Providing a Catholic framework on the truth and meaning of sexuality, love, and family

Archive for December, 2011

PARENT and TEEN TIPS: Safeguarding a Child’s Dignity and Innocence

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Any parent desiring to safeguard his or her child’s dignity, and nurture a sacred sense of sexuality shudders at every headline reporting sexual abuse. Questions that often engage a parent’s mind include “how do I protect my child from harm;” “how do I protect my child’s innocence;” “what do I say;” and “when do I say it”. An important first step for parents is to become more knowledgeable about the nature of sexual abuse and then to think through the messages they want to convey to their child.

Visit the Parent Tips section for more information.

Be Informed – New Articles on Parents’ Influence and the Virtue of Chastity!

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Family Honor seeks to help change the culture through relevant, timely and easily accessible resources. Parents, never underestimate your power! Despite all of cultural messages telling you that you’re too out-of-date and behind-the-times to influence your children—it’s just not true.

Read “Parents Take Heart! You Still Have the Most Influence

Parents are their children’s first teachers, especially of chastity. They teach their children chastity by being chaste themselves, i.e., by the way they show the profoundest respect for each other, first of all, and for their children and all persons whom they meet.

Read “Educating the ‘Heart’ of Youths in the Virtue of Chastity
by William E. May, Ph.D, Senior Research Fellow

The young Church is hungry for the truth. Correctly understanding the perceptions and desires of Catholic youth is a crucial issue for the future of the Church.

Read “The State of Catholic Youth Today

Find out what God teaches us about Sex! Online course Spring Semester begins January 3, 2012!

Friday, December 9th, 2011

“Sex Education” programs have been in the news a great deal over the past few months, but where did the idea of “sex education” come from? How did this movement get started? Should parents be concerned about these programs? Is there a better way to teach our children about sexuality?

Family Honor will answer all of those questions and more in their online course “The Truth and Meaning of Sexuality, Love and Family.” This college level course takes each adult student in-depth to learn how the sex education movement got started and how it has removed parents as the primary educators of their children in these matters. The course will also provide students with an understanding of the core truths of sexuality, love and family as defined by Sacred Scripture, tradition and natural law.

The world’s perception that Christianity, and the Catholic Church in particular, are opposed to sex will be challenged from both the perspective of reason and faith. Register now and participate in this unique and life-changing course!

Family Honor Executive Director Confirms Role of Parents

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Brenda Cerkez has been Family Honor’s Executive Director since 1993. Because of her work over the past eighteen years, Brenda understands the significant and important role that parents have in their child’s life. Brenda explains why Family Honor uses a family-centered approach to chastity education and she encourages parents to talk with their children about important topics such as God’s gift of sexuality, virtue, chastity and love.

Diocese of Columbus, OH Offers First Family Honor Program!

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Family Honor would like to give a very special welcome to the families who attended the first-ever Real Love & Real Life program held in the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio! St. Michael’s parish in Worthington, OH hosted 32 families, teaching teens and their parents about the virtue of chastity. These families learned to recognize our true worth because we are created in the image and likeness of God; to understand the meaning of real love; how to develop one’s whole self through the SPICE concept; about fertility appreciation, conception of life and fetal development; and received guidelines for future dating.

The Columbus team did a wonderful job of presenting chastity education through a variety of small group discussions, skits, question and answer sessions, an introduction to Church teaching on human sexuality, and an introduction to Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Parents and their 8th grade teens were able to learn a common language and connect about some of life’s most important issues with a very special focus on God’s gift of sexuality.

The feedback from parents and teens alike was very positive.

Parents said things like:

  • I wanted to thank you and all those who persisted to bring this program to Columbus! It was a wonderful program that has given my daughter and I an opening to discuss the topics we shared over the weekend.
  • I hope this becomes a diocesan wide program that offers workshops to the various parishes/catholic schools. Not only do our kids need catechesis, but many parents/adults as well.
  • My husband and I would like to thank you for a wonderful Real Love & Real Life program at St. Michael. Our son told us that all his brothers need to attend this with us …an endorsement we are proud of!
  • I pray that you will be having more programs in the future.

Teens made comments like:

  • I liked learning better ways of communicating with my parents.
  • It was fun to learn about chastity with my friends.
  • The skits were a fun way to learn about chastity.
  • The small groups were a good opportunity to ask questions without being embarrassed.
  • The SPICE concept was a good way to help me learn about what chastity means.

