The Big Picture

Mark Oshinskie
Reproduced with Permission

Lately, seemingly seeing a window of opportunity following the death of the popular John Paul II, some commentators have asserted that the Catholic Church has an outmoded view of sexuality and that's it's time for a complete abandonment of Catholic teachings about sexuality. These commentators argue that students should be barred from hearing presentations advocating sexual abstinence. This is disturbing for several reasons.

First, in a society that is supposed to value diversity and the free exchange of ideas, why prohibit the presentation of a Catholic (actually, broadly Christian) view of sexuality? Certainly, the mainstream view is heard so often in so many media that an alternative should be embraced, if only because it's different.

Second, these commentators reason that the Church must be wrong about sexuality because so many, including nominal Catholics, defy its teachings. Poll-taking is a lame basis for morality. Do these commentators think that school segregation, gun ownership, tax cheating and obesity are valid because they are common? Besides, is a church supposed to challenge people to be better, or should it merely enable and approve self-indulgence, as does the rest of the culture?

Third, and most importantly, instead of just criticizing, these commentators should tell readers what view of sexuality they would put in place of the Christian model.

Then they should open-mindedly examine the consequences of their view.

One might guess that they would urge more of the same, mainstream model that's been used for the past three decades: urge teens (and adults) to make their own decisions about sex based on their feelings and to use birth control, including abortions, to nullify the natural consequences.

This situational, personal sovereignty model creates much bigger problems than does the abstinence model. First, who really believes teens make good decisions? Most teens have an extremely capricious worldview and will do whatever will meet their peers' approval, even if it means wearing pants that are so tight they cause yeast infections or so loose that they fall down. Telling teens to do what feels right is about the worst idea imaginable.

Second, the much-promoted panacea of condom use is unpopular for at least one important reason that even the faithless must concede: sex mediated with rubber just doesn't compare with going fully body-to-body. That's why condom-mania has not swept the nation. Empowered female forms of birth control have allowed the rampant transmission of STDs.

Perceptive, unbiased people see the consequences of the personal sovereignty model every day. First, bad judgments about sex have given rise to tens of millions of abortions. Second, many single individuals have become parents. Those familiar with the contemporary school environment know the negative effects on school kids and, in turn, on their schools, when kids are raised in households without both a mother and a father.

Beyond that, our culture, which advances the view that sex should be freely available without consequence, has promoted infidelity, excessively-delayed commitment and divorce. Millions with STD or abortion scarring become sterile and require reproductive technologies like IVF that cost the insurance-paying public billions each year and have opened a creepy, Brave New World, where lives are increasingly created and destroyed in labs.

By and large, people do what society expects them to do. The more young people feel they are expected to have sex, the more they will try do so. It is a lie and a disservice to our youth to compare the non-homeostatic nature of the sex drive to such unyielding, intense survival drives as hunger or thirst.

And let's extend the candor: tell teen boys that youthful sexual events probably won't last that long. Tell the girls that they won't reach their sexual prime until well after adolescence. Don't take it from me: Eva Longoria just said so last week, and I think these commentators will agree she's got a positive body image. Tell kids they are not likely to be the one who beats the odds concerning pregnancy in the short term or sterility in the long term. These messages don't have to be delivered in a scary tone. These are matters of fact and can be conveyed accordingly.

Tell teens that, statistically and anecdotally, there's a strong chance that the person who says they love them tonight won't be talking to them several months from now. Tell them that they're more likely to pick a boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse who they actually like if the pressure of the perceived bond created by a sexual relationship isn't clouding their perception. And assure them that their heads won't explode if they postpone sexual activity. There have been, as far as I know, no reported cases of spontaneous human combustion in those who didn't have sex until they were married.

Of course, many young people aren't going to listen to a word they hear in any school presentation. That's a given.

But, as long as we're dispensing advice, let's not suggest to teens that they do what feels right. A world run by teen sensibilities would be a mess.

That might be precisely the problem. We have a culture run by adults who think, and act, like teenagers: one eye on what their peers and media say and one eye on the moment, with no thought to responsibility or consequence.