Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Pinterest Connect on Google Plus Connect on LinkedIn

SexEd: A Catholic Mother’s Conviction

October 16, AD2016

unnamed-3

Imagine for a moment that an innocent inquiry throws you into what amounts to a political firestorm. Your only purpose was to defend your Catholic faith. You meant no malice towards anyone. There was no personal agenda. The intent behind your inquiry and concern was merely to ensure that the teachings of the Church were being respected and upheld, not only for your child but for future children, as well.

Then imagine that the very entity that you approach in this matter identifies themselves as Catholic and persecuted you for daring to question their authority.

Concerned About SexEd Content

This situation is exactly what Susan Skinner found herself in when she questioned the content of the human sexuality material being used by Father Ryan High School in Nashville, Tennessee in their sex education program. Mrs. Skinner felt the material of choice by the school unsuitable for freshman and sophomore students to be exposed to. A leading Catholic authority on human sexuality education material, who wishes to remain anonymous, confided to Mrs. Skinner that the material used by Father Ryan High School is far too explicit.

Not only were her concerns largely dismissed, but instead of allowing her son to opt-out of the course, as is allowed by Tennessee state law, her son was expelled from the school.

A Mother’s Pain

This ordeal has become particularly painful for Mrs. Skinner. The result of her inquiry was not the end-game she had in mind. In fact, she has been told by those involved with choosing the curriculum that the explicit and graphic material included in the course is nothing to be concerned about because “all the kids are having sex and viewing pornography anyway.” Bear in mind that “all the kids” that are being referenced are 14 to 16 years old at a Catholic high school.

Recently, I had an opportunity to talk to Mrs. Skinner about her experience.

Pete Socks: The one thing I have not been able to find out is what exactly did the material consist of? I believe this is important so people truly understand the level of the problem.

Mrs. Skinner: There are two parts to the freshman curriculum, which consists of a book called, “Growing toward Intimacy” by Bob Bartlett, and a supplemental packet that the school created itself which pulls things from many different places. The custom packet is also used for the sophomore year as well, though not the book. Students are pulled out of regular Theology for 4 weeks both freshman and sophomore year to learn this sex education content, but it remains under the umbrella of Theology.

Though the supplemental packet does include some church teaching, there are portions that are very graphic. To me, it seems to pay lip service to Catholic teaching, while giving students a wink and a nod. It also seems to particularly objectify women, even having the test in the back focused on the external genitalia of the woman, labeled “female reproductive system,” while the test on the male is an internal picture of the reproductive system. I cannot understand the focus on the external view of the female.

Additionally, students are tested on ten or more birth control methods and how they all work. I just don’t understand why they feel the need to provide such detail. It is not at all beautiful the way I think human sexuality could be presented.

PS: You now find yourself in the middle of what is becoming national news. Did you ever imagine you would be taking a stand on this type of situation?

Mrs. Skinner: I never imagined myself here. After we enrolled and this packet was brought to my attention by other parents, I thought I would simply have a meeting and they would allow my child to opt out. That obviously was not the case. I never wanted this.

PS: A follow-up to the last question…why? What drives you to do this?

Mrs. Skinner: I had to follow my conscience which told me parents have authority over their children, as does church teaching. Parents never ever sign that right over, even upon enrolling in a private school. I felt compelled to defend my God-given rights, and to protect the soul of my son. I felt this curriculum could lead him into sin with the level of detail it provided. My goal as a parent is to help my son get to heaven, so I would be remiss if I didn’t protect him from something that was a near occasion of sin.

PS: What has the reaction been from your fellow school parents?

Mrs. Skinner: Many parents have called and emailed to express their support. There are others who think I am wrong. I have received a vitriolic message from one of the alumni and also a particularly nasty email sent to me at work. But for the most part, I have received a lot of support and prayers which I am grateful for.

PS: You’ve said that you had an awakening in 2010 that had changed you as a person. You learned to love and forgive. How has this impacted this situation for you?

