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Educational Guidance in Human Love

by Catherine Frakas 19 Apr 2021

Educational Guidance in Human Love
Outlines for Sex Education
The Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education
November 1, 1983


I.Some Fundamental Principles

II.Responsibility in PuttingSex Education into Effect

III.Conditions and Mode of Sex Education

IV.Some Particular Problems


1. The harmonious development of the human person progressively reveals in each of us the image of a child of God. True education aims at the formation of the human person with respect to his ultimate goal.(1) Treating christian education, Vatican Council II drew attention to the necessity of offering a positive and prudent sex education to children and youth.(2)
The Congregation for Catholic Education, within the sphere of its competence, considers it proper to make its contribution for the application of the Conciliar Declarations, as some Episcopal Conferences have done already.
2. This document, drawn up with the help of educational experts and submitted to wide consultation, sets itself a precise objective: to examine the pedagogic aspect of sex education, indicating appropriate guidelines for the integral formation of a christian, according to the vocation of each.
Also, though it does not make explicit citations at every turn, it always presupposes the doctrinal principles and moral norms pertaining to the matter as proposed by the Magisterium.
3. The Congregation for Catholic Education is aware of the cultural and social differences existing in different countries. These guidelines, therefore, should be adapted by the respective Episcopates to the pastoral necessities of each local Church.
Significance of Sexuality
4. Sexuality is a fundamental component of personality, one of its modes of being, of manifestation, of communicating with others, of feeling, of expressing and of living human love. Therefore it is an integral part of the development of the personality and of its educative process: It is, in fact, from sex that the human person receives the characteristics which, on the biological, psychological and spiritual levels, make that person a man or a woman, and thereby largely condition his or her progress towards maturity and insertion into society .(3)
5. Sexuality characterises man and woman not only on the physical level, but also on the psychological and spiritual, making its mark on each of their expressions. Such diversity, linked to the complementarity of the two sexes, allows thorough response to the design of God according to the vocation to which each one is called.
Sexual intercourse, ordained towards procreation, is the maximum expression on the physical level of the communion of love of the married. Divorced from this context of reciprocal gift–a reality which the christian enjoys, sustained and enriched in a particular way by the grace of God it loses its significance, exposes the selfishness of the individual, and is a moral disorder.(4)
6. Sexuality, oriented, elevated and integrated by love acquires truly human quality. Prepared by biological and psychological development, it grows harmoniously and is achieved in the full sense only with the realisation of affective maturity, which manifests itself in unselfish love and in the total gift of self.
The Actual Situation
7. One can see–among christians, too–that there are notable differences with regard to sex education. In today's climate of moral disorientation a danger arises, whether of a harmful conformism or prejudice which falsifies the intimate nature of being human, ushered whole from the hands of the Creator.
8. In order to respond to such a situation one looks for a suitable sex education from every source. But if the conviction of its necessity is fairly widely held in theory, in practice there remain uncertainties and significant differences, either with regard to the persons and institutions who must assume the educational responsibility, or in connection with , the contents and methodologies.
9. Educators and parents are often aware of not being sufficiently prepared to impart adequate sex education. The school is not always in a position to offer that integral vision of the matter which would remain incomplete with the scientific information alone.
10. Particular difficulties are found in those countries where the urgency of the problem is not recognised, or where perhaps it is thought that it resolves itself without specific education.
11. In general, there is need to recognise that one treats of a difficult undertaking by reason of the complexity of the diverse elements (physical, psychological, pedagogic, socio-cultural, juridical, moral and religious) which come together in educational action.
12. Some catholic organisations in different parts–with the approval and encouragement of the local Episcopate–have begun to carry out a positive work of sex education; it is directed not only to help children and adolescents on the way to psychological and spiritual maturity, but also and above all to protect them from the dangers of ignorance and widespread degradation.
13. Also praiseworthy are the efforts of many who, with scientific seriousness, dedicate themselves to study the problem, moving from the human sciences and integrating the results of such research in a project which conforms with human dignity, a project by the light of the Gospel.
Declarations of the Magisterium
14. The Magisterium's declarations on sex education mark out a course which satisfies the just requirements of history on the one hand and fidelity to tradition on the other.(5)
Vatican Council II in the Declaration on Christian Education presents the perspective in which sex education must be set,(6) affirming the right of young people to receive an education adequate to their personal requirements.
The Council states: With the help of advances in psychology and in the art and science of teaching, children and young people should be assisted in the harmonious development of their physical, moral and intellectual endowments. Surmounting hardships with a gallant and steady heart, they should be helped to acquire gradually a more mature sense of responsibility towards ennobling their own lives through constant effort, and toward pursuing authentic freedom. As they advance in years they should be given positive and prudent sex education.(7)
