Growing in Love

The following is a presentation one concerned parent gave to many members of her parish and school. She addressed members of the Parish Pastoral Committee, school board members, concerned parents, parishioners, teachers, the principal, assistant principal, the pastor and the High school religious education leader.

Here is a description of what is taught by “Growing in Love” curriculum

Kindergarten children are taught the concepts of homosexuality and sexual intercourse In the third grade, intercourse is explicitly described along with erections and instruction regarding masturbation In the fourth grade, children are to be given the definition of oral sex. In the fifth grade, 9 and 10 year olds are given a vivid description of what an orgasm feels like and a description of oral sex In the seventh grade, children are given graphic verbal depictions of anal sex, sadistic and masochistic sexual acts and bestiality.

I first got involved with “Growing in Love” about a year and a half ago. I had called our Catholic Grade School, asking about the “Talking about Touching” program and whether or not our school was using it. They said, no, they had a program called “Growing in Love”. I said “Oh, that sounds nice.” And hung up the phone. Later, for some reason I decided to check it out on the internet. Almost all of the articles I found about the “Growing in Love” series were very negative and alarming. I did find one positive article, but that was talking about the parents who were giving them a bad time on this program and making it hard for them to do their work.

As a result of these articles, I called school again, I was referred me to a staff member I knew pretty well.

I met with this staff member. I just wanted to know if the things I read in the articles were true, or if they were distorting the facts. I mentioned the homosexuality presented in Kindergarten, and the masturbation in the third grade. She went and got the books for me and we looked at them together. I told her that I didn’t think this was the right kind of material to be teaching to young children. She said that she trusted the people who gave it to her, and pointed out the imprimatur on the books. She assured me that this was not taught in the classroom, but went home with the parents. She talked about her love of Jesus, and she had tears in her eyes. I could see that she sincerely wanted to do the right thing for the children. I did ask her if she knew that the publisher also published books on how to perform an abortion. She seemed surprised by that. She suggested I meet with another faculty member as she could answer my questions better than she could. I was not able to make the meeting date, so we left it at that.

I kept feeling this nudge to follow up on the “Growing in Love” curriculum. In June or July of this year, I checked “Growing in Love” on the internet and found the Critique by “Totus Tuus” ministries. That is where I got the objectionable material that was given to the principal.

When I found out more about the program, and how very explicit it was, I connected with another parent and we began this project. Gradually more people got interested, and now we have an e-mail list of about 30 families consisting of parishioners, school parents, grandparents and other concerned Catholics from nearby parishes.

I understand how “Growing in Love” came to this parish. I understand that this parish had “Benziger Family Life” program in the past. I know that some parents have left the school because of that program. In an article in the Catholic World News, mention is made of a school in the southern suburbs, where Brian Gibson removed his children from the “Benziger Family Life” series because it was similar to material he would expect from planned parenthood. Our school is not mentioned in this article.

I believe that because of the controversy over “Benziger”, “Growing in Love” looked very attractive in that it relieved the teachers of the main sex education curriculum. It put it in the hands of the parents, where it should be.

The problem we have with this material is that it is not age appropriate, as confirmed by Dr. Brian Thompson, a prominent psychiatrist with several pages of credentials. Dr. Brian Thompson, upon reviewing “Growing in Love” stated that “I can find no documentation that the questions are in fact common or that they are age-appropriate. Many common questions are four to six years ahead of the age group’s sexual development and are quite graphic. He also states, “It is my professional opinion that this program will harm children and confuse parents.” #21

According to the Superintendent of the Catholic Schools in this Archdiocese, “Benzinger” and “Harcourt” comprise most of the religious education programs in the archdiocese. I was surprised during my phone conversation with her to find out that the archdiocese did not keep records on the various schools and what programs they taught. She said that they only got involved when a school program was not listed on the compliance listing by the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops as being in compliance with the catechism.

Here is the listing. If you look at it closely, you will see that the “Growing in Love” series is listed as a supplemental program. You might also note that the column following shows that only the student text is approved as being in compliance with the Catechism.