Mrs. Skinner: I was totally transformed by my friend’s murder. I can say it brought me to my knees and made me come to know a very personal Christ. I could no longer pick and choose which teachings I would follow. Jesus says, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments.” I decided I could no longer be a lukewarm Catholic. I told the Lord he has my unequivocal “yes”. Love means sometimes you have to do what is hard. You have to sacrifice. I had to make the decision to stand up for what is right, even though there has been much suffering. In that too, I bear no ill will toward anyone. I forgive and pray for all those involved.

PS: Obviously this has not been an easy situation for you. How have you been handling this suffering and how is your son doing?

Mrs. Skinner: My son is a good kid. He is actually my hero because he has not complained to me once. I know he has gotten grief from his friends, and that he is suffering, because it is a loss for him of the community he knew. But he has kept a positive attitude and for that I am grateful. In my suffering, I rely on what gets me through everything, the Eucharist, adoration,confession, and the Rosary. I have a special devotion to the Blessed Mother because seeing the suffering she went through, as a mother, I can relate to suffering over your children.

PS: You have said that trust, do, love and spread hope to others is your motto. I believe your witness during this situation is fulfilling that motto.

Mrs. Skinner: This is about total trust. It’s about doing what He asks even when it’s hard, even in the suffering. We as Catholics have a gift. We have the light of truth. Hope is here, and His name is Jesus Christ. It is in Him that all things are made new. 

Author’s Note

It is quite apparent that this outcome is not what she envisioned. She only wanted to remove her son from this course and exercise her right to determine what best suited her son when it came to educating him on human sexuality. This parental primacy is well established in the Catholic Catechism.( CCC 2223, CCC 2226As a Catholic father of five, whose children are homeschooled, I can tell you that the person I spoke with on the phone during this interview is an impressively strong individual, and though wounded and deeply pained, she faithfully carries this cross alongside her Lord.

How many of us would be as convicted and courageous in Mrs. Skinner’s position?

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Pete Socks converted to the Catholic faith in 1996. He continues to learn the riches of our Faith through books. The passion to read has led to his ministry as a book reviewer for leading Catholic publishers. You can find his reviews, author interviews and weekly giveaways at The Catholic Book Blogger (www.catholicbookblogger.com). Pete is also passionate about how technology can aid in building ones faith. You can find his writing on this topic at Biblezon (www.biblezon.com) the home of the Catholic faith building tablet. He hopes to combine what he finds between the covers of books and in leading Catholic technology to share insightful topics with the audience here at Catholic Stand. When not reading and writing, Pete is the happily married father of five working his way through life in rural PA.

If you enjoyed this essay, subscribe below to receive a daily digest of all our essays.

Thank you for supporting us!

  • rich

    You want to be willfully ignorant, and send your kids to these evil vatican 2 schools…..then you reap what you sow. Abandon the novus ordo nonsense and convert to Catholicism. Your guide should be simple: If Rome is in any way involved, than it is of satan. End of story. Mrs Skinner…..learn your Faith; if you had ever known it we wouldnt be reading this article. Stop listening to pete socks (who abides by the ccc and therefore loses any benefit of the doubt), throw away your satanic ccc, and convert.

    • Sue

      Beware of the poison arrows you throw, you wouldn’t want them coming back at you.

  • adam aquinas

    Eh, anyone here read the “Song of Songs” or the “Canticle of Canticles” of the “Song of Solomon” …an erotic conversation between two lovers in the Bible. Ever wonder why it’s not taught in Bible Study? Every wonder why it’s not part of the liturgy? It is completely absent from the Lectionary for Sundays and Feast Days, appearing only once in that for Ferias: on December 21, Song 2:8-14 is read in conjunction with the marian passage, Lk. 1:39-45. In the Divine Office it is used once as the Short Lesson for the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin (Song 6: 10); six times in the ritual for the Consecration of Virgins (twice as a biblical reading — Song 2:8-14 and 8:6,7 — and four times as antiphons — Song 3:1; 2:6; 2:14; 4:8); once only in the wedding ceremony (Song 2:8-16) and once only in the Common of Virgins (Song 8:7) as the short reading.
    Stop wondering, it’s the rejection of eros and the emphasis on agape. When we start dealing with the whole Bible, life makes sense….not cherry-picked portions. That is why sex ed is vital in school, parents don’y do instruction. Every read the “Song of Solomon” with your high school child? Probably not….

