“Mom, what’s sodomy?” Imagine your 8-year-old son or daughter asking you this question out of the blue. Grappling for an answer, you may find yourself first wondering, where did they learn this word?
According to CBS News, that is exactly how San Francisco’s Star of the Sea School parents felt when their children came home with pamphlets they had gotten right before confession.
Riley, an 11-year-old student at the school, shocked his parents that same evening when he got home. His mother Christy Brooks told CBS that she was “stunned to hear words coming out his mouth that he didn’t know the meaning of.”
What was in these pamphlets, you ask?
SFGate reports Father Joseph Illo passed out copies of The Examination of Conscience and Catholic Doctrine to the kids, asking questions such as: “Did I perform impure acts by myself (masturbation) or with another (adultery, fornication and sodomy)?” “Did I practice artificial birth control or was I or my spouse prematurely sterilized (tubal ligation or vasectomy)?” – all of which were too much for such little ears.
Many kids were confused, but some of the older kids understood the content and were grossed out, making it the hot topic during recess. Just like the students, parents were shocked by the pamphlets too and blamed the school for exposing their kids to “impure content,” SFGate notes.
In response, Father Illo empathized with parents saying “it was probably inappropriate to hand out the material to such young children,” says NBC Bay Area News. He then added, “…but there’s nothing in the pamphlet that the Catholic Church doesn’t teach.”
Because this involves kids, the story gained the public’s immediate attention. Some felt it was an honest mistake, while others directed their attention more on the importance of protecting the children.
SFGate commenter dbeierl doesn’t believe that the parish priest would deliberately hand out these pamphlets. “It’s perfectly obvious that he accidentally took the adult’s version instead of the one for prepubescent children. Embarrassing and he should have been more careful. A lot more careful. But it’s a non-story, and shame on the newspaper for interviewing kids about it,” he says.
Another commenter Christopher Vance supports the priest and feels the pamphlet is much needed.
“Yes it’s scary to have someone else talk about this with your child, but love trumps fear and says what needs to be said even if were not ready to hear it. He’s not handing out anything graphic or promiscuous, it’s flat out telling the children ‘this is bad and don’t do it,'” he contests.
On the contrary, commenter timlennon sees this as an act of negligence. “Children must be protected. It should worry all of us that the church is more interested in instilling authoritarian rules than protecting them in life,” they wrote.
So how would you parents feel? If my second-grader came home with questions about masturbation or birth control, I would immediately switch her school. We parents do all we can to shield our children from knowing too much too early and it’s clear that these kids were victim to early exposure. However, some of may beg to differ. What’s your take on this?