A new sex-ed programme with a challenge for the Church

‘The Meeting Point’ understands the difficulties facing young people, writes David Quinn

For years and years, we have been waiting for a Catholic version of relationships and sexuality education suitable for adolescents and young adults. 

Now we have it because the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family has just produced a programme aimed specifically at adolescents and young adults called ‘The Meeting Point: Project for Affective and Sexual Formation’. It was launched last week to coincide with World Youth Day and is in response to a call from Amoris Laetitia, the recent papal document, for properly grounded programmes aimed at encouraging young Catholics to develop mature and healthy sexual and emotional lives. 

At the outset, I have to say that what I am about to write here is based on first impressions only. It will take a while to study and properly absorb the programme but the first impression is good. 

For a start, it has a perfect grasp of the challenges young people face when developing a secure and mature sexuality (I’m not referring to sexual orientation here), and a strong foundation on which to build their future relationships, especially marriage.

The introduction says: “There is no shortage of occasions that insinuate to our youth the temptation of walking without a direction, of building without worrying about laying foundations, of ceasing to ask themselves about goodness and considering as good whatever they may do. It is sufficient for them to consider as good acting as they please and feeling good while doing it.” (To put it in simpler terms, they believe that if it feels good, it must be good).


It describes this as a “liquid society” in which there are no solid foundations.

The programme consists of a series of modules. The first unit describes God as our origin and destiny. The second discusses how we are made male and female and that we must recognise and celebrate this.

The third reflects on the nature of freedom, the fourth on the importance of making good choices, and how to recognise a choice as good. The fifth unit discusses morality and how it is a help in life rather than a burden, while the sixth and final unit describes love as a personal vocation which we all must find. 

Each unit has notes for teachers and for young people. It is obvious that it is not aimed only at schools, but also at parishes, at weekend retreats and so on. Pure in Heart, Youth 2000, Net Ministries, diocesan youth ministries and so on should have a close look at it. 

The unit on sexual differences is especially pertinent in the light of ‘gender ideology’ which says that the differences between men and women are not real but are simply to do with how we are raised. 

Additionally, we have transsexuality which says our sex has nothing to do with our biological bodies and everything to do with what sex we think we are. In other words, you may have the body of a man but if you believe you are a woman, then you are a woman.

Both tell us that there are not just two ‘genders’, male and female, but literally dozens we can choose from. In that sort of environment, the challenge young people face in developing a secure, stable and healthy identity – as distinct from a ‘liquid’ one – grows by an order of magnitude.

So unit two of ‘The Meeting Point’ goes at some length into explaining why and how we should recognise the importance and reality of the difference between the two sexes. It says that while men and women are equal in dignity, we are different from each other in complementary ways that draw us towards one another. As it points out, the very word ‘sexuality’ comes from the verb to separate, to differentiate. 

‘The Meeting Point’ also tries to rescue the word ‘love’. Love has come to mean a mere feeling. We think we don’t need to learn about love, it is simply something we get swept along by if and when it comes our way.

But love is something we learn, as every married couple knows. The programme says: “If the end of our vocation to love is the sincere gift of self through which we discover our own identity, then we have a need to know, master and direct our heart.” That is, we need to learn to control our feelings and not let them control us.

For example, it should be obvious that a husband and a wife, even when they love each other, still need to learn each other’s personality, to learn how best to serve and care for each other, to learn about give and take. This comes from experience but it also comes from listening to people with experience. After all, if the feeling of love is all you need, then why go to marriage preparation or marriage counselling courses? We would have nothing whatever to learn from them.

The course also deals with the virtue of modesty, which is now considered a sort of personality-deforming, life-denying vice. 


It describes modesty as “the virtue that helps me to protect my intimacy. It arises in a natural way and it doesn’t just refer to the intimacy of my body, but also to that of my feelings. 

I express modesty: in the way that I dress; in the verbal and non-verbal language that I use, since my body also speaks; in my behaviour, in what I show and desire to show of myself. 

Modesty also refers to preserving the most intimate things about me in order to share them with the person that I choose. To whom shall I give my heart?”

This course is not the last word. In fact, introducing it a few days ago, Msgr Carlos Simon Vazquez of the Pontifical Council for the Family invited feedback and mentioned the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in 2018 as a place where we can take proper stock of the course and how it is being received.

That, in a sense, throws down the gauntlet before the Church in Ireland. If this programme is going to be assessed at a world meeting in Dublin, then we had better form an opinion about it here and that means we had better start teaching it. That needs to begin post-haste because 2018 is not very far away. 


The course can be downloaded from here: http://www.educazioneaffettiva.org/?lang=en