“Faith and Life” catechetical series – originally written by Catholics United for the Faith and published by Ignatius press—is one of the religious-education series that won “in conformity” status on its first review by the bishops’ committee. Catholics United for the Faith developed the “Faith and Life series” in 1984 because the group—an organization now based in Steubenville, Ohio, specializing in Catholic apologetics—believed that there was no adequate religious-education series available on the American market. #9

Here is what I learned from an Article by Catholic World News by Thomas Szyszkiewicz

About the review process: First, the bishops’ review is a narrowly focused process, which examines the texts only to determine “if anything is against the Catechism”; the review process does not attempt to assess the methodology of the text, or to determine whether the educational materials are appropriate to the age groups for which they are marketed. #9

This question comes into play when religious education materials include treatments of chastity that in effect become sex-education materials . Two catechetical series—Growing in love from Harcourt Religion Publishers and the Benziger Family Life series—have been heavily criticized for taking this approach; both series teach the mechanics of sexual activity to students in the 5th and 7th grades, in an apparent violation of the standards set by the Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality. #9

However, the bishops’ committee refused to review these materials. Mr. Kutys, executive director of the office of the Catechism explains that the committee chose not to become involved in the evaluation of the materials including physiology, biology, sociology or psychology. The focus was to be exclusively on doctrine. To accommodate the bishops’ approach, Harcourt and Benziger pulled their sex-education material out of their catechetical texts, and put that material into separate books. The books dealing with doctrine could then win the bishops’ approval, while the sex-education materials were sold separately, as part of the publisher’s overall package, but without the bishops’ review. #9

There are three authors of the “Growing in Love” series. They are James J. DeBoy Jr., formerly of Time consultants, now executive director of the National Center for Pastoral Leadership; Toninette M. Eugnee, formation director for the African-American Pastoral Center of the Diocese of Oakland, and a self-described expert in “womanist and feminist ethics”; and sexologist Fr. Richard Sparks, C.S.P., currently chaplain at the Newman Center at Berkeley, California. #5

At a huge 2000 Los Angeles’ Religious Education Congress attended by 18,000 religious educators active in Catholic schools and parishes nation-wide, Fr. Sparks joined other dissenters such as Sr. Barbara Fiand, SSND; Sr. Fran Ferder; Fr. Thomas Sweetser, S.J; Fr. Richard Rohr; Fr. Patric Brennan: Dr. Dolores Hayes; Dolores Curran and many others engaged in more than 200 talks and workshops, many of which involved an assault on the Church’s traditional beliefs and practices.#21

Edgar Suter, M.D. has compiled material on Sparks, including comments Sparks made on an audiotape, “Catholic Sexual Morality: More than ‘Thou shalt nots.’” On the tape, Sparks speculates on the relationship between Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. “Jesus had to go through puberty. He had to decide ‘should I get married.’ He might have even had a prom date with Mary Magdalene. They might have even necked a little in the back seat of a car. He’s like us in all things but sin—necking isn’t necessarily a sin. He might have even petted her once or twice –it’s like—‘Oh, wait, wait, YES – NOW.’” Sparks said. #1

Suter cites statements Sparks made about the Holy Family at a 2001 religious education conference in Los Angeles. In his conference presentation, Sparks acknowledges Church teaching on the relationship between the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph before expressing doubt that the relationship was in fact celibate. “But if somebody says, ‘do you think Joseph ever wanted to jump her bones?’ Do you think Joseph ever thought, ‘God, why can’t we consummate this thing?…Now all I’m saying is—even if they didn’t have sex, did they ever neck? Or did they maybe cuddle and snuggle? Did he ever sort of fondle his wife? Did she ever kind of fondle him?” #1

Now, this is the Mother of God we are talking about!!! This is scandalous and a heresy.

Father Sparks is known to have facilitated an annual gay pride mass held at Berkeley in California. During this mass, a lesbian couple is invited to come forward and explain to those present about how they have reached their present state of contentment.

Always our children, a pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children is recommended in the Growing in Love books as a resource.Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz has this to say about this document: “It should be clear that the document was composed without any input from the majority of the American Catholic bishops, who were given no opportunity whatever to comment on its pastoral usefulness or its contents.” He notes that “I believe one would be justified in asserting tht in this case, flawed and defective procedures, badly in need of correction and reform, resulted in a very flawed and defective document. #21

Bishop Bruskewitz goes on to say, “Our critique of this document says that it is really an exercise in homosexual advocacy. It is difficult not to see it as such. ‘calamity and frightening disaster’ are terms which are not too excessive to describe this document. It is my view that this document carries no weight or authority for Catholics, whom I would advise to ignore or appose it.” #21

In an article in Catholic Culture by James Likoudis addresses Father Spark’s teachings:

