From Phil's interview with our Diocesan newspaper...
(I replaced the names of the other interviewee and the high schools with XX)
Diocesan high schools stress importance of the Sacrament of Marriage
Despite increasing pressure from secular society to uproot the long-standing understanding of marriage, students in Catholic high schools within the XX Diocese are being taught the value and importance of the institution and Sacrament of Marriage.
“Defending the traditional view of marriage between one man and one woman is incredibly important but increasingly difficult in today’s society,” said Philip Martin, chairman of the theology department at XX. “Many students have been influenced by the media, the law, and a widespread philosophy of moral relativism.”
Martin said that the moral truth about marriage and love can only be gleaned through Divine Revelation.
“Since many of our students are Christians, we look to the teachings on marriage found in Sacred Scripture,” he said. “We also discuss the social implications to accepting other definitions of marriage.”
At XX High School in XX, vice president of academic affairs Kathleen XX said the sanctity of marriage and its role in Church history and society is an integral part of their curriculum.
“Beginning in the freshmen year in our religion and science classes, relationships are discussed in the context of respect for self and others,” XX said. “We help students to understand that the Church teaching on marriage is not antiquated but is the foundation of family life. We openly discuss the qualities of a happy and healthy marriage and point out to students that the uniting and procreative aspects of married life can only be achieved through a relationship between a man and a woman.”
With a sharp decline in the number of couples opting to get married in recent years — choosing instead to cohabitate — it has become a challenge to get students to understand how the Sacrament of Marriage is a great source of grace.
“We try to convey to the students that success in marriage comes from viewing your spouse as a person to love and that the grace of the Sacrament helps us overcome our natural selfishness, which is detrimental to love,” Martin said. “Statistics also show that couples who choose to cohabitate prior to, or in lieu of, marriage are much more likely to separate or divorce.”
XX said students are well aware of the reasons for the increasing trend of cohabitation.
“We present statistics on the divorce rates associated with cohabitation and explore reasons why individuals chose this lifestyle,” she said. “Students are asked to think about marriage in the context of God’s plan for man and woman and it really does make sense to them, although some see it as an ‘ideal’ that may not be realistic for all. But most students do see themselves as getting married at some time in the future.”
“I do think that most students still see marriage as an important vocation,” Martin agreed. “It is actually vocations to the priesthood and religious life with which students struggle the most. We try to instill in them that all different vocations complement one another and each calls us to make a lifelong commitment of selfless love.”
One of the biggest challenges in teaching students about the sanctity of marriage is to impress upon them the importance of remaining chaste prior to receiving the Sacrament.
“The focus is not limited to sexuality but on respect for self and others,” XX said. “The physical, emotional and social aspects of chastity are explored and the great freedom and positive outcomes of leading a chaste life are emphasized.”
Admitting that chastity is certainly a “counter-cultural” concept, XX added students and teachers discuss the worldview of sexuality along with the many negative outcomes of premarital sex, including crisis pregnancy, sexually-transmitted diseases, guilt, stress, depression and loss of reputation.
“It is difficult for teens because there is a lot of peer pressure,” she said. “They are certainly conflicted and we try to give them the knowledge, support and positive strategies to lead a chaste life.”
Martin said the goal at XX High School is to help students realize they are all called to live the virtue of chastity — as opposed to celibacy — throughout their entire life.
“Chastity involves a fundamental ‘yes’ to God’s plan for sexuality rather than simple abstinence, which is a ‘no’ to sex,” he said. “Therefore, chastity is lived differently depending on our state in life. When single or dating, we will be called to have pure relationships in which we refrain from sex. When married, we are still called to be chaste and to say ‘yes’ to God’s plan, which will involve monogamy, fidelity, and an openness to life.”
Martin said he hopes more young people are trying to live a chaste life today, even though they may not be sharing this fact with their peers.
“I believe that many young people view chastity as a challenge but more and more are coming to realize that the ‘sexual liberation’ that they have been exposed to is not leading to the ultimate happiness they crave,” he said.
With constant outside influences such as the Internet and mass media and more direct influences like peer pressure, XX said open and frank discussions with students about premarital sex and the Church’s position on marriage are crucial.
“We do our best to create an atmosphere in which students feel comfortable raising questions and concerns,” she said. “We help students to identify alternatives to engaging in premarital sex — to engage in fun group activities, to avoid getting into a situation that may lead to premarital sex, and to explore common interests with the opposite sex. We also emphasize that although they may think that ‘everyone is doing it,’ that is not the case.”
“Temptation is always present and we hope to teach them that we all need help in overcoming it,” Martin agreed. “It is important for students to understand that it is never too late to start living a chaste life. No matter how many times we fall, God desires to forgive us and give us His mercy.”