The Loyola Center for the Human Rights of ChildrenBroken Cycle of CompassionThe Controversy of Church Doctrine, Contraception, and Sex Education within MexicoDiana Beck7/31/2008Grappling compassion with difficult decisions, often young Catholics find themselves in a dilemma: pregnancy before marriage. What are the Catholic views on pre-marital sex and contraception? What are the consequences of sex before marriage? This essay explores the obstacles modern society, specifically Mexico, faces when growing up in a Catholic Institution. Remaining sensitive to the Church, the history of Catholic Doctrine on sexual intercourse, issues such as the realities of modernity and proper education lead to offered solutions in order to prevent a young, Mexican girl from leaving her home due to pregnancy. Broken Cycle of Compassion There is a place where compassion and hardships intertwine into a realm of difficult decisions. Everyday we face obstacles that integrate our ethics and beliefs. Whether these decisions seem miniscule or end with life-changing results, often we incorporate a combination of societal lessons and our personal morals when grappling with issues. In many countries, religious practices also play a major role in life choices; thus, adding another component to a choice that must be made. Young, pregnant, and living in a Catholic institution; a Mexican, teenage girl now deals with leaving her home and leading a life of the unknown. Some of the options presented, such as adoption, are not possible because she herself grew up in an orphanage. Knowing the subject of sexuality is a sensitive topic of conversation within the Church, my goal is to respect the Catholic teachings during this essay; however, to also present the challenges young Catholics, specifically Mexican Catholics, face due to conflicting changes in modern day society. This essay will delve into the different factors pregnant teens face; including being raised with Catholic beliefs on abstinence, consequences of pre-marital sex, and contraception, as well as facing societal concerns with teen pregnancy and sex education in the country of Mexico. In the end, I will look into some obstacles young unwed mothers endure after leaving their home. As well as focus on what solutions can be made in order to alleviate the struggle a Catholic Institution, such as a school or an orphanage, undergoes when attempting to balance compassion and complex situations. Catholic Teachings Because some teens live in a Catholic Institution, their upbringing follows Catholic Doctrine on pre-marital sex, marriage, and contraception. Beginning with the Catholic view on human sexuality, on July 25, 1965, Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae, an Encyclical Letter regarding the regulation of birth. The main focus of the letter emphasizes the importance of sex within marriage and the purpose of sexual relations. To begin with, teachings on marriage are “founded on the natural law, illuminated and enriched by divine revelation,” which involves a man and a woman engaging in sexual intercourse for the purpose of procreation and union. Copulation should be an act of love united through God in order to fulfill God’s will of creating offspring. Further addressing the union of a married couple, the Letter defines “Conjugal Love.” This type of love, according to Pope Paul VI, is “The wise institution of the Creator to realize in mankind His design of love. By means of reciprocal personal gift of self, proper and exclusive to them, husband and wife tend towards the communication of their beings in view of mutual personal perfection, to collaborate with God in the generation and education of new lives.” What the Pope tries to convey in the above description of Conjugal Love involves the gifts God provides for the union of a married couple. Expecting husband and wife to remain exclusive to one another, each person freely gives him or herself to the other in order to further develop their relationship. In addition, the pair work together to raise functional world citizens through God’s grace. Raising children becomes one of the main purposes of marriage and sex. Mutual love enriches the relationship, while creating a tangible image of the couple’s love. As for teenagers and sex, according to the Pontifical Council for the Family on the Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, parents should adequately inform their children about the importance of sexuality and virginity. The document states, “Instruction for both girls and boys should aim at pointing out the beauty of motherhood and the wonderful reality of procreation, as well as the deep meaning of virginity.” Focusing on virginity and the importance of chastity further emphasizes the gifts God brings through conjugal love. Teaching children the pure aspects of marital sex allows them to make more responsible decisions, as well as become more aware of the purpose of marital love; all the while, protecting the sanctity of virginity. Furthermore, the council encourages parents to warn their children of societal views of sexual intercourse, which deters from a pure sexual relationship with a spouse. As indicated by the council, when dealing with “consumer pressures” in society, “parents should sometimes watch out for their children’s relations with young people of the opposite sex—without making it too obvious. Even if they are socially acceptable, some habits of speech and conduct are not morally correct and represent a way of trivializing sexuality, reducing it to a consumer object.” The purpose of this statement is to protect children