‘Crying shame’: Aggrieved father makes comprehensive case against bishops on sex ed
Editor's note: The following talk was given as part of an online conference title "Fathers' Call to Bishops: Help us to defend our children's purity." The virtual event was organized by Voice of the Family and made available via LifeSiteNews on October 9, 2020.
October 19, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Amidst all the serious problems we can see within church today — the apostasy, heresy, faithlessness and over compromise with world — those of us who are parents are, of course, particularly concerned about the impact on our children and how we raise them, which has become more of a challenge than ever. God has given us that sacred responsibility to raise our children in the faith — to know, love, and serve him — as Proverbs 22.6 tells us, to teach our children "in the way they should go." The Church has always recognized the parents' role as primary educator of their children — for in participation with God's work of creation, the mother and father have conferred life on their children and have the closest natural relationship with them.
Even secular international human rights law recognizes this too — the UN Declaration of Human Rights (Article 26) — states that parents have a right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children, and the European Convention on Human Rights (Article 2) declares that "the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching [that their children receive] is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions."
We've seen in many cases, especially under totalitarian regimes, how the state has overridden or usurped that right of parents — often to make sure the nation's children are educated according to the official state ideology, what the Government wants them to think, do and say, rather than be raised according to the particular values of their parents — religious or otherwise.
Disturbingly, however, we're now experiencing this state takeover of parenting through the education systems of western democracies, particularly in the area of sex education, where the liberal comprehensive sex education and LGBT agendas are being imposed, often ruthlessly, against the will of parents. This is a very real material threat to our children's temporal and spiritual welfare — especially their eternal salvation. Let's face it, most of our young people leave the faith today, not because they're rejecting the faith per se (in many cases, they haven't been taught much about what it's really about anyway) — but because they want to follow the world's rejection of Christian morality — of the importance of natural marriage and the family; and particularly to follow the illusion of sexual freedom — and then contraception and abortion, every further sin that must prop up and facilitate that lifestyle.
What's most disturbing of all is that so many of our Church leaders, who should be championing the rights of parents to defend their children from this agenda, have actually, in recent times, supported the state's right to impose such education, or indoctrination, on our children. The situation has considerably worsened under the pontificate of Pope Francis, who has often taken a controversially ambiguous or conflicting stance on the matter. In his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, for example, he talks in chapter six about the role of educational institutions, rather than parents, as being the ones with the responsibility to provide "a positive and prudent sex education to children." And during one of his notorious off-the-cuff plane interviews, returning from World Youth Day in Panama in January 2019, he undermined parents further by explaining how sex education at school "makes up for the fact" that parents don't always know how to do it properly. That's a very dangerous position for him to take because it's also the justification that the modern state uses, in most cases, to impose compulsory sex education against the will of parents.
I'd like to concentrate for the rest of this talk, however, on the situation with the Catholic Church in England, where the bishops of England and Wales publicly supported the UK Government in imposing compulsory pro-LGBT relationships and sex education on ALL schools in England. The situation is serious all over the UK, but as time is short I want to concentrate on what's happened in England, and that serves I know as an example and wake-up call to how church leaders have acted in many other countries. Just to briefly explain that the different countries that make up the UK — England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland — all have devolved powers over their own education systems (as well as in many other areas) and there are separate bishops' conferences for Scotland, the whole of Ireland (including the North) and a joint conference for England and Wales.
The bishops of England and Wales oversee the mission of Catholic schools through their agency, The Catholic Education Service (CES), and they have facilitated the promotion of the liberal sex education and LGBT agendas in Catholic schools for over a decade. Under the chairmanship of Archbishop (now Cardinal) Vincent Nichols (from 1999 to 2008) the CES developed a policy that resulted in providing children in Catholic schools, including adolescents under the legal age of consent, with access to abortion and contraception services, without parental knowledge or consent, through a state run confidential advice agency, named "Connexions."
