Instruction n Sex SIR' The debate between Fr. McGoldrick and Miss Barclay prompts me to remember my own boyhood of not so very long ago. The memory may serve as a warning to parents who have children at boarding schools and to those who teach there.
I entered a famous seminary at an early age and remained there for many years. Not until 1 was 18 did I receive any instruction on the reproductive functions, the nearest approach being an occasional public spiritual talk devoted to "purity" which got no nearer to the subject than the words "certain parts of the body".
Boys being what boys are. I was not the only one to imagine that they were the parts provided by nature as a target for an instrument of corporal punishment!
My parents, I suppose, who saw me but rarely, would expect that the seminary would provide suitable instruction at the right stage of my development, so I had no guidance from them either. I need not stress what is well-known to the theologians: the mental and moral distress arising from wholesale misconception of what is sin and what is not.
Suffice it to say that it is incredible that a boy of 15 or 16 (and a seminarist at that) should be praying for purity. addressing Our Lady as "Purest of Creatures" and St. Joseph as her "chaste spouse", and should have gained a Religious School Certificate with an utterly warped notion of what purity and chastity are. Incredible, but true.
That my experience was not unique has been confirmed by subsequent conversations with my contemporaries, many of them now excellent priests. Some, I think, suffered even more. For all I know, the situation is the same today.
The moral of this may be that in a boarding school the teacher has a special responsibility in these matters, for the parents may imagine that the teacher will be able and ready to seize the opportunity which the parent so rarely has.