    • Sue

      I have read it. It is beautiful, and far from what this class taught. My son has been taught about the beauty of sex. This course was not beautiful.

  • savvy

    She needs to sue the school and not be silent about this. It would help other parents who might be in a similar situation.

  • Tziggy

    Pete,
    I think it would be interesting to read an interview with the individual who felt it was necessary to expel Mrs. Skinners son. Additionally, it may be informative to know what the Bishop of that diocese thinks about the sex ed curriculum in light of Mrs. Skinners observations.
    And why in the heck are parents being ‘supportive’ without all walking en-mass out those school doors and taking their tuition with them???

    • salvationnow

      Tziggy, you can read that interview on LifeSiteNews. They have several articles reporting the entire coverage that will answer your questions.

  • Jerry K

    I am a 1960 graduate of Father Ryan High School and I am appalled by the actions of the school. I will keep the Skinner family and the administrators of FRHS in my prayers.

  • Rudy

    THE Fr Ryan is rolling over in his grave. As this school becomes more and more secular there are less and less Catholic students attending and enrollment is down overall. This is only one of many reasons why.

  • I.C.

    Everybody had better ask themselves, “Do you think you will see more of this under a Hillary administration?” Then vote accordingly.

    • G.

      Yes! Vote for Trump!
      Clinton was caught opposing the Catholic Church by trying to subvert it!
      The Bishops should be shouting from the rooftops that Catholics absolutely CANNOT vote for anti-Catholic, pro-abortion, pro-homosexual union Clinton!

  • Had ittohere

    It was nice of her bishop to stand up for her. Oh! Wait! he didn’t stand up for her, he threw her under the bus. My mistake.

  • When I first read about Susan Skinner’s dilemma in an article on LifeSiteNews, I was concerned with two serious issues in this case. The first obviously being the explicit nature of the content, which is highly inappropriate for a Catholic institution, and the second being that the school prohibits parents from opting their children out of the program, blatantly denying Church doctrine on parental primacy. (Church doctrine clearly says that parents are the primary catechists of their children.) The content of the material alone is quite unsettling, but it’s the second issue that I find chilling. Father Ryan High School and the Diocese of Nashville are very clearly inculcating children with an idealogical point of view that violates Church teaching, and then strong-arms parents from being able to remove their children from these classes without removing them from the school all together.

    The Church contents that faithful Catholic families have an obligation to support Catholic schools. But why would they, if their children are going to be placed in moral danger, and parents’ rights violated?

    Susan Skinner and her son are shining examples of what Pope Benedict calls the authority of one’s own conscious. Highly regarded by many as a theological expect, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote when he was Cardinal Ratzinger: “Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. Conscience confronts [the individual] with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official church.” St. Thomas Aquinas, echoed the same sentiment in his book of Sentences.

    The events at Father Ryan High School, supported by the Diocese of Nashville, should cause every single Catholic parent reading this story to seek out their own bishop and confirm that the promotion of this material is not happening in their own diocese, or the Catholic school they are attending. Obviously, the bishop of Nashville feels emboldened to pursue and enforce this type of sex education in a Catholic school under his direction, as well as treat parents who invest $12K a year in this school as if they are lepers for asking a simple question. Everyone should question where he is getting his authorization. If he has been given authorization from the Vatican, that should cause every member of the Nashville Diocese to do what St. Thomas Aquinas said, “It must be observed, however, that if the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica II, II, q. 33, a. 45)

    God has great plans for you, Ms. Skinner, and your son. Peace be with you.

  • Disqus_disqus

    Mrs. Skinner is a good mom and Catholic. God bless her.

  • G.