from consumer society in order to maintain purity within their hearts and souls. By trivializing and objectifying sex, society sometimes reduces love-making to a purely instinctual and physical act as opposed to viewing sex as the consummation of mind, body, and soul. Learning the Church’s stance on sex, marriage, and responsible parenthood, one sees the pros and cons to the teachings. Before moving into the values and obstacles, one more aspect of the Catholic view must be addressed. Procreation being a major facet to marriage, sex within marriage once again comes with responsibilities, which are written in the Humanae Vitae encyclical. One important responsibility mentioned when discussing regulation of birth involves artificial birth control. Contraception creates much controversy in modern day society; however, the Catholic Church holds strong to its beliefs. Artificial contraception prevents the work of God to take place within a marriage; thus, giving control to the person instead of God. Along with the artificial prevention of children, the fear of infidelity and once again reducing sex to pure physical pleasure dissuades the purpose of conjugal love. Along with infidelity among spouses, the Church feels contraception encourages sex among teens; as a result, creating irresponsibility. In the document written by the Pontifical Council for the Family, the issue of contraception further explains that “some antinatalist organizations maintain those clinics which, violating the rights of parents, provide abortion and contraception for young people, thus promoting promiscuity and consequently an increase in teenage pregnancies.” Here the Vatican shows the concern of teens engaging in pre-marital sex, a hedonistic act. Moreover, the Pontifical Council promotes parents to avoid teaching their children about contraceptives, but to instead focus on “the natural regulation of fertility” and “the dangers and ethical aspects of the artificial methods.” Given the Church’s teachings on pre-marital sex, marital sex, and contraception, many differing opinions arise. In the next section, the obstacles that occur within modern society, specifically Mexico will be discussed. Following the concerns within Mexico, the scenario mentioned before about the young, pregnant girl living in an orphanage will be further explored. The challenges she must face, as well as the hardships the orphanage endures will then come to surface when deciding what is best for the teen; while still following doctrine. Controversies and Obstacles In a perfect world, the views of the Catholic Church would adequately suffice; however, as mentioned before, in modern day society many controversies begin when viewing Catholic Doctrine on pre-marital sex and contraception. Despite the encouragement of abstinence, the reality remains, teenagers still have sex. According to an article by Lisa J. Bridges, Ph.D. and Kristen Anderson Moore, Ph.D., “teens who exhibit high levels of religiosity (including church attendance, valuing religion, and holding strong religious beliefs) have lower levels of sexual experience and more conservative attitudes about sexual activity than other teens;” however, “when female teens who consider themselves highly religious do have sex for the first time, some studies indicate that they are less likely to use contraception, putting them at risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.” Reviewing these two factors, the positive influence of the Church’s teachings shines through the prolonging of sexual intercourse among teens; nevertheless, the counterpart of the teachings against contraception create risky behavior among teens who want to follow their faith, even if they decide to have pre-marital sex. Unfortunately, the societal, consumerist pressures tend to override religious teachings involving sex before marriage. Teenagers tend to explore their sexual nature despite church teachings, resulting in guilty feelings and unprepared consequences. Often young teens become pregnant due to limited knowledge regarding preventative measures. Understanding the Church’s concern, yet recognizing the realities of teenage behavior, many youth fear being discovered; therefore, are less likely to use “evidence” of sexual activity (i.e. condoms). Exploring the consequences of promoting abstinence only, Angela Bonavoglia states her concerns perfectly in Good Catholic Girls: How Woman are Leading the Fight to Change the Church, “While abstinence is a fine alternative for young women who choose that, their health and lives are in danger when it is treated as their only option. It means that if they choose to have sex before marriage at some point, they are completely ill prepared—emotionally, physically, and spiritually—to protect themselves.” Bonavoglia reiterates the worry of risky teenage behavior due to the lack of modern education within the Catholic Institutions. Abstinence is important; however, sending children into the “consumer society” without proper education is like sending them to sky dive without a parachute. In both situations, the results are potentially disastrous and life threatening. Applying the aforementioned concerns to Mexican society, the same fears and hopes arise when grappling with sex education. The next section looks at efforts to inform teenagers, as well as parents, about safe sex, while staying sensitive to Catholic Doctrine. Efforts of Sex Education in Mexico Mexico primarily consists of Catholics. Whether or not citizens practice the religion, doctrine remains embedded within the culture. As mentioned earlier, education