Thursday, 10 February 2011


Recently, (January 25, 2011) The Commission for Doctrine of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) released a pastoral letter to young people on chastity. In this pastoral letter, the Commission recommends that young people surround themselves with friends who also want to live in a chaste manner. It is also pointing to the importance of prayer, the practice of confession, and receiving spiritual guidance. While the document stresses several spiritual ideals such as living a life of chastity it falls significantly short of inviting our youth to enter into any kind of honest dialogue about sexuality and chastity.

Choosing to remain anonymous the Bishops delegated distribution of the pastoral letter through Salt + Light Television using a video production now available on Youtube. Unfortunately this video presentation  lacks the much needed direct and honest language about such things as masturbation and other sexual activities prevalent among teenagers today (as it was during my own time). Instead the producers of Salt + Light decided to reproduce the same churchy language and style, featuring youthfull card reading actors carefully following the same stilted style used by our bishops.

This approach will no doubt leave many youth to turn elsewhere thus losing the benefit of  any embedded  wisdom offered by  our Bishops.  At the same time many parents will be left wondering why our Bishops failed to offer advice on chastity using a more direct tack.  For example:  
Why did our Bishops choose to release their views on such a sensitive topic during a time when trust and credibility about sexuality have never been more polarized? Perhaps it was linked to the recent controversy stirred by Pope Benedict XVI concerning the use of contraceptives. This Pastoral Letter in its usual top down style lacks the much needed dialogue (not monologue) and intimacy required to discuss such matters of interest to our young. As a parent I wonder about the impact these pastoral instructions will have especially considering the following:

• Why should young people respect the Catholic view on sexuality when the Church itself, to quote Richard Sipe, continues to struggle with its own inadequate understanding of sexuality.

• Why should young people listen to a group of celibate men speaking about chastity, who appear to have denied their own sexual identity?

• How can young people give credibility to an organization that is deeply involved with unresolved issues of sexual abuse?

• How can young people discuss the beautiful but erotic passages from the Book of Song of Songs with members of the clergy who have never experienced sexuality with members of the opposite sex?

• Why should our youth accept advice from the Church about sexual matters which is still based on the troubled and tormented sexual experience of St. Augustine?

• Why did the Bishops not consult experienced and professional experts on sexuality from both sexes of the laity?

• Why should young people take this effort seriously, in the absence of real dialogue with the authors so that both parties may grow and learn about God’s gift of sexuality ?

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