DIOCESE PARISHES EDUCATION VOCATIONS PROTECTING CHILDREN OFFICES and AGENCIES
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Diocesean Guidelines for Teaching Theology of the Body for Children

Introduction

     a. The diocese encourages the teaching of Theology of the Body (TOB) in your parish, school or home school.  It reflects the Churchs love and concern for the youth and children and our desire for them to realize Gods plan in their lives.  Theology of the Body is a powerful and life-changing message and a great gift to the Church from Blessed John Paul II.  Since it is most often taught to minors and addresses the topic of sexuality (from a biblical perspective), there is a need for prudence and diligence to uphold several complimentary values: the childs own growth in holiness, the rights and duties of the parents, and the individuality of the childs maturity and level of innocence. 

     b.  Theology of the Body Defined:

           1)  The Theology of the Body refers to a series of 133 talks given by Blessed Pope John Paul II from September 1979 to November 1984 at the Vatican as part of his catechetical service to the Church.  Taken together they fill a 600 page book and every other Theology of the Body resource is essentially an unpacking of what the Holy Father has delivered in these talks. 

           2)  Theology of the Body teaches us about giving and receiving a gift, self-donative love or the gift of self on behalf of another person that shows so brilliantly in the love of Jesus Christ. The core of Theology of the Body can be summed up in the statement Gift expresses the essential truth of the human body. It affirms that our sexuality is the ability to love and be loved, in and through our bodies, and that this spousal meaning actually reflects the very nature of who God is as a communion of Persons, as Love.  TOB speaks positively about the body, sexuality and sexual pleasure but it does so always in the context of the truth of Gods design as theology (it is not biology). 

           3)  By carefully distinguishing what is good and true in our sexuality from the ways sin and concupiscence distort it, John Paul II overcomes the perennial temptation to allow the later to taint the former-- to allow our experience of guilt and shame to misconstrue what God has made very good.  It is precisely this positive nature of TOB that makes it such an effective biblical message for everyone, and especially for youth.  Sex and sexual desire are God-given and our hearts reveal that these desires are meant as gift and love- not as lust or to objectify others. 

           4)  Pope John Paul II's "Theology of the Body" presents an integrated vision of the human person, which is the antidote to the misunderstood and misused sexuality of Western culture. It is a commentary upon Holy Scripture focusing upon the theology of the human body, which brings great theological insights to Catholic moral teaching given by Christ and his Church pertaining to the human body. 

           5)  The term Theology of the Body (TOB) most accurately refers to the actual talks given by Blessed Pope John Paul II.   Because of the materials profundity and length, many authors and educators have written various books and resources to bring the riches of TOB to a wider audience.  Nevertheless, one should keep in mind that these resources must refer back to the Holy Fathers writings and strive to be faithful to their original foundation.


Section 1  Values of Teaching Theology of the Body
 
     a.  Reason for these guidelines: 

          Theology of the Body is clearly theology but since it pertains to practical living, it may involve some sexual education, which may not be in the lesson plan, but could well develop in the discussion. This is why the diocese has proposed these guidelines that protect children who may not be ready for the discussions that arise in some instances.  This approach respects parent rights, thus incorporating the guidance given by the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education document, Educational Guidance in Human Love: An Outline for Sex Education (1983) and the Pontifical Council for the Family document, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality for Education Within the Family (1995) where these are appropriate. We also want to comply with the USCCB guidance provided in Doctrinal Elements of a Curriculum Framework for the Development of Catechetical Materials for Young People of High School Age.

     b.  The importance of parental involvement

           1)  The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality for Education Within the Family (1995) acknowledges that:

                 Parents are the first and most important educators of their children, and they also possess a fundamental competency in this area: they are educators because they are parents. They share their individual mission with other individuals or institutions, such as the Church and the State. But the mission of education must always be carried out in accordance with a proper application of the principle of Subsidiarity. This implies the legitimacy and indeed the need of giving assistance to the parents, but finds its intrinsic and absolute limit in their prevailing right and their actual capabilities. The principle of Subsidiarity is thus at the service of parental love, meeting the good of the family unit. For parents by themselves are not capable of satisfying every requirement of the whole process of raising children, especially in matters concerning their schooling and the entire gamut of socialization. Subsidiarity thus complements paternal and maternal love and confirms its fundamental nature, inasmuch as all other participants in the process of education are only able to carry out their responsibilities in the name of the parents, with their consent and, to a certain degree, with their authorization".

           2)  There is a section in The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality (Section IV: Fathers and Mothers as Educators) by the Pontifical Council for the Family encouraging and supporting parents, including single parents in their role of providing for the moral education of their children. It quotes Pope John Paul II in his encyclical, Familaris Consortio (On the Christian Family in the Modern World) as follows:

           Sex education, which is a basic right and duty of parents, must always be carried out under their attentive guidance, whether at home or in educational centres chosen and controlled by them. In this regard, the Church reaffirms the law of subsidiarity, which the school is bound to observe when it cooperates in sex education, by entering into the same spirit that animates the parents (FC, 43).

