In 1982, in response to prompting from a number of people, a group of professionals, working for the Diocese of Manchester in one capacity or another, met to discuss forming a committee to deal with issues relating to human sexuality and sexuality education. Part of the impetus for this meeting was their shared conviction that the people of the diocese have a right to know that there is a rich and deeply spiritual view of human sexuality, a tradition based in Judeo-Christian values, that is an alternative to the confusing, and often dehumanizing, attitudes and values of our contemporary culture.
Over a number of years, the committee formed in response to this initial meeting continued to meet, discussed and adopted a philosophy and goals and objectives, evaluated materials, conducted workshops, and its members served as a resource for a number of different constituencies.
For the past two years, the committee, now under the leadership of the Secretariat for Education and Youth Services, has concentrated its efforts on developing guidelines for sexuality education in the diocese and prepared an evaluation tool for sexuality education materials. The committee has studied Church documents and guidelines for sexuality education prepared in other dioceses in the United States and has consulted widely with people throughout this diocese. The fruits of these labors are presented here. It is the hope of the members of the Sexuality Education Committee that these guidelines will provide useful guidance to the Catholic educators of our diocese in their efforts to lead our people to a fuller and more Christian understanding of their sexuality.
At the very center of our lives rests the truth that God has first loved us. As human persons we are called to respond to God’s love. Our very humanness is God’s gift to us and as we grow toward more fully developing that humanity, we become more whole-more holy. Christian education toward human wholeness should include education in human sexuality, because sexuality is an integral part of who we are as human persons .
Sexuality is a multi-faceted reality, encompassing all that we are as men and all that we are as women. It is a fundamental way in which we relate to ourselves, to other persons, and to God. It is who we are, how we communicate, and how we express and live love.
Our sexuality is rooted in God’s own creativity. Genesis 1:27 says, “God created human beings in God’s own image; in the divine image God Created them, male and female God created them.” And the National Catechetical Directory comments, “Because human beings are created in God’s image and likeness, they are most capable of making God manifest in their lives. The more fully people live in fidelity to the image of God in them, the more clearly perceptible is the divine in human life.” (NCD, #51)
The depth, richness, and beauty of human sexuality profoundly expresses what it means to be human, and also somehow reflects the image of God. However, its integration in our lives, is a life-long process. Our culture has a narrow understanding of sex and sexuality; we tend to fragment and compartmentalize our lives, separating body from spirit, reason from feeling. As a result, sexuality seems to be separate from who we are as persons. The Church, therefore, has a special responsibility to proclaim a fuller understanding of sexuality because sexuality involves the deepest meaning of human reality.
With this in mind, the Diocese of Manchester strongly urges all Catholic parishes, schools and other Catholic institutions to provide formal programs in sexuality education which will help everyone – young and old – grow in the understanding and appreciation of their own sexuality. Since other sexuality education programs may already exist in the community – particularly in the public schools – Catholics need to be aware of these programs. They should support what is good in them, working to insure that these programs reflect basic Judaeo-Christian values. Formal programs in sexuality education are needed in Catholic parishes, schools and other institutions to teach specifically Christian and Catholic values to the Catholic members of the community. However, these are not intended, indeed cannot, replace the education in sexuality which happens regularly in family life. Rather, formal programs are intended to supplement the primary role of parents by encouraging communication between parents and children, and among all members of the Catholic community.