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Vatican: Comprehensive sex ed in NYC schools is ‘useless and even harmful’

A new New York City education policy that mandates comprehensive sex education in all city public schools has caused ire within the Vatican.

The Papacy’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, this week published an editorial decrying the “failed utopia of sexual revolution” and suggested the policy will likely achieve the opposite of the desired effect, which is to reduce rates of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STD) throughout the city, especially in Latino and African-American communities. The Vatican called the initiative “useless and even harmful.”

The new policy goes into effect this school year, which officially begins for students on Sept. 8, and requires schools to teach students in sixth grade and up sex education that includes instruction on abstinence, the risks of unprotected sex, puberty and pregnancy. The new rules also mandate the teaching of healthy eating and the importance of regular exercise and gives parents the option of opting-out their children from discussions of birth control methods.

The Vatican’s stance on the issue, as voiced by L’Osservatore Romano’s Lucetta Scaraffia, is that while unintended pregnancy, STDs and abortion are existing problems worldwide, sex education is not the answer, and, in fact, decreases their rates. Scaraffia compared New York to Italy, which she said is “better off” because there is no compulsory sex education in schools.

[H]ere young people have a lower risk of disease and early pregnancy. This is thanks to the family, to the loving vigilance of parents over their children, to the fact that kids are not left to themselves with a box of contraceptives as the only defense against their passions and mistakes.

[...]

It is not clear why public institutions in the West continue to have such magical trust in the effectiveness of sex education. After years of courses, focused, of course, on contraceptive methods, we see that – for example in the UK – boys and girls continue to have early sexual intercourse without any kind of protection, and the number of pregnancies and abortions among adolescents has multiplied. By now, it is clear that to avoid these tragedies it is not enough to explain to them how they can use contraceptives, and where to easily find them, but that the problem is further upstream, in education and in the family.

The Archdiocese of New York has also openly criticized the initiative, calling the citywide sex-ed mandate “troubling.”

New York’s new law standardizes public-school sex education curriculum, which has been taught in most schools in various forms. The new curriculum will be taught in sixth and seventh grades and again in ninth and 10th grades.

In the U.S., 21 states and the District of Columbia mandate some type of sex education, and 33 states and the District of Columbia mandate HIV education, according to the Guttmacher Institute (PDF). Thirty-seven states require that where sex education is provided, information on abstinence must be given: Of those states, 26 require that abstinence be stressed, and 11 states require that abstinence be covered.

Ultimately, Scaraffia notes, the Catholic Church will continue to teach and promote public policies promoting the idea that “sexual relations are much more than some kind of pleasurable exercise to be practiced in an unbridled and risk-free way.”

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