15. The Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, in speaking of the dignity of marriage and the family presents the latter as the preferential place for the education of young people in chastity.(8) But since this is an aspect of education as a whole, the co-operation of teachers with parents is needed in the accomplishment of their mission.(9) Such education, therefore, must be offered within the family to children and adolescents in a gradual manner, always considering the total formation of the person (10)
16. In the Apostolic Exhortation on the mission of the christian family in the world as it is, John Paul II reserves an important place to sex education as valuable to the person. Education to love as self giving, says the Holy Father, also constitutes the indispensable premise for parents called to offer their children a clear and delicate sex education. Faced with a culture which largely reduces human sexuality to the level of something commonplace, since it interprets and lives it in a reductive and impoverished way by linking it solely with the body and with selfish pleasure, the educational service of parents must aim firmly at a training in the area of sex that is truly and fully personal: for sexuality is an enrichment of the whole person–body, emotions and soul–and manifests its inmost meaning in leading the person to the gift of self in love.(11)
17. The Holy Father immediately goes on to speak of the school, which is responsible for this education in service of and in harmony with parents. Sex education, which is a basic right and duty of parents, must also be carried out under their attentive guidance, whether at home or in educational centres chosen and controlled by them. In this regard, the Church reaffirms the law of subsidiarity, which the school is bound to observe when it cooperates in sex education, by entering into the same spirit that animates the parents .(12)
In order for the value of sexuality to reach its full realisation, education for chastity is absolutely essential, for it is a virtue that develops a person's authentic maturity and makes him or her capable of respecting and fostering the nuptial meaning of the body(13) It consists in self control, in the capacity of guiding the sexual instinct to the service of love and of integrating it in the development of the person. Fruit of the grace of God and of our cooperation, chastity tends to harmonise the different components of the human person, and to overcome the frailty of human nature, marked by sin, so that each person can follow the vocation to which God has called.
In the commitment to an enlightened education in chastity, Christian parents, discerning the signs of God's call, will devote special attention and care to education in virginity or celibacy as the supreme form of that self giving that constitutes the very meaning of human sexuality(14)
19. In the teaching of John Paul II, the positive consideration of values, which one ought to discover and appreciate, precedes the norm which one must not violate. This norm, nevertheless, interprets and formulates the values for which people must strive.
In view of the close links between the sexual dimension of the person and his or her ethical values, education must bring the children to a knowledge of and respect for the moral norms as the necessary and highly valuable guarantee for responsible personal growth in human sexuality. For this reason the Church is firmly opposed to an often widespread form of imparting sex information dissociated from moral principles. That would merely be an introduction to the experience of pleasure and a stimulus leading to the loss of serenity–while still in the years of innocence–by opening the way to vice.(15)
20. This document, therefore, starting from the christian vision of man and woman and appealing to the principles enunciated recently by the Magisterium, desires to present to educators some fundamental guidelines for sex education and for the conditions and mode of presenting it at the operative level.
I. Some Fundamental Principles
21. Every type of education is inspired by a specific conception of man and woman. Christian education aims to promote the realisation of man and woman through the development of all their being, incarnate spirits, and of the gifts of nature and of grace by which they are enriched by God. Christian education is rooted in the faith which throws a new light on all things and makes known the full ideal which God has set for man.(16)
Christian Concept of Sexuality
22. In the christian vision of man and woman, a particular function of the body is recognised, because it contributes to the revealing of the meaning of life and of the human vocation. Corporeality is, in fact, a specific mode of existing and operating proper to the human spirit: This significance is first of all of an anthropological nature: the body reveals man,(17) expresses the person (18) and is therefore the first message of God to the same man and woman, almost a species of primordial sacrament, understood as a sign which efficaciously transmits in the visible world the invisible mystery hidden in God from all eternity.(19)
23. There is a second significance of a theological nature: the body contributes to revealing God and his creative love, in as much as it manifests the creatureliness of man and woman, whose dependence bestows a fundamental gift, which is the gift of love. This is the body: a witness to creation as a fundamental gift, and so a witness to love as the source from which this same giving springs.(20)
24. The body, in as much as it is sexual, expresses the vocation of man and woman to reciprocity, which is to love and to the mutual gift of self.(21) The body, in short, calls man and woman to the constitutive vocation to fecundity as one of the fundamental meanings of their being sexual.(22)
25. The sexual distinction, which appears as a determination of human being, is diversity, but in equality of nature and dignity.(23)
The human person, through his or her intimate nature, exists in relation to others, implying a reciprocity of love. The sexes are complementary: similar and dissimilar at the same time; not identical, the same, though, in dignity of person; they are peers so that they may mutually understand each other, diverse in their reciprocal completion.
26. Man and woman constitute two modes of realising, on the part of the human creature, a determined participation in the Divine Being: they are created in the image and likeness of God and they fully accomplish such vocation not only as single persons, but also as couples, which are communities of love.(25) Oriented to unity and fecundity, the married man and woman participate in the creative love of God, living in communion with Him through the other.(26)
