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​​​​​​4.1.14.1 Introduction

The following guidelines of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles​ call upon clergy, religious educators, teachers, youth ministers, young adult ministers, family life ministers, parents/guardians, and Church leaders to collaborate in fostering among all age groups a healthy and holistic Christian attitude toward human sexuality.

4.1.14.2 Catholic Vision of Human Sexuality

Human sexuality and sexual morality are studied within the context of moral formation in Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church​ and the United States​ Conference of Catholic Bishops​' National Directory for Catechesis, Doctrinal Elements of a Curriculum Framework for the Development of Catechetical Materials for Young People of High School Age​, and Catechetical Formation in Chaste Living: Guidelines for Curriculum Design and Publication provide authors of textbooks and teachers with a holistic view of moral formation and formation in sexual morality.

A positive and balanced Catholic view of sexuality begins with the premise that human sexuality is a gift from God in whose image human beings are created. Human sexuality should be viewed as a gift possessing inherent goodness and properly placed within a faithful, fruitful, and lifelong marriage (National Directory for Catechesis, 45.F).

A primary purpose of Catholic education in a school, religious education program, or another parish program, whether for youth, adults, staff, or clergy, is to guide all persons in the growth and formation of Christian values and moral conduct, including Catholic teachings on the sanctity of all human and family life and a recognition that the sanctity of family life is enhanced by a loving, permanent, and mature commitment in marriage.

While psycho-sexual development is an important aspect of the transition to Catholic adulthood, Catholic moral teachings frame this process through age-appropriate expressions of affection, friendship, and love. Parents/guardians are expected to love and respect each other and their children. To their children, they are to be the principal role models, examples, and educators of these teachings. All faithful are called to continue their formation and serve as examples for others throughout their life. Those who are not married should reserve for marriage the expressions of affection that belong to married love.

"All the baptized are called to chastity. The Christian has 'put on Christ,' (Gal 3:27) the model for all chastity. All Christ's faithful are called to lead a chaste life in keeping with their particular states of life. At the moment of his Baptism, the Christian is pledged to lead his affective life in chastity" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2348). Chastity is not limited to sexual conduct, but includes moral decision-making and mutual respect for people, through interactions with others and respect for one's own body. Accordingly, whether in thoughts or acts, lust, masturbation, fornication, adultery, prostitution, pornography, and rape involve a disregard for the call to chastity.

Pornography and sexting immerse all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. They offend against chastity because they pervert sexual acts. They do grave injury to the dignity of participants: actors, vendors, the public (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2354).

"Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2359).

Sexual activity that is unwelcome, that threatens an individual or involves any misconduct by a youth or an adult toward another person, not only violates these moral teachings but also may be unlawful under civil law. Misconduct, whether it occurs in the school, church, home, or elsewhere, may be subject to mandatory reporting laws​ and can subject youth and adults to criminal sanctions. In certain circumstances, sexual conduct, even if it is apparently consensual, must be reported and can have criminal implications if one of the participants is not yet 18. For more information, see Safe Environment.

4.1.14.3 Education in Human Sexuality

Education in sexuality is a continual process, an invitation for people to grow and develop as morally mature sexual beings, regardless of age or calling in life. Parents/guardians are the first educators of their offspring. In our Catholic tradition, education in human sexuality begins with them as parents/guardians and educators imparting understanding and knowledge in the context of Catholic teachings and its vision of the development of morally mature sexual beings. A Catholic vision of human sexuality, from childhood through adulthood, affirms that:

  • All human life is created in God's image and has inestimable value.

  • All persons are challenged to develop moral decision-making skills that would enable them to make responsible choices in human sexuality.

  • All persons, while recognizing that weakness and sinfulness are part of the human condition, are called to respond with compassion and understanding to those who misuse the gift of human sexuality. Interior transformation in light of the Paschal Mystery and the role of grace, virtue, formation of conscience, and sin are foundational themes that pave the way for a balanced approach to human sexuality.

