TeenSTAR helps youth get real about God’s plan for sex

Moira Cullings

Today’s teens are faced with an influx of messages on a sensitive and often controversial topic — the role of sex in human life.

“They are being taught that sex is to be explored, experienced and is designed for self-gratification,” said Carrie Keating, NFP and Marriage Specialist for the Archdiocese of Denver.

“God, through the Catholic Church, has a beautiful plan for the human person and a road map for a much more fulfilling purpose for their identity and sexuality that will lead them on a road to happiness,” she said.

That’s where TeenSTAR comes in, a program that helps teens develop prudence and communication skills when it comes to sexual behavior.

TeenSTAR is located in about 35 countries and and has been around since 1980. Now, with the support of Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, it will be an option for youth in the Archdiocese of Denver.

“What is unique about the TeenSTAR program is that it is based on understanding and valuing one’s sexuality and “Teens are taught about how their bodies work and the proper purpose for the gift of their sexuality,” she said. “As they integrate this knowledge properly into their self-concept, they are guided to healthy and virtuous behaviors.”

The Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries will sponsor TeenSTAR teaching training at the end of June this year.

Set up as a two-semester long curriculum designed to occur for one hour each week, TeenSTAR is open to any Catholic school with middle or high school students, but each school principal will decide whether or not the school will offer it.

“It can be a part of a school’s curriculum, run as an after-school program or connected to a youth ministry program,” Keating explained, and instructors can be school teachers, youth ministers or volunteers.

Archdiocesan leaders are excited for the opportunities TeenSTAR will bring.

“I support programs like TeenSTAR that instruct our teens on the meaning of their bodies, how to understand them, and to present this knowledge in the context of the virtue of chastity,” Archbishop Aquila wrote in a letter of support for TeenSTAR.

Sister Hanna Klaus, the program’s Executive Director, explained the program is set up to cater to teens and help them sort out any curiosity or confusion they might have.

Students are encouraged to ask questions, guiding the class with what they want to know. Sister Klaus is not concerned teaching about how their bodies work will lead to immoral behavior.

“Parents are afraid that if you give kids information, they will misuse it,” she said. “The fact is they could — they have free will. But our behavioral outcomes show that rarely happens.

“When kids own their fertility, they give it a high value.”

According to Keating, the teenage years are a crucial time to reach young people in this area as they start to transition into adulthood.

“They are in a place where society around them is strongly influencing their lives,” she said. “Teens are trying to make sense of who they are, what they believe and what they want to do in life, so they are in an open but vulernable stage.

“The teenage brain is still developing, and it’s controlled more by emotion than logic,” she said. “TeenSTAR equips them to rationally connect and understand their bodies and the behaviors they choose in life.”

COMING UP: Title X: Protect Life Rule comes in as Planned Parenthood walks out

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Planned Parenthood will no longer receive Title X funds and has withdrawn from the program entirely. The decision took effect Aug. 19, as the deadline passed for compliance with new program rules.

The organization, the nation’s largest chain of abortion providers, confirmed their withdrawal from Title X after a court refused to grant an emergency injunction against the Protect Life Rule, which bars fund recipients from referring women for abortions, prevents participating groups from co-locating with abortion clinics, and requires financial separation of government-funded programs from those that carry out abortions.

August 19 was the last day for the group to file a “good faith” undertaking to comply with the new rule.

The decision means Planned Parenthood will lose about $60 million in federal funding, about one-fifth of total Title X funds, and approximately 15% of its annual federal funding.

The organization’s acting president Alexis McGill Johnson said Monday that “The Trump administration has forced Planned Parenthood grantees out of Title X.” Johnson had previously called the Protect Life Rule an attempt by the president to “bully us into withholding abortion information from our patients.”

Calling the Protect Life Rule a “gag on health care providers,” Johnson said in a previous statement, issued last week, that the rule is “a blatant assault on our health and rights, and we will not stand for it.”

Doreen Denny, Senior Director of Government Relations at Concerned Women for America, said it was “a day of reckoning” for the abortion provider.

“Planned Parenthood has no entitlement to federal funding, and they apparently have no plans to comply with federal rules either,” Denny said. “For years, Planned Parenthood has skirted federal law to promote its abortion business on the backs of the American taxpayer.

“If Planned Parenthood truly cared about promoting health, it would stop peddling abortion and start supporting women. Planned Parenthood’s threat to withdraw from the Title X program proves one thing: health care is not their primary business; abortion is,” said Denny.

The abortion provider’s departure from the program altogether is a change from their initial response to the rule. Previously, the organization had intended to remain in the program, but refuse funding. HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary Diane Foley called this arrangement “inconsistent” in a letter to the organization.

In guidance issued by HHS on Aug. 8, the department responded directly to Planned Parenthood’s objections to the rule, noting that the organization operated less than 10% of participating sites nationwide.

“To the extent that Planned Parenthood claims that it must make burdensome changes to comply with the Final Rule, it is actually choosing to place a higher priority on the ability to refer for abortion instead of continuing to receive federal funds to provide a broad range of acceptable and effective family planning methods and services to clients in need of these services.”

Despite operating less than 10% of the Title X fund recipient clinics, Planned Parenthood received about 15% of the country’s total Title X funds.

Title X is a federal program created in 1965 that subsidizes family-planning and preventative health services, including contraception, for low-income families. It has been frequently updated and subject to new regulations.

The administration previously said in June that it would delay enforcement of the rule, provided that fund recipients submitted a compliance plan and made a “good faith” undertaking to comply with most of the rule’s requirements as soon as possible. Facilities are required to end co-location with abortion sites by March 2020.