Purity of Heart: The Moral Life
Parent's Guide to Chastity Education
December 8, 2002
Feast of the Immaculate Conception
Brothers and Sisters,
One of the challenges facing parents in our culture today is to
teach our children the truth and meaning of our human sexuality.
This task has become all the more difficult in the presence of a
culture that often openly defies God's plan for the successful
integration of sexuality into the life of each person. In response
to this state of affairs, it is the responsibility of the Church not
only to proclaim moral truths, but also to facilitate means of
formation to understand and live out the moral life. To this end,
the Diocese of Fargo offers A Parent's Guide to Chastity Education
to all the faithful of the diocese.
purpose of A Parent's Guide to Chastity Education is to provide
assistance to parents who are faced with the responsibility of
educating their children in the virtue of chastity. Catholic
institutions of formation, such as schools and religious education
programs, should also consult A Parent's Guide to Chastity Education
for guidance in planning programs. This pamphlet should be
understood in this diocese as a source of authoritative guidelines
for education in chastity.
created us in His image. And everything that He created is good. God
blessed the human person by saying: "Be fertile and multiply; fill
the earth and subdue it" (Genesis 1:28). Our Father's plan for human
sexuality is not only good, but also practical in that it fits the
needs of the human person. Education in chastity, therefore, is of
tremendous value to our culture and to each of us in our own lives.
It is our hope that A Parent's Guide to Chastity Education can help
the faithful as they carry out their responsibility to live the
virtue of chastity and to teach it to our young.
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila, D.D.
Bishop of Fargo
Purpose of the Guide
Although designed primarily for parents, A Parent's Guide to
Chastity Education will also be of interest to pastors, principles,
teachers, catechists and other education professionals who are
engaged in the important work of forming and educating the young. It
is only natural that parents will seek assistance from these
partners in education. Moreover, the goal of the school or parish is
to encourage parents to carry out their responsibility to form their
children in the area of chastity education. Any program that is
initiated at the parish or school level should have this goal in
Parent's Guide to Chastity Education is a starting point. It is not
exhaustive in scope. Use it and the suggested resources as a
beginning to your own formation. Talk with other parents and local
school officials. Pray about what should be done in your own
situation. Consult your local pastor or spiritual advisor. Be
confident of the grace God has given you for your own children.
Foundations in God and Man
Called to True Love
Our God is a loving God. He made all of us out of love and for
love. The human person is made in the image of this loving God. Our
vocation as men and women is, therefore, to love as God loves us.
All of creation is good and reveals part of God's plan for us. The
sexuality of the human person is thus good and part of God's plan of
creation as well. God wants us to use our sexuality for the purpose
of true love. We are created out of true love for the purpose of
true love. "God created man in His image, in the divine image He
created him; male and female He created them."1
plan of God for us, however, was marred by the tragedy of original
sin. It wounded our nature, and left us with an inclination to evil.
Even though the original gift of human freedom was designed solely
to enable us to choose the good, now we must struggle to avoid evil
and embrace the good. Yet God did not abandon us in this struggle.
the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father
and of His love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light
his most high calling."2 By His Passion, Death and Resurrection,
Christ restores man to friendship with God and heals the wound of
sin. This redemptive act gives us the graces necessary to love as
God intended man to love.
Church as Mother and Teacher
Love propelled Christ into history to found a Church that is at
the service of human dignity and happiness. As Mother and Teacher of
humanity, the Church carries out a solemn command of Christ to
announce the truth of salvation.3 In obedience to this command, the
Church rightfully proclaims moral principles that show the way to
human happiness. The Church is in no way the author or arbitrator of
moral norms. Rather, in obedience to truth and the dignity of the
human person, the Church interprets moral norms regarding chastity
and proposes them to all people of good will.4
Universal Vocation of Chastity
The reality of sexuality can never be understood apart from the
universal vocation of all men and women to holiness. Human sexuality
is a marvelous gift from the Creator, an intrinsic part of our human
vocation to love. Chastity is the right ordering of this gift from
God. Chastity brings about the unity of body and soul within the
person that is expressed through our feminine and masculine natures.
Whether chastity is lived out in marriage, the priesthood, religious
life, or the single lay state, it is a fundamental part of our
struggle for sanctity. As such, the dignity of the human person
requires that every person receive the proper formation in this
aspect of our vocation to love.
