All Brisbane Catholic
Education Schools have embarked upon embedding Catholic perspectives across the
curriculum. To assist you in your
understanding of what this means for St John’s College, information about this approach will be periodically posted from the Brisbane Catholic Education
Website. Over the next year, we will also post approved theological information on some of the topics our students
engage with to enrich an understanding of what is the Catholic perspective. As teachers, we have access to explanations
of the Catholic perspective which comes with the imprimatur of the Archbishop of
Brisbane as being in line with church teachings.
The following link contains a short video explaining this approach.
RSE Key Messages 2018 - YouTube
Embedding Catholic perspectives into Relationships and Sexuality Education is a response to:
• the human being's ongoing quest in seeking the purpose and meaning of life and relationships
• the Christian narrative, theology and Church tradition
• the Catholic vision for human thriving.
The distinctiveness of the Catholic perspective is found in responses to the Christic question of 'Who do you say I am?' and responses to questions such as: Who are we? Who are we trying to become? How do we get there? It is the Christian narrative that provides us with responses that deepen our understanding and thereby increase our capacity to flourish.
In a Catholic school, we are striving to support students to flourish to be their true self -in being confident about their relationship with themselves, others, creation and God. It is the goal that these students will reach out to support others amongst whom they live and work in community to also flourish.
Catholic Education, as an agent of the Catholic church, exists to give witness to Jesus' vision of reality through the integration of:
The Catholic School, 1977, n.37
Catholic perspectives across the curriculum (bne.catholic.edu.au)
Human Dignity: The Catholic perspective promotes human dignity, the essential worth or dignity of the human person as made in the image and likeness of God. Each human being is unique and unrepeatable and loved and called by God. This means that every human being, in every circumstance, is good. This is not to say that they are morally good. Our moral goodness or moral badness is based on the moral decisions we make. Rather, to affirm the worth or dignity of the human person is to affirm that it is a good thing that he or she exists, that his or her existence is desired by God and that his or her existence is worthwhile. The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2013). Catholic thinking about sexuality and relationships is based on this basic affirmation of the equal worth of all human beings.
BCE Curriculum (bne.catholic.edu.au)
Identity: The human person is created out of love, for love, and is destined to flourish. God, who is perfect love, has created each person in the image and likeness of God. Each person is unique and equal in dignity to all others. Persons are rational and free beings having both a body and a soul. Human beings are in relationship to all of God's creation. God has made each person in the Divine image and likeness as an inseparable unity of body, mind and spirit. God gifts each individual with absolute and enduring dignity and the unconditional love of God. Through God the human person has the possibility of life lived to the full.
The concept of identity expresses the innate human desire to form a coherent sense of self through making free choices about who we want to be and what we want to do in the context of relationships. 'This includes, but is not limited to, the realms of gender, ethnicity, culture, social role, age group, personality, religion, spirituality, religious community, marital status, vowed life status, and sexuality' (Kappler, 2014). These relationships are formative for our identity in that they exert positive and negative influences on who we think we are and the roles we think we play. Moreover, as our place in these relationships changes over time, new expectations and opportunities arise to make choices to either embrace or reject these new roles as part of our sense of self. Whether we like it or not, these choices become part of our personal identities. We all experience being a child. When we are children no matter how much we might want to think of ourselves as adults we remain children. Becoming parents or deciding not to have children has a certain objective impact on our identities. Once a person has a child, regardless of their actual relationship with that child, being a parent becomes part of their identity. The ways in which we respond to the objective dimensions of our identity arising from our relationships to the world, to others, to institutions, and to time and history contributes to the formation of our own sense of self in the world and the formation of the way other people see us.
Everybody wants to be somebody, to be significant. Everybody longs for an identity. Humans as bodily beings have experiences of the world which are ambiguous. Sometimes humans experience the world as a place in which they seem to be the sole actors, the creators of their own universes. The world responds to the way individuals engage with it. At other times, however, human beings experience themselves as objects in the world. Things happen to individuals that were neither sought nor desired. Sometimes, human beings experience the world as a place that affirms them, that makes them feel that they are worthwhile and that their life has meaning and purpose. At other times, however, humans experience the world as a life-threatening place in which other people treat them as worthless, a place where the natural world seems indifferent to their existence, or to whether they live or die. Of course, all human beings must face the inevitability of their own mortality, their own inevitable and unpredictable death.
