Archive for the ‘sex’ Category

Institute’s New Director on Speaking Truth in Understandable Ways

By Kathleen Naab

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, JAN. 9, 2012 (Zenit.org).- A Philadelphia-based educational institute focused on promoting Blessed John Paul II’s theology of the body has named a new executive director.

The 7-year-old Theology of the Body Institute picked Damon Owens, a successful businessman turned marriage promoter. Included on his extensive resume is his work as the Archdiocese of Newark’s Natural Family Planning and Marriage Preparation Coordinator, and leadership with the Life Education And Resource Network (L.E.A.R.N.), the largest African-American, pro-life ministry in the country.

Owens is himself a certified Natural Family Planning instructor who has counseled more than 20,000 couples over the last 16 years. He often appears on Catholic television and radio, sharing various aspects of the theology of the body, as well as commentating on topics related to marriage and family. He and his wife, Melanie, have been married for 18 years and have eight children.

ZENIT spoke with Owens about the Theology of the Body Institute and its work, and the difficulties facing those who promote Blessed John Paul’s message.

ZENIT: The Theology of the Body Institute exists to promote John Paul II’s theology at the secular level, too. Is that truly possible and if so how?

Owens: Our mission is to train and educate men and women to understand, live and promote Blessed John Paul II’s theology of the body. While most of the individuals who come in contact with our programs are Catholic, our on-site and Certification courses regularly draw non-Catholics and non-Christians. It is not only possible, but it is critical that we evangelize the broader culture. Our preparation as believers for the “springtime of the new evangelization” includes a deeper grounding not only in the “what’s” of our faith, but the “why’s” behind them.

As believers, we accept even what we cannot fully understand about God’s revelation, because we love and trust him. Still, our faith is reasonable. There is a tremendous amount of truth that can be encountered before an assent of faith. There is a tremendous amount of beautiful and compelling meaning that can be successfully proposed even to a darkened intellect and hardened heart.

Rooted in objective truth, the theology of the body provides a personalistic approach that is well-suited for evangelizing in the modern culture. Our sexuality — masculinity and femininity — carries deep meaning for the identity and vocation of every human person. It is also the place of deep wounds for so many. The Theology of the Body Institute desires to help persons in every state of life gain an understanding of what it means to be created in God’s image and to live out their call to love as he loves. Only from this foundation can an authentic culture of life and love take root and flourish.

ZENIT: Linked to the previous question, statistics about Catholic married couple’s use of artificial contraception seem to indicate there is plenty need for Catholics as well to hear and accept John Paul’s theology. What are your thoughts in this regard? Must we first clean up our own camp before engaging the secular world?

Owens: Beginning with your last question, evangelization is, of course, intimately connected with catechesis (the head) and conversion (the heart). It is always a messy, personal, and inefficient work! Our witness is hurt by our own sin, ignorance, and lack of faith. On one hand, our ongoing conversion strengthens our witness. On the other hand, we have to be careful about setting too high a standard of personal perfection before witnessing to perfection. Without question, contraception is a tap-root of nearly every modern evil. Moreover, the prevalence of Christians contracepting is both a cause and an effect of the rise of other grave evils such as pornography, divorce, violence against women, abortion, fornication and homosexuality. These were the predicted consequences of their widespread use, and the subsequent result of their widespread acceptance.

The question remains, however: How do we reach people’s heads and hearts to reject the evil of contraception? It cannot just be emphatic instruction on the mortal sin of contraception (the head). It must include a compelling invitation to a true conversion of heart. Their hearts must “see” how contraception is a withholding of themselves that deforms the marital act and stifles the very love they long for. Theology of the body is a means to illumine the immutable meaning of things (natural law) in the heart of the person.

Fortunately, the great majority truly desire love. Whether they are in a pew or at the mall on Sunday, they deserve to hear the truth in a way that they can understand it. It is in our heart — or inner life — that we as unique and unrepeatable persons encounter the One True God. While we certainly wish there were a more authentic faith witness from Catholic married couples today, we at the Theology of the Body Institute have been just as awed by conversions in the Faith as by those to the Faith. We remain passionately committed to the simple mission of educating and training men and women to understand, live, and promote the Theology of the Body.

ZENIT: Tell us about the institute and plans you have for it as the new executive director.

Owens: The Theology of the Body Institute was formed in 2004 with the simple mission to educate and train men and women to understand, live and promote the theology of the body. Each of the founders experienced a profound conversion through Blessed John Paul II’s great work and continue to be animated by the desire to make it accessible to the world — Christian and secular — in an understandable, engaging and attractive manner. Ours is an integrated educational approach that presents the rich intellectual theology in an environment that encourages a real encounter with Our Lord. As we often say, it is an immersion of the head and the heart!

