By Dr John Hui

In the light of concerns surrounding teenage sex, abortions and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), many have called for the introduction of “sex education” into the curriculum for teens. More often than not, such education suggests that the answer lies in promoting the use of contraceptives, in particular condoms.

Such an approach presupposes that:
- Contraceptives are effective in reducing pregnancy and STIs; and
- Teens will use contraceptives correctly all the time.

Both these presumptions are not supported by fact.

Firstly we must know that only barrier contraceptives, such as the condom, may help to reduce the risk of acquiring STIs.

Even then condoms do not offer 100 percent protection, as studies have shown that consistent use of the condom can only reduce the risk of HIV transmission by about 80 percent, gonorrhoea by about 50 to 62 percent, and chlamydia by about 26 percent. It offers much less protection against STIs that are spread by skin to skin contact, such as herpes simplex and genital warts, since there are areas of the genitalia that are not covered by the condom.

Secondly the condom can only be effective in reducing risk if it were used consistently and correctly. In reality, many people, especially youth, fail to do so. One local survey of “at risk youth” found that about 42 percent had experienced slippage, and about 32 percent had experienced breakage. Other studies showed that only between 8 percent and 48.4 percent of those surveyed use the condom consistently.

Even in a purely hypothetical situation where we assume the condom is 100 percent effective and used all the time, and thus the risk of acquiring STI is virtually zero, wrong choices (in this case engaging in premarital sex) affect us negatively.

Therefore, an adequate response to the issue of teen sex must go beyond a merely biological one.

Indeed, studies have shown that sexually active teenagers are more likely to be depressed and more likely to attempt suicide than teenagers who are not sexually active (even after controlling for sex, race, age and socio-economic status), and most sexually experienced teens are already reporting feelings of regret over premature sexual intercourse.

As Dr Stephen Genuis once remarked in the British Medical Journal, merely promoting condoms “disregards the complex nature of human sexuality and fails to tackle the underlying social and emotional needs of young people, who are often trapped in high risk sexual behaviour as a consequence of difficult life circumstances.”

The Church, on the other hand, proposes a very different approach that is based on an integrated vision of the human person, who as a living image of God in the world consists not only of the body but the spirit as well.

So while “sex education” deals with only the biological aspects of a person, “sexuality education” takes into account the entire make up of the person as male or female since sexuality is a fundamental component of the person that expresses the call to love as God loves.

As such, educating children in sexuality cannot be isolated from formation in other areas, such as character development.

Furthermore, counsellors have been unanimous on this point: that teens with good relationships with their parents are much more likely to make better decisions in life. Parents are the best channels for sexuality education of their children, because they are in the best position to form and equip their children with the virtues they necessarily need to live a good life. As Pope Francis has said, “Parents always influence the moral development of their children, for better or for worse.

It follows that they should take up this essential role and carry it out consciously, enthusiastically, reasonably and appropriately.”

It is only when we are able to recognise this, and start forming our children in a holistic manner, that they will be able to make the right decisions when faced with such issues in their teenage years. 

Dr John Hui is with the Catholic Medical Guild of Singapore’s bioethics centre.

Guild’s bioethics centre

The Catholic Medical Guild of Singapore (CMG) provides a resource for those who are seeking help in answering real-life ethical dilemmas on issues ranging from contraception and abortion counselling to that of end-of-life care in a manner that is both professional and faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

The CMG bioethics centre consisting of moral theologian, Dominican Friar David Garcia, and medical doctors trained in medical ethics will be available to address ethical dilemmas via the email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or if necessary, through a personal face-to-face dialogue at a date and time that can be arranged.

Sexuality and chastity

Sexuality refers to our capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the ability for forming bonds of communion with others.

Sexuality is a good. It is a way of relating and being open to others. It “has love as its intrinsic end, more precisely, love as donation and acceptance, love as giving and receiving.” (Pontifical Council for the Family,

“The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education Within the Family”, December 8, 1995).

Chastity is a virtue that frees us for authentic love, which is to love as God loves. Chastity helps us make a sincere gift of self to others, according to the state of life we are in (whether as singles, consecrated celibates, or married people). It is through living out the gift of our sexuality this way that we find true fulfilment.

Singles live out this virtue by being a gift to people around them. They avoid sexual intercourse which is reserved for those who are married, since sexual intercourse is essentially the consummation and renewal of a couple’s wedding vows.

Consecrated celibates forgo marriage, and thus sexual intercourse, not because it is bad, but because this enables them to give themselves to God alone with an undivided heart.

Married couples are also called to chastity in marriage. They do this by giving themselves exclusively to each other, freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully “till death do they part”. These four aspects of their wedding vows are consummated and renewed, in and through their bodies, in conjugal intercourse.

Handbook on sexuality education

The cover of the ‘A CaSE (Catholic Sexuality Education) In Point for Parents’ book designed to equip busy Catholic parents with the necessary information for their role as their children’s primary sex educators.

A handbook on sexuality education has been published to help parents on navigating this crucial topic with their children.

Entitled “A CaSE (Catholic Sexuality Education) In Point for Parents”, it is designed to equip busy Catholic parents with the necessary information for their role as their children’s primary sex educators.

Written by Dr John Hui, a family physician, the handbook also features a consolidation of information from selected sources that are purposeful and relevant, merging faith and science.

Parents who are keen can obtain a copy from the ACF (Archdiocesan Commission for the Family) office located at the Catholic Archdiocesan Education Centre, 2 Highland Road. They can also call 6280 3057 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Recommended love offering for each copy is $5. All proceeds go to support ACF’s efforts in promoting family life.

Visit or to find out more.

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