Consequently every human being experiences a desire to affirm themselves, to affirm the meaning and purpose of their own lives and their own worth and dignity in the face of experiences that seem to undermine or deny them their human dignity, meaning and purpose. Put another way everybody wants to be cherished and loved. From a Catholic perspective, individuals find themselves through loving and self-giving relationships. Whilst it might seem logical that our identities would be most affirmed by selfish or self-interested behaviour the contrary is the case. Our identities, our sense of ourselves as a person with meaning and purpose in life are most often discovered and affirmed when we are selfless and make a gift of ourselves in the service of others.
The paradox of identity is that it is both something that is always already true and unchanging and something that changes and develops over time. The Christian tradition affirms, on the one hand, that each individual is a unique creation of God possessing an inviolable inherent worth. God created you, loves you, and will always love you. On the other hand, it also takes seriously the reality that this unique individual is nonetheless situated in history. Each person grows through different stages of life, from childhood, through adolescence and adulthood, to old age. In all of these stages the essential core identity of the person remains constant. You are still essentially the same person that you were when you were born and the you that you will be when you die. But it also makes sense to talk about becoming a different person as we learn and grow through these stages of life. The child is different to the parent and the parent is different to the grandparent. Yet we can experience being all of these different people as we go through life. Still, we can only experience them by going through life. You can only experience being a grandparent by becoming a grandparent and can only make grandparent part of your identity if it is the case in real life. So, as we enter into different stages of our lives, we will often have to revisit and re-evaluate some aspects of our identity.
This developmental aspect of identity formation—the fact that though you remain the same person, you also change—is important for two reasons. First, one should not expect people at different stages of their lives to think and act in the same way. We talk about the wisdom of old age because the elderly have lived through the various stages of life and have the benefit of a lifetime of experience. Young people can only imagine what it is like to be old, but old people know what it is like to be young. Similarly, parents know what it is like to be a child, whilst children can only imagine what it is like to be a parent. It takes time to develop and mature, to learn what things are really worthwhile doing and which are not. It takes time to learn from one's mistakes as wells as from one's successes. Second, identity formation is an ongoing process that needs to be constantly revisited. Identity formation requires attention and flexibility. An unexplored, unexamined, unattended identity carries its own risks. A person runs the danger of drifting through life imagining that they are someone they are not. Individuals need to understand their changing identity in order to develop that identity or sense of self, in a way that truly affirms the meaning and worth of their life and desire for dignity. Humans need to embrace those aspects of their identity that are positive and life-affirming while recognising and carefully managing aspects that might damage personal hopes and the hopes of others.
BCE Curriculum (bne.catholic.edu.au)
Resilience: Human Beings are creatures of emotion. Living wholeheartedly means embracing these emotions without being defined by them. Emotions are part of the suite of human capacities that enable us to navigate our relationships. We are afraid or angry in the face of perceived threats to our own flourishing or survival and desire things we perceive as good for us. Humans take pleasure in the enjoyment of things that are good and are sad when they perceive a lack of good things. Sometimes these emotions can come to be associated with things that are inappropriate. We may be angry at someone when in fact the circumstances that have given rise to our anger are a result of our own actions. We may be dominated by a fear of something, such as open spaces, that from a statistical point of view, is highly unlikely to kill us. We may desire things that are not really good for us or take pleasure in things that are harmful such as the classical vices of envy, gluttony, lust and greed. We may become deeply depressed in circumstances which materially-speaking really are not that bad. These examples illustrate how emotions, like so many of the attributes of the human person, are good for us. Emotions help us to flourish when we learn to experience, understand and act on them in an appropriate way. However, emotions can be damaging to us if they dominate us.
