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Book On Sex Loses Bishop’s Approval After Objections From Rome

December 1, 1986 GMT

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) _ A book to help parents talk with their children about sex will no longer have the sanction of the Catholic bishop of Rochester because a Vatican watchdog group found it conflicted with church teaching.

Church officials and the authors of ″Parents Talk Love: The Catholic Family Handbook About Sexuality″ said Bishop Matthew H. Clark removed his 2- year-old imprimatur after objections by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

An imprimatur, which is Latin for ″let it be printed,″ is not an official church endorsement of a book’s contents, but indicates that the book is not in conflict with the church’s teachings.

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The book was written by a priest, the Rev. Matthew A. Kawiak, and Susan K. Sullivan, a Catholic high school teacher.

″The book never disagreed (with the church),″ said Kawiak in an interview Sunday. ″It cited the differences and diversity that exist among families in our society.″

Kawiak, associate pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in the town of Greece and a specialist in marriage and family counseling, said the objections raised by the Congregation involved treatment of such topics as homosexuality, masturbation and the use of contraceptives, practices banned by the church.

″The language was not as absolute and perfectionist in tone as some who would have wanted it that way,″ Kawiak said.

The Congregation, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, is responsible for making sure that the church’s official teachings on faith and morals are being portrayed and explained correctly.

″The whole gist of our book is to be non-judgmental toward people,″ said Sullivan, a science teacher at Cardinal Mooney High School in Greece.

Kawiak said the removal of the imprimatur could steer people away from addressing sex education.

″What’s happeed to us may make people too fearful to write something,″ he said. ″That’s sad, that they would hesitate, because there are very few resources like this (book) available.″

Clark, in a news release issued by the diocese, said the review by Ratzinger’s group included positive comments regarding the book’s readability and its presentation of the role of parents in sex education.

Clark and church officials were unavailable for comment Sunday.

Kawiak and Sullivan said they did not know how the book, which has sold approximately 5,000 copies, came to the attention of the Vatican.

″I’m not naive to the fact that in the Catholic Church today there are books - primarily those dealing with sex morality in context - and groups seem to be making an issue of bringing these to the attention of Rome,″ said Kawiak. ″They have been successful in having the imprimaturs removed.″

Kawiak said he and Sullivan do not expect to face any difficulties because of having written the book.

″The bishop was very supportive. He simply stated he had no choice in removing the imprimatur,″ said Kawiak.

The loss of the imprimatur does not mean the 164-page paperback will be pulled from store shelves or no longer published. Kawiak said the imprimatur message on an inside page may have to be covered.