Monday 22 September 2008

Conflicting sex education policies in Catholic schools

The Vatican has just warmly endorsed two documents by an English diocese which support Catholic church teaching on life issues. Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, secretary to the Holy See's Congregation for the Clergy has written supportively to Rt Rev Patrick O'Donoghue, Bishop of Lancaster, about his Fit For Mission? Church and Fit for Mission? Schools.

The congregation expresses surprise at the reaction to the document on schools, which it says was simply an instance of Bishop O'Donoghue doing his duty as a bishop to proclaim Catholic faith.

The schools document says that abortion and similar subjects should not be taught about as if the church were neutral on them. It says that sex education is a basic right of parents, and must be carried out under their close supervision and states: "Parents, schools and colleges must reject secularized and anti-life sex education, which puts God at the margin of life and regards the birth of a child as a threat."

The document on the church refers to the state-sponsored culture of death. The bishop suggests that legalised abortion in Britain may have led to widespread violence. He writes: "I encourage all our schools and parishes to continue to take steps to protect our young people from cultures of death, that seek to corrupt and exploit them."

Archbishop Piacenza says to Bishop O'Donoghue that the Holy See's Congregation for the Clergy: "… again lauds you for your courageous action."

Such a ringing endorsement stands in stark contrast to my post of yesterday on Lifetracks, a so-called personal development programme used in at least one Catholic school. This scheme includes references to a website which could help girls obtain abortions and fails to make clear the abortifacient nature of some birth control drugs and devices. Connexions, a government advice service for young people, is supporting and promoting the programme, according to Witness to Love, a teacher at the school. The Catholic Education Service says of Connexions in Catholic schools: "It is a service to be welcomed."

While Bishop O'Donoghue's policy has been approved by the church's highest authorities, the church's education body for England and Wales is encouraging the involvement of an organisation whose policies conflict with Catholic teaching and throws Catholic schoolchildren to the wolves, as I blogged recently. Something's got to give.