of sexual intercourse remains the responsibility of the parents. However, often parents lack knowledge on these matters. According to the article, “Quietly Working for School-Based Sexuality Education in Mexico: Strategies for Advocacy” by Susan Pick, Martha Givaudan, and Jeremy Brown, texts were released focusing on the parent’s role as “maximum authority when it comes to sexuality education, despite the fact that parents themselves have not received sexuality education.” Parents cannot properly teach their adolescents about the value of chastity, nor how to use preventative measures if they do not know the answers. Despite parents’ ill knowledge, they still believe their children should be sufficiently informed. When a group called Instituto Mexicano de Investigación Familiar y Población (IMIFAP) proposed a plan for teaching adolescents in the early 1990s, they found 90 percent of the parents questioned wanted a sex education program set into place for their children. Because of the results, IMIFAP, worked with parents, students, and Mexico’s Ministry of Education in order to implement an effective sex education and life planning program within schools. Expressing the unease with the consequences of unprotected sex, Pick, Givaudan, and Brown say, “The relatively high incidence of unplanned pregnancies and of HIV/AIDS in Mexico highlight the substantial need for closely linked or integrated sexual health and family planning programs for adolescents.” Therefore, the curriculum needed to occur. Although the parents decided sex education for their children must happen, resistance from a small, yet powerful conservative group hindered the implementation of the new courses. Instead of non-compliance, IMIFAP worked with the Ministry of Education in order to execute the programs. Using a life-skills approach as opposed to only teaching about contraception and ways to prevent disease, IMIFAP succeeded in teaching parents, children, and adolescents about important life-skills, including protecting themselves. As Pick, Givaudan, and Brown inform the readers of a section in the Convention of the Rights of a the Child, “The development of life-skills that stress mental and emotional well-being and the importance of intimacy—such as decision-making, taking responsibility, openly communicating, negotiating, and self-awareness, empathy and coping with emotions—provide a broader definition of sexual health, which emphasizes more than just the ability to use contraception and protect oneself from STDS.” Using the well-rounded approach above, IMIFAP workers effectively relayed the message of healthy sexual relationships to those enrolled into the program, while remaining sensitive to Catholic Doctrine. Learning about making healthy decisions, adolescents can still choose to remain abstinent. At the same time, the teenagers who would decide to have pre-marital sex with or without education, now have the tools to protect themselves, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. As a result, they are no longer trivializing sex, but seeing the act as a holistic union with consequences if proper measures are not taken. Even though contraception usage is taught, artificial birth control leaves the main focus of the curriculum; thus, creating less controversy with the Ministry. Educating children remains an essential focus of IMIFAP. Their follow-up results display the efforts taken to prepare teenagers for adulthood. Finding 81.8 percent of young woman who engaged in sexual activity for the first time after taking the 24-hour course used contraception shows the curriculum’s effect on the students. Not only do they have the opportunity to view sex holistically, they also take on the responsibilities of engaging in intercourse and the potential results. Witnessing the results of IMIFAP’s study, hope dwells within for future generations; however, the study took place in public schools. The challenge remains within Catholic Institutions. Is it possible to propose similar ideas and courses as IMIFAP’s at an orphanage similar to the one described earlier in the essay? Although the Catholic Church holds true to views on sexual education, could this educational approach be used as a compromise as it was with the Ministry of Education? Before answering the above questions, first the scenario given about the young, pregnant girl should be addressed. The next section describes a situation that happens at some orphanages in Mexico with young teenagers who become pregnant while living within the institution. Following this section, potential solutions will be offered in order to alleviate the compromises made when trying balance compassion with difficult decisions. Teen Pregnancy When facing teenage pregnancy, the Catholic Church encourages adoption, which benefits a young teen unprepared for motherhood as well as those who choose to adopt the child. The couple can then enjoy one of God’s creations. Nevertheless, when an adolescent is an orphan herself, she cannot give her own child up for adoption; therefore, creating a gray area of decision-making. Most often, the teenage girl and sometimes the father of the child must leave the orphanage because sex is not tolerated. Wanting to protect the younger children within the orphanage as well, removing pregnant teenagers seems to be the best solution. Now, the young couple deals with the realities of society. On one hand, the consequences are understandable because the adolescents chose to have pre-marital sex; however, the situation complicates because the girl may be ill-equipped to be a mother. She does not posses