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As Catholic parents, we want our children to understand sex differently than the rest of the world does. We want them to understand and affirm chastity, knowing why it’s important. We want them to appreciate sex as a gift from God to be shared within the context of marriage.

For many parents, that may seem like an almost impossible ideal, given the state of the culture. Just imagine that an alien suddenly dropped into our world to find out what our society thinks about sex. He’d observe how sex is presented in the TV shows we watch, the movies we go to see, the magazines and books we read, in sex education classes, and in what we look at on our computer screens and smartphones.

It’s not hard to figure out what his conclusions would be. He’d assume that everyone’s “doing it,” that there aren’t any consequences (or none that anyone worries about ahead of time), that it’s apparently enjoyable but not meaningful, that marriage has nothing to do with it, and that there’s no moral component to it.

If we let the world raise our kids, they’ll end up believing what the alien would: that sex is purely an act of pleasure, without meaning or consequence, to be engaged in without restriction (except for artificial contraception, of course).

That’s a far cry from the truth about sex according to the Church — which is pretty simple.  Sex is intended for people who are married (marriage being the union of one man and one woman), and it has two purposes: to bind a husband and wife together and to make babies. But you might be surprised at how few children — including Catholics — know and believe this. The National Survey of Youth and Religion (NSYR), conducted between July 2002 and April 2003, examined the religious, family and social lives of adolescents. Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology and religion at the University of Texas, was a co-investigator for the study. His 2007 book, Forbidden Fruit: Sex & Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers, details the findings of that and similar research.

Among the questions teenagers were asked was this: “Do you think that people should wait to have sex until they are married, or not necessarily?”  Only 51.2 percent of Roman Catholic teens said yes. (Mormon teens ranked highest, at 77.3 percent, followed by 73.7 percent for Evangelical Protestants. Mainline Protestants were just slightly higher than their Catholic counterparts, at 51.9.)

In terms of actual practice, the statistics are dismal. In his later book, Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate and Think About Marrying, co-authored with Jeremy Uecker, Regnerus writes that “among all emerging adult women [ages eighteen to twenty-three] in any form of romantic relationship, only about six percent are not having sex of some sort.”

Read more at Catholic Exchange

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