Our certification program with its retreat-format courses is the heart of our mission. These courses include Theology of the Body I, II, & III, Love & Responsibility, Catholic Sexual Ethics, Writings of John Paul II on Gender, Marriage, & Family, The Thought of Karol Wojtyla, and Theology of the Body & the Interior Life. Our on-site events at schools, parishes, seminaries and conferences around the world complement these courses and have grown in number and size every year.

We have a world-class faculty that includes Dr. Janet Smith, Dr. Michael Waldstein, Christopher West, Bill Donaghy, Dr. John Haas, and beginning for 2012-2013, Dr. Peter Kreeft and Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV. To date, more than 1,600 individuals have come to Pennsylvania for our week-long certification courses, and thousands have attended our on-site events around the world. We also held the first Theology of the Body Congress in 2010 bringing together leaders from around the world to explore the diverse applications of TOB. So, I begin with an organization that I consider successful in its mission.

My plans are to build on this success with an enhanced Clergy Enrichment Program for priests and seminarians that enriches both their priestly identity and vocation as fathers. We also plan to expand both our faculty and our Certification course offerings to reach even more lay and clerical leaders. The fact remains that only a small percentage of people in the world are familiar with this profound teaching. I see my role as expanding this success, as opposed to any real change in direction.

ZENIT: You are taking over leadership of the institute when the push for same-sex marriage and adoption is unprecedented. What do you hope to contribute to this battle?

Owens: We are an educational apostolate, so our contribution to social issues such as these is teaching the meaning of things. What is marriage? What does our sexuality mean? What is love, truth, freedom, or joy? What does it mean to be a human person? How do I choose, act, and live in accord with these truths and meanings? These cultural issues ultimately represent a critical loss of the meaning and dignity of human personhood. God bless those who are taking up these issues in the public square. I did that for years and deeply appreciate the need for, and difficulty of, these urgent defenses. It is abundantly clear, however, that these issues incubated long-term in a culture steeped in a disintegrated concept of human personhood. Sexual complementarity devolved into sexual difference, now sexual difference has been denied all together. Equality is argued as sameness. So, the argument continues, since men and women are the same, there is no difference between a husband and a wife or a mother and a father.

This is an identity crisis that requires long-term reformation and restoration. If we don’t know who — and whose — we are, we won’t know how to behave in a way that is in accord with our dignity and brings us true joy. Sexuality, sexual morality, love, marriage, fatherhood, motherhood, family, and life itself are integrated realities that flow from who God has revealed himself to be — a Trinitarian Communio: Three Divine Persons in such union that they are truly One.

The Gospel is “good news” precisely because it reveals to us the deepest truths of our identity created in the “image and likeness” of God, and subsequently our vocation to love. The language, approach, and appeal of the theology of the body gives us a means to understand and embrace the Gospel by rereading the language of the body. Simply put, as the body reveals the person, masculinity and femininity reveal the original, enduring, and eternal meaning of personhood as a call to communion. Love is self-gift. By rereading the language of the body in truth, we see love as not simply something we do, but as a universal human vocation that flows from who we are.

With regard to the specific question of redefining marriage, students of theology of the body are equipped to articulate not mere disagreement, but why it is simply not possible.

Prostitution: Legal Work or Slavery?

A Failed Attempt at Defending Women’s Dignity

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, OCT. 15, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Legalizing prostitution is under debate in a number of countries.

Hungary recently decided to legalize it, apparently in part due to the government’s desires to exact revenue from an activity they calculate could generate around $1 billion a year, reported the Associated Press, Sept. 24.

Bulgaria, however, took a step in the opposite direction, reversing a plan to legalize prostitution, according to the New York Times, Oct. 6.

“We should be very definite in saying that selling flesh is a crime,” Rumen Petkov, the interior minister, said during a recent forum on human trafficking, the article reported. The New York Times also commented that last year, Finland made it illegal to buy sex from women brought in by traffickers, while Norway is reportedly planning on imposing a complete ban on purchasing sex.

Italy, meanwhile, is considering how to deal with the widespread practice of street prostitution. Interior Minister Giuliano Amato said the government was thinking about measures such as fining clients, reported the Italian daily Avvenire, Sept. 26.

Prostitution is also under debate in Britain, where a new television series, “Belle de Jour,” presents a glamorized view of the sex industry — a portrayal strongly criticized by Emine Saner in an article published Sept. 20 in the Guardian newspaper.

“Of the estimated 80,000 women who are sex workers in the U.K., the vast majority do it because they have drug problems or families to support and have no other viable way of making money,” Saner commented.

Moreover, she argued that two-thirds of sex workers have experienced violence, including rape. Government data also reveal that at least 60 sex workers have been murdered in the past 10 years.

Guardian commentator Madelaine Bunting returned to the debate with an article published Oct. 8. Around 90% of prostitutes want to leave their activity, she said. At a time when sex trafficking is booming as one of the most lucrative forms of organized crime, we don’t need a fairytale story about prostitution, argued Bunting.

Victorian failure

Countries debating whether or not to legalize prostitution could learn from what occurred in the Australian state of Victoria. The state government legalized prostitution in 1984 and since then, the sex industry has flourished. With over 20 years of experience, many of the promised benefits of legalizing prostitution have not, however, materialized, according to a book published earlier this year.

A detailed examination of the situation in Victoria was authored by self-declared “feminist activist” Mary Lucille Sullivan, in her book “Making Sex Work: A Failed Experiment With Legalised Prostitution,” (Spinifex Press).

“Victoria’s legalized prostitution system assists in maintaining male dominance, the sexual objectification of women, and the cultural approval of violence against women,” is her thesis.

Normalizing prostitution, as if it were merely some kind of employment, has also undermined women’s workplace equality and contradicts other government policies aimed at protecting women’s rights, accused Sullivan.

Too often, she added, the pressures today to treat prostitution as just another job stem from a neo-liberal vision of the free market, which sees women and girls as a commodity. Some feminists who supported the legalization of prostitution, Sullivan continues, were also influenced by a libertarian outlook and a misplaced desire to establish the “rights” of prostitutes. For its part, the state saw economic advantages in legalization, since it could tax a heretofore underground and illegal activity.

Legalization in Victoria, Sullivan explained, was also defended under the guise of minimizing the harm to the women involved, by bringing about formal regulation and legal protections in the sex industry.

Intrinsic violence

This has not occurred, she affirmed, because attempting to portray prostitution as an occupation to be put under the control of health and safety norms ignores the intrinsic violence of prostitution and the fact that sexual harassment and rape are indistinguishable from the product clients buy.

Moreover, legalization itself has introduced a new series of damaging consequences for women, Sullivan argues. Among these is, ironically, a further expansion of the illegal side of prostitution. In fact, the phenomenon of curbside prostitution, far from disappearing with legalization, has continued to grow in Victoria.

Likewise, legalization, far from removing the influence of organized crime, has instead fueled the role of illegality by introducing greater economic incentives for trafficking in women and girls for both legal and illegal brothels. Sullivan also quoted experts in organized crime who allege that the legalized prostitution industry in Victoria still has strong links to underground criminality.

With regard to this human trafficking, Sullivan draws attention to international studies that put at billions the profits made from this modern form slavery. Estimates of the numbers of women and girls who are trafficked range from 700,000 to 2 million each year.

The legalization of prostitution in Victoria has not done anything to reduce illegal sex trafficking, Sullivan argues. In addition, since legalization, child prostitution continues to be a problem.

Billion-dollar industry

We are now in a situation, Sullivan pointed out, where the media, airlines, hotels, the tourist industry and banks all seek to promote and expand the industry of prostitution. In addition, legalization has brought an encroachment of prostitution in public life.

According to data cited in the book, by 1999, annual turnover in Victoria’s prostitution industry reached $360 million (Australian), which at the current exchange rate would be US $323.3 million . Overall in Australia, 3 states and one territory have legalized prostitution. A business information service cited by Sullivan put at $1.780 million (Australian) the turnover in the financial year 2004-05.

Instead of legalization, Sullivan recommended following the example of Sweden, where the law criminalizes the buying of sexual services and does not penalize the women and children. Sweden also helps women who have suffered violence as a result of prostitution.

Legalization of prostitution, Sullivian concluded, makes a fundamental mistake as it enshrines as a man’s “right” the ability to buy women and girls for sexual gratification. Once this is done, it becomes much more difficult to control the industry or prevent the exploitation of women.

Slavery

“Prostitution is a form of modern slavery,” commented a recent document of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, issued June 16. The publication, “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road,” attracted media attention due to its ten commandments for drivers, but its content also includes a section on street prostitution. (Nos. 85-115)

“The sexual exploitation of women is clearly a consequence of various unjust systems,” commented the Pontifical Council. Causes such as a need for money, the use of violence, and human trafficking contribute to trap women into prostitution.

“The victims of prostitution are human beings, who in many cases cry out for help, to be freed from slavery, because selling one’s own body on the street is usually not what they would voluntarily choose to do,” the document added.