Also under Nichols's chairmanship the CES joined the pro-abortion Sex Education Forum — which since the mid-1980s has been one of the UK's foremost pressure groups pushing for compulsory amoral sex education and promoting the anti-Christian LGBT agenda and sexual immorality to school children. In 2010, the CES, now under the chairmanship of Bishop (now Archbishop) Malcolm McMahon, supported an attempt by the outgoing Labour government to make sex and relationships education (SRE) compulsory, and helped draft statutory guidance for the new subject which would have presented to school children many of the positions and values of the Sex Education Forum. The attempt to make SRE compulsory, for various political reasons, at that point did not succeed.
One of the enthusiastic supporters of that legislation, however, was a Labour Member of Parliament called Greg Pope. Despite professing himself to be a Catholic he had a long and extensive anti-life and anti-family voting record in Parliament, which included support for abortion, euthanasia, population control and contraception, no-fault divorce and cohabitation rights, as well as virtually every facet of the LGBT agenda. Despite all this, on leaving Parliament at the call of General Election in 2010, he was immediately appointed by Bishop McMahon as deputy director of the Catholic Education Service — after a "rigorous selection process."
Only by means of a completely revisionist idea of what it means to be a Catholic could a man promoting such policies be deemed fit to hold a position of responsibility over Catholic education. However, he was in fact eminently suitable to help further the agenda the CES was already pursuing. Acting also as "head of Parliamentary relations" for the bishops of England and Wales, for instance, he wrote to all Catholic MPs in 2014 to reassure them they would not be denied Communion for voting in favor of imposing on Britain same sex "marriage."
The crowning glory of his career with the agency was the CES's role in supporting compulsory pro-LGBT Relationships and Sex Education in ALL schools in England with the passing of the Children & Social Work Act in March 2017. Thereafter Pope was immediately rewarded by the bishops for such services to the faith with his promotion and new appointment as Assistant General Secretary (later Executive Director of the Catholic Trust) of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England & Wales.
Compulsory RSE comes to English schools
The Children & Social Work Act (2017) made the new subjects of Relationships Education compulsory in ALL English primary schools, and Relationships & Sex Education compulsory in ALL English secondary schools. With another compulsory new subject, "Health Education," later added to the mix the new regime would further the state takeover of parenting in an attempt for the school to cover virtually every aspect of a child's moral formation, health and well-being. The Government stated that parents would be able to withdraw their children only from the "sex education" parts of RSHE at secondary school, and even this much compromised right was later replaced only with a "right to request withdrawal," with the final decision given over to the head teacher. In a final slap in the face to parents, their children were given the legal right to overrule their parents' wishes, if the head teacher had not already done so, and opt into sex education classes when the child reaches 15 years of age (though ironically they are not able to opt themselves out). From the outset, Government spokespersons, including the Prime Minister, stated that Relationships Education was intended to be "LGBT inclusive."
The CES publicly and consistently voiced nothing but unwavering support for the legislative changes and Government RSE policy. Following the passing of the Children & Social Work Act in March 2017, the then Chair of the CES, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, issued a statement welcoming the changes to the law and "the government's commitment to improving [sic] Relationships and Sex Education in all schools." He also welcomed the "government's commitment to protect parental right of withdrawal," even though that right was specifically limited, even at this early stage. The RSE Regulations and Statutory Guidance which would govern the general content and delivery of the new subjects, were the subject of two major public consultations, before having to be ratified by Parliament.
Catholic leaders did absolutely nothing to encourage the faithful's participation in these consultations, despite the potentially strong influence the resulting curriculum is likely to have on the moral development of our nation's youth, both Catholic and non-Catholic. Rather, the Catholic Education Service continued its mini-PR campaign in support of the Government, even when its intentions for the new RSE regime became clearer. Aside from the effective removal of the parental right of withdrawal, other key dangers contained in both the Draft and Final RSE Guidance and Regulations (2019), included:
- The Promotion of abortion, contraception and facilitation of underage sex. Secondary school children should be provided with "the facts about the full range of contraceptive choices and options," and signposted as to where and how to obtain abortion and contraception services without parental knowledge or consent. Carrying an unborn child to term is presented simply as one of the possible "choices" when pregnant, alongside that of having an abortion — "about which pupils should receive medically and legally accurate, impartial information."