          3)  The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality also underscores the difficulty of the task, stating:

               We cannot forget, however, that we are dealing with a right and duty to educate which, in the past, Christian parents carried out or exercised little. Perhaps this was because the problem was not as acute as it is today, or because the parents' task was in part fulfilled by the strength of prevailing social models and the role played by the Church and the Catholic school in this area. It is not easy for parents to take on this educational commitment because today it appears to be rather complex, and greater than what the family could offer, also because, in most cases, it is not possible to refer to what one's own parents did in this regard.

               It concludes, the Church holds that it is her duty to give parents back confidence in their own capabilities and help them to carry out their task (TM, 47). 

          4)  The four principles regarding information about sexuality given in The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality (TM, 121-127) should be brought to the attention of parents as a resource. Both parents and teachers should be sensitive to the childs level of development. The practical recommendations of parents and for all educators in the above mentioned document should be followed.

     c.   Goals of teaching Theology of the Body

            1)  Inculcate a greater respect for the dignity of the human person based upon a correct understanding of the Theology of the Body in the divine plan as taught by Blessed Pope John Paul II. We should teach true reverence for the gift of our sexuality, and challenge teens to live a life worthy of our great dignity as human persons.  

             2)  Activate parent, teacher and student motive forces to draw all closer to Catholic teaching as it pertains to understanding of the language of human body, which is vital understanding some truths of the faith.

            3)  Provide a positive biblically based theology that informs our children and teens of the divinely given value and rationale for Catholic teaching on sexual morality and true love as exemplified by our Lord and Savior.

            4)  Promote Blessed John Paul IIs insightful teaching that can be life-transforming in the culture of death our youth live in. 

     d.  Teaching guidelines: General

           1)  The Catholic Church's traditional teaching about sex education, developed especially by Popes Pius XI and Pius XII, indicates that it should teach modesty, purity, chastity, and morality, from the sixth and ninth commandments, rather than any explicit teaching about sex. Vatican IIs Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) specifies that especially in the heart of their own families, young people should be aptly and seasonably instructed about the dignity, duty and expression of married love.  Catholic sex education has been training in chastity imparted by parents.

           2)  Thus, in teaching Theology of the Body, no sex education should be taught, only the theology regarding human sexuality.  The dilemma is that at some point sensitive subject matter on sex education will arise.  At the heat of the moment it will be tempting to provide an explicit answer.  However, this should be avoided. Certainly, knowledge of Church teaching would be beneficial to assist with appropriate answers to questions.  If the facilitator does not have that knowledge at the moment, the teen should be advised that you will find the appropriate answer and get back to them.  Below are some magisterial documents that can be helpful:

                  a)  The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education within the Family
                  b)  Educational Guidance in Human Love: Outlines for Sex Education
                  c)  Catechetical Formation in Chaste Living: Guidelines for Curriculum Design and Publication
                  d)  Catechism of the Catholic Church
                  e)  Deus Caritas Est
(encyclical letter of Pope Benedict XVI)
                   f)  Familiaris Consortio (apostolic exhortation of John Paul II)
                  g)  Humanae Vitae (encyclical letter of Pope Paul VI)
                  h)  Evangelium Vitae (encyclical letter of John Paul II)
                   i)  Gaudium et Spes (Vatican II Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World)

           3)  Parents should always be consulted before teaching Theology of the Body courses and should be asked to approve their son or daughters participation. They should then be invited to become involved in the educational process either by support provided in the home or by attending some sessions themselves as appropriate (e.g., a parents video or oral presentation could be arranged and presented).

            4)  The guidelines provided in The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality are worth noting Human sexuality is a sacred mystery and must be presented  according to the doctrinal and moral teaching of the Church, always bearing in mind the effects of original sin.

                 a)  Only information proportionate to each phase of their individual development should be presented to children and young people.

                 b)  No material of an erotic nature should be presented to children or young people of any age, individually or in a group.

                 c)  No one should ever be invited, let alone obliged, to act in any way that could objectively offend against modesty or that could subjectively offend against his or her own delicacy or sense or privacy.

     e.  Key Principles from The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality

          1)  Chastity cannot exist as a virtue without the capacity to renounce self, to make sacrifices, and to wait.

          2)  Chastity is the spiritual power which frees love from selfishness and aggression. To the degree that a person weakens chastity, his or her love becomes more and more selfish, that is satisfying a desire for pleasure and no longer giving.

      f.    Prayer and Witness

            1)  Prayer is a key component of all Catholic teaching and Theology of the Body is no exception.  Prayer for our students and with our students should be integrated into the work of the teacher.