The council called for greater efforts to help free women from the abuses against human dignity that result from prostitution. Catholic institutions, the declaration added, have often helped women to escape from this situation. Women need to be aided so that they can regain their esteem and self-respect, and to be reintegrated into family and community life.

“Customers,” on the other hand, “need enlightenment regarding the respect and dignity of women, interpersonal values and the whole sphere of relationships and sexuality,” the document said. The exploiters also need to be enlightened regarding the hierarchy of the values of life and human rights, it recommended.

“Committing oneself at various levels — local, national and international — for the liberation of prostitutes is therefore a true act of a disciple of Jesus Christ, an expression of authentic Christian love,” the council concluded. Surely a far better answer than legalizing what is nothing more than sexual slavery.



Father Cantalamessa Analyzes Relationship

ROME, OCT. 4, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of a commentary written by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, on the relationship between Sts. Francis and Clare.

* * *

It has become commonplace to speak of the friendship between Clare and Francis in terms of falling in love. In his essay “Falling in Love and Loving,” the sociologist F. Alberoni says that “the relationship between St. Clare and St. Francis has all the characteristics of falling in love, sublimated or transferred to the Godhead.”

Francis, like any man even if he is a saint, may well have experienced the attraction of woman and the call of sex. The sources tell us that in order to overcome a temptation of this kind the saint once rolled around in the snow in the depths of winter.

But it was not Clare who was the object of the temptation! When a man and woman are united in God, this bond, if it is authentic, excludes all attraction of an erotic kind, without even a struggle. He or she is, as it were, sheltered. It is another kind of relationship. Between Clare and Francis there was certainly a very strong human bond, but it was paternal or fraternal in kind, not spousal. They were like two trees joined by their foliage, not by their roots.

The extraordinarily profound understanding between Francis and Clare, which features so strongly in the Franciscan epic, does not come from “flesh and blood,” like that between Eloise and Abelard, or Dante and Beatrice (to quote two equally famous examples). If it had done so, it might have left some trace in the literature, but not in the history of sanctity. In one of Goethe’s well-known expressions, we could call the friendship of Francis and Clare an “elective affinity,” as long as we understand “elective” not only in the sense of people who have chosen each other, but who have made the same choice.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote that “being in love does not mean looking at each other, but looking together in the same direction.” Clare and Francis really didn’t spend their whole lives gazing at each other and feeling good together. They exchanged the fewest of words, probably only those reported in the sources. There was a tremendous reserve between them, so much so that at times the saint was affectionately chided by his brothers for being too harsh with Clare.

Only at the end of his life do we see this rigor in the relationship soften, and Francis visits his “little plant” more and more frequently in search of comfort and confirmation. As death draws near and sickness consumes him, San Damiano becomes his refuge, and it is at her side that he intones the Canticle of Brother Son and Sister Moon, with its praise of “Sister Water,” “useful, humble, precious and chaste,” which might have been written with Clare in mind.

Instead of looking at each other, Clare and Francis looked in the same direction, and we know what “direction” that was in their case. Clare and Francis were like two eyes always looking in the same direction. Two eyes are not just two eyes, I mean, not just one eye repeated. Neither of the two eyes is just an extra or a spare eye. Two eyes looking at an object from different angles give depth and relief to the object, enabling us to enfold it in our gaze. That is how it was for Clare and Francis.

They looked at the same God, the same Lord Jesus, the same crucified one, the same Eucharist, but from different “angles,” each with their own gifts and the sensitivity proper to a man and a woman: masculine and feminine. Together, they understood more than two Francises or two Clares could have done.

Recently, a good television film was made, called “Francis and Clare,” produced by Fabrizio Costa. It will run on Channel 1 of Italian Television (RAI Uno) on Oct. 6 and 7, and will soon be seen on English-language television, as it was originally shot in English. Better than Franco Zeffirelli’s “Brother Sun and Sister Moon,” it manages to avoid the romantic charm of a human love story.

In the past there was often a tendency to present the personality of Clare as too subordinate to that of Francis, exactly like a “sister Moon” who lives in the reflected light of “brother Sun.” The latest example of this is John M. Sweeney’s study “Light in the Dark Age: the Friendship of Francis and Clare of Assisi.”

All the more praiseworthy, then, the fact that the authors of this television fiction have chosen to present Francis and Clare as two parallel lives, interweaving and unfolding synchronically, with equal space given to the one and the other. This has never been done in this form before, and it echoes the sensitivities of today and contemporary efforts to highlight the important presence of women in history. But in this case, it is not a matter of ideological spin, but a portrayal of reality.

