Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Shameful message from Westminster archdiocese education director

Fr Richard Parsons, parish priest of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, Headstone Lane, where my wife and I often go to Mass, has shared with me a message he received last weekend from from the office of Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster. Fr Martin Hayes, the archbishop's secretary, wrote that the archbishop has asked Paul Barber, the archdiocese's director of education,
"to assist [the archdiocese's] understanding of issues around the subject of sex and relationship education in Catholic schools".
Mr Barber has written the following:
"There has been much misinformation about this topic put about by sections of the media, some politicians and various organisations. This short e-mail is intended to advise you, as briefly as possible, about the current situation as far as our schools are concerned.

"1. All Catholic schools in the Diocese teach sex and relationship education, and are required to do so in accordance with the teachings of the Church.

"2. There is nothing in the current Bill which will prevent Catholic schools from continiuing to teach sex and relationship education in accordance with the teachings of the Church.

"3. Parents have the right to withdraw their children from sex and relationship education: under the Bill they will continue to have this right until the child reaches 15.

If you would like more information, and see the actual documentation, please go to the Diocesan website:

or the CES website:

I hope this information is reassuring" [etc.]
I can say that, as a practising Catholic living and worshipping within Westminster archdiocese, Mr Barber's message is certainly not "reassuring". In fact, it is shameful that such misinformation is being disseminated to clergy and parishes in the archbishop's name. Mr Barber's message almost totally ignores the large and growing number of cogent, detailed arguments which have been made by clergy, laity and by concerned expert groups, who have already debunked Mr Barber's scanty assertions. The link to the archdiocesan website provided by Mr Barber claims that:
"[T]he longstanding parental right of withdrawal from sex education is extended to SRE, although it now ends when the child reaches 15 (in accordance with the principles laid down by the House of Lords in the Gillick case)."
But, as I pointed out last night, the Gillick judgment applies to consent to medical treatment, not education. And what is also not pointed out is that schoolchildren will not have any right to withdraw themselves from SRE at any age. The net result of the Catholic authorities' support for the bill will be that, if the bill is passed,
  • abortion, contraception, homosexuality and "a wide range of [sexual] practices" will be promoted and facilitated in schools
  • pupils will forcibly be taught anti-life/anti-family sex education. I can certainly envisage situations where pupils will be taught against their consciences.
In common with the CES's statements, Mr Barber expresses no concern whatsoever about pupils in non-Catholic schools, which includes large numbers of Catholics.

Also in common with the CES's statements, Mr Barber fails to explain or reference "the teachings of the Church". The almost total silence by the Catholic authorities in England and Wales about the Magisterium's key document on sex education, "The truth and meaning of human sexuality", simply increases the impression that those authorities dissent from Catholic teaching in this area.

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