Fathers and Mothers as First Educators in Chastity
Formation in chastity implies the work first and foremost of
parents. In giving life, parents are also given the responsibility
to nurture their children materially and spiritually. At the baptism
of their children, parents of the child are reminded that they are
the first teachers of their children. This responsibility comes from
God. Each parent receives a unique and specific grace to form their
children in the ways of God and man. "The right and duty of parents
to educate their children are primordial and inalienable."5 This
means that no one can take a parent's place in education, especially
sex education, except by permission. The Magisterium of our Church
has taught quite clearly about the importance of this parental
right. The Second Vatican Council states, "The role of parents in
education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to find
an adequate substitute. It is therefore the duty of parents to
create a family atmosphere inspired by love and devotion to God and
their fellow men that will promote an integrated, personal, and
social education of their children. The family is therefore the
principle school of the social virtues that are necessary to every
Role of Educational Institutions
Aware of their own educational role, parents need to defend and
carry out this primary right and duty. Any educational activity
related to education for love which is carried out by persons
outside the family must be subjected to the parents' approval and
must be seen not as a substitute, but as a support of their work.7
Other educators can assist in this task, but they can only take the
place of parents for serious reasons of physical or moral
incapacity. Thus, the school's task is not to substitute for the
family, rather it is to assist and complete the work of parents,
furnishing children and adolescents with a complete evaluation of
sexuality in light of God's plan for each of us.
Principles for Chastity Education
Personal Dialogue. Experience shows that a parent of the same
sex as the child is the best communicator of the biological,
emotional, moral and spiritual information regarding human
sexuality. Chaste love requires young people to learn self-mastery
that respects the dignity of each human person and his or her
Morality. The moral dimension of the gift of sexuality must always
be presented together with the biological information in the context
of vocation and our call to holiness.10
sexuality must be presented according to the doctrinal and moral
teaching of the Church. Respect must be maintained for the
differences between man and woman that reflect the love and
fruitfulness of God.11
Formation in chastity and timely information regarding sexuality
must be provided in the broadest context of education for love.
• * In
the light of the mystery of Christ and the Church, parents should
illustrate the positive values of human sexuality in the context of
the person's original vocation to love and the universal call to
Parents should teach their children to evaluate the environments
they frequent with a critical sense and true autonomy, as well as to
cultivate a detachment from mass media and other influences of our
Through their educational efforts parents should pass on to children
the conviction that chastity is possible and indeed the means to
true freedom and harmony in the human person.14
Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the child's reading of
appropriate materials, parents help in the formation of conscience
that is necessary to the integration of chastity.
Development. Information should be presented with delicacy, but
clearly, and at the appropriate time. In order to provide an
individualized approach to development, special awareness should be
given to the four stages of development: "the age of innocence",
puberty, adolescence, and young adulthood. Too many details too soon
is counterproductive, but delaying the first information for too
long is imprudent.15
should always respond to questions a child may ask, even if they
seem inappropriate to their age. Usually if a question is asked, it
means a child has been exposed to information that the parents have
a duty to clarify so the child is not misguided.
Catechesis. Formation of parents in the foundations of a mature
faith is the cornerstone to educating children in chaste love.16 If
parents do not understand the teachings of the Church, it is
recommended that they study authentic resources of doctrine, such as
the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and seek programs that may be
available to help them to understand the wisdom of the Church.
Parents may also find it helpful to talk with other parents who
desire to live and grow in their faith.
Guidelines for Parents
Dialogue. Parents should associate with other parents in order
to fulfill their role as primary educators of their children and to
guard against damaging forms of sex education.17 Schools must
provide advanced parental notification for all in-school and out-of
school programs that teach in the sensitive area of human sexuality.
Vigilance. Parents should keep themselves precisely informed on the
content and methodology with which supplementary education is
Parents have the right to be informed about the structure of the
program. In all cases, their right to be present during classes
cannot be denied.19
Authority. Parents should follow every form of sex education that is
given to their children, removing them whenever this education does
not correspond to their own principles. Parents have the duty to
provide their children with adequate information appropriate to each
child's stage of development.20
Respect should be given to the right of the child or young person to
withdraw from any form of sexual instruction imparted outside the
home. The child nor other members of their family should never be
penalized or discriminated against for this decision.21
Collaboration. Parents who may not always be prepared to teach the
intricate side of an education for love can take part in meetings
with their children, guided by expert persons worthy of trust. The
separation of boys from girls is preferable.22
Discretion. No material of an erotic nature should be presented at
any age or in any setting;23 nor should children be invited or
obliged to act in any way that objectively offends modesty, delicacy
or their sense of privacy.24
Safeguards Against Some Inappropriate Methods
Any catechesis on human sexuality that is contrary — even
partially — to doctrinal and moral teachings of the Church should be
avoided.25 Following are some methods that threaten the rights of
parents and the moral life of their children:
Parents must reject secular approaches to sex education that put God
at the margin of life and regard the birth of a child as a threat.26
Sterilization and contraception should not be discussed before
contraception is discussed after the adolescent phase (perhaps in
upper grades of high school), the substantial differences between
natural and artificial methods should be shown with regard to
respect for God's plan for marriage.
Teaching the intimate details of genital relationships to children
is an abuse of sex education.28 There is, on the other hand, a
healthy curiosity in older adolescents (young adults) in the
physical aspect of genital relationships which can be presented
properly in the context of chaste love, provided parents have prior
knowledge and approval of what is presented.
Parents must be on guard against inappropriate coed environments
wherever human sexuality is taught. In general, young men and women
should be instructed in such matters in separate classroom settings.
Modesty dictates this common sense requirement. Most teenagers
appreciate this bare minimum of respect that they deserve.