            2)  Teachers should remember the injunction of Pope Paul VI: Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses (EN 41). 

Section 2  Teaching Theology of the Body at the High School Level

      a.  Resources:

           1)  Theology of the Body for Teens by Ascension Press. Theology of the Body for Teens program is divided into 12 unique segments that reflect the pedagogical approach of John Paul II's dynamic teaching. The program has been designed specifically as a catechetical program to fit into Catholic schools, youth ministry, CCD, and homeschooling settings. Theology of the Body for Teens has been granted the Imprimatur by Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia.

           2)  The video content for the original series contains 20-25 minutes of teaching per lesson (including four special Guys Only and Girls Only segments), presented by the authors of the program, Jason and Crystalina Evert and Brian Butler. Also included is a 40-minute video presentation for the parents of the students who will be participating in the program.
 
      b.   Parental involvement

            1)  In matters of faith and morals, parents are the first and primary teachers of their children, particularly in regard to the topics of marriage, family, identity, vocation, chastity and human sexuality addressed in Theology of the Body (TOB.)

            2)   In the Catholic School, courses that address topics related to Theology of the Body should clearly state the intent to introduce, integrate and present this information in the course syllabus and/or class overview handout. Ordinarily, this would include Theology, Science and Health courses.

            3)  Additionally, the syllabus/overview should provide an option for students whose parents do not wish their children to participate in TOB activities and/or discussions.

            4)  In courses where significant TOB content will be included, a letter should be mailed to the parent prior to the introduction of material. Parents should be invited to preview parent and student materials that will be used in the classroom.

            5)  Parents should have the option of excluding their students from these lessons, with alternative assignments offered to the student and without grade penalty.

      c.  Teaching guidelines: General

            1)  In teaching Theology of the Body, no sex education should be taught, only the theology regarding human sexuality.  The dilemma is that at some point sensitive subject matter on sex education will arise.  At the heat of the moment it will be tempting to provide an explicit answer.  However, this should be avoided. Certainly, knowledge of Church teaching would be beneficial to assist with appropriate answers to questions.  If the facilitator does not have that knowledge at the moment, the teen can always be told that you will find the Church teachings on that subject matter and get back to them.  Below are some documents that can be helpful to be referenced in our guidelines:

                 a)  The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education within the Family
                 b)  Deus Caritas Est
                 c)  Familiaris Consortio
                 d)  Humanae Vitae
                 e)  Evangelium Vitae
                  f)  Gaudium et Spes

            2)  Diocesan offices that can assist in providing additional guidance are as follows:

                  a)  For Schools: the Superintendent of Catholic Schools
                  b)  For DREs or PSR: Director, Bishop Helmsing Institute
                  c)  For Youth: Diocesan Director, Youth Ministry
                  d)  For others: Vice Chancellor, Office of Evangelization and Catechesis

Section 3  Teaching Theology of the Body at the 7th and 8th grade levels

      a.  Resources:  Theology of the Body for Teens, Middle School Edition has recently been published for by Ascension Press including a DVD series and workbooks and a leaders guide.

      b.  Parental involvement:

           1)  Gaudium et Spes (14) reminds us that we are obliged to bring our body and souls to their highest perfection, in praise and honor of our creator.  Wounded by sin, we find our bodies rebelling with the inclination to sin.  The media, making sin acceptable in our culture today, has minimized this last sentence.  Even parents have become desensitized to the idea of sex outside of marriage being acceptable.  A small percentage realizes that our human sexuality is to be protected, and that there is a beauty to Gods plan of salvation in this matter.

            2)  Catechesi Tradendae (24) states the responsibility of the Church is to educate and support parents in educating their children.  Our Parishes and Catholic Schools recognize the need to support families in this education as we face new challenges that are increased by globalization and technology.  The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium (3, 16) calls for a courageous renewal on the part of Catholic schools.  With the participation of both the Catholic School and the Parish together, we will guarantee families that their children will receive quality spiritual education in Theology of the Body with a sound theological, scriptural and doctrinal base.

            3)  The General Directory for Catechesis (GDC 180-181), observes that the first victims of the spiritual and cultural crisis gripping the world are the young.  It notes that youth boredom, angst and diffidence or alienation from the Church may lurk in the background, especially if there is a lack of religious support in the home.  Thus, the role of the parents in this education is critical because it is their primary duty and obligation to educate their children, but also because the home is the perfect natural environment to teach children how to avoid comprising influences that threaten society (CCC 2221-2224).

