NASHVILLE, Tennessee, August 31, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The Catholic Diocese of Nashville is backing the administration of a private Catholic school in refusing to allow parents to opt their children out of an explicit sexual education program that parents say will corrupt their children by providing them with erotic and even salacious detail. Parents opposing the course say their hearts are broken since they feel betrayed by those in whom they had placed the trust of educating their children.
“We don’t want the Catholic school to corrupt our kids,” said Susan Skinner whose child attends Father Ryan High School in Nashville, TN and who represents a group of concerned parents. “Why can’t Catholic schools simply be Catholic?” she added.
School administration told parents earlier this year that students cannot be opted out from the course, suggesting that when parents send their children to school they hand over their right and duty as primary educator.
When LifeSiteNews contacted the diocese for comment on the matter, Director of Communications Rick Musacchio backed the school, stating that the course was “appropriate and necessary” and that “it is our policy that all students participate fully in all required classes.” [See comment below for his full response.]
LifeSiteNews then reached out directly to Nashville Bishop David Choby, who is considered to be a traditional-minded bishop, to ask if Musacchio accurately represented his position. The bishop’s secretary Elizabeth Clay said the bishop was on vacation and assured LifeSiteNews that Musacchio represented the bishop and that it “is his position” that parents are not allowed to opt their children out of the sex-ed course.
Well-known Catholic apologist, author, and commentator Fr. Peter Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D., told LifeSiteNews that Catholic parents do not surrender their rights over their children when they send them to school.
“Parents never relinquish their rights over their children anywhere, not even in a state school where parents are able to withdraw their kids from a course or a presentation if they don’t like it,” he said.
The Catholic Church holds that it is the parents’ primary right and duty to educate their children while schools play only a subsidiary role. Pope Pius XI emphasized this point in his 1937 encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge in which he urged parents living under the Nazi regime in Germany to never surrender their moral duty to instruct their children.
“Parents…have a primary right to the education of the children God has given them in the spirit of their Faith, and according to its prescriptions. Laws and measures which in school fail to respect this freedom of the parents go against natural law and are immoral,” the pope wrote.
Pope Saint John Paul II affirmed parental rights in the 1995 document “The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality” put out by the Pontifical Council for the Family, stating that schools are “bound” to respect parents when it comes to sex-ed in school.
“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,” the pope stated.
Commenting on the above passage, canon law expert Fr. Gerald Murray told LifeSiteNews that “any sex education program that is not in accord with the convictions of a child’s parents cannot be made mandatory without violating ‘the right and duty’ of the parents to control what their children are taught in this delicate and sensitive matter.”
“The school must cooperate with the parents. When the school encounters parents who object to the chosen program, the school must offer an alternative which would include releasing the student from attending that program so that the parents can provide an alternative that respects their convictions,” he said.
Even local public schools allow parents to opt their kids out of objectionable course material. Tennessee state law (Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-1301 et seq.) requires public schools to notify parents in advance of sex-ed programs and to obtain written consent for a student to participate in or opt-out of the program.
In 1931, the Holy Office following the lead of Pope Pius XI decreed that Catholic institutions must reject classroom sex education, stating that “no approbation whatever can be given to the advocacy of the new method [of sex-ed] even as taken up recently by some Catholic authors and set before the public in printed publications.” In 1951, Pope Pius XII reiterated this teaching, warning that the “problems” of sexual education must not be “pushed aside.”
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Former Texas abortion clinic owner Carol Everett has gone on record to state that the push for detailed sex-ed has its roots in the abortion business more than forty years ago where a “market for abortions” was created by getting kids interested and hooked on sex through explicit sex-education. Explicit sex-ed continues to be developed and pushed on teens by abortion giant Planned Parenthood.
Fr. Stravinskas reviewed some of the more graphic details of the curriculum, calling it “salacious.” He wondered why such details were included in a class devoted to theology.
As part of the course, students are also given the book Growing toward Intimacy by Bob Bartlett. The book is published by Good Ground Press run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in St. Paul, MN, a liberal religious order that has links on its website to pro-abortion and pro-homosexual organizations, such as Equality Now and the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
Bartlett’s book quotes often from Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest and theologian who is deeply involved in the New Age, whose retreats involve men getting naked and leaping over fires, and who openly dissents from Church teaching on contraception, the ordination of women, and homosexuality.
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LifeSiteNews emailed Bishop Choby’s spokesperson Rick Musacchio the details of the sex-ed that parents find problematic, asking him if the diocese still stands behind its original statement about refusing to allow parents to opt out of the sex-ed. Musacchio doubled-down on the original comment, calling the above presentation “inaccurate in subtle but important ways,” adding that the curriculum is “taught in a manner that reflects the beauty and dignity of the human person, the role of man and woman in God’s plan for married life, and the proper role of natural family planning, all in full conformity with Church teaching.”
‘Fighting a Goliath’
Concerned parents say they are dumbfounded at the resistance they have encountered at all levels in the exercise of their rights and duties as primary educator.
Skinner told LifeSiteNews that when parents first addressed their concerns to school administration, they were told that the school is “proud” of its curriculum and that the administration did not share the concerns raised. Parents were told that the sex-ed was “necessary” for students. They were told on various occasions that opting their children out was not an option. When parents approached Bishop Choby, a 1965 graduate of the school, with their concerns, they were unable to secure a meeting with him.
“We feel that we are fighting a Goliath. Everywhere we go, we’ve been roadblocked. Nobody is taking our concerns for our children’s spiritual well-being seriously. And the competent authorities seem to have no problem in overriding our rights and duties as parents,” Skinner said.
Parents at first asked the school to simply delete the problematic content. When the school went on to revise the curriculum (for instance, deleting the price list for contraception and changing a few of the pictures) but kept the objectionable content in, parents felt betrayed by the trust they had placed in the school. LifeSiteNews contacted school president James McIntyre and school principal Paul Davis by phone and email for comment, but did not receive a response by press time.
“We feel like the sex-ed curriculum basically amounts to a ‘wink and a nod’ to student sexual activity, especially when the curriculum gives them an exhaustive contraception list and tests the students to make sure they know how all of them function,” Skinner said.
“The culture at Father Ryan’s shouldn’t be the same as the anti-culture outside its doors. You can’t make saints unless you set the bar high, but when it comes to sexual morality, suddenly there is no bar,” she added.
Parents are now asking that the entire sex-ed course be scrapped. They say they would prefer a program that teaches chastity, self-mastery, and abstinence — all from an authentically Catholic perspective — such as the program YOU: Life, Love, and the Theology of the Body developed by best-selling Catholic authors Jason and Crystalina Evert.
“There are so many aspects of the school that we love, but they shouldn’t teach this to our kids. It’s the parents’ right to teach their kids about such sensitive matters. We don’t want our kids seeing images of penises and vaginas. This will only corrupt them. We want the program gone,” states the group of parents.
Susan Skinner’s husband Jason agrees that the situation is regrettable.
“I have no doubt that the school is trying to do what they think is best for the students, and expect they would say the same of me for my children. I’d like to think our views of theology are similar if not identical. But when it comes to sex education, it appears we have irreconcilable differences of opinion,” he told LifeSiteNews.
“The minimum request made of the school was to opt our children out of this material just as public schools in most states are legally required to permit. Regrettably, this minor accommodation was deemed unacceptable. I just don’t understand why the only options available are to violate our conscience or leave the school completely. What sense does this make for either party? How is this right and just?” he said.