Key to understanding the notion of emotional and affective maturity is a proper acknowledgment of the importance of human freedom in the integration of our emotions. Created in the image of God, human beings are rational and free. When emotions come to dominate our thinking and acting in a way that compromises our freedom, then we are not living the fully human lives that we are created to live. When, however, our emotions are integrated through our rationality and freedom into our efforts to fulfil our calling to live wholeheartedly—to stand up for love—then emotions play an essential part in realizing human flourishing. The classical language of the Catholic tradition expresses this human flourishing using the emotive term happiness.
Happiness, beatitude, or flourishing is, according to classical philosophical and Catholic tradition, the thing that all human beings desire and which will ultimately be found in eternal life with God. Because we are endowed with reason and freedom by God we are able to experience a 'not-yet' perfect version of that happiness here and now. As images of God, that is, as God's representatives on Earth, we are able to work for the realisation of this happiness, this flourishing. Through our moral behaviour, moral choices and moral actions we can incarnate God's love in the world. In this way, we can literally make the world and ourselves, happier. Our emotions function to help us to perceive those things which are good because they contribute to this happiness, and those things which are bad or evil because they may ultimately frustrate the realisation of true happiness.
BCE Curriculum (bne.catholic.edu.au)
Catholic Social Teaching: The Catholic perspective on relational and sexual health is situated within a larger framework of human flourishing. Because human beings are created male and female in the image of God, God wills the flourishing of all human beings. We know this not only through the Genesis narrative, but also through the accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus talks about the reign of God at a time when the weakest, the oppressed, the marginalized in society will finally be treated with the respect and just love that they deserve. In chapter 6 of Luke's Gospel, Jesus says: Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets. But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. These are strong words if we take them seriously. What they are saying is that what God wants, what God desires for us, is a society of justice, peace and joy for everyone (Romans 14:17). God desires a society in which people truly flourish. But such flourishing can never occur in isolation. Human beings flourish precisely in and through their relationships with other people, with the world around them and above all with God. The flourishing of the individual, in other words, is always associated with the flourishing of the community. Where we seemingly flourish whilst others perish because of our actions, such flourishing is false. I cannot claim to be realizing the fullness of my human dignity if doing so requires me to trample on yours. It is based on this understanding that the Catholic perspective develops the idea of the common good, particularly through Catholic Social Teaching. In 1965, in the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World—Gaudium et Spes the Second Vatican Council defined the common good as follows: Every day human interdependence grows more tightly drawn and spreads by degrees over the whole world. As a result, the common good, that is, the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment, today takes on an increasingly universal complexion and consequently involves rights and duties with respect to the whole human race. Every social group must take account of the needs and legitimate aspirations of other groups, and even of the general welfare of the entire human family. The common good is therefore crucially different from the greater good. It does not permit the destruction of some for the maximization of pleasure for others. Rather, it encourages us to see that our own flourishing requires certain basic conditions to be met. One of those basic conditions is a duty to make sure that basic conditions are also met for others. It is a fancy way of saying, 'Do unto others as you would have them do to you'.
Empathy and sensitivity: Compassion or Empathy describes the human ability to 'suffer with' someone else. Derived from Latin Passio, the English word Passions is the term classically used in the Catholic tradition for feelings or emotions. Passions denote how we are affected by events, people, and actions and how we are moved to respond emotionally in some way. So 'com-passion' means 'with-feeling'. Affective maturity entails being aware of, understanding, and correctly acting upon one's own emotions. Affective maturity also involves having a well-developed ability to know how others feel. A life lived wholeheartedly is a life in which compassion plays an important role. Healthy relationships require us to be sensitive to how our words and actions affect other people. If the goal of life itself is human flourishing, then it must be a goal for all people. So, the ways in which we think, speak and act have implications for how other people feel and view themselves, their own dignity as persons, and the worth of the world around them. Pope Saint John Paul II, in an interpretation of the second account of creation found in Genesis, talks about the original solitude of the