Wednesday 24 February 2010

Bishops' agency gives yet more cover for government's sex education agenda

Following last night's Commons vote for the government's sex education bill, the Catholic Education Service (CES) has issued a statement. The statement effectively repeats its endorsement of the government's worthless amendment on faith schools, and adds:
"The teaching of all aspects of the curriculum in Catholic schools reflects their religious ethos. In the same way, the SRE in Catholic schools will be rooted in the Catholic Church’s teaching of the profound respect for the dignity of all human persons."
Neither sentence is true. The first statement,
"The teaching of all aspects of the curriculum in Catholic schools reflects their religious ethos"
would be laughable if its deceitfulness was not a matter of the gravest scandal. This CES claim was debunked by the government itself in a departmental media release last week. The release cited St Thomas More school, Bedford, as a good example of how Catholic schools are already facilitating abortion and contraception, in line with the government's demands.

The government's draft SRE guidance - which the CES both welcomed and helped draft - recommends "All that I am", the sex education programme started by the archdiocese of Birmingham under Vincent Nichols, then CES chairman and now archbishop of Westminster. Fr John Fleming, SPUC's bioethical consultant, tells me that:
"The content of the Birmingham programme in relation to homosexuality* is difficult to reconcile with the fullness of Catholic moral teaching."
In 2006, Mac McLernon, a teacher at a Catholic comprehensive school for boys and girls in Kent, spoke out publicly against the sex education given to her class of 13- to 14-year-old children. Not only were the children given obscene lessons in how to use condoms, but they were given the clearest possible instructions on how to access abortion and contraception.

The CES's claim reminds me of a similar (and similarly fictitious) claim made in 2005 by Dr Austen Ivereigh, then director of public affairs to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, in a letter to The Catholic Herald:
"[T]here is no Catholic school in Britain, joint or otherwise, in which Catholic children are being taught less than the Catholic faith in its integrity."
The other sentence from last night's CES statement
"the SRE in Catholic schools will be rooted in the Catholic Church’s teaching of the profound respect for the dignity of all human persons"
has also been spectacularly debunked the government. Apart from Ed Ball's clear statements yesterday, the government last night indicated a further totalitarian-style interference in Catholic school teaching. Harry Cohen, a Labour backbencher, asked Vernon Coaker (pictured), junior minister for schools:
"Will my hon. Friend assure me that no faith school teacher will be allowed to spread long-term fear among children by telling them that if they subsequently have an abortion or partake in homosexuality they will end up going to hell?"
Mr Coaker replied:
"Of course I can give my hon. Friend that assurance."
Now, let me first say that Mr Cohen presented a caricature of solid pro-life/pro-family teaching in faith schools. Such teaching does not, and should not, "spread long-term fear" about "going to hell". Catholic pro-life/pro-family teaching in fact gives hope to children, born and unborn, in this life and for the next. Also, Catholic teaching is clear (CCC 1861) that:
"[A]lthough we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God." 
That said, Catholic teaching is also clear that:
  • "Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense" (CCC 2272)
  • "Among the sins gravely contrary to chastity [are] homosexual practices." (CCC 2396)
  • "Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God's law" (CCC 1855)
  • "To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."" (CCC 1033)
Mr Coaker's reply to Mr Cohen is yet another example of just how false is the CES's claim that:
"Catholic schools will be entitled to continue to teach this subject in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church" (letters, Catholic Herald, 4 February 2010)
Opposition to the government's plans has also been stunted by the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group (APPPLG). Jim Dobbin, its chairman, circulated the CES's fallacies among MPs and voted for the bill last night. Before the debate, Claire Curtis-Thomas, the group's pro-abortion vice-chair, wrote to local SPUC supporters yesterday telling them that she would not be supporting opposition amendments which sought to lessen the harm of the government's proposals.

Yet again Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien has, in contrast to his English and Welsh counterparts, spoken the truth with clarity and courage, saying last night:
"[W]e have witnessed this Government undertake a systematic and unrelenting attack on family values."
SPUC will likewise not flinch in speaking truth to power, whether it be to our government or to its cooperators within the Catholic establishment.

*(The reason why the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality is so important for the pro-life cause can be found in Pope John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae. In paragraph 97, Pope John Paul teaches that it is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do 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.)

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