Family Honor and the Columbus, Ohio affiliate look forward to serving many more families and helping to change the culture with the message and virtue of chastity.

For more information about Family Honor’s “Real Love & Real Life” program or the “Changes & Challenges” program, please visit our website or contact us at 803-929-0858.

Educating the “Heart” of Youths in the Virtue of Chastity

Friday, December 9th, 2011

By Willam E. May, Ph.D, Senior Research Fellow

The title of this article was suggested by a paper given in Spanish by Reynaldo Rivera called “Is it necessary to educate the heart?” at the First International Meeting on the Education of Adolescents on Affectivity and Sexuality held in May, 2006 in Mexico City. Rivera—and all the participants at this meeting—insisted that it is more important to educate the “hearts” of adolescents about their feelings and sexuality than it is to teach them the “facts of life.” [1] Moreover, didn’t Jesus tell his disciples, “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good” (Lk 7:43)?

Educating the “heart”
What does educating the “heart” mean, and how does the “heart” know? The “heart” stands for the whole person, and the “heart” knows because the person loves. Knowledge of the heart is the kind of knowledge a wife has of her husband and he of her, or that a mother has of her child. It is the kind of knowledge a virtuous person has—a knowledge many call “connatural” or “second nature.” It is the kind of knowledge that a chaste person, whether an adolescent, a young adult, whether married or single, or old and feeble has of his or her own sexuality and the proper place that his or her emotions have to play in his or her life.

The Role of the Family and Religion in Educating the “Heart” of Adolescents
Many papers given at the Mexico City meeting zeroed in on this. One of the most important — highlighted by Rivera in his paper—was a section from Dr. Patrick Fagan’s wide-ranging study: “Why Religion Matters Even More: The Impact of Religious Practice on Social Stability” [2].

Fagan showed conclusively that a lifelong marriage of one man and one woman and strong religious commitment and practice were major factors in helping adolescents not only avoid non-marital sexual behavior but also how to lead virtuous lives, to live chastely. A stable marriage along with religious commitment and practice, in other words, helped youth understand not only conceptually but effectively, i. e., to know in their hearts, why they ought to do this and live as virgins until marriage. His study, and many papers given at the meeting, emphasized the key role of parents in the education of their children, particularly in helping them become virtuous persons, willing to live chaste lives.

Chastity and Parents as Educators of the “Hearts” of Their Children
As noted earlier, knowledge of the heart is knowledge mediated by love and is the kind of knowledge a chaste person has of the dignity of his own body and the bodies of every human person. The chaste person not only “knows” notionally or conceptually what he or she ought to do or not do, but feels that way too, “feeling” actions contrary to chastity to be repugnant and disgusting. He does not want to touch others or be touched “offensively,” i.e, in ways that treat the human body as a “thing” to be used to gratify desires; he knows in his heart that to touch the human body is to touch a living human person, a being to be loved, not a thing to be used.

Parents are their children’s first teachers, especially of chastity. They teach their children chastity by being chaste themselves, i.e., by the way they show the profoundest respect for each other, first of all, and for their children and all persons whom they meet. Mothers, in particular, teach their children chastity by the way they “touch” them as infants, toddlers, little children; and fathers teach their sons how to be chaste by the way they touch and respect them and their daughters, and they teach their daughters how a virtuous man, the kind who would be a good husband, must act toward women.

It will be helpful to note some practical things parents can do to help their children to be “pure of heart,” to respect the dignity of themselves as persons whose bodies are integral to their being, and to avoid the debasing attitudes toward the human body and the gift of sexuality prevalent in the hedonistic culture of contemporary society.

10 Practical Ways Parents Can Teach Their Children’s “Hearts” Chastity
(1) During infancy, the “toddler” period, and early childhood, show the child that his/her body (including the “private parts”) is precious, good, and beautiful, touching it with respect and reverence.

(2) As the children move through grade school, teach them that “modesty is the moat around the castle of chastity.”

(3) During childhood and early adolescence don’t let them waste time watching t.v. programs contrary to the culture you have created in the family and tell them why. Rather, get DVDs of old Lassie movies or other wholesome family entertainment.

(4) Make sure that when they use computers they don’t get trapped into downloading any pornographic material; get devices blocking such material.