The ultimate objective of education in human sexuality is the personal realization of total sexual identity and the effective maturation of the person. The purpose of education in human sexuality, whether formal or informal, is threefold:

  • To give each person an understanding of the nature and importance of sexuality as a divine gift, a fundamental component of personality, and an enrichment of the whole person

  • To give each person an understanding of chastity as a key virtue that develops a person's authentic maturity and makes one capable of guiding the sexual powers in the service of love and integrating it into psychological and spiritual development

  • To give each person an appreciation that sexuality is intended to express and to lead all to a knowledge of, respect for, and sincere personal adherence to the moral norms regarding sexuality that are taught by the Church

4.1.14.4 Educational Framework for Human Sexuality

Programs and courses in human sexuality must be holistic, positive in their approach, and based on the fundamental truth that all human life is created in God's image and has inestimable value. "Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2332). Education in human sexuality must be designed to assist each person in the Catholic Christian community to form a correct and informed conscience in order to be morally responsible. Persons given the responsibility of assisting others in their sexual formation should be:

  • Committed to their own growth in sexual development

  • Accurately informed with the necessary knowledge to discuss sexual issues

  • Able and willing to follow and communicate authentic Church teaching regarding sexual morality "with authority, candor, sound reasoning and fidelity" (Human Sexuality: A Catholic Perspective for Education and Lifelong Learning, p. 25)

Those engaged in human sexuality education and formation must demonstrate, in word and attitude, a sensitivity to gender issues by presenting the equality of the sexes as designed by the Creator and discourage stereotyping and/or exploitation of the sexes.

Curriculum content and concepts must be introduced at maturity levels according to the emotional, intellectual, and physical development of the person. Programs and courses in human sexuality formation require ongoing collaboration and evaluation involving those affected by the process. The decision to implement programs and courses in human sexuality education must involve parents/guardians, pastors, teachers, catechists, and other leaders in catechetical ministry. Parent/guardian​ representation is important in setting goals and selecting programs and courses for children and youth. All parents/guardians should be given reasonable opportunity to preview the selected materials. Having studied a program, they have the right to remove their children from any human sexuality course. In addition to formal instruction, consideration should be given to providing informal opportunities to address these issues, including activities such as retreats and other programs.

The content of the instruction and the textbooks and supplementary materials must conform to the authentic teachings of the Church as proposed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church​. The promotion of Catholic Christian values in the midst of the pervasive influence of media (advertising, books, films, magazines, music, radio, television, videos, and the Internet) requires that:

  • Media be considered a valuable and effective educational tool

  • Care be taken to provide the learner with the skills of discernment in the use and evaluation of all forms of media, particularly the media of the Internet

  • Prudent judgment be exercised in the selection and use of all media for human sexuality programs and courses

4.1.14.5 Pregnancy Involving Students or Other Minors

Should a pregnancy occur involving a student or other minor, the entire school or parish community should offer Christian support to the mother and father to assure appropriate prenatal medical and counseling care so that the pregnancy can be brought to term and the infant will have an opportunity to grow and be nurtured as a child of God. In such circumstances, the principal, pastor, youth minister, and other appropriate staff should meet with the pregnant couple and their parents/guardians to plan for the pregnancy, including discussing​ alternatives to school and religious education arrangements that are appropriate for the needs, health, and safety of the child in the womb, the pregnant couple, and the school or parish community. In schools, the principal, in consultation with the Department of Catholic Schools​ and the pastor (for elementary schools and parish high schools), shall review all aspects of each case and make a determination, based on the particular circumstances, of the need for any schooling accommodations or arrangements.

In cases of pregnancy, the father (if known) and mother of the child should be encouraged and assisted to obtain professional medical care and counseling consistent with Catholic teachings, including teachings on the immorality of abortion. The Department of Catholic Schools can assist in the process and serve as a resource for services and referrals.

​​Please see the list of foundational documents on human sexuality.