Saturday, 12 June 2010

"If my children come to harm I will hold the Catholic Bishops' Conference personally responsible" says mother of three

The Knights of Our Lady met in Braga, Portugal on the 4th - 6th June, to discuss the state of family life in the different European countries where the Order is represented. Fiorella Nash (pictured), mother of three young children, was invited to speak. Here is a shortened version of her address. She provides an eloquent, personal, summary of the previous government's sex education proposals and the pro-life's movement response to this.

The bold text is my emphasis - and I have taken the liberty of linking Fiorella's words to previous posts of mine etc.
I am going to focus on what, to me, is the greatest threat to family life in Britain today.
For many years now, governments have pursued a policy of imposing ever more explicit sex education on school children around Britain, including children at Catholic schools. Just to clarify, in case there is any doubt, sex education in this context does not mean – it has never meant – teaching children the facts of life, though it is sold as merely a way in which to give young people necessary, accurate information.

Sex education in Britain, as in many other countries, means the aggressive promotion of an ideology about human sexuality which is entirely at odds with Catholic teaching. This includes, to quote Ed Balls, our previous Education Minister, teaching that “homosexuality is healthy and normal”[*], teaching children how to access and use contraception on the understanding that contraceptive use is not just morally acceptable, but a positive and responsible step to take, and providing access to abortion for children under the age of sixteen without parental knowledge or consent.

Debates in Parliament about sex education tend to assume that there is a neutral position on sexuality, simply providing information, but there is no such thing. Simply talking about abortion, for example, as though it were morally neutral is in itself to take a pro-abortion position, in the same way that talking about the child porn industry as though producing and purchasing such material were simply a matter of personal choice would involve the inherent assumption there is nothing wrong with child pornography.

The dangerous clauses on sex education in the Children, Schools and Families bill as it was laughably called were finally deleted by the Government. This was a huge victory for families and for the pro-life movement. Tribute should be paid to the thousands of concerned people who lobbied the Government, including the 100 Catholic headteachers and governors, three bishops and over 300 Christian clergy who signed a letter published in the Telegraph opposing the bill.

I should say that during our campaign, we focused on ordinary clergy whom we found to be far more responsive and supportive than the bishops and we remain very grateful to the courageous witness of many priests.

However, we would be naïve if we thought that the threat to children and families will go away easily. A considerable proportion of schools in England, including Catholic schools, provide information on how to access contraception and abortion without parental knowledge or consent. This is happening with the co-operation of the Catholic authorities.

Sadly, more and more Catholic parents are telling us at the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children about terrible experiences in Catholic schools, both at secondary and primary school level. At my own prestigious Catholic school, founded and run by the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we were handed condoms and told to 'get comfortable with them' on the grounds that 'we all know you're not going to stay virgins until you're married.' Protests on the part of Catholic parents and teachers seeking to protect young people do not appear to be heard. I would very much encourage your organisation to join with us in our campaign.

Tragically, when the Children, Schools and Families bill was being debated in Parliament, the Catholic hierarchy of England and Wales not only failed to offer any opposition to a bill that would have promoted access to abortion and contraception in Catholic as well as non-Catholic schools, but Archbishop Vincent Nichols painted the Government's intentions in an entirely positive light. The Catholic Education Service helped in the drafting of the draft guidance on Sex and relationships education (which it welcomed as a positive step forward), which states:

"Information provided by schools should reflect the latest medical evidence available on topics such as: the efficacy of different contraceptive methods in preventing unplanned pregnancies and STIs; and pregnancy choices."


“Sex and relationships education should also increase pupils' knowledge and understanding at appropriate stages by
  • learning how to avoid unplanned pregnancy and STIs including
  • learning about contraception and infection avoidance
  • learning about pregnancy and the choices available learning about the range of local and national sexual health advice, contraception and support services available"
The collusion by an agency of the Bishops' Conference with the anti-life policies of the [then] Government was a wicked dereliction of duty that has left many Catholic parents feeling disillusioned and betrayed by the CES which was founded to protect and promote Catholic education. Incidentally, the Catholic Education Service, at the same time as stating that Catholics 'need to pull together' has appointed Greg Pope as its deputy director, a former MP with an appalling anti-life and anti-family voting record.

As a Catholic parent, I feel betrayed by the failure of the Catholic hierarchy to protect my children from this state-sponsored abuse. Parents are the primary educators of their children and any attempt to deny parents that fundamental right, upheld by Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights must be strenuously opposed. I can say without hesitation that if any of my children comes to harm as a result of these evil policies, I will hold the Catholic Bishops' Conference personally responsible because of its failure to take a strong stand against our government.

I cannot stress enough how fundamental the right of parents as primary educators is to the well-being of the family. As Mary Ann Glendon put it in her authoritative book on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights A World Made New:

“In the article on education [26]…[the drafting committee for the Declaration] made an important change, influenced directly by recollections of the National Socialist regime’s efforts to turn Germany’s renowned educational system into a mechanism for indoctrinating the young with the government’s program…. [A]fter Beaufort of the Netherlands recalled the ways in which German schools had been used to undermine the role of parents, a third paragraph was added: ‘Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.’”

[*] Pope John Paul II taught that it was an illusion to think that we could build a true culture of human life if we did not offer adolescents and young adults an authentic education in sexuality, and in love, and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection. However, with the bishops of England and Wales lending its support to legislation that obliges Catholic schools to provide information on contraception and abortion, is it not completely unrealistic to expect that Catholic sexual morality will be taught in these schools?

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