When it comes to sex education programs, the Catholic Church is painted as old-fashioned and callous about teen pregnancy and disease.
But governments that mandate sex education in the schools are fooling themselves about its effectiveness, the Vatican newspaper said.
Writing on the front page of L'Osservatore Romano Aug. 30, Lucetta Scaraffia looked specifically at New York City, where students in middle school and high school will be required to attend a semester-long course in sex education.
Scaraffia, a professor of contemporary history at Rome's La Sapienza University, said that "to avoid religious controversy, chastity will be cited among birth control methods and teachers will have to speak about sex with some caution" in the New York courses.
Still, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York criticized the mandatory program as usurping the rights of parents to educate their children in line with their beliefs and values, she said.
Scaraffia wrote: "It is not clear why public institutions in the West continue to have such magical trust in the effectiveness of sex education," especially when young people continue to have precocious, unprotected sex, leading to an increase of disease, pregnancy and abortion.