(5) During adolescence masturbation [for boys] will be a temptation. Teach them that such behavior easily becomes addictive and that it violates the meaning of their bodies, which are temples of the Holy Spirit and meant to be “gifts” given to a person of the opposite sex in marriage.

(6) Send them to academically challenging schools that teach religion and morality; consider home schooling.

(7) Show an interest in their school work and extracurricular activities, spending time to go with them to practices of sports and games.

(8) Respect their freedom and encourage them to develop their interests and skills. (9) When they learn how to drive and begin to go out with others, encourage group dating, giving them deadlines to get home and make sure that they do.

(10) Know their friends and the families of their friends and make everyone know that their friends are welcome in your home.

Contemporary secular culture despises chastity. This is reflected in the soft-pornography of many films and t.v.“sit-coms,” tv ads for contraceptives, college dorms dispensing condoms in the restrooms, and the hard porn instantly accessible via the internet. Adolescents are urged to masturbate in order “to get in touch with their own bodies,” and a college graduate who is still a virgin is considered a troglodyte. It is thus imperative for a new generation to discover, with mind and heart, that this is a lie and that chastity is a wonderful virtue, necessary for a full and happy life. And the sanctuary of chastity is the home built on a marriage between one man and one woman who are committed to be chaste and to help their children become chaste men and women.

Parents Take Heart! You Still Have the Most Influence

Friday, December 9th, 2011

by Candi Cushman

One thing that hasn’t gotten much news coverage these days is the fact that—despite the constant swirl of Facebook networking, Hollywood propaganda and public school messages—kids are still most heavily influenced by mom and dad.

Take for instance, a recent report from the Pew Research Center, revealing that “95% of all teenagers 12-17 are now online and 80% of those online teens are users of social media sites.” The report goes on to explain that, along with the many social and informational benefits of the online world, come the bad influences: A full 88 percent of teens using social-media sites have witnessed mean or cruel behavior on those outlets, and “44% of online teens admit to lying about their age so they could access a website or sign up for an online account.”

But the encouraging news is “that parents are still the top source for teen internet and cell phone users”—with 86 percent of online and cell phone-using teens saying they got advice on how to stay safe online from parents. Fifty-eight percent reported that their parents “have been the biggest influence on what they think is appropriate or inappropriate when using the internet or cell phone.”

Parental involvement also translates into outcomes like better academic performance and saving sexual activity for marriage. In fact, research tells us that one of the top reasons teens give for abstaining from sexual activity is their parents’ influence.

The moral of the story? Parents never underestimate your power! Despite all of cultural messages telling you that you’re too out-of-date and behind-the-times to influence your children—it’s just not true. The reality is that parents are the ones who are closest spiritually, mentally and emotionally to their children and the most in tune with their needs. It’s the calling and role God has planned for parents since the beginning:

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22: 5-7

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7

So how can parents best use that influence?

The State of Catholic Youth Today

Friday, December 9th, 2011


Youth listen attentively at a conference. Youth leaders say teens are hungry for the truth of the faith.
– National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry

Over the weekend of Nov. 17, 25,000 Catholic youth and their chaperons will gather in Indianapolis for the National Catholic Youth Conference. Coming only three months after the huge outpouring of faith, joy and peaceful witness that characterized World Youth Day in Madrid, NCYC provides another chance to see the faith through young eyes. What do American youth want from their faith? What do they have to give? And what role will they play in the Church as it heads into increasingly difficult times?

NCYC is one of the major events on the Catholic youth calendar. Every two years, high-school age students gather for a three-day experience of prayer, keynote addresses, adoration, workshops, Mass and praise-and-worship music. Robert McCarty, executive director of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, which organizes the event, sees it as a kind of World Youth Day for American teens.

“It’s not just a conference,” McCarty said. “It’s a celebration of the young Church. It’s a pilgrimage that young people begin preparing for a year out. They’re doing fundraising, planning, praying together and getting ready for this pilgrimage. At NCYC, the wider Church gets to see the giftedness, energy and passion of the young Church.”

This energy is vital to the universal Church, as Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged in his remarks about World Youth Day. He told the youth that “the Church depends on you. She needs your lively faith, your creative charity and the energy of your hope. Your presence renews, rejuvenates and gives new energy to the Church. That is why World Youth Days are a grace, not only for you, but for the entire people of God.”