Parents must be on guard against any program that promotes
pre-marital sex in any way, or that promotes a neutral view on the
morality of homosexual acts.
Parents must also reject the promotion of so called "safe-sex" or
"safer sex," a dangerous and immoral policy based on the deluded
theory that the condom can provide adequate protection against AIDS
and other venereal diseases.29
approach of "values clarification" ignores the objective reality of
the moral law in general and disregards the formation of consciences
on specific Christian moral precepts as affirmed by the Magisterium
of the Church. It gives young people the idea that a moral code is
something they can create themselves, as if man were the source and
norm of morality.30
Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Letter, On Christian Marriage (Casti
connubii), December 31, 1930.
Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, (Lumen gentium),
November 21, 1964.
Vatican II, Declaration on Christian Education (Gravissmum
educationis), October 28, 1965.
Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Letter, On the Regulation of Birth, (Humanae
vitae), July 25, 1968.
Congregation on the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Certain
Questions Regarding Sexual Ethics (Persona humana), December 29,
Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, The Christian Family in
the Modern World, (Familiaris consortio), December 15, 1981.
The Holy See, The Charter of Rights of the Family, October 22, 1983.
Congregation for Catholic Education, Educational Guidance in Human
Love, November 1, 1983.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, The Pastoral Care of
Homosexual Persons, October 1, 1986.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Respect
for Human Life and the Dignity of Procreation (Donum Vitae),
February 22, 1987.
Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, On the Vocation and
Mission of the Lay Faithful (Christifidelis laici), December 30,
United States Catholic Conference, Human Sexuality: A Catholic
Perspective for Education and Lifelong Learning, 1991.
North Dakota Catholic Conference, A Catholic Perspective in Lifelong
Learning in Human Sexuality, October 22, 1991.
Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, Splendor of Truth (Veritatis
splendor), August 6, 1993.
Pope John Paul II, Letter to Families, February 2, 1994.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs #2331-2394, 1994.
Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Letter, The Gospel of Life (Evangelium
Vitae), March 25, 1995.
Pontifical Council for the Family, The Truth and Meaning of Human
Sexuality: Guidelines for Education Within the Family, December 8,
Pope John Paul II, Theology of the Body, Pauline Books and Media,
For practical help in the teaching of chastity, parents may consult
the following books:
Arnold, Christoph Arnold, Purity, Plough Publishing House, 1998.
Bonacci, Mary Beth, Real Love, Ignatius Press, 1996.
Evert, Jason, Pure Love, Catholic Answers, 2000.
Hogan, Fr. Richard & Fr. John LeVoir, Covenant of Love, Ignatius
Lickona, Tom and Judy, Sex, Love and You, Ave Maria Press, 1994.
West, Christopher, Good News About Sex & Marriage, Servant
Wilson, Mercedes Arzu, Love and Family, Ignatius Press, 1996.
Closing Note: The Diocese of Fargo Pro-Life Office has available a
practical application text for parents and parish educators for the
education of young people on human sexuality. An Education for
Chastity contains: Outlines for Parent/Educator workshop,
Mother/Daughter & Father/Son programs, and educational resources
recommended by the Diocese of Fargo. For further catechesis of
adults the article Educating our Young People to Chastity by Rev.
Kris Stubna, and the text The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality,
A Symposium, published by Benzinger is also available upon request.
Contact Rachelle, 701-235-6429, ext. 15 for more information.
1. Genesis 1: 27
2. Pope John Paul II, The Redeemer of Man, (Redemptor hominis), 8.
3. Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, (Lumen gentium),
4. Pope John Paul II, The Christian Family in the Modern World, (Familiaris
5. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2221.
6. Vatican II, Declaration on Christian Education, (Gravissimum
7. Pontifical Council on the Family, The Truth and Meaning of Human
Sexuality: Guidelines for Education within the Family, 113.
8. Ibid., 120.
9. Cf., Pontifical Council for the Family, Truth and Meaning of
Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education within the Family, 67.
10. Cf. Ibid., 68.
11. Ibid., 122.
12. Ibid., 70.
13. Ibid., 72.
14. Ibid., 73.
15. Ibid., 75. 77-111 deals in detail with the four principle stages
16. Ibid., 134.
17. Ibid., 114.
18. Ibid., 115.
19. Ibid., 116.
20. Ibid., 117.
21. Ibid., 120.
22. Ibid., 131.
23. Ibid. 126.
24. Ibid., 127. This principle excludes all improper forms of
involving children and young people. In this regard, among other
things, this can include the following methods that abuse sex
education: (a) every "dramatization" representation, mime or "role
playing" which depict genital or erotic matters, (b) making
drawings, charts or models etc. of this nature, (c) seeking personal
information about sexual questions or asking that family information
be divulged, (d) oral or written exams about genital or erotic
25. Ibid., 122.
26. Ibid., 136.
27. Ibid., 137.
28. Ibid., 139.
29. Ibid., 139.
30. Ibid., 140.
Diocese of Fargo
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