            4)  It is the teachers responsibility to support the family in this task, giving them the knowledge and tools necessary to fulfill their spiritual obligation on this topic. This requires interaction with parents and teachers and a steady flow of communication. As the GDC observes, young people cannot be considered only objects of catechesis, but also active subjects and protagonists of evangelization and artisans of social renewal.

            5)  It is imperative that parents are made aware of all teachings of Theology of the Body.  Therefore a prerequisite parent meeting for parents to approve all subject matter must be scheduled, and a permission form signed for each teen attending any Theology of the Body session (see appendix I).  At this meeting the parents should receive a detailed outline of the curriculum with an explanation and the opportunity to ask questions, the opportunity to see the parent video, and the option to participate in the program with their teen.  Take home handouts for participation with their teens should be provided (diocesan examples are being developed; contact the Youth Office for copies)

      c.  Options for Schools

           1)  Parish programs will offer parental participation with the teens, or a separate program with a parent track and a teen track running simultaneously.  These options open the door for quality family discussion. 

           2)  If a teen brings a friend without parent approval, that teen will be given a permission form that must be returned signed to continue participation in the program (see appendix I). 

            3)  Approved speakers on this topic for school assemblies or parishes can be utilized to enhance the program.  Parents should be invited to preview and/or attend all presentations.

Section 4  Guidelines for use by DREs or others teaching outside of the school system 

      a.  Resources

           Instructors should consult with the Diocesan Youth Office to determine the latest resources available as well as training sessions for facilitators.

      b.  Parental Options

           1)  Parish programs highly recommend parental participation.  Parents should be invited to preview and/or attend all presentations.

           2)  A parent meeting is a mandated prerequisite so parents can approve all subject matter.

           3)  A detailed outline of the curriculum with explanation should be available to parents.  
 
          4)  If curriculum comes with videos parents will have ample opportunity to review all materials.
 
          5)  Parents should be given the option to stay for the whole program.
 
          6)  Ideally parent sessions should be separate from teens.  Separate sessions give parents and teens more freedom and comfort to ask appropriate questions.  A parent track can be run simultaneously with a teen track.  This option opens doors to good family discussion.
 
      c.  New Participants

           In youth ministry teens are often encouraged to bring a friend.  If this occurs without prior approval, the guest teen will be allowed to stay for the first session, given a permission form (see appendix I) and asked to return it signed by their parents to continue participation in the program. 

Section 5   Home School Guidance

      a.  Home school programs will offer a parent meeting as a prerequisite so parents can approve of all subject matter. A detailed outlined of the curriculum should be given to the parents and explained. It should be recommended to show the parent video and parents should be given the opportunity to review all video and subject matter. Parents should be given the option to volunteer for portions of the program.

      b.  If a teen brings a friend without parent approval, that teen will be given a permission form that must be returned signed to continue participation in the program.

      c.  Approved speakers on this topic can be utilized to enhance the program. Parents should be invited to preview and/or attend all presentations. 

      d.  Retreats may be scheduled to enhance the program. Parents may be invited to attend or preview the schedule of events. The boys and girls will have separate sleeping arrangements.


Section 6  Permission Forms and Letters Sent Home

      a.  Parental permission forms are required by all those teaching junior or senior high school students Theology of the Body to protect parental rights and respect the principle of Subsidiarity.

      b.  A permission form is found at Appendix I.  Forms may not be modified. If mailed home, forms should be accompanied by a letter that specifies the material to be covered (preferably with a brief outline), and with provision for a resource that the parent can engage in with their teenager. This latter resource helps to insure parental involvement.

      c.  Forms should be kept on file at the parish school of religion, parish school or other Catholic educational entity.  The diocese will check for compliance periodically.

      d.  The Parental Permission form is shown on page 9.  Please reproduce for local use. Electronic versions of this form may be used provided they are actually signed by parents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix I:

Theology of the Body Parental Permission Form

For Jr. and Sr. High School Student Parents or Guardians

 

 

Parents are the first and most important educators of their children. This

form encourages parental involvement and request permission for the

teaching of the Theology of the Body developed by

Blessed Pope John Paul II.

 

As the parent or guardian, of the student listed below, I give permission

for my child to participate in the Theology of the Body Classes. The

following books will be used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

__________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

Childs full name:

 

 

 

Print parent or guardians full name:

 

 

 

Parent/Guardians signature:

 

 

 

Relationship to participant:

 

 

Parish or School Name:

 

Home Phone:

Work Phone:

 

 

Cell Phone:

 

Home Address

 

:

City, State, Zip Code:

 

 

I plan to attend the scheduled parent information session (Circle one)

Y

N

I plan to attend some of the classes in Theology of the Body (Circle one)

Y

N

 

 

To print Appendix 1:  Highlight the form.  Go to PRINT.  Under the PAGE RANGE section, choose SELECTION and PRINT.  You should print only the area you have highlighted.

 

 

 

 

 

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