Watching the preview of the film “Francis and Clare,” what struck me most was the symbolic opening scene. Francis is walking through a meadow and Clare follows him, almost playfully putting her feet in the footsteps left by Francis. He, asks her: “Are you following in my footsteps?” She replies brightly: “No, much deeper ones.”



“A Crime Against the Most Weak”

ROME, JULY 20, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of a pamphlet on “Pedophilia and the Priesthood” written by Monsignor Raffaello Martinelli, an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and member of the editorial commission of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

* * *

Q: How does the Church evaluate cases of pedophilia committed by priests?

These crimes of pedophilia have been labeled as “a crime against the most weak,” “a horrendous sin in the eyes of God,” a crime “that damages the Church’s credibility,” characterized as “filth” by Cardinal Ratzinger in the memorable Via Crucis on Good Friday 2005, just a few days before being elected Pope. That filth is created by “many cases of sexual abuse of minors that break one’s heart, and are particularly tragic when the one committing the abuse is a priest.” To the bishops of Ireland, Benedict XVI in October 2006 stated once more that these are crimes that “break one’s heart.”

The most severe condemnation, a source of clear and unequivocal blame, is found in the words of Jesus when, identifying himself with the little ones, affirms in the synoptic Gospels: “And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:5-6, Mark 9:42, Luke 17:1-2).

Acts of pedophilia are the responsibility of the individual who carries them out.

It has to do with individual cases: It should not be generalized. There are some 500,000 priests in the world, and the priests who have cases brought against them are a small percentage. Those that have been proven and ended with punishment are even less: Trustworthy, nonpartisan sources say the percentage is 0.3%, that is, three priests out of 1,000. It is necessary to distinguish between “delinquent” priests who have done and continue to do bad things, from the multitude of other priests who have dedicated and continue to dedicate their lives to the good of children and adolescents.

We must not forget that in some cases the victims themselves have subsequently retracted their baseless accusations.

It must also be said that even one pedophile priest is too many. He is a priest that never should have been a priest and he should be punished severely with no ifs, ands or buts.

The Church has been working for some time with its personnel (even priests, for example, in Italy Father Fortunato Di Noto, working with his association on Internet sites) and institutions to single out, unmask, condemn and overcome the phenomenon of pedophilia, from within and from without.

Unfortunately it must also be said that some bishops were mistaken when they undervalued the facts and limited themselves to moving, from one parish to another, a priest who was found guilty of pedophilia. For this reason, the Holy See decided in 2001 to claim for itself the judgment on those crimes.

Q: Which documents of the Holy See deal with the crimes of pedophilia?

The Holy See has put out two documents that deal with the crimes of pedophilia:

1. The instruction of March 16, 1962, “Crimen Sollicitationis,” approved by Blessed Pope John XXIII and published by the Holy Office which later became the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was an important document to “instruct” canonical cases and laicize the presbyters involved in the vileness of pedophilia. In particular, it dealt with violations of the sacrament of confession.

2. The “Epistula de Delictis Gravioribus” (on most grave crimes), signed May 18, 2001, by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as prefect of the congregation. That letter’s objective is to give practical execution of the norms (“Normae de Gravioribus Delictis”) promulgated with the apostolic letter “Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela,” published on April 30, 2001, and signed by Pope John Paul II.

These documents deal with the Church’s internal judicial acts, at the canonical level. Therefore they do not deal with the accusations and the provisions of the civil courts of states, which must be carried out according to their own laws. Whoever has addressed or addresses the ecclesiastical court can also address the civil court, to denounce similar crimes. Therefore the action of the Church is not aimed at retracting these crimes from the jurisdiction of the state and keeping them hidden.

There exist two paths to ascertain and condemn priests responsible for acts of pedophilia: that of the Church, with canon law, and that of the state with penal law. Each of these two paths is autonomous and independent of the other: the civil forum and the canonical forum must not be confused. This means that, whether or not a civil trial has taken place, the Church must necessarily carry out the canonical process. At the moment of the application of canonical punishment, if it is deemed that the guilty priest has been sufficiently punished in the civil forum, in that case the canonical punishment can be withheld.

In Italian law, a private citizen (this includes the bishop and anyone invested with ecclesial authority) is required to accuse [before the state] only crimes for which the penalty is life in prison. Yet, in Church law established in 1962, it was obligatory, under penalty of excommunication, to accuse [before the state] crimes of pedophilia if they happened in conjunction with the sacrament of confession. Therefore, from this point of view, the Church’s legislation was more severe than that of the Italian state in punishing the crimes of pedophilia.

Q: What is the procedure followed by the Church to prosecute crimes of pedophilia committed by priests?