- LGBT content is expected to be "fully integrated" into the children's program of study, which should present homosexual relationships and family structures in a positive manner.
- Real marriage and the natural family unit are sidelined. Redefined to include same sex "marriage" (and on a par with civil partnerships), marriage is simply presented as one possible relationship option. The emphasis is on the diversity of different "healthy" relationships and family structures.
With Church leaders supporting the Government, the mobilisation of Catholic voters to best influence the consultation process was therefore left to the various pro-life and pro-family organisations, including SPUC, and the many new groups, including from the various faith communities, that were now springing up as part of the rapidly growing parental rights movement. This awareness campaign proved successful in that the majority of submissions to the public consultations on the Draft Regulations and Guidance were firmly against the Government's proposals. But with the backing of the education, media and church establishments, the consultation results could more easily be ignored, and the Final RSE Guidance and Regulations were published virtually unchanged (if anything, slightly worse) in March 2019; and shortly afterwards passed by an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons (538 to 21). And just in case enough salt hadn't already been poured onto the wounds of the faithful, the Catholic Education Service issued yet another press statement to 'welcome' this development.
Besides the betrayal of parents and children, the political significance of the bishops' support for the Government's measures cannot be overemphasized. Firstly, it undermined the efforts of Parliamentarians supportive of parental rights. Lord Elton, for instance, in a letter to one of our supporters, noted how since the legislation had been passed with such a large Commons majority, but also accepted by the Church of England and welcomed by the Catholic Church, there was no possibility of rejecting it in the House of Lords — through which it had to pass before becoming law.
The Catholic bishops support for the new RSE regime was also considered important by the Government itself, and often referred to by ministers and officials. For example, Nick Gibb, Minister for School Standards, commented in a Parliamentary debate in June 2019 how the Government was "very content that we have secured the support of the Catholic Church, the Church of England and organisations such as Stonewall for the guidance we have created."
Stonewall is the country's leading LGBT pressure group — and so the fact that the same state guidance on RSE could meet with the approval of both LGBT pressure groups, such as Stonewall, and "the Catholic Church" would certainly mean that at least one of those factions is over-compromising on their core values. However, as well as being adamant that this guidance leaves scope for Catholic schools to teach "according to the tenets of the faith," and leaving aside the fate of the 90% of children who don't go to a Catholic school, CES statements in support of the changes also trumpeted the "high quality RSE" which Catholic schools already offer, and boasted of "the fact that the Government had used the Catholic model curriculum as examples of best practice." In other words, it all just means business as usual for Catholic schools so there is nothing to worry about.
The Catholic Education Service's model RSE curriculum is likely able to meet such approval from Government, because, despite parading its commitment to the Catholic faith with a great deal of uncontroversial orthodox-sounding content, there are enough ambiguous loopholes inserted to ensure that the LGBT and comprehensive sex education agendas can be taught wherever necessary, or desired. So, for example, in Catholic primary schools, children aged 5-7 are to be taught about the "different family structures" and "how they should be respected," which is how the LGBT agenda is usually now promoted to this age group. Children of this age are also taught to "identify and correctly name their private parts," and children aged 7-11 are taught about the "similarities and differences between people" in relation to the "protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010," which therefore means teaching those children about "gender reassignment," same-sex "marriage" and same-sex civil partnerships, and all about "sexual orientation."
