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Dear father Angelo,

First of all, I would like to thank you for the service you carry out, for the clarity in answering all issues and for the doubts you’ve dissipated. Coming to my question, there is a thing that left me puzzled: is it wrong to talk about to talk to children about sex? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about sex education in schools, nor about some discourse that could lead the young into sin. I think of a mere verbal description of the sexual act (from parents or educators) to children who haven’t reached puberty yet.

Why do I ask this? First of all, the widespread belief that children are pure and incorrupt creatures looks inaccurate to me: it is well documented that they masturbate (not like adults, of course; nonetheless they enjoy stimulating their genitals), as confirmed by the personal experience of many peers of mine.

Therefore, there are no a priori reasons for them to be shocked if an adult tells them how conception takes place. A friend of mine told me that she explained it to her eight-year-old daughter: she reacted with a laugh and by saying ” that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard!”. She didn’t express disbelief, just fun. However, I clearly remember my father’s embarrassment when I asked him: “if the spermatozoids are inside the man and the egg is inside the woman, how do they reach each other?” He vaguely answered: “when they get really close”.

Let’s say for a moment that we could talk about sex to children without shocking them: why shall we do it? I can say from experience that if adults avoid this kind of conversation, the kids are going to learn many half-truths from their peers. All the ridiculous beliefs I had in my puberty prove this. Also, if the kids don’t have the courage to overcome their parent’s embarrassment it is possible that in the future they won’t be able to govern their impulses and will have a disordered sexual life.

I thank you in advance and greet you with affection.


The answer from father Angelo

My dear,

1. There is a clear answer to your question in the Magisterium of the Church.

Here’s what can be read in a document written in 1983 from the Congregation for Catholic Education, called Educational Guidance in Human Love (Outlines for sex education): “Silence is not a valid norm of conduct in this matter, above all when one thinks of the “hidden persuaders” which use insinuating language. Their influence today is undeniable: it is up to parents, therefore, to be alert not only to repair the harm caused by inappropriate and injurious interventions, but above all to opportunely inform their own children, offering them a positive and convincing education” (OE 106).

2. The Italian Bishop Conference has reiterated this preoccupation: “It is not possible to refrain from an organic, systematic and widespread proposal of education on sexuality and love inside Christian communities, associations, groups, movements, oratories and all the various educational areas, starting from catholic schools. Constant vigilance and smart ways of promotion are essential as well so that sex education in schools is set and done correctly” (Evangelizzazione e Cultura della vita umana, 31).

3. According to the Bishop Conference, this proposal must be done in the light of chastity, intended both as virtue and asceticism to overcome the disordered inclinations inherited from original sin.

For this reason, it says that “the belief of a spontaneous maturation in this field and an automatic overcoming of all difficulties, mistakes, egoistic and disempowering tendencies have to be reaffirmed as profoundly wrong.

Without unacceptable hesitation, the virtue of chastity must be proposed with clarity and serenity both in spiritual direction and in predication; there is also the necessity to form an educational context rich in meaningful content and propositions; to pose the spiritual, social and affective conditions for the proposal of chastity to be fully accepted; to offer a joyful testimony of chastity from consecrated people, parents and educators of all ages” (Ib., 45).

4. As a matter of principle, all is clear. But in practice, the problem remains.

The words of the eight-year-old girl, “that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard!”, reveal something far more profound.

The French academic Jean Guitton highlighted the difficulties that many parents have to face in talking about these problems with their children.

He wrote: “The fact that the organs of life coincide with other functions that in current mentality appear to be less noble, seems to suggest that a certain degree of ambiguity is inherent in the nature of things. (…). 

How could he who generated life unravel the mystery to those who are the fruit of it? Wouldn’t he fear to bring out an incomprehensible difference between the materiality of his action and the beauty of existence?” (Essay on Human Love, pp.68-69).

5. For this reason, I understand why when you asked your father “if the spermatozoids are inside the man and the egg is inside the woman, how do they reach each other?” he answered you, correctly by the way, “when they get really close”.

There is something in that act which is fully comprehensible only by those who participate in it; it is difficult to put into words.

This is the source of your father’s embarrassment: generating life, having a son, is much more than a simple act and telling it would waste all its inner richness.

6. There is the “mystery” that J. Guitton wrote about.

Namely, there is the hidden reality (this is the meaning of the word mystery) of intimal conjugacy, which cannot be presented as a mere process of mating.

I think that it will always be hard to talk about these things.

Only in the context of real love (which is not to be confused with passionality), one can hardly mention it. 

It is also right to say that even if some precise and punctual pieces of information must certainly be given, some other things are better understood at an older age. There is no willingness to lie or hide anything, but it’s just the way it is. One thing is talking to an eight-year-old; another thing is speaking to boys and girls in puberty; another thing is talking to adolescents and young men and women.

As they grow, sons and daughters are more and more capable of entering the “mystery” and understanding it.

Thank you for your question, I bless you and assure you of remembrance to the Lord.

Father Angelo