This is the prescribed procedure: Faced with the accusation of an act of pedophilia by a priest, the bishop (or ordinary) must first of all carry out an investigation to ascertain the certainty of the accusation. Having obtained proof, the bishop (or ordinary) must give the documentation of the case to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to follow the procedural path already contained in the Code of Canon Law. In the meantime, in some cases, the canonical judicial procedure to apply punishment can be followed — as, for example, demission from the clerical state — or, in other cases where, for example, the evidence is very clear, the administrative procedure can be carried out.

The seriousness with which the Church evaluates and judges acts of pedophilia is shown by the fact that with a new law passed in 2001, the Holy See (and not the local bishops) decided to reserve the right to judge those crimes. The new law says that judgments concerning “the crime against the sixth commandment committed by a cleric against a minor, under the age of 18, art. 4, are reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which acts in these cases as the ‘apostolic tribunal’ — as is prescribed in ‘Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela.'”

Q: Why does the Church reserve judgment to the Holy See?

The fact that the Pope wanted to reserve to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — a dicastery of the Holy See — with the apostolic letter “Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela” judgment of the acts of pedophilia committed by priests, shows that the Church considers those acts to be very serious, serious crimes on the same level of the other two serious crimes — reserved to the Holy See — that can be committed against two sacraments: the Eucharist and the holiness of confession. Therefore the Holy See’s decision has nothing to do with wanting to hide potential scandals or to diminish the seriousness of these wicked deeds, but serves to help us understand that they are very serious crimes, to which they give the maximum attention, and for this reason they reserve judgment to one of the most important offices of the Holy See, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith and not “local” entities which could possibly be influenced.

Q: Why secrecy under penalty of excommunication?

In the first place, the two documents cited by the Holy See were not secret, given the fact that they were sent to all bishops — some 5,000 — to indicate what to do in cases of pedophilia.

The 1962 instruction calls for the excommunication of whoever reveals details about the canonical penal procedure. For this reason the Instruction dealt with the way in which to proceed in cases. Therefore we speak of the need for secrecy about the legal proceedings, equal to that called for, in civil proceedings, by the judge while an investigation is in progress. Nothing more, nothing less. As is the case with every legal procedure, even the canonical ones have steps that must be secret to allow the ascertainment of the truth and to protect the innocent.

The main reason why the instruction calls for secrecy in canonical procedures was to permit any future witnesses to come forth freely, with the guarantee that their statements would be confidential and not exposed to publicity. And as a consequence, the name of the accused was kept hidden before a sentence was given in the case.

Another reason the Holy See did not want to cover up these crimes is described in a paragraph of the 1962 document, that obligated anyone, victim or witness, that was aware of any sexual abuses occurring in the confessional to come forth with that information; if not, they would incur the penalty of excommunication.

In the new legislation of 2001, the secrecy of the legal proceedings was not only applicable to cases of sexual abuse, but also for crimes against the Eucharist and those against the sacrament of penance. The letter establishes the pontifical secrecy without establishing any punishment for the violation of that secrecy, even though it is a secret that binds the conscience in a stronger way than that of a normal secret. In this case, the reason for the secret is to protect and safeguard:

— the good name of the accused, who is considered innocent until proven otherwise

— the right to privacy of the victims and witnesses

— the freedom of the superior who must freely made judgments, without being under pressure

Despite “the right to the freedom of information, it must not allow moral evil to become an occasion for sensationalism” (John Paul II, Discourse to American Bishops).

We must not forget that secrecy is needed to safeguard the dignity of the people involved: Many times those who are accused are shown to be innocent in the preliminary investigation.

Q: How are the testimonies of the victims of acts of pedophilia evaluated?

We need to underline here that:

— the testimonies of victims need to be verified, for love of the truth and of the people involved, as is the case with other crimes;

— in order to safeguard the the right of the accused to a fair trial, both sides must be heard

— in many cases the question arises: Why did the victim not report the crime after it happened but instead waited many years?

We must not forget that in the Anglo-Saxon world, the diocese to which the guilty priest belongs also shares the responsibility for the crimes committed and must offer economic recompense to the victim: Besides suffering from the scandal itself, the Church also suffers economically (which can be pleasing to some …)

Q: What does the Church do for the victims of these crimes?

The Church is deeply saddened for the innocent victims, as well as for those men who never should have become priests and who, in some cases, received very little condemnation for the crimes they committed.

The Church invites everyone:

— to console the victims
— to support them in their quest for justice
— to immediately declare these crimes

We must not forget that the Church is also a victim, because those crimes are a serious offense to the dignity of the person, created in the image and likeness of God; and they damage Christian witness.

