Sex Education According to James DiGiacomo, S.J.


After ten years of dismissing the complaints of Catholic parents concerning the secularization of religious education in their Catholic schools, certain voices can now be heard lamenting the self-destruct pattern that still threatens the continued existence of Catholic education. Catholic elementary and secondary schools churning out more and more religious illiterates or "Communal Catholics" (these latter hanging very loosely to the "institutional Church" are sometimes called "Omega Point Catholics"), have obviously failed in their prime purpose — to help form youth in the Catholic Faith and tradition.

Fr. Alfred McBride, of the NCEA Office in Washington, admits that students emerging from Catholic religion classes today are "more personalized than institutional" — that is to say, if we are allowed to translate, they have been educated in philosophies and attitudes disdaining fidelity to Catholic doctrine and obedience to the Teaching Authority of the Church. Disastrous catechetical methodologies have, in fact, continued to be adopted in Catholic schools on the faulty philosophical premise that "indoctrination has become not only undesirable but impossible." These words of a leading religious educator sound strange at a time in world history when rampant indoctrination in false ideologies and religious cultism is more successful than ever before, but such sloganizing has served very effectively this past decade to stifle the teaching of the Articles of Catholic Faith to Catholic children. Indoctrination in the Articles of the Catholic Creed is of the very essence of sound Catechetics, and it is ironic that "indoctrination" continues to be a dirty word in the mouths of the same "professional educators" who have specialized in indoctrinating Catholic youth in the "new sexual morality."

Should it not be a matter for profound concern that the same kind of pagan sex education given adults by the authors of the CTSA Study Human Sexuality (headed by dissenter theologian Fr. Anthony Kosnik of Sts. Cyril and Methodius Seminary, Orchard Lake, Mich.) is the same vintage sex education given Catholic youth via programs in Family Life education that have proliferated in Catholic schools this past decade? In sanctioning masturbation, premarital sex, contraception, abortion, homosexuality, bestiality, and yet other sexual perversions, the CTSA Study has literally focused attention on the ideal of "wholesome sexuality" that has been reflected in the corrupting sex education programs actually operative in both public and parochial schools.

For the situation in parochial schools and CCD programs, we now have an interesting confirmation in the candid essay "One Religious Educator's Reaction to 'Human Sexuality' " which appeared in The Living Light, (Volume 14, Winter, 1977). The essay is written by Fr. James DiGiacomo, S.J., one of the leading lights in modern religious education and who has published widely.

Is Fr. DiGiacomo outraged by the CTSA Study? Why, no. He regards the book as a "wholesome and valuable contribution to the continuing dialogue that goes on in the church community and among concerned parents and educators of all persuasions." For him, it is a "courageous and valuable book." This, recall, is the same book which one Roman theologian (Msgr. John F. McCarthy, J.C.D.. S.T.D.) accurately labelled as "pornological, scandalous, and offensive to those who love God." But top American catechist Fr. DiGiacomo (he is also an expert in "encounter methodology") has more to offer us (though somewhat lackadaisically):

"It is possible that the CTSA committee is wrong in some of its conclusions, maybe even in its premises. Any religious educator or counsellor or confessor has to take stock before accepting the book's positions and applying them in his ministry. There is no easy way out here, unless one wants to accept uncritically the condemnations that have issued from some chanceries. That might be politic, but it would not be sound educational or pastoral practice. Make no mistake about it: the committee (and you?) are taking positions which, though acceptable to growing numbers of our contemporaries, are demonstrably out of the mainstream of traditional Catholic teaching on sexuality. It may well be that it is time for the tradition to move in this direction, and it may be that the Spirit is calling us to do no less. In this case you and the committee will be part of the wave of the future. If not, then church historians may some day relegate you to the ranks of deviants who yielded too much at a time of critical stress and who served the community neither wisely nor well."

The above is assuredly a remarkable example of doctrinal and moral fence-sitting, even for our hypocritical times. A thorough reading of Fr. DiGiacomo's review reveals that he has much enthusiasm for "meeting the needs" of young people and very little enthusiasm for the "absolutist" moral teaching of Jesus Christ on sexual matters. We should not be surprised at this, however. As he himself proceeded to explain (with particular reference to the CTSA Study's position on premarital intercourse):

"This is fairly old stuff, and rather conservative in comparison with many other moral approaches; but it is rather new for Catholics. Or, should we say, it is something new for Catholics to be saying in print. A great many Catholic priests, educators and counsellors will find nothing disturbing in "Human Sexuality", but rather a printed version of what they have been thinking and saying and even teaching for years. And many of the not-so-simple faithful, who reached the same conclusions as private persons long ago, will wonder what all the shouting is about" (page 619).

Fr. DiGiacomo can be heard on National Catholic Reporter cassettes telling parents and teachers "How to Teach Religion Effectively to Today's Youth." He has been a professor of religious education in Fordham's graduate institute and is the author of the 'Conscience and Concern' catechetical series (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969) which many Catholic parents found doctrinally objectionable and morally offensive. The Sexuality volume in this series was saturated with situation ethics and the thoroughly naturalistic views of Dr. Lester Kirkendall, a leading American Humanist and pro-SIECUS sex educator. Winston Press is now (1978) trumpeting Fr. DiGiacomo's latest 'Encounter' series of high school religion texts which claims to be able to induce students "to experience the evangelization or conversion process for themselves" and to "achieve the fullness of evolution as human beings" by arriving at "Omega Point."

There can be no doubt concerning Fr. DiGiacomo's credentials as a leading religious educator and professional catechist. His own catechetical texts provide ample proof - were it needed - that he is to be believed when he tells us that the unCatholic views on sexual morality found in the CTSA Study have been shared and taught for many years in Catholic classrooms. It is evident that the degeneration of Catholic religious teaching into the putrid morality and prurient sexology of the CTSA Study is but one consequence of the neo-Modernism influencing catechesis in our time.

Many Catholic parents have sensed this appalling development and have lost confidence in Catholic education. They owe, nevertheless, a debt of gratitude to Fr. DiGiacomo for confirming in cold print their decision to withdraw their children by the hundreds of thousands from Catholic schools contaminated by corrupting sex education programs. Sad to say, some of the youth who have been indoctrinated in the permissive sexual attitudes favored by the CTSA Study authors, now appear among the statistics given in articles entitled "Why Johnny Can't Believe."

If Catholic education is to be truly renewed in our day and the confidence of the laity restored in their schools at all levels, there must he a return to the Church's firm teaching an sexual ethics and to the Church's norms of chastity and modesty in the treatment of human sexuality. Ω

Reprinted from SERVIAM, newsletter of the Credo chapter of CUF, Buffalo, N.Y.
Re-published in "THE WANDERER" a Catholic newspaper, issue of July 6, 1978