SEXUAL INSTRUCTION FOR THE YOUNG
[continued from yesterday]
...If the matter be thus solemnly but openly treated there will be no need to go too much into details. The child will make its own inferences, which will be substantially correct. At any rate, they will be enough for the time being. As the child grows older it will want to know more. Here again no exact rule can be laid down. The parents will be guided by their judgment, which will partake rather of the nature of an instinct.
As more details are required so will the mother speak to the girls, and the father to the boys. To the parents and not to the schoolmaster, nor still less to boys and girls, belongs the duty of explaining what is meant by being born.
This knowledge is sought for, and possessed, long before the knowledge of how children are begotten. The latter is one of the most difficult things to teach. Parents are inclined to be too reticent about it, with the result that children in variably get their first knowledge from undesirable sources. Let reason, then, decide that the parents shall Say what is essential, and at the same time let instinct decide that they shall not say more than is essential.
There is no need, whatever, for a full and particular description of the sexual act. Much less is there need of diagrams and pictures of the human body.
The best way is to begin with the lower forms of life. The description of the fertilization of a plant is most admirable. The plant excites no harmful images in the imagination. The poultry yard, too, may be taken as a convenient object lesson. If plants and poultry are understood, then the parent may go further and say that in the higher animals and in human beings the young are produced in a similar way.
The manner of giving this information is more important than the matter. There must, on the one hand, be no tendency to laugh and joke about it, whilst there must, on the other, be no attempt to suppress it as if it were something wicked. The inquiring mind at this stage is alert and receptive.
Moreover, it works in harmony with a natural instinct. Thus of its own nature it readily makes the right inferences and draws the necessary conclusions. The aim of the parent is to keep these conclusions as ideal as possible, and to prevent them from becoming topics of conversation and reading. The more they act on the senses so much the more likely are they to induce an indulgence of the senses, and thus lead to acts of impurity.
After the age of thirteen or fourteen the boys will claim more particularly the attention of their father, and the girls that of their mother. Now is the time for explicit teaching on certain well defined matters.
If the boy has been encouraged to look to his father rather than to his own playfellows for information of this kind, he will sooner or later ask in anxiety about the relief of nature in the night. He may be told that so long as this does not arise from any tampering with himself, it is perfectly natural and nothing to be distressed about. The father may also take the occasion to warn him against the sin of self-abuse.
This sin is so prevalent amongst boys that the father need hardly be afraid of giving the warning too soon. Let it be said solemnly and plainly that the boy has certain powers given to him by God, for the purpose of begetting children in lawful marriage, and that if those powers are abused in boyhood they will be damaged for their function in manhood.
Strong motives will be required by the boy to keep him straight. At this age natural motives are very powerful, but they are more powerful if spiritualized and raised to a supernatural plane. Tell the boy first, then, that this is a sin against God. The body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, and sins against the body, therefore, have a special malice in them and bring after them a special punishment. The law of nature is broken and nature will exact a heavy toll. But what is the law of nature except a reflex of the divine mind? And what is the retribution of nature except a fulfilment of the divine Will?
Tell the boy, then, that self-abuse impairs the brain and shatters the nerves, that it dulls the intelligence and weakens the will, and that these are the effects ordained by God to follow on the violation of His law....
From Marriage and Parenthood, The Catholic Ideal
By the Rev. Thomas J. Gerrard
Author of "Cords of Adam," "The Wayfarer's Vision," ETC.
Copyright, 1911, by Joseph F. Wagner, New York.