To the victims and to their families the Church offers:

— assistance through its institutions and persons;

— necessary collaboration with public institutions, when civil or penal laws call for it, with attention, delicacy and discretion for the people involved.

The Church community must, in becoming aware of these diabolical acts, know how to more severely condemn them, without confusing reservedness with a conspiracy of silence.

“The Catholic Church had to learn at her own expense the consequences of the grave errors of some of her members and has become more able to react and to prevent pedophilia. Society as a whole must realize that the protection of minors and the fight against pedophilia has a long way to go” (Father Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See’s Press Office).

In fact, the problem of pedophilia does not only involve the Catholic Church, but is a worldwide problem, especially in the West; it afflicts various categories of persons and professions; it has many faces — like sexual tourism, child pornography, sexual exploitation of minors: these phenomenon, according to data from the U.N., afflict more than 150 million young girls and boys. This is another alarming sign of the loss of fundamental values, like love, human dignity –especially that of minors — and the positive sense of sexuality.

Therefore it is urgent for everyone to pay full attention to the words Benedict XVI addressed to the Irish bishops in October 2006: “Establish the truth of what happened in the past, take all measures to avoid it happening in the future, ensure that the principles of justice are respected and, above all, heal the victims and all those who have been affected by these abnormal crimes.”

For further reading on this topic, please consult the following pontifical documents:

— Holy Office, “Crimen Sollicitationis,” instruction of March 16, 1962;

— John Paul II, “Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela,” apostolic letter promulgating the “Normae de Gravioribus Delictis,” April 30, 2001; and

— Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “Epistula de Delictis Gravioribus,” May 18, 2001.

Interview With Chastity Speaker Jason Evert

SAN DIEGO, California, JULY 12, 2007 (Zenit.org).- A recent study published by a public policy research firm that claims abstinence education programs aren’t effective, doesn’t tell the whole story, says an expert.

Jason Evert, an international chastity speaker, author and full-time apologist for Catholic Answers, disagrees with the methods and findings of the study by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc .

Evert shared with ZENIT what the study gets wrong, and what good abstinence education programs get right in helping teens save sex for marriage.

Q: A recent study found that abstinence-education programs “don’t work.” What, specifically, did the study find? What do you think of the study’s findings?

Evert: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., tracked 1,209 students in four elementary and middle school abstinence programs to determine if the education they received impacted their sexual behavior. What the researchers found was that the “programs had no effect on the sexual abstinence of youth” two to five years after the program ended.

This study, however, had serious flaws.

First, the students in the study were between the ages of nine and 11, which is hardly the age at which young people understand the relevance of an abstinence message.

Second, the study had no high school component, and the students had no follow-up to the program — especially when they would have needed it the most, during the teenage years.

In the words of the Mathematica researchers, “The findings provide no information on the effects programs might have if they were implemented for high school youth or began at earlier ages but served youth through high school.”

Third, the researchers did not evaluate a comparable sexual education program in order to compare the findings.

Fourth, the majority of the students were poor African American children from broken families. Such youth are considered high risk for early sexual activity. Therefore, their behaviors are not representative of most young people.

Fifth, the sample of four schools studied represents less than 1% of the more than 900 abstinence programs that receive federal funding.

Sixth, the abstinence programs that were studied have already been revised and updated. Therefore, any conclusions drawn from them are outdated.

The Mathematica study was released for one reason: to influence congressional leaders to restrict the amount of funding given to abstinence education.

Since the early 1990s, abstinence education has received millions of dollars in federal grants. Although the government provides $12 worth of sexual education for every $1 given to promote abstinence, any financial support for abstinence means less money available for its opponents.

The good news about this study is that it shows how desperate the opponents of abstinence education have become. If this research — which cost taxpayers $6 million — is the best case against the effectiveness of abstinence education, we’re in good shape.

The media’s frenzy over this study is another effort to distract the public from the fact that sexual education has been a complete failure.

After decades of “safe sex” education in the United States, nearly half of the 19 million new sexually transmitted disease infections each year are among people between the ages of 15 and 24.

In the words of Heritage Foundation researcher Robert Rector, “The number-one determinant of whether a person will catch a sexually transmitted disease is the number of lifetime sexual partners. We seem to go out of our way as a government and a nation to avoid telling people that, but we hand out a lot of free condoms.”

Q: Do all sexual education programs have the same goal? Are they simply various methods for approaching the public health issues of venereal disease and out-of-wedlock pregnancies?

Evert: There are hundreds of different sexual education programs, and their goals vary. Some focus on HIV or teen pregnancy prevention, while others peddle contraceptives or promote perverse ideologies.