McCarty would agree. While attending the past five World Youth Days, he observed “the deep and genuine hunger for the holy, and the hunger to be connected to something bigger, that I find in youth and young adults today. At World Youth Day they connect with the universal Church, under the banner of the Pope, so they really have this incredible sense that they’re part of something bigger.”

Young & Catholic, But for How Long?
Correctly understanding the perceptions and desires of Catholic youth is a crucial issue for the future of the Church. As shown by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, there are 30 million lapsed Catholics, which would make them the largest religious denomination in the country. One in 10 adult Americans is an ex-Catholic.

The usual culprits are blamed in the Pew survey. Among former Catholics, 65% stopped believing the Church’s teachings overall, while 56% cite the Church’s stance on homosexuality, and 48% blame the prohibition on birth control. Those who left the Church to become Protestant didn’t have as many issues with these teachings, but they felt their spiritual needs were not being met.

These statistics expose the failure of catechesis and youth-ministry programs to adequately engage and educate the young. Catholic youth are exposed to anywhere from eight to 12 years of religious education, and the Church is still losing many.

Mark Hart, executive vice president of Life Teen and the keynote speaker for NCYC, argues that we’re just not listening to young Catholics, and this is a key reason for our failure to properly pass on the faith: “A lot of teens are spoken at; they’re not spoken to. Very rarely are they asked their opinion of anything. We’re seeing the results of that because they would rather go talk to their friends than their mentors or adults, because their friends will listen to them.”

In a spiritually devastated culture, the Church should be a shining light that draws youth in and grounds them in something deeper. “They’re yearning for real relationships,” Hart said. “They’re yearning for intimate relationships, and I mean intimate in the purest sense of the word. They’re dying to be spoken to, but they’re also dying to be listened to.”

Bishop Christopher Coyne, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, will be participating in NCYC. He agrees that the key to engaging Catholic youth is “conversation, dialogue and an openness to their questions. I think one has to be honest with them about what the Church teaches and why we believe what we believe, but to do so from a positive perspective. I think you need to emphasize what we are forrather than what we are against.”
“Teens really desire depth,” said Hart. “They desire relevance and depth in their relationships and their faith. When you introduce teens to the mystical, to the ethereal, to the world beyond what they see, they are far more open to it than adults are.”

The key, says Hart, is meeting them where they are, then “walking them into the sacred.” The approach pioneered by Life Teen uses contemporary worship music and engaging speakers to set up an encounter with the sacred. An evening event may begin with 30 minutes of music, followed by 20 minutes from a speaker, and conclude with an encounter with the Christ during 30 to 40 minutes of Eucharistic adoration.

Bob McCarty sees the needs of youth as an issue of five universal “hungers”: Youth today are hungering for meaning and purpose in their lives, some recognition of the gifts they have to give to the Church, a connection to something bigger than themselves, justice, and an encounter with the holy.

For McCarty, the key question for the Church today is: “How do we feed those hungers?” As he observes, young people “will go where their hungers are fed. Responding to those hungers is the clearest sign that this is a community that values you and invites you in. If we ever hope to educate their heads about the faith, it has to begin with engaging their hearts. They want to know more about this faith of ours: our community, rituals, teachings, all of it. But until we engage their hearts, we never get to the next stage of educating their heads.”

Safeguarding a Child’s Dignity and Innocence

Friday, December 9th, 2011

What is sexual abuse?
Sexual abuse is any actions or words directed at you by an older teen or adult that uses or harms your body or degrades your sexual purity. Because you are created in the image of God, you are deserving of being treated with the respect of all others in their words and actions.

Your body is a gift!
God has designed your body in an awesome way to be able to express love intimately someday with your husband or wife and perhaps to co-create with God a family of your own. This incredible gift of sexuality is meant to be reverenced by others in the way they relate to you. Sexual abuse may be any words spoken to you or actions directed at you that don’t reverence the gift of your sexuality.

What is real love?
An older teen or adult may tell you they love you and care for you. If the other person really loved you they would respect and reverence your body and your person by practicing the virtue of chastity. Chastity means that the person practices self-control in their thoughts, their words, and their actions toward you. This means that the person would do only what’s in your best interest and do nothing to harm you. If you feel used in any way then this is not real love.

