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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Grooming Children for Sexual Exploitation

By Fr. Tom Collins

The HHS mandate that all insurance policies include coverage for free access to contraception,  abortion and sterilization has triggered a strong response from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Sad to say, though, in their response to this mandate, most bishops have become so fixated on the religious liberty issues raised by this mandate, that they have overlooked a more insidious dimension of what the mandate is doing. Over the past several years, the programs initiated as a result of the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children have required Catholic priests, religious and laity to be vigilantly aware of potential dangers to the children entrusted to our care. Among those dangers is that posed by those who would seek to groom children, so as to lower the children's aversion to sexual exploitation. Through the VIRTUS program, we are reminded to be alert in detecting and confronting the first stages of such grooming. In Church settings, there is now zero tolerance for sexual exploitation.

But sadly, while we are seriously committed to provide such protection for children on Church premises, such pastoral vigilance seems to be lacking for our children in other contexts. For example, more than 75% of Catholic youth attend public schools. In most of these schools, Planned Parenthood and like-minded groups are given the freedom to initiate the grooming process, whereby even pre-pubescent children are given the impression that sexual activity outside of marriage is natural, good and healthy. This impression is now being reinforced by the new HHS mandate, which will require that
contraception and abortion services be made available even to children. All this grooming is further enhanced by the popular media, which so often portrays sexual promiscuity as not only exciting, but also both normal and normative. In addition, the societal "evolution" of our legal system and our value system are moving in the direction, which makes our children more "tolerant" and "inclusive" in their understanding of human sexuality. As a result, they are being meticulously groomed for being receptive to the idea that fulfillment can be found through submission to sexual exploitation.

Current secular sex education programs tend to presume, and even expect, children to become sexually active. And so, while giving a token nod to marriage as the ideal context for sexual intimacy, they present various degrees and styles of sexual promiscuity as both normal and healthy - provided one practices "safe sex". Sexual experimentation with a variety of partners is thus presented as normal normative for healthy psycho-sexual development.

Sad to say, the response to the Catholic Church in America to this desecration of childhood innocence has been grossly inadequate. And on Judgment Day, we may even discover Christ Himself declaring it to have been criminally negligent. Keeping our children safe on Church premises may protect us legally. But fear of the Lord, not fear of the lawsuit, is the beginning of authentic wisdom, love and pastoral care. Evangelization requires that we become more pro-active in proclaiming chastity to be the norm, not merely the ideal, for human sexuality. Our children - and all our people - need
to be clearly taught and guided to appreciate the fact that the purpose of human sexual activity is exclusively to renew, deepen and enhance the sacred covenant of marriage. And we need to proclaim this truth to our whole society, and not merely seek a dispensation from the government to allow us to proclaim it under those elongated bushel baskets, which we call steeples.

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