The CES's model RSE curriculum for secondary schools (or "high schools," for pupils aged 11-18) builds on this foundation, and seems to work on the assumption of a "new normal." It takes the validity of LGBT ideology for granted, and could be used to help facilitate active pupil exploration of destructive and mortally sinful life choices. Despite foregrounding the need to teach children about the Church's teaching with regards marriage, fertility and the sanctity of life, pupils are also taught to be "respectful of their emerging sexual identity," as well as the concepts of "sexual identity, gender identity and sexual orientation." They are to be taught throughout secondary school "about diversity in sexual attraction and developing sexuality, including sources of support and reassurance and how to access them." They are also to be taught "where and how to obtain sexual health information, advice and support," including "who to talk to for accurate, advice and support in the event of unintended pregnancy."
One of the key principles running through the model Catholic RSE curriculum, as explained in its introduction, is that it aims to be "balanced" — in that, "as well as promoting Catholic virtues," it provides pupils "with clear factual, scientific information when relevant and meets the statutory requirements placed on schools. In secondary schools this includes teaching students about the laws relating to [things like] abortion and equalities legislation, including same-sex marriage."
This echoes what the Government have explained about how the new law is intended to work in relation to faith schools. That whilst such schools are free to teach pupils what their faith says about sex and relationships, including related matters like abortion, "in all schools, teaching should reflect the law (including the Equality Act 2010) as it applies to relationships, so that young people clearly understand what the law allows and does not allow," so they can "make decisions for themselves about how to live their own lives, whilst respecting the right of others to make their own decisions and hold their own beliefs." The clear impression the Government Guidance gives is that it is the law of the land (informed by the official state ideology), rather than the law and values of God, that should be the overriding influence in this "balanced" curriculum, and be the main arbiter for children in judging between right and wrong.
Whilst it is theoretically possible that a good solid Catholic school could teach these subjects in a way that ensures pupils clearly receive the teachings of the Catholic faith, this necessary element of "balance" and "respect" for mortally sinful lifestyle choices means pupils will likely receive a very mixed message; and in the present cultural context, leaves those opposed to Christian morality clear inroads to pursue their agenda with children in Catholic schools (not to mention the majority of other schools). The bishops, who have been the cheerleaders of (and even instrumental to) changes to the law, now claim that they must be bound by that law. It's a kind of strange neo-Pharisaism where bishops are claiming Catholics must be bound by the perverse law of man over the infallible law of God.
Other documents published by the Catholic Education Service on behalf of the bishops unashamedly distort Catholic teaching to promote homosexuality, often using the teachings of Pope Francis to add a kind pseudo-doctrinal credence to what are clearly heretical positions. Learning to Love (2017), an RSE guide for Catholic educators, refers to same sex relationships as "an exalted form of love" and states "we applaud the great progress that has been made in countering all forms of discrimination against homosexuality [as opposed to homosexual persons], and wish to collaborate with efforts to make such discrimination obsolete" (p.17).
One such "collaborative effort" to enforce acceptance of homosexuality is this document, Made in God's Image: Challenging homophobic and biphobic bullying in Catholic schools (2018) — a joint venture between the CES and the Aquinas Centre for Theological Literacy, St Mary's University. It's also a collaboration with certain LGBT groups, such as Stonewall and LGBT Youth Scotland, in the sense that they have copy and pasted much of the content of Made in God's Image out of documents from these organisations. The document gravely misrepresents both Scripture and Catholic teaching, as well as UK law, to intimidate Catholic schools into promoting the LGBT agenda.
The overriding message that is conveyed to children through the eight-part scheme-of-work is that being "lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender" is part of their God-given purpose and identity, an integral part of being "made in God's image," something that must be celebrated, and that any true Catholic should act to report and help robustly stamp out any traces of "homophobia" — helpfully defined for children, in one of the word games they are given to play, as:
A range of negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality or people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). It can be expressed as antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion, or hatred, may be based on irrational fear, and is sometimes related to religious beliefs. (p.16)
Adolescent boys and girls are consequently being given the message by the Catholic Education