27. The presence of sin obscures original innocence, rendering less easy to man and woman the perception of these truths: their decipherment has become an ethical task, the object of a difficult engagement entrusted to man and woman: After original sin the man and the woman will lose the grace of original innocence. The discovery of the nuptial meaning of the body will cease to be for them a simple reality of revelation and of grace. This meaning will remain as a commitment given to man by the ethos of the gift, inscribed in the depths of the human heart, as a distant echo of original innocence(27)
Faced with this capacity of the body to be at the same time sign and instrument of ethical vocation, one can establish an analogy between the body itself and sacramental economy, which is the concrete means through which grace and salvation reach us.
28. Since men and women in their time have been inclined to reduce sexuality to genital experience alone, there have been reactions tending to devalue sex, as though by its nature men and women were defiled by it. These present guidelines intend to oppose such devaluation.
29. It is only in the Mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear,(28) and human existence acquires its full meaning in the vocation to the divine life. Only by following Christ does man respond to this vocation and become so fully man, growing finally to reach the perfect man in the measure approaching the full maturity of Christ.(29)
30. In the light of the Mystery of Christ, sexuality appears to us as a vocation to realise that love which the Holy Spirit instills in the hearts of the redeemed. Jesus Christ has enriched such vocation with the Sacrament of Marriage.
31. Furthermore, Jesus has pointed out by word and example the vocation to virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.(30) Virginity is a vocation to love: it renders the heart more free to love God.(31) Free of the duties of conjugal love, the virgin heart can feel, therefore, more disposed to the gratuitous love of one's brothers and sisters.
In consequence, virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven better expresses the gift of Christ to the Father on behalf of us and prefigures with greater precision the reality of eternal life, all substantiated in charity.(32)
Virginity, certainly is a renunciation of the form of love which typifies marriage, but committed to undertaking in greater profundity the dynamism, inherent in sexuality, of self-giving openness to others. It seeks to obtain its strengthening and transfiguring by the presence of the Spirit, who teaches us to love the Father and the brethren, after the example of the Lord Jesus.
32. In synthesis, sexuality is called to express different values to which specific moral exigencies correspond. Oriented towards interpersonal dialogue, it contributes to the integral maturation of people, opening them to the gift of self in love; furthermore, tied to the order of creation, to fecundity and to the transmission of life, it is called to be faithful to this inner purpose also. Love and fecundity are meanings and values of sexuality which include and summons each other in turn, and cannot therefore be considered as either alternatives or opposites.
33. The affective life, proper to each sex, expresses itself in a characteristic mode in the different states of life: conjugal union, consecrated celibacy chosen for the sake of the kingdom, the condition of the christian who has not yet reached marriage, or who remains celibate, or who has chosen to remain such. In all these cases the affective life must be gathered and integrated in the human person.
Nature, Purpose and Means of Sex Education
34. A fundamental objective of this education is an adequate knowledge of the nature and importance of sexuality and of the harmonious and integral development of the person towards psychological maturity, with full spiritual maturity in view, to which all believers are called.(33)
To this end, the christian educator will remember the principles of faith and the different methods of educational aid, taking account of the positive evaluation which actual pedagogy makes of sexuality.
35. In the christian anthropological perspective, affective-sex education must consider the totality of the person and insist therefore on the integration of the biological, psycho-affective, social and spiritual elements. This integration has become more difficult because the believer also bears the consequences of sin from the beginning.
A true formation, is not limited to the informing of the intellect, but must pay particular attention to the will, to feelings and emotions. In fact, in order to move to maturation in affective-sexual life, self control is necessary, which presupposes such virtues as modesty, temperance, respect for self and for others, openness to one's neighbour.
All this is not possible if not in the power of the salvation which comes from Jesus Christ.
36. Also, if the modes are diverse which sexuality assumes in single people, education must first of all promote that mafiurity which entails not only accepting sex as part of the totality of human values, but also seeing it as giving a possibility for offering, that is, a capacity for giving pure love, altruistic love. When such a capacity is sufficiently acquired, an individual becomes capable of spontaneous contacts, emotional self control and commitment of his free will.(34)
37. Contemporary pedagogy of christian inspiration sees in the person being educated, considered in all his or her totality and complexity, the principle subject of education. He or she must be helped to develop capacities for good, above all in a trustworthy relationship. This is very easily forgotten when excessive weight is given to simple information, at the expense of other dimensions of sex education. In education, in fact, a knowledge of new notions is of utmost importance, but enlivened by the assimilation of corresponding values and by a lively grasp of understanding of the personal responsibilities associated with entry into adulthood.
38. Given the repercussions which sexuality has in the whole person, it is necessary that multiple aspects be kept in mind: conditions of health, the influence of the family and the social environment, impressions received and the reactions, of the pupil, education of the will, and the degree of development of spiritual life sustained with the help of grace.