the skills to make money in society. Possibly abandoning her and the baby, the father could leave her to fend for herself as she tries to raise the child. Several other mishaps can occur as well. Although, the scenario is the worst case, the reality exists; hence creating a problem. The problem lies in the perpetual cycle being formed: teenager becomes pregnant, leaves the institution, she cannot afford to take care of the child, and she abandons the baby leaving him or her at the doorstep of the orphanage where she originally lived. Within these gray areas, the broken cycle of compassion lurks because while the orphanage successfully shows compassion toward the children within the walls, forcing an ill-prepared girl into the “real” world seems heartless. Here, I am not stating the Catholic Church is heartless, I am proposing that each case requires more than just a “cut and dry” solution, which I am sure the Church struggles with as well. Looking into the scenario, some questions arise, tying education and life-skills preparation into the equation. As some see the situation, the girl was irresponsible for having sex before marriage; but, was she irresponsible for not remaining abstinent, or was she irresponsible for having unsafe sex, especially with the diseases within modern society? However, because the responsibility rests on the parents, are the workers in the orphanage required to have sex education programs? If so, due to ill-preparation, is the orphanage responsible for not sufficiently teaching the adolescents about healthy decisions? As one can see, the questions proposed require long discussions and debate; however, when looking at the best interest of the child with the baby and the baby being born, diving into the ethics of a situation is necessary. The last segment of the essay addresses the questions posed earlier, in an attempt to offer preventative solutions in order to alleviate difficult compromises. Proposed Solutions Addressing both questions on ways to compromise, as well as actually implementing a program similar to IMIFAP’s life-skills would benefit the children and the Church. Even if the education program primarily promotes abstinence, providing the children with adequate information about their bodies and healthy decision making makes a difference in their decisions. Revamping the program to gear more toward Catholic teachings supports abstinence, while allowing the children to become more aware of their bodies. For example, teaching the rhythm method and the importance of sexuality among married couples complies with Catholic values; however, avoiding and/or demonizing sex before marriage invokes fear within the children. As a result, the children are less apt to approach an adult when they have questions. Mentioning other methods for protection enables the adolescents to make healthier decisions if they decide to have sex; thus, creating a higher comfort level to discuss sexual issues. Despite the Catholic Church’s fear of teenagers having more sex due to contraceptive methods, if classes such as the IMIFAP courses promote healthy living, then the rate of sexual activity may go down. Instead of creating fear, empowerment blooms, giving teenagers a new view on sex. Incorporating into the lessons the value and beauty of sex between partners when they are emotionally and spiritually ready, creates a motivating factor to wait a longer time before consummation. Consequently, both consumer society and Catholic doctrine intertwine in order to prepare children for adulthood. Another way to compromise between society and Catholic doctrine promotes healthy body image. Girls (and sometimes boys) engage in sexual activity in order to fill a void, resulting in promiscuity. Within the orphanages, children already possibly suffer from abandonment issues; thus, leading them to find love in other ways. If courses and workshops offered positive image and respecting one’s body, the adolescents have potential to gain a higher respect for their bodies; hence, redirecting their unhealthy actions into healthy relationship interaction. In addition, if the consequences of pregnancy still end in leaving the institution, courses focusing on survival within society should offer alternatives for those young ladies who do decide to continue with their responsibilities and remain mothers. At least she would feel a little more prepared, along with receiving caution about unsafe sex before deciding. However, are there other ways to handle the consequences if a teen does become pregnant? Can she stay within the orphanage in order to avoid the everlasting cycle mentioned earlier? All in all, each solution presented has counter solutions; however, posing a respectful challenge toward the Catholic Doctrine is necessary when tackling the controversial issues on sex, pre-marital sex, and contraception within modern societal views. By looking at different obstacles involving teen pregnancy, followed by possible solutions for proper sexual education, we begin to clear the gray area of compassion. Now, we set in motion the mending of the broken cycle of compassion into a strong support system for growing adolescents. Creating connections with the Church, parents, education institutions, as well as adolescents within religious societies offers love and solidarity instead of divide and anger. In the end, the main concern centers around the young, pregnant girl stuck in a preventable situation. Works Cited Bonavoglia, Angela. Good Catholic Girls: How Women are leading the Fight to Change the Church. 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