The nation's Roman Catholic bishops approved yesterday for the first time a comprehensive set of guidelines for teaching human sexuality in schools and parishes.
The bishops, on the third day of their four-day fall conference here, approved the 185-page document on a strong voice vote. The document affirms previous church teachings and addresses a full gamut of sensitive issues, ranging from homosexuality and AIDS to birth control.
The action marked the first time that the hierarchy as a group has made a formal statement on the subject.
"It was becoming increasingly important that many in the Catholic community wanted to hear from the bishops once more about the Catholic schools," Archbishop Francis B. Schulte of New Orleans said.
Entitled "Human Sexuality: A Catholic Perspective for Education and Lifelong Learning," the guidelines ask that sex education be taught in Catholic schools although, as one bishop noted, families might remove children from Catholic schools if they feel that their right to educate children about sex is being usurped.
The bishops also met in executive session for further debate on the Persian Gulf crisis. On Monday, they passed a resolution appealing for U.S. restraint there.
Several bishops said Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk of Cincinnati, president of the conference, might send a letter about the crisis to President Bush, which would not require their approval. They would not discuss what it might say.
The bishops also unanimously approved a national church collection to raise what bishops said they hope will be millions of dollars for the church emerging in Eastern Europe from years of communist rule.