Vatican Family Values

As my people like to say, there is chutzpah, and then there is chutzpah. And if you are Michele Bachmann there is even chitzpah. 

But this needs a bigger word. Probably in Italian. With an issimo on the end.

Don’t get me wrong. I like my Vatican predictable. So I wasn’t surprised when the Catholic Church came out to condemn the new mandatory sex ed classes in New York City. That’s what the Church does. Like the sun rises each morning and sets each night, the Church condemns.

Likewise, I’m not surprised that the Church didn’t pass up the opportunity to kick the condemnation up a notch. New York is only the biggest city in the world. Why not needle “the State” and “public institutions in the West” for their “magical trust in the effectiveness of sex education?”

And then, because there’s nothing an absolutely hierarchical behemoth religious institution likes to do more than stick up for the little guy–and tip its hat to one of its good soldiers–I wasn’t even fazed when the Church followed Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s lead and framed its opposition to the sex ed classes as a defense of parental rights. (It’s not like the Church is against all sex education. It’s only against all sex education taught by anyone other than (Catholic) parents that toe the sex-in-marriage, sex-for-procreational-purposes only party line. Doesn’t leave too many people out, does it?)

But that’s everyday humdrum just plain yawnable chutzpah compared to what comes next.

Never one to let a false premise go to waste, the article builds on the Us vs Them, State vs (Catholic) Parent rhetoric: the idea that sex education in schools means a deafening silence on sexual matters in the home. Of course there is no institution prohibiting a free and open exchange of sexual information at home–except maybe the Catholic Church. But to admit that would deprive the Vatican of another opportunity to congratulate itself and its countrymen:

At heart, Italy – where there is no compulsory sex education in schools –is one of the countries which is better off from this point of view: here young people have a lower risk of disease and early pregnancy.

If we’re still comparing Italians to Americans, then yes, the information is true. At least the teen pregnancy part. Whether this has anything to do with sex education, compulsory or non, is another matter entirely. But again, why should that matter when there’s gloating to be had?

How does the Church explain the Italian youth’s sexual good fortune?

This is thanks to the family, to the loving vigilance of parents over their children, to the fact that kids are not left to themselves with a box of contraceptives as the only defense against their passions and mistakes.

Here is where the chutzpah hits the delusional fantasy.

Now I don’t doubt that anyone writing for the Vatican’s daily newspaper may need to get out more. But puh-lease.  This is the country that elected Silvio Berlusconi Prime Minister four times. The man has bragged about hosting orgies, or “Bunga Bunga” parties, at his estate. (If there were any doubt about the way he or the Italian culture view sex, the cutesy nickname pretty much says it all, if you ask me.) The sex scandal he’s deflecting at the moment is Rubygate–named for the teenaged belly dancer he is accused of paying for sex. Though many other under-aged girls have shared tales of sexual dalliances with the Prime Minister since the allegations became public, I suppose it would be overmuch to say that these women represent the whole of Italian teenage girldom. However, I can’t help but wonder if the teenage birth rate is low in Italy because the men having sex with them are well past the height of their virility.

But wait, there’s more. The Vatican isn’t going to let Italian parents get all the glory.

It is also thanks to the Catholic Church, who continues to teach that sexual relations are much more than some kind of pleasurable exercise to be practiced in an unbridled and risk-free way … to the foundation of family in which procreation is one of the principal ends. The Church teaches respect for one’s own body, which means giving importance and weight to the acts that are done with it, not just taking into consideration the possibility of enjoyment or narcissistic gratification: and this is precisely contrary to what those who criticize her say.

The Church may like to believe this is what it teaches. The reality is that the Church ceded its moral authority on sexual behavior long ago when it chose to cover-up the widespread sexual abuse of minors by clergymen, a practice that the Vatican is still accused of following today.


About Jodi:
Jodi is a freelance writer and recovering academic with more enthusiasm for sports than athletic talent and a prodigious taste for the health food known as dark chocolate.


  1. Wow, Jodi – you had a lot to get off your chest. And you did it with such moxie.

    I love this argument about parents being left out of the equation. If parents are being left out of the new sex ed paradigm, weren’t they also being left out of the abstinence-only paradigm? The fact is that the majority of parents don’t talk to their kids about sex – both because they don’t want to, and they don’t know how. Yes, parents should be involved with their kids. But kids need to get the info somewhere. If we don’t trust the schools to educate our kids, then we ought to pull them all out and start homeschooling.

    Oh, yeah . . . pipe dream.

  2. Bravissimo! Of course, I had to say it, you were begging for an issimo.
    I enjoyed reading this point of view, a wonderful and thought-provoking piece. I just wonder how he could say it with a straight face? Sex education in the schools is a bad thing? Maybe he’s counting on the prohibition of birth control to make sure that we procreate a bunch of older brothers to keep yon virgins…virginalissimo? Hehe

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