    Thank you for your article highlighting the courageous mother, Mrs. Skinner.
    She is to be commended for standing up for her son and for her rights as a parent!
    It’s a shame that the other parents didn’t join her. As Catholics, they should be right there beside her demanding that the school abolish that evil sex ed program. I’m not talking about a behind the scenes phone call or text or e-mail or a Like on Facebook! All of those parents should be out protesting and demanding that the Catholic school and the Catholic Bishop get rid of that evil sex ed program and they reinstate her son as well as apologize to him and his mother, Mrs. Skinner.
    I know how she feels to be the ONLY ONE to make a move to remove one’s child from sex ed programs and to go against wrong teachings or actions by a school and be like David vs. Goliath. Sadly, I’ve had to fight many battles vs. the secularization and liberalization of the schools and the terrible garbage that they do or try to do to the school students of all ages.
    In one such meeting with a high school principal, he actually admitted that he was involved in what is noted as CYA, (aka Covering Your A**)! In other words, he was all about covering his tracks!
    After all of the battles, I have to say that there are a lot of cowards or parents who are ignorant or just do not really care. I feel sorry for the students, because they are the Guinea pigs seemingly without any rights and they seem to be surrounded by Goliaths. They NEED their parents to stand up for them. They need their parents to be truly holy, caring parents, especially in today’s world where even some bishops and priests fall silent or worse are complicit in the evil!
    God bless you, Mrs. Skinner and your son for your courageous stand for justice and for the true Catholic teachings. If I lived near you, I’d be right there with you! Anyway, I and all of us reading this informative article, thanks to Mr. Socks, can call the school and Bishop to complain! You’ve heard about the squeaky wheel getting the grease? Well, long before that idea in that famous phrase, we were given support by the story of the persistent widow, found in the Bible. I put that Bible story on my refrigerator to remind me during the toughest battles! I looked up a few versions or translations of the story, and found my favorite. The persistent widow keeps badgering the unjust judge, to the point that he is afraid that she will pummel him if he doesn’t give her what she wants! Now, I’m not advocating violence! I just got a kick out of the story, because it reminded me of Ruth Buzzie, the little old lady on Laugh-In, who hits the pesty old man over the head with her umbrella until he stops or leaves! Just a little lightheartedness…
    Anyway, keep the faith and hang in there! We can all pray for you and the situation and also, call and write to complain!
    (As a side note, I’ll bet if a Muslim complained, the parent would not be attacked or disregarded and the student would never be expelled!)
    What a sad state of affairs that this actually happened at a so-called “Catholic” school! The bishop and those teachers will one day have to answer for this before God! God is NOT mocked!

    • G.

      Also, the other parents who said or did nothing for their own children will have to answer to God, one day.

  • Carolyn C

    I am so very sorry for this mother. I faced a willfully silent parish priest and a principal who continually covered up for the Common Core. You are not alone. God sees. Ask him to guide you and help you through. Good will come from this. It did for me. My children are now enrolled in a non-diocesan Catholic school where they say the Rosary, they teach solid Catholic doctrine and the teachers and principal are kind, loving and interested in the total welfare of our children, including the salvation of their soul. The problem in the Church is very deep and sadly there are not many priests or bishops standing up for the faith. They have abandoned their flock. Say the Rosary and ask Our Lady to guide you as you will not get solid guidance from the institutional church. Jesus told us these times would come. He said to “beware of false prophets.” But don’t get discouraged. He said when you see these things happening, “Look up, your redemption is at hand.”

  • Maggie

    Why do 13 and 14 year olds need to know 10 forms of birth control when contraception is against Catholic teaching???? Just wondering. And birth control pills are abortifacient in a number of instances too. Also birth control failure rate is about 50% over 10 years which leads to the back up plan of abortion.

    • G.

      It’s probably a program well paid for by Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the USA. They’re always involved in trying to get more children involved in sex and thereby getting more customers for abortions. Sounds sick, but it’s their evil plan. They push evil sex ed. programs in the schools. Pits pathetic, but some people were probably well paid for having the program in the school.

  • Beth

    It is inspiring to hear your story, Mrs. Skinner. May all parents be blessed with the grace necessary to raise their children as you do yours! God Bless you and your family!

  • Catechist Kev

    God bless your family, Mrs. Skinner.
    I will say a prayer for you and your son when I stop and pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament on my way home from work this afternoon.
    Catechist Kev

  • Calefactory

    You have to ask why Fr Ryan HS is not backing down on explicit sex ed. Pride is not enough. Backroom deal?