first human being. John Paul II argues that this original solitude or 'alone-ness', is something which is true for every human being and their existence as human persons. The human being is different from every other being in God's Creation. The human being alone is a rational being. John Paul II also points out, however, that this self-awareness of difference from the rest of Creation is the necessary condition for the recognition of other human beings as beings like oneself. Therefore, we could say that compassion, the ability to feel with other people, is something that arises out of our own sense of being alone. We cannot really feel what other people feel. We can only feel what we believe they could be feeling. This step requires us to acknowledge that others are somehow like us and at the same time are radically different from us because each human being is a unique and original subject. We are each 'alone' whilst simultaneously always already 'together'. Compassion is the key human ability that binds these solitary beings into a community that works together to achieve their mutual flourishing and happiness. A life lived wholeheartedly is only possible as a life lived together.29. Compassion or Empathy describes the human ability to 'suffer with' someone else. Derived from Latin Passio, the English word Passions is the term classically used in the Catholic tradition for feelings or emotions. Passions denote how we are affected by events, people, and actions and how we are moved to respond emotionally in some way. So 'com-passion' means 'with-feeling'. Affective maturity entails being aware of, understanding, and correctly acting upon one's own emotions. Affective maturity also involves having a well-developed ability to know how others feel. A life lived wholeheartedly is a life in which compassion plays an important role. Healthy relationships require us to be sensitive to how our words and actions affect other people. If the goal of life itself is human flourishing, then it has to be a goal for all people. So, the ways in which we think, speak and act have implications for how other people feel and view themselves, their own dignity as persons, and the worth of the world around them. Pope Saint John Paul II, in an interpretation of the second account of creation found in Genesis, talks about the original solitude of the first human being. John Paul II argues that this original solitude or 'alone-ness', is something which is true for every human being and their existence as human persons. The human being is different from every other being in God's Creation. The human being alone is a rational being. John Paul II also points out, however, that this self-awareness of difference from the rest of Creation is the necessary condition for the recognition of other human beings as beings like oneself. Therefore, we could say that compassion, the ability to feel with other people, is something that arises out of our own sense of being alone. We cannot really feel what other people feel. We can only feel what we believe they could be feeling. This step requires us to acknowledge that others are somehow like us and at the same time are radically different from us because each human being is a unique and original subject. We are each 'alone' whilst simultaneously always already 'together'. Compassion is the key human ability that binds these solitary beings into a community that works together to achieve their mutual flourishing and happiness. A life lived wholeheartedly is only possible as a life lived together.
Homophobia: Catholic teaching recognises the worth of each individual and therefore rejects the humiliation of one person by another. From a Catholic perspective, relationships characterised by feelings of shame fall short of the ideal. Catholic teaching envisions a society in which truth and trust are the basis of relationships and in which relationships characterised by shame have no legitimate place. (see paragraph in Intimacy and Communication section in Part III). The statement above has to be correctly understood. As we have explained above, self-awareness of feelings of shame can be healthy and constructive but also unhealthy and destructive. A key to realising a society in which relationships are characterized by truth and trust involves a twofold strategy. First, nobody should be shamed or humiliated by another. This is at the heart of the concept of mercy. If we allow humiliation and shaming, then those who feel shame are more likely to try to hide their shame, and to potentially harm themselves or others. This is the case whether the shame arises from real or imagined truths about the person feeling personally shamed or whether the shame arises from real or imagined truths about others. Second, truth must be encouraged and welcomed. This can only happen in a safe environment. A safe environment is one which will not shame those who tell the truth about themselves or about others. In a safe environment an open, honest dialogue can begin to occur focused on who we think we are, what we think we should do, and who we would like to be. Such a dialogue will help to reveal those cases where feelings of shame are legitimate and should be remedied by changing one's own behaviour. Dialogue will also uncover those cases where shame is based on untrue beliefs about oneself and about one's own behaviour or the behaviour of others. Building relationships characterized by truth and trust involves working towards truer understandings of oneself and others.
