A September 2 letter issued to parents by Bp. David Choby states that, "in choosing Father Ryan High School as the place to engage your son in formal education, you have agreed to observe its legitimate requirements relating to the ultimate goal of your son receiving a diploma from the school."
Although he acknowledges parents' right as "primary educator" of their children, his letter claims they relinquish that right when they enroll their children in the diocesan school.
Parents are reacting with concern. Susan Skinner, who has taken the lead in organizing a coalition of parents opposed to the sex ed curriculum, spoke with ChurchMilitant.com.
"I love my bishop and my Catholic community," she said. "I meant no ill will toward anyone. I just simply wanted to opt out of this program, which is what the Church states we're allowed to do."
The curriculum includes graphic illustrations of male and female genitalia, including detailed explanations of physiological reactions to sexual stimuli, and teaches students about multiple forms of artificial birth control — including the withdrawal method, IUDs, the pill, condoms and sterilization, among others. When parents initially objected and asked that their children be allowed to opt out of the course, Father Ryan High School in Nashville refused.
After the diocesan communications director backed the school, Bp. Choby chimed in with his support for the curriculum, saying it "sincerely seeks to reflect on the goodness and purpose of human sexuality as found in the teachings in this area by St. John Paul II."
Parents, however, disagree. Skinner's husband Jason is frustrated that parents have been unable to voice their concerns directly to the bishop.
"We've been unable to talk directly with the bishop or with the bishop's office on this," Jason Skinner said. "We're just not sure that the bishop knows our perspective. I'm sure he's heard the school's perspective. I feel like it's been a one-sided story."
James Bowman, whose fiancée's daughter would be required to take the course, is also asking that parents be allowed to opt out. "It's very disturbing. It's upsetting," he commented.
"We love Father Ryan [High School]," he clarified. "At the same time, there are certain things that are not acceptable."
He counted the number of times three particular topics were discussed in the textbook: theology, chastity and "other." Out of a total of 72 pages, he counted a total of 13 pages dedicated to theology, 22 pages to chastity, and 37 pages to "other."
"So how is that truly theology?" he asked. "That's not." He also noted that chapter 13 of the book is titled "Aphrodisiacs, Drugs and Sex."
"The things that they're saying in this book, there's just no need for it," Bowman asserted. "We know that it contradicts our faith, we know that it contradicts our teaching, we know that it goes against what we've been taught and what the Church is supposed to do."
"We're living in the Jubilee Year of Mercy," he continued. "That's what we're asking for — a little mercy."
"This isn't about winning or losing, or even a battle. This is about our children," he emphasized.
In his 1981 apostolic exhortation "Familiaris Consortio," Pope St. John Paul II said:
The right and duty of parents to give education is essential, since it is connected with the transmission of human life; it is original and primary with regard to the educational role of others, on account of the uniqueness of the loving relationship between parents and children; and it is irreplaceable and inalienable, and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others.The Church reaffirmed the primary role of parents in its 1983 "Charter of Rights of the Family," which states, "Since they have conferred life on their children, parents have the original, primary and inalienable right to educate them; hence they ... have the right to educate their children in conformity with their moral and religious convictions ... ."
A petition circulated by LifeSiteNews asking that the school give parents the right to opt out of the program has garnered more than 1,600 signatures. Another petition sponsored by Tradition, Family and Property has nearly 9,000 signatures.