    • Seamrog

      That is the million dollar question, and the answer is chilling.

      Jesus warned us there will be persecutions, and we are witnessing the beginning now.

      I can’t believe this story is not getting more coverage, and more outrage

  • Seamrog

    Why do deviants always INSIST on access to other people’s children?

    The perversions from this subset of humanity only get worse, as they need the perversions to grow to get their jollies.

    Warning sign number 137: “When someone tries to subvert your parental rights, HEAD FOR ‘ZE HILLS!”

    Normal Human: “You want to protect your child, they by all means, let me know what I can do to help.”

    Deviant Human: “You will comply, you WILL give me access to your child, and it WILL be done MY way, or there will be consequences. Make your child sit down, and close the door behind you as you leave. You can have your son back when we’re done with him.”

  • h2oplyer7

    For some reason I don’t think this is the whole story. I have a hard time believing that her son was expelled for so little as complaining about the curriculum.

    • Kay

      Actually, it is the whole story. They are playing semantics with the wording. She was told (by the school) since they would not cease with their complaint, they were “choosing to” effectively withdraw her son; this is ironic since the parents are being told they waive their rights as parents when they enrolled their child, but suddenly the school places the burden here back on the parents? The parents responded by saying they would not and were not withdrawing their child and they would have to expel him. The administration has chosen poorly here and is in contradiction with catholic teaching. All they had to do was respect the request of the parents to ‘opt out’ from a graphic portion of the curriculum. It is ridiculous that it has come to this point. Further, the situation is encouraging parents to mock those of us who have concerns about our children and what a real education entails; it will be divisive in this diocese for years.

    • salvationnow

      Kay is correct. h2oplyer7 if you follow the linked text in the article you will see the actual letter from Father Ryan to the family. The boy was not welcomed to continue with the school. That’s expulsion in my book. This story is very accurate. I have a friend whose child attended Ryan and left after the first year. I wouldn’t send my dog there.

  • adam aquinas

    Well, here is what I find very bizarre! I live in Massachusetts, probably the most liberal state in the nation. I was a high school principal in a public school for 30 years (retired). Sex education is mandated by law. BUT. parents must be notified when there child is about to be instructed in issues of sexuality be it in health education, sex education or biology. All parents are allowed to opt children out of the program or lesson….this Catholic high school seems a bit fascist, no? 36 states allow opt outs in public schools.
    http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-policies-on-sex-education-in-schools.aspx

    • Chris Whittle

      I’m also from the People’s Rep. of Taxachusetts and yes, sex ed. is mandated. The Legislature wants to abolish the parental-opt-out. The only problem with private schools is that they can expel anyone for pretty much any reason, so there is no choice. Even the diocesan-approved “Catholic” schools in Mass. teach it. Elementary school kids are required to learn from the “Talking About Touching” program, whether in a Catholic school or CCD program! Thanks a lot Cardinal Sean.

      Unless the Catholic school offers the Traditional Latin Mass as the school liturgy (upon availability of a priest) then don’t even bother wasting the tuition $$$.

      Sex ed. doesn’t belong in a classroom setting, only in a one-on-one with parents and maybe your pediatrician.

    • adam aquinas

      Given that fact that Boston and Bernie Law were the epicenter of Catholic clergy pedophilia, post puberty molestation and orther clergy sex abuse,,,you better teack all kids about “Talking About Touching”. If you don’t teach it, many more kids will fall under the prey of deviant priests.
      http://www.bostoncatholic.org/Offices-And-Services/Office-Detail.aspx?id=5064