What should you do if you think you have been abused?
If you feel you have been used or abused sexually or in any other way, it is so important that you talk to an adult you trust: a parent, a grandparent, an adult family member, a teacher, or a youth minister. Even if you think you did something to cause the other person’s actions or words, it is important to tell someone who cares about you so they can help you to be safe and help you understand feelings that are confusing.

Safeguarding Children

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Any parent desiring to safeguard his or her child’s dignity and nurture a sacred sense of sexuality shudders at every headline reporting sexual abuse. Questions that often engage a parent’s mind include “how do I protect my child from harm;” “how do I protect my child’s innocence;” “what do I say;” and “when do I say it”. An important first step for parents is to become more knowledgeable about the nature of sexual abuse and then to think through the messages they want to convey to their child.

What is sex abuse?
Sexual abuse is any act(s) or word(s) initiated by one person that degrades the sexual purity and dignity of another. The sexual abuse of a child or teen is most often initiated by an older child, teen or adult. Ninety percent of juvenile sexual assault victims know the person who violated them.

Where to begin?
Talking about sexual abuse won’t make sense to children or is likely to be frightening if a parent hasn’t conveyed a good and holy understanding of sexuality from the time the child is young. In the way you hold your child, touch them, and speak to them, you can demonstrate a respect for the dignity and goodness of their bodies. In the way you answer their questions or teach them about their bodies, fertility, conception, fetal development and childbirth you should presume a reverence for God’s gift of sexuality. In the way you model restraint and self-discipline, you teach a true sense of self-mastery in your relationship with your child and others.

As a parent you have opportunities each day to share the awe, wonder and truth of God’s design. You can teach your children over and over again that they are made in the image of God, worthy of being loved for their own sake.

Staying Connected is Key!
In addition to affirming your child’s innate dignity and the goodness of the gift of sexuality, maintaining a strong connection and open dialogue with your child is key. A child is more likely to reach out to a parent who is warm, caring and approachable when hurt, scared or confused. Parents who talk daily with their children about their activities, hopes and anxieties increase the likelihood that their child will tell them about confusing, harmful or inappropriate behavior they may have experienced. Initiating conversations with children, taking advantage of teachable moments and maintaining reasonable supervision of your child are ways to be proactive in your efforts to safeguard your child. You also want to be tuned into changes in behavior that may alert you to disruptions in your child’s normal, healthy development.

When to talk?
Talking to your child about sexual abuse and personal safety should be an ongoing process. The information you give and the language you use will depend on the age of your child. Choose times to talk with your child when he or she feels safe and relaxed. Typical family routines that may spark a conversation or be a natural intro are when walking with a child, at bath or bedtime, when seeing or hearing something on TV, or when a child makes a remark or asks a question.

What to say?
In speaking specifically about sexual abuse you want to convey to your child that there are parts of his or her body that are private. You want to let your child know that he or she has your permission to say “NO” to anyone who wants to touch his or her penis, vagina or breasts – even if it is a grown-up your child knows. Let your child know that it is good to tell you about any uncomfortable feelings he or she has about how another person is touching him or her. Emphasize that you want to know if someone bothers your child in any way and let your child know you will listen and believe him or her.

We encourage you to check out the Teen Tips page on this website about sexual abuse. The points there may provide you with the talking points you need to have a dialogue with your teen about this topic.

What to do if my child is abused?
If your child tells you about the inappropriate touch or harmful behavior of another, stay calm and listen to what your child needs to tell you. Don’t interrogate, but do ask minimal questions just to clarify what your child is telling you. Tell your child he or she did the right thing to talk with you. Proceed with caution. Make sure you fully understand what is going on. Be prudent but without doubt, take whatever actions are necessary to protect your child and other children from harm.

Sexual abuse is traumatic and the degree of trauma to a child depends on many factors including the nature of the abuse, number of occurrences, and relationship of the abuser to the child. Seeking help for the whole family from a professional trained specifically in trauma recovery is critical to the child’s ongoing healthy development.

Guidelines for what to do if your child discloses sexual abuse:

An NPR interview of Michael Martin with Jolene Ivey, mother of 5 boys and Dani Tucker, single mother of two teens, a boy and girl. Dr. Leslie Walker, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital is part of the interview. November, 2011

Video of Moms asking questions about talking with their children about sexual abuse

Other helpful articles about sexuality and parenting