Smy letter of April 3, I did not for one moment mean IL, to suggest that the normal biology course should omit reference to animal reproduction. But I do assert that the Church teaches that public classes in the biology of animals are not the Way to give children their first knowledge of the sexual function in human beings.
When such knowledge can come, as in the case of country children, quite naturally and innocently from their own observation of nature without any guilty feelings being aroused it can be very helpful. It still needs putting into its religious and moral context.
But it is just shirking facts to imagine that sex in human beings can be explained for the first time It a class., hitherto ignorant, in the same matter-of-fact way that one might explain the circulation of the blood. "Teacher of Biology" can have no realisation at all of the appalling psychological-and spiritual-harm that is sometimes caused by indiscriminate classroom instruction in human sexual physiology.
Mere sex instruction, coupled with warnings about possible misuse is not a sufficient training in purity. Purity does not start from the physical concept of man. It is not just avoiding the wrong use of sex. It is one of the means by which we can glorify God by a right understanding and appreciation of the goodness and wholesomeness of His creation which leads us to want to fulfil His divine plan in our own lives
Let us teach "the facts of life" when and as the knowledge of them becomes necessary for this appreciation, hut always in the spirit of the BenedIcily:"Then they cried out upon all things the Lord had made to bless Him and praise Him and extol His name for ever."
Miss Barclay says: "Few parents today will want to use Our Lady's motherhood as the approach." I disagree completely. T know a community of nuns who run a large day grammar school for girls. Their pupils come from every social and educational stratum in a big city.
Some years ago they produced, for private circulation among the mothers of their girls, a series of booklets which adopted precisely this approach, and both mothers and girls have testified to its complete success and adequacy both from the spiritual and biological points of view.
Incidentally, this instruction, in which school and parents cooperate, precedes the normal treatment of animal reproduction in the biology course and has removed a certain amount of tension which had been noticed by mistresses before the scheme was in troduced. I only wish that more schools would help parents in this way.
As regards boys. like Miss Barclay I have spent a great number of years amongst them and the suggestions in my first letter for placing sex in its proper spiritual settin* were based on my own experience in dealing with this matter among boys who came to me for help. Boys seem to prefer a direct approach and the fact that this can be made by explaining the
meaning of something sacred gives an objective tone to the discussion and saves them any embarrassment.
Several other people were kind enough to write to me privately. One, a parent and a teacher, raises the point that many adultsalthough not, he says, children-will he scandalised at an explanation of fatherhood which begins by explaining the meaning of Our Lady's words: "How can that be. since I have no knowledge of man?"
I must confess that I cannot really understand this attitude. The Church in her liturgy on several occasions draws our attention to these very words, and presumably she wants her children to understand what they mean.
They are quoted in the revised catechism, an expeximental edition of whicb is in use in this archdiocese. How can we explain their meaning-which Our Lady obviously understood-without reference to the normal process of human conception?
A much more serious difficulty is raised by the same correspondent. "How can I (as a teacher in the classroom) deal with the sixth and ninth commandments?" I have no hesitation at all in saying that until personal, private instruction on the meaning of the virtue of purity has been given by the parents (or those they delegate) these commandments should not be dealt with in school.
The proper significance of the questions and answers in the revised catechism cannot properly be appreciated unless this preliminary private instruction has been taken care of. If this is not done, then I am afraid that we are back again with the old vague negative approach.
It is perhaps significant that the experimental edition of the revised catechism-although an enormous improvement on its predecessornowhere asks the question: "What is purity?" May I suggest an answer to those responsible for planning the definitive edition?
"Purity is a great reverence, given us by God, for those powers He has placed in our bodies to assist in the making and growth of human life and of a holy married love, which leads us to avoid all misuse of them."
To parents and others who find difficulty either because this aspect of their religious education was neglected or mishandled. may I recommend two really splendid little books which may remove many misconceptions? They are (1) "The Image of God in Sex" by Fr. Vincent Wilkin, S.J. (Sliced and Ward), and (2) "Modern Youth and Chastity" by Fr. Gerard Kelly, S.J. (The Queen's Work, St.
Louis 8, Mo., U.S.A.).
(Fr.) T. A. McGoldrick
University Catholic Chaplaincy. 49 Bedford Street North, Liverpool 7.