TEENAGERS need the Catholic Church’s message about sex and relationships more than ever, managing director of a schools-based Catholic charity Paul Ninnes said.
Based on his experience of talking with teenagers in schools through Real Talk Australia, Mr Ninnes said teenagers who have never heard the Church’s message of sexuality have low expectations of relationships.
Many of them are also having sex prematurely or fixated on sexting and other pornographic material.
“It’s damaging because young people are being prematurely exposed to concepts they’re not ready for even if they think they are intellectually, they’re not emotionally and spiritually ready,” Mr Ninnes said.
“The truth is most teenagers are leaving high school thinking they’re never really going to have deep, lasting relationships, that this is as good as it gets.”
Teenagers are also having higher bouts of mental health issues, self-harm, broken relationships, sexually-transmitted infections, and lower self-esteem.
Real Talk Australia is about preventing both the obvious and hidden negative outcomes of having sexual intimacy too young.
Since launching Real Talk Australia in 2012, the ministry has become the most sought-after sexual and personal development presentations group in Australasia.
The charity’s most recent statistics show more than 20,000 new teenagers have heard their message about life, love, and successful relationships, all based on the teachings of the Catholic Church.
“Even as a standalone statistic to speak to 20,000 people with this message is pretty powerful and reminds me of how important it is,” Mr Ninnes said.
But the topics are “getting tougher” to address in schools by teachers alone.
In August this year, a report revealed teenagers and young men were exchanging sexually graphic images of female students in an online group. (Story continues after video)
Mr Ninnes said he was heartbroken when he read the reports.
“I think for me my heart breaks when I hear about that because I see what it robs people of,” Mr Ninnes said.
“I see that a girl finding out that guys are trading her images can shape her entire life and her perception of self.
“It breaks my heart when I see stuff in the media because I see the people, not just the statistic.”
Mr Ninnes said he was not always on side with the Catholic Church’s teachings on sexuality, but when he heard John Paul II’s famous lectures, the Theology of the Body, he changed his mind.
It was through a CD by Christopher West, whom Mr Ninnes described as “the single most important communicator” in the past 20 years of the Theology of the Body.
“I had lots of questions and disagreements with what the Church said but as I delved into it and I opened myself up, one by one they dropped away to the point where I saw the beauty and truth in what our church teaches,” Mr Ninnes said.
“My heart became alive when I discovered Theology of the Body.”
Next week, the same man whose message changed Mr Ninnes’ heart will be speaking at his charity’s fundraising dinner on October 24.
“Essentially what Real Talk does on a very different level is what Christopher West does and that is spread the Good News that we have to share about sex, love, relationships and marriage,” Mr Ninnes said.
Mr Ninnes hoped more schools would be open to the life-changing message Real Talk brings to their students.
“Just about every school that books us reuses us and I think that speaks volumes for how we handle this topic,” Mr Ninnes said.
“Real Talk does what teachers just can’t do.
“They bring something that is specialised and outside and youthful to the topic in a way that transforms lives.”
Schools that would like to book a Real Talk Australia presentation can visit their website www.realtalkaustralia.com or call 0417 148 164.
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By Emilie Ng