex talk” (or whole sex education programs) on youth or adults which are worldly and bawdy, as well as betraying a deplorable laxity with regards to this or that sexual sin. I think especially of Christopher West’s treatment of sodomy.
    It is interesting that some involved in “Family LIfe Education” so pride themselves on not having a “censorious approach to sex and sex talk” or being like those in the “Old Church” (i.e., oppressive, repressive, unduly restrictive). This is, of course, so reminiscent of what we Catholics have heard from Planned Parenthood spokesmen whose sex education programs without morals are in our public schools (and sad to say, without much of a peep from our Catholic clergy). It is similarly distressing that with regards to a “God-centered understanding of human sexuality” being promoted by certain so-called proponents of Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body”. we see Modesty and Reverence given mere lip-service. Is it possible that such efforts by such cool, fast-talking salesmen of the “theology of the Bawdy” are involved in but another false pastoral approach to the serious problem of how best to communicate to youth and young couples the Church’s Education in Chastity ?
    A recent writer has noted : “Contrary to what many adults believe, young people today want challenges. When asked why she had chosen her particular path, Mother Teresa famously replied, ‘I wanted a hard life’…God arguably granted her request. Many young people I know also want physical, mental, and spiritual challenges. Instead our society [and I would add some in the Church] gives them condoms,pills, drugs and electronic toys. Our own candidates for Confirmation should want to know God and how to live a life of holiness, and what do we offer in return? Rock-music retreats, balloons, goofball games, and sappy religion textbooks. Will none of our religious educators ever understand how much young people despise this sort of trash.”
    One could add that in dealing with the understanding of human sexuality, the at-times one-sided focus by certain Pelagian distorters of the “Theology of the Body” on the goodness of sex and the goodness and beauty of the body,the holiness and sacrality of sex,and with endless repetition of the mantras: “sex is natural”, “since Creation is holy, sex is holy” –all this has led to a serious misunderstanding of Catholic teaching-namely,that sexuality in man and woman is not in need of redemption. The truth is that sexuality in itself is not holy. As Archbishop Robert J. Dwyer of Portland noted many years ago,”Sexuality is not holy. Macauley’s veriest school boy could tell you that, or could at least until the new theologians had finished brainwashing him. Sexuality is a natural function, neither holy or evil in itself. One might with equal justice say that breathing is holy, or eating cornflakes for breakfast is holy…Sexuality is a good; it was implanted in our nature for specific purposes, just as He endowed the human race with gifts of intellect and free will. There is nothing holy about these gifts; in themselves they are neutral. Sexuality may be made on instrument of God’s grace, as when it is used in conformity with His divine will, or it may also be an instrument of sin, when it is abused in defiance of that will.” This “modern gospel of Sexual Optimism” which ignores the grave wound on our nature left by the Original Sin of Adam and permits indulgence in sinful sexual pleasures {whether outside of marriage or in marriage) because such are “natural” and in the last analysis of no serious spiritual import is the hallmark of the hedonism that suffocates the religious life of many today. To conclude with Archbishop Dwyer :
    “For Pelagius, inasmuch as man, fresh from the hand of God, is innately good, and grace, being only the knowledge man has of Christ, is therefore only an auxiliary in the process of salvation, sexuality could very well be holy, since all creation is holy. When you erase the line between what is natural and what is supernatural, then natural goodness and holiness become interchangeable terms, or, more precisely, they lose their meaning altogether. It is this very failure to hold to this distinction which lies at the root of so much of the theological confusion of our day…So Pelagius lives again. Watch for him in the next theological treatise of article you read; the chances are you will meet him on page one, smiling and debonnaire as ever.”
    I see Pelagius’ enthusastic and infectious smile and laughter reflected in the faces of today’s apologists for a naturalistic “Theology of the Bawdy”.

  15. Suprisingly I actually agree with Jim on the theology. There is an eerie similarity between the arguments of Julian of Eclanum against Augustine circa 430 AD and the rhetoric of Christopher West against sexual Augustinianism today. Actually though I tend to give CW the benefit of the doubt as I see him more as a popular presenter than a theologian anyway. Similar defects could be found with any number of Catholic popularizers. And in this respect I agree with Leon–CW is doing alot to do what no one else has been able to do–popularize Church teachings in a very controversial area and against a strong cultural headwind. I doubt frankly that too many young adults are going to make the fine theological distinctions and in any event they’ll be plenty of time for others to fine tune the message. With Christopher West, its a little like the happiness of seeing a bear riding a bicycle–you dont care too much about technique–you’re just happy he can ride!!!!! Given where the Church is today in the US, CW is however imperfectly helping others to make sense of and live Church teachings–and for that we should be happy!!!

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