Unitarian minister the Rev. Deborah Haffner of the Religious Institute, whom we last saw advocating a change in sexual mores among clergy, is now peddling her fish to United Methodists regarding their teenagers. She writes in the newsletter of the General Board of Church and Society:
More than 15 years ago, I developed a framework for a moral sexual relationship. I believe, based on my more than 30 years as a sexuality educator and now as a minister, that a moral, ethical sexual relationship — whether one is married or single, 16 or 35 or 80, gay, bisexual or straight — is defined by five criteria: It is consensual, non-exploitative, honest, mutually pleasurable and protected, if any type of intercourse occurs.
Please note: according to Haffner, unmarried 16-year-olds can have moral, ethical sexual relationships. Note as well that, just as marriage is not necessary for a “moral, ethical sexual relationship,” neither is commitment (life-long or otherwise) or monogamy.
I teach adolescents and young adults to remember the five criteria by thinking the word CUHMP or by a mnemonic of the first letter of the five criteria, “Can U Have My Pleasure?”
The “word” CUHMP? “Can U Have My Pleasure?” Does anyone know what this even means?
We go on to talk about that the five criteria need three conditions: communication between the partners, adequate time for the relationship to develop and shared values. These criteria are more ethically rigorous than abstinence until marriage because they apply to intimate relationships both before as well as after marriage.
Haffner flatters herself. “Communication,” undefined “adequate time,” and equally undefined “shared values” may be fine things (and in the case of the first, communication certainly is foundational for any meaningful relationship) that will help make a relationship better. But these are not “ethical” criteria, which are means for determining the rightness or wrongness of an action or thought. As in so much of the work that has been done by Haffner and like-minded thinkers, they have confused formulating ways of making people happy with helping them make moral decisions.
Most parents, public health professionals and religious leaders agree that most adolescents, especially those in high school or younger, are not ready for mature sexual relationships that include intercourse. The wisdom of religious traditions confirms that a moral sexuality demands self-understanding, respect and self-discipline.
It’s nice to know that Haffner recognizes that “most adolescents” are not ready for sex. It’s a pity that everything she advocates seems directed toward facilitating what teenagers shouldn’t be doing.