For example, Allendale Pharmaceuticals — makers of a contraceptive sponge — gave grant money to Planned Parenthood to create a sexual education curriculum for teens. In this program, the curriculum discusses the sponge 28 times, and birth control is mentioned more than 10 times more than abstinence.

One lesson in the curriculum even tells the teens to create their own advertisement for birth control. Later in the program, the textbook argues that there would be fewer teen pregnancies in America if there wasn’t so much social and political pressure for teens to be abstinent until marriage.

While some sexual education programs have been used to stir up business for birth control companies, others expose children to graphic sexual content.

For example, The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States recommends in their “Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education” that 5- to 8-year-olds should learn about lesbians being in love.

Meanwhile, they propose that 15-year-olds should know that some people choose to watch pornography as a way to enhance sexual fantasies.

Lest you assume that the Centers for Disease Control would control such nonsense, even they funded a transgender beauty pageant in San Francisco.

One thing that all sexual education programs seem to have in common is their relativistic approach to sexual values. Pervading the curricula is the idea that “only you can choose the right time for becoming sexually active.”

Because of this mentality, abstinence is looked at as a form of birth control, and is not given great emphasis. When abstinence is discussed, the arguments in favor of such a lifestyle are hardly convincing.

For example, Planned Parenthood’s Web site for teens states, “Some people may choose to be sexually abstinent in certain circumstances. A person who just broke up with someone might abstain from dating and sex play because being close to another person might not feel right, yet.”

Not surprisingly, sexual education programs spend an average of 4.7% of their content on the topic of abstinence.

Q: Let’s assume abstinence education programs in schools “don’t work.” What next?

Evert: Suppose a school offered an anti-drug and alcohol program to its students, and the curriculum failed to have a positive impact.

Imagine, as a result, that the school board concluded, “We need to take a more comprehensive approach. Let’s encourage the students to refuse drugs, and give clean syringes to those who are going to do it anyway. For those who choose to drink and drive, we should encourage the use of seat belts. After all, we need to be realistic.”

No one would take such an approach with drugs or drinking because there is unanimous consent that such behaviors are harmful for teens. This is where abstinence and sexual education programs diverge.

Those in the sexual education camp do not believe that unwed sexual activity is inherently harmful. Meanwhile, those in favor of abstinence know what’s at stake — and therefore prefer an approach focused on prevention instead of risk-reduction.

If certain abstinence programs are defective, the weaknesses must be identified and the deficiencies remedied.

For example, if a program failed to have a long-term impact, the educators should build into the curriculum such features as a longer follow-up or greater parental involvement. If the program is still defective, it should be dropped in favor of one that has already been evaluated with positive results.

Q: Would abolition of all sexual education programs in schools, including abstinence-based programs, foster more parental involvement?

Evert: No. The elimination of sexual education in schools will not prompt parents to become more involved in the lives of their children. This would be like thinking that parents would exercise more with their children if schools dropped physical education classes.

Indeed, parents are the primary sex educators of their children. The family is a school of all virtues, including chastity. When parents practice this virtue in their marriage, the children will see why Pope John Paul II called chastity “the sure way to happiness.”

In order for parents to learn the value of chastity, the Church must proclaim it with courage from the pulpits. Especially through promotion of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, children and adults can discover God’s plan for life and love.

Q: Are there any successful abstinence programs with which you are familiar?

Evert: Programs offered by Project Reality, Heritage Keepers, Sex Respect, Teen Aid, Friends First, PEERS, Pure Love Club, Project REACH and many others have been evaluated with very positive results.

More than 30 scientific evaluations have shown that abstinence education reduces sexual activity and has positive effects on teens.

For example, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health demonstrated that girls who take virginity pledges are 40% less likely to have a child out-of-wedlock than young women who do not make such pledges.

Contrary to what you may see in the media, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that teen sexual activity rates have been dropping since 1991, and now the majority of high school students are virgins.

In fact, between 1991 and 2005 the sexual activity rate of high school boys dropped twice as quickly as that of high school girls. The increase in abstinence education has played a major role in this new sexual revolution.

Q: What can Catholic schools learn from the failures of various programs in public schools? What should Catholic schools be doing about sexual education?

Evert: The first lesson to be learned is that one cannot simultaneously deliver a convincing abstinence message while explaining how to practice “safe sex.”

Second, Catholic schools should make sure that their materials are age-appropriate, medically accurate and in conformity with the wishes of the parents. When it comes to sexuality education, schools and churches exist to assist the parents, not replace them.

Teenagers are looking for love and searching for meaning in their lives. At a time when they are so vulnerable to the temptations of the world, they deserve to hear the convincing power of the beauty of God’s plan for human sexuality.