Moms organize against ‘comprehensive’ sex ed

Say legislation, movement seeks cultural sea change

Landmark state legislation altering the Christian fabric of society drove one group of moms to assemble and equip themselves to become Catholic activists.

Parents of the Catholic community disheartened by a series of counter-Christianity bills passed during the legislative session this year formed a group at St. Mary Parish in Littleton to be more informed and active in public life.

“Right after the election I just knew so many people who seemed to have lost hope,” said Jennifer Hehn, a mom from St. Mary. “I just didn’t want to fall into that myself.”

Last month, she decided to gather everyone she knew after further attacks on marriage, freedom of religion and sex education hit the state level.

“I sent out an email to as many women I knew might be interested in getting together and talking about the issues and encouraging each other to take some action despite whatever is coming our way,” she said.

The group had their third meeting May 20, each one centered on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s call to political action called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.”

One issue they discussed is “comprehensive sex education,” passed by the Legislature under House Bill 1081. To become law, Gov. John Hickenlooper must sign it by June 7.

Natalie Hattenbach, a mom of three from St. Mary’s, delved into the bill and was shocked by what she found.

The bill regulates sexuality education in Colorado’s public schools, including a provision

to create federally funded grant programs for schools to implement new curriculum.

The Colorado Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s three Catholic dioceses, said the bill would compromise local school districts’ separate abilities to determine their own standards.

“I think it’s shocking it’s passed,” said director Jenny Kraska. “It was an underhanded piece of legislation to begin with. It takes a decision that should have been made by parents and local school districts

and puts it into the hands of the state government—and it’s not right.”

The legislation does not apply to parochial schools.

“The sex education bill that recently passed this session will not apply to Catholic schools since our schools area ministry of parishes and, thankfully, are exempted from this type of legislation that disrespects the dignity of the human person,” said Richard Thompson, superintendent of the Denver Archdiocese’s Catholic schools. “In Catholic schools our formation in this area is to reverence the gift of sexuality and challenge students to live in a way worthy of our dignity as human persons. Our emphasis is upon chastity— living the gift of sexuality according to God’s design rather than the state’s.”

The legislation prohibits federal funds from going to abstinence- only programs. Currently, public schools are not required to offer sexual education nor discuss contraception, sexually transmitted diseases or HIV/AIDS.

This bill creates an automatic enrollment for students unless parents actively remove their children. Parents need to ask their school districts how to opt-out.

“I’m offended because I’m the best person to educate my children,” Hattenbach said. “And I’m worried because the more that the government gets involved in my parenting, the more they’re taking away the influence I have over my children.”

Many find the legislation morally offensive.

A movement

The Colorado bill, and many similar pieces of legislation across the nation, mandates “comprehensive sex education.”

Hattenback told the Denver Catholic Register that more than a curriculum, “comprehensive sex education” is a “movement” that aggressively seeks to introduce sexually-explicit material into courses and extensive instruction on contraception, sex acts and homosexual activity.

A January 2012 report by the National Sexuality Education Standards for kindergarten through 12th grade outlined the content and skills schools should adopt in order to adequately teach “comprehensive sexual education.”

Such standards include teaching fifth-graders definitions of sexual orientation and 12th-graders fluency in using a condom correctly.

Among the advisors to the committee were representatives of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS).

The organizations themselves outline “comprehensive sex-education” curricula that dedicate 28 percent of material to promoting contraception, 24 percent to HIV/STD awareness and 4 percent to abstinence, according to a study by the Heritage Foundation.

Eight of the nine curricula the foundation reviewed included condom demonstrations and practice. The Be Proud! Be Responsible! organization instructed teachers, “Give each participant a condom and lubricant. Each participant should practice putting condoms on their fingers. Then let them give you a demonstration.”

Other material for children as young as 12 advocated condom hunts, field trips to stores to survey and practice purchasing; condom games, races to put condoms on models while talking about stages of intercourse; and teaching children to actively seek access to emergency contraception, and to petition or protest a health center if easy, immediate access is not offered.

When discussing abstinence, Focus on Kids, another organization with a “comprehensive sex education” curriculum, advised, “When discussing ‘don’t have sex,’ be sure to help youth identify other options, such as finding fun ways to be together that don’t involve sex, or finding different ways to please a partner without sex (e.g. kissing rubbing, mutual masturbation).”

Hattenbach shared the information with the parish group, wrote a letter to the governor and met with her state representative.

“I think when you’re talking about ‘comprehensive sex education’, you’re talking about cultural change,” she said.

The group hopes to have a more prominent voice.

“We’re just average, normal moms trying to figure out the system, and how we can have the most impact,” she said.

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.

Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash