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Church Documents

Educational Guidance in Human Love 
Guidelines for sex education
November 1, 1983



Significance of Sexuality
The Actual Situation
Declarations of the Magisterium

I. Some Fundamental Principles

Christian Concept of Sexuality
Nature, Purpose and Means of Sex Education

II. Responsibility in Putting Sex Education into Effect

Function of the Family
The Ecclesial Community
Catechesis and Sex Education
Pre-Marriage Catechesis
Guidelines for Adults
Task of Civil Society
Responsibility in Education in the Use of the Instruments of Social Communication
Task of the School with regard to Sex Education
Appropriate Teaching Materials
Youth Groups

III. Conditions and Mode of Sex Education

Preparation of Teachers
Quality of Teaching Methods
Needs of the Pupil and Educational Assistance
Quality of the Teacher
Education for Modesty and Friendship

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.


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 characterizes 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 realization of affective maturity, which manifests itself in unselfish love and in the total gift of self.


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 recognized, or where perhaps it is thought that it resolves itself without specific education.

11. In general, there is need to recognize 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 organizations 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.


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)

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