  • Father Ryan Senior

    As a current student of Father Ryan High School I find it so sad to hear that what we are being taught, is not what is being shown through the actions of the school. I am a current senior and my previous two years of theology have been based on morality. We were taught to stand up for what we believe in and to follow our conscience even if it was hard. Taking those classes changed my view on life and others, and taught me that everyone deserves compassion and understanding. I believed in this, and it brought me closer to Christ and others around me. A motto at our school is “You will be known, You will be loved.” When I heard the news about Mrs. Skinner, I was honestly disgusted by the reaction of people, and how much hate they had for her and what she was fighting for. How were we showing her and her son that they were known and loved? Is that really what our community stands for? I would like some of the people who said hateful things to sit down with Mrs. Skinner and her son and say some of the same things they so easily typed. Another lesson we were taught is that it is easy to dehumanize someone we didn’t know. Once again my community did the exact opposite of what they were teaching and labeled her as unimportant or insignificant. They did not know her, they did not love her. I applaud Mrs. Skinner for standing her ground and teaching us all a valuable lesson in following your conscience. I love my school and I would defend it until the end of time, but at this moment I am disappointed in the people of the community who claim to love, then profess hate through their actions. That is not what we are called to do as Catholics.

    • salvationnow

      Young person, you have an amazingly blessed future ahead of you. What a powerful witness you just gave. God bless you.

    • Tom Healey

      Never mind the “…people of the community…” and their hostility. It’s the faculty that is following their “conscience” and doing exactly what their conscience tells them to do – to expell this student. The conscience they follow?? – their feelings, prejudices, wishful thinking, secular ideologies.

      Mrs. Skinner follows her conscience too. The crucial difference is that she follows her conscience(a function of her intellect)informed by and shaped by the church’s moral doctrines. Has nothing to do with her subjective life informed by and shaped by the pagan culture. And if necessary to struggle against what this school calls conscience which none of us escapes from. BIG DIFFERENCE.

    • Maggie

      Any teacher that teaches ‘sex ed’ how-to programs will be judged by the Lord as they sexualize the young people. That is not of God.

    • Tom Healey

      My comment addressed the confusion of Dr. Ryan Senior’s comment regarding the nature of a true conscience. But – yes, I agree with you.

    • James B

      Beautifully stated! This warms my heart that someone, a senior, learned the teachings of the church and expresses it so eloquently.
      Not the teachings of this subject…. the teachings of The Church.
      So you know, others have faced this persecution and there are more to come. I would love to speak with you as you are the only person to share the student side of what you have learned and our family agrees with you. We enrolled our child to be taught the very lessons you just shared. We love the school in so many ways, yet we, like Susan, are compelled to speak out against this one particular subject.
      None of us wishes to be in this mess and even now we drive our child to school each day knowing our letter will soon come.
      God’s Blessings to you for being the only true adult in the room. Bless you for knowing your faith and what the school has taught you in so many other ways. It’s honestly what we would pray how our children might respond as seniors.
      It’s why we sent them there in the first place and I am personally grateful for your sharing the other goodness in Christ you’ve learned at Father Ryan. Your words give many hope in a bleak situation.
      Well done indeed!
      In His name-
      James

    • teri01us

      awesome letter!!! I am a Catholic High School graduate (1957) and they didn’t even know what sex was!!! Your attitude is GREAT stick with it and you will be a success in everything that you do!!!

    • Father Ryan Senior, I am amazed that you took the time to come here and compose such an eloquent and Christ-centered message. Not many teenagers would see the importance of this story and its impact on their moral integrity. May God bless you abundantly in your college pursuits. I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit has his hand on you for great things in your life for the glory of God. Peace be with you.

    • Chirho

      You are very eloquent however being a Catholic means you ascent to all the dogmas of the faith. You’re school teaches heresy and is therefore not a Catholic but an apostate institution. It does not deserve any respect, rather I deserves condemnation.

    • rich

      You dont follow your conscience kid…..we are born geared towards sin. You follow Catholic dogma. I see what you are saying, but to say in general to “follow your conscience” is very un-Catholic advice. You follow God’s law, not your conscience. God’s law is perfect, your conscience is certainly not.

  • Tanya Wersinger

    It is very hard to go against the grain of modern culture, even amongst so called “Catholics”. I admire Mrs.Skinner and her son to remain firm dispite the attack on their faithful love for purity and human dignity. We live in a world which embraces all kinds of disturbing trends, the mastermind behind it all is the evil one. Pray without ceasing, and love the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and let the Holy Family be an example.