Issues relating to people who are erotically attracted to someone of the same sex are complex. First of all, a word about language. In the past people spoke about homosexuality and 'homosexuals'. The latter expression tended to reinforce the idea of identifying the person with his or her sexual orientation. Today it is more common to talk about persons with same-sex attraction. This identifies such people as first of all persons with all that implies, and only secondarily refers to their sexual orientation. It is very common for some to use the acronym LGTBI (and sometimes other letters are added) to identify a group of people: Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals, Bi-sexuals and Intersex. Sometimes they will be referred to as a community. However, there are many people who fall under one of these 'categories' who may resent being labelled in this way and are offended by it. It is best to avoid such labelling together with the presumption that all those who are same-sex attracted form part of this community. There is not one kind of experience of being same-sex attracted. For this reason definitions can be difficult. For example, some people experience transient same-sex attraction but it is not a permanent condition for them, so they would not generally be considered as part of the same group as those who would identify themselves as same-sex attracted persons. It is very important to realise this when dealing with young people who might be thinking they are erotically attracted to people of the same sex.
A person with same-sex attraction in the strict sense may be described as an individual who a) is attracted physically and erotically to persons of his or her own sex; b) usually has no similar attraction to the opposite sex; and c) in many instances has a positive revulsion for sexual actions with a member of the opposite sex. This description allows for the fact that one may be attracted to the same-sex and not engage in same-sex acts, and one may not be same-sex attracted and nevertheless engage in same-sex acts. There is a wide spectrum of personalities who engage in sex acts with members of the same sex.
When it comes to the origins of same-sex attraction there is not a consensus. However, despite much popular opinion, the evidence does not support the thesis that it is solely genetically caused. That does not mean that biological factors do not play a part. Researchers have proposed that genetic, biological, cultural, social and/or developmental factors can contribute to some degree to the development of same-sex attraction. There would not appear to be one cause, nor does the cause appear to be the same for everyone. It certainly helps one's understanding to read some well-balanced scientific views on same-sex attraction.
The Church's teaching on same-sex attraction and homosexual acts cannot be understood outside the overall context of the teachings of meaning and purpose of human sexual expression as being about promoting the unitive love of a man and a woman and the openness of that union to new life (see above). A Catholic perspective, therefore, makes an important distinction between the person, that person's experience of being sexually attracted to members of the same sex and choices that person makes in response to this experience. Only the person's choices are free decisions and consequently only those personal choices can be morally evaluated (see the section on Morality and Conscience below). The experience of this attraction, and especially the person, who is created in the image of God and always loved and called by God, cannot be morally evaluated as good or bad, or right or wrong. Homosexual acts are considered morally wrong as is the case with all sexual acts that do not involve sexual intercourse in the context of marriage between a man and a woman. The reason for this is that such acts do not serve the proper purpose or ends of human genitals and human sexuality, namely, the unitive good of conjugal love between a man and a woman and the generative good of procreation. Persons with same-sex attraction must be respected as the persons they are. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: 'They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided' (CCC n.2358). Generally speaking, people are not responsible for their sexual attraction. They do not choose to be sexually attracted to members of the same sex. Since they do not choose, same-sex attraction cannot be evaluated as a moral decision. Therefore, one may not make moral judgements of a person because they experience this same-sex attraction. People with same-sex attraction should never be demonized, dehumanized, humiliated or shamed because of this attraction. We (The Synod on the Family) would like before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while 'every sign of unjust discrimination' is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence. Such families should be given respectful pastoral guidance, so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God's will in their lives (Pope Francis, 2016 Amoris Laetitia). As with everyone else, people with same-sex attraction are called to live a life where their sexuality, including their sexual attraction, is integrated into the service of the good. All sexual acts, regardless of one's sexual orientation, are actions about which we are able to make choices and therefore are acts that can be morally evaluated. Sexual acts serve the good of the person and the community only in the context of the marital union. 'Casual homosexual sexual activity indulged in solely for the pleasure of the act can be as destructive and as meaningless and damaging to the human integrity of those involved as casual heterosexual sex' (Vardy, 1998, p. 218). The Church's teaching applies to everyone, heterosexually attracted or homosexually attracted alike. The proper context for the expression of sexual love is within the marital union understood as the life-long communion of two people of complementary sex which makes the two-in-one communion possible. The virtue of chastity (see below) calls us all to integrate our sexuality into our lives in such a way that we refrain from sexual expressions of love outside the context of marriage. The Church believes that those of same-sex attraction can do this as can people of heterosexual attraction. As with everyone else people of same sex attraction need community support. including support from the community of the Church.