Molding young minds  

Choozmi 50M
746 posts
4/18/2005 11:15 am

Last Read:
3/5/2006 9:27 pm

Molding young minds

I attended a retreat this past weekend for Catholic teenagers (I'm an adult leader/advisor for the youth group at my church). The retreat was actually run by a group from Minnesota called NET (National Evangelical Team, I think).

The NET people were young, energetic, and very likable, and the teenagers had a lot of fun. In fact, the NET people were barely out of their teens themselves.

At one point during the weekend, the inevitable morality session was held. The females all gathered in one area and the males in the other.

The main subjects discussed during the male session were of course sex and relationships with women. (I'm told that the female session was about the same.) I was dismayed that the "party line" presented to the teenagers was, "Any kind of sex or sexual contact outside of marriage is a sin. Masturbation is a sin. Viewing pornography is a sin. Thinking lustful thoughts is a sin."

Now before you start posting verbal assaults on the Catholic church here, please don't bother. I disagree with most of the church's teachings on sex and marriage. I remain a Catholic for a number of solid reasons that I won't go into at this point. Let's just say that I believe in change from within.

I am very careful not to impose my views on sex on the teens that I work with because I believe that would be an abuse of my position as an advisor. (If they ask my opinion, that's another story.)

What disturbed me about the "sex talk" this past weekend was how one-sided it was. Acts were simply called "sins" but no discussion was initiated regarding what exactly was sinful about them. And it occurred to me that half the reason (probably more than half) that young people leave the Catholic church is because the message they receive from the church itself is that there is something wrong with them.

I requested that a "follow-up discussion" be initiated with the teens at a later date to revisit the topic. I just hate the idea of those kids going out into the world armed with nothing stronger than "My church says this is a sin."

If some teenage boy or girl is considering having sex and the only thing stopping them is some vague unsubstantiated idea that sex is a sin then they will probably be talked into it pretty easily. (Remember Frank Zappa's song "Catholic Girls"?)

Frankly, I'm not a big fan of sex between kids under the age of eighteen. Many people will probably find that old-fashioned, but seventeen-year-olds are still kids, and if you don't believe that just talk to a couple. A seventeen-year-old may have the body of an adult and may have done adult things and experienced adult situations, but none of that makes him/her an adult. In seventeen years a brain simply hasn't developed far enough. That's why I agree that it is a crime to have sex with a minor.

Half the women I know with whom I've discussed the topic have told me that they wished they'd waited to have sex for the first time. (Most males would never admit that, of course.)

I actually think that the best way to get kids to wait is to discuss sex with them honestly and openly. Yes, sex can feel fantastic. Yes, sex can bring you closer to a partner. Yes, sex is a great way of showing someone how much you love and/or care about them.

BUT sex can also be used as a way to hurt someone. It can be painful, humiliating, and even damaging. Sex without trust can be awful.

I can't think of a single "measurement" by which to judge when someone is ready to have sex for the first time. Age seems to be as good a place to start as any simply because the brain develops physically at a more or less predicable rate.

Another predictable phenomenon is that kids are going to want to have sex sooner or later, probably earlier than they should. And I think the best way to get them to wait is to speak frankly with them about the topic. Telling them it's a sin is not speaking frankly.

(One more thing: Most of the NET members admitted openly that they'd done "sinful" things in their past that they enjoyed at the time but were now over them. They preached that going to confession would cleanse anyone of his/her past sins. So the message that was coming through was: "Premarital sex is wrong, but it's fun, so if you do it just remember to go to confession afterward." Talk about defeating a purpose.)

wyvernrose 38F
3895 posts
4/19/2005 2:35 am

That's a great pity that they couldn't discuss the issues properly, I was raised with a catholic upbringing and walked away for the same reasons, in my later education I attended a christian school, and the difference was vast,
yet strangely I received my sex education earlier than most I was 8 years old and as part of my first communion we underwent sex education, we were taught about what the parts of the body were and how they function, but beyond that "it was a sin" applied...

whereas at the christian school we discussed the hows and why and what makes these things a sin, respecting yourself, respecting others, consequences etc. it makes a big difference, but your right being told it's a sin, amounts to a no brainer when you come against reasoning....there needs to be some level of understanding behind it....


Barbiebunny69 43F

4/19/2005 1:20 pm

I think u should have been the one that gave the retreat. I feel that at my age and yours weve survived a little seen the full scope of our actions come full circle and wrestled out identies with sex and the church. I think to throw 22 year olds at them where they dont have a clue about THEMSELVES is higly dangerous to teens or maybe its what they want by design. I hope u did manage to touch the few with your presence.
Loved the article

Choozmi 50M

4/19/2005 10:08 pm

Thanks to both of you for your comments. I hope that I get a chance to effect some positive changes in the way morality is presented to these kids. Yes, some of my views on sex are diametrically opposed to those of the Catholic Church, but not all of them. There is some common ground (such as the topic of startin' early or not) and maybe that is a place for me to begin my little campaign of straight talk versus itsasindontdoit.

rm_mmoonstars 30F

4/24/2005 1:19 pm

I totally understand what you are saying about the two faced views expressed by leaders of such retreats. I am also unfortuneatly a victim of the Catholic church's stiff rules turning me away from my walk with God. Things really need to be evaluated again by the Catholic church, I would hope that teens would be able to speak the truth and get real answers in smaller settings such as these, instead they are treated like four year old being told that they can't do it because its "bad" well even the four year old would ask the question why? yet that question isn't even answered or adressed. I know that regrets happen, and that kids will do what they will obviously but still it is the most frustrating hypoctrical thing I think I have come across in my life. Hope the younger view point on this helps.

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