Father Sparks has this to say: In speaking of a healthy image of God and God’s covenant of love, he warned that we shouldn’t teach that sins such as fornication might be the cause of people’s damnation because “the cost is too high. It leads to a dysfunctional life. Who we are is more important than what we do.” He then displayed a view graph from his “triple-font-theory” from his book “Contemporary Christian Morality: Real Questions, Candid Responses” in which he stated that sex outside of marriage is always immoral but the question of whether it is a “sin” is determined in consultation with a priest, spiritual adviser, or trusted friend. Some actions, such as rape, murder, incest, and child abuse, are clear-cut evils, he admitted, but not all the individual acts are. “So don’t be afraid of moral complexity.” “Moral complexity, “he asserted, “is not the same as moral relativism. If one dissents from Church teaching, the catechetical setting is not the place to tout that dissent, Sparks cautioned. He concluded that he is a child of the ‘60’s0 and mentioned the blasphemous pop musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” as the type of entertainment that could touch the heart as well as the head. #2

In Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II emphasizes that this fundamental option of the Christian—a specific fee choice that can rightly be called a commitment ‘shaping’ a person’s entire moral life (cf.n.65) “is always brought into play through conscious and free decisions. Precisely for this reason, it is revoked when man engages his freedom in conscious decisions to the contrary with regard to morally grave matter. (n. 67) He goes on toe recall the teaching, solemnly defined by the Council of Trent, that “the grace of justification once received is lost not only by apostasy, by which faith itself is lost, but also by any other mortal sin” (n. 68). He then reaffirms—in opposition to some contemporary theologians—that mortal sin exists “when a person knowingly and willingly, for whatever reason, chooses something gravely disordered” (n. 70). It thus follows that “the separation of fundamental option from deliberate choices of particular kinds of behavior, disordered in themselves or in their circumstances, which would not engage that option…involves a denial of Catholic doctrine on mortal sin” (n. 70) II

Father Sparks also states in his book, Contemporary Christian Morality, that “Our moral choice may be the lesser of two evils or the greater good among a variety of viable alternatives. I

In Veritatis Spendor, John Paul II states that those holding these theories (meaning to the greater good or lesser evil) claim that it is impossible to determine whether an act traditionally regarded as intrinsically evil would really be morally evil until one has considered, in the concrete situation, the “premoral” good and evil states of affairs it is likely to cause. They conclude that the foreseen proportions of “premoral” goods to evils in the alternatives available can at times justify exceptions to precepts traditionally regarded as absolute (cf.n.75) John Paul II firmly rejects these theories, declaring that they “are not faithful to the Church’s teaching, when they believe that they can justify, as morally good, deliberate choices of kinds of behavior contrary to the commandments of the divine and natural law” (n. 76) II

In conclusion, I would respectfully request that you consider a curriculum review and a removal of the “Growing in Love” curriculum from our Catholic school. I have checked into some of the publishers available. I have a problem with some of them. Silver Burdett – In the “This is our Faith” series, they make the statement in their material that some celebrities of today can be compared to the prophets of old as the prophets of our time.

“Sadlier’s” main author of “We Believe” is an ex-priest, Thomas Groome from Boston College. He is an advocate of inclusive language and the ordination of women to the priesthood.

In “Faith First”, the Eucharist is explained as meal. Among the gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed right judgement, reverence, and wonder and awe. The Angelus and Glory Be prayers are re-worded.

“Faith and Life” by Ignatius Press and “Image of God”, also by Ignatius Press are good solid Catholic teachings in conformity with the Vatican.

Formation in Christian Chastity is currently used by 52 parishes in the archdiocese. This is a good, solid program, allowed by Archbishop Harry Flynn.


#21 Totus Tuus Crituque: Growing in Love

#9 Catholic World News Article, Questioning the Texts August 2004 by Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

#5 New Catholic Sex Ed Series Teaches Kindergartners to Accept legitimacy of homosexual lifestyle by Paul Likoudis – The Wanderer, St. Paul, MN March 15, 2001

#2 Catholic Culture: A Modern Dissenter’s Theology of Sexuality

#1 San Francisco Faith—September 2005—He’s Not Like Your Typical Priest— Homosexual Pride Mass at Berkeley.

I. Contemporary Christian Morality by Fr. Richard Sparks

II. Veritatis Spendor Document, John Paul II.