39. All that has been stated so far serves educators in helping and guiding the formation of personality in the young. They must stimulate them to a critical reflection on received impressions, and, while they propose values, must give testimony of an authentic spiritual life, both personal and communal.
40. Having seen the close links existing between morality and sexuality, it is necessary that the knowledge of moral norms be accompained by clear motivation, so as to bring a sincere personal adherence to maturity.
41. Contemporary pedagogy has full consciousness of the fact that human life is characterised by a constant evolution and that personal formation is a permanent process. This is also according to age true for sexuality, which expresses itself with particular characteristics in the different phases of life. It evidently brings riches and notable difficulties at every stage of maturation.
42. Educators will have to bear in mind the fundamental stages of such evolution: the primitive instinct, which in the beginning is manifested in a rudimentary state, meets in its turn the ambivalence of good and evil. Then with the help of education, the feelings are stabilised and at the same time augment the sense of responsibility. Gradually selfishness is eliminated, a certain asceticism is stabilised, others are accepted and loved for themselves, the elements of sexuality are integrated: genitality, eroticism, love and charity. Also if the result is not always fully attained, they are more numerous than may be thought who come near the goal to which they aspire.
43. Christian educators are persuaded that sex education is realised in full in the context of faith. Incorporated by Baptism into the Risen Christ, the christian knows that his or her body, too, has been vivified and purified by the Spirit which Jesus communicates.(35)
Faith in the mystery of the Risen Christ, which through his Spirit actualises and prolongs in the faithful the paschal mystery, uncovers in the believer the vocation to the resurrection of the flesh, already begun thanks to the Spirit who dwells in the just as pledge and seed of the total and definitive resurrection.
44. The disorder provoked by sin, present and operating in the individual as well as in the culture which characterises society, exercises a strong pressure to conceive and live sexuality in a manner opposed to the law of Christ, according to that which St. Paul called the law of sin.(36) At times, economic structures, state laws, mass media and systems of life in the great metropoloi are factors which negatively impinge on people. Christian education takes note of this and indicates guidelines for responsibly opposing such influences.
45. This constant endeavour is sustained and rendered possible by divine grace through the Word of God received in faith, through prayer and through participation in the sacraments. In first place is the Eucharist, communion with Christ in the same act as his sacrifice, where effectively the young believer finds the bread of life as viaticum in order to face and overcome the obstacles on his or her earthly pilgrimage. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, through the grace that is proper to it and with the help of spiritual direction, not only reinforces the capacity for resistance to evil but also gives the courage to pick oneself up after a fall.
These sacraments are offered and celebrated in the ecclesial community. Those who are vitally involved in such community draw from the sacraments the strength to realise a chaste life, according to their state.
46. Personal and community prayer is the indispensable means for obtaining from God the necessary strength to keep faith with one's baptismal obligations, for resisting the impulses of human nature wounded by sin, and for balancing the emotions provoked by negative influences in the environment.
The spirit of prayer helps us to live coherently the practice of the evangelical virtues of faithfulness and sincerity of heart, of poverty and humility in the daily effort of work and of commitment to one's neighbour. The interior life gives rise to christian joy which wins the battle against evil, beyond every moralism and pyschological aid.
From frequent and intimate contact with the Lord, everyone, especially the young, will derive the strength and enthusiasm for a pure life and they will realise their human and christian vocation in peaceful self control and in generous giving to others.
The importance of these considerations can escape noone. Today, in fact, many people, implicitly or explicitly, hold a pessimistic interpretation of the capacity of human nature to accomplish a life-long commitment, especially in marriage. Christian education should raise the confidence of the young so that their understanding of and preparation for life-long commitment be secured with the certainty that God will help them with His grace to accomplish His purposes.
47. Imitation of and union with Christ, lived and handed on by the saints, are the most profound motivation for our hope of realising the highest ideal of a chaste life, unattainable by human effort alone.
The Virgin Mary is the eminent example of christian life. The Church, through centuries of experience is convinced that the faithful, especially the young, by devotion to her, have known how to realise this ideal.
II. Responsibility in Putting Sex Education into Effect
Function of the Family
48. Education, in the first place, is the duty of the family, which is the school of richest humanity.(37) It is, in fact, the best environment to accomplish the obligation of securing a gradual education in sexual life. The family has an affective dignity which is suited to making acceptable without trauma the most delicate realities and to integrating them harmoniously, in a balanced and rich personality.
49. The affection and reciprocal trust which exist in the family are necessary for the harmonious and balanced development of the child right from birth. So that the affective natural bonds which unite parents to children be positive in the highest degree, parents are in pride of place in realising a peaceful sexual balance, and in establishing a relationship of trust and of dialogue with their, children in a manner appropriate to their age and development.

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