Dr Timothy F. Hogan has spent much of his professional life exploring what we can do to better teach young people about human sexuality so that they may live lives filled with healthy relationships.

When asked what the Catholic Church could do to improve its education of young people about human sexuality, Hogan offered these thoughts: “I think the Church should commit itself to help parents teach kids about sexuality in a way that is grounded in the goodness of the body and our God-given longings for relationships.

“We need to provide people with solid information and guidance about what to share with kids at different developmental stages. When we give explicit information too early it can provoke unhelpful anxiety. When we wait too long, their ways of thinking about sexuality are already firmly formed.” He continued, “People need to learn what to do with desires and avoid the extremes.

Rather than aiming for gratification or elimination, we need to teach strategies for transformation. We need to teach kids and youth how to increase awareness of sexual desires and how to pray with these holy longings.” Hogan argued that the Church needs to provide a comprehensive education in human sexuality as part of its schools and catechetical formation programmes.

“We need to help kids understand that human sexuality is much bigger than genital sex. We need to invest in helping them to develop a healthy sense of sexuality.”

This can only be done, he said, over a significant period of time through an intentional formation process, such as what is done for Religious formation. Hogan said that parents and children need to start talking about human sexuality – what it means to be a boy or a girl, not necessarily genitalia – at an early age if parents hope to have conversations with the child about sexual issues during the teenage and young adult years. In a 2007 document, the US bishops say similar things. Assisting parents in the formation of their children for chaste living “should be mandatory in Catholic schools and in parish religious education and youth ministry programmes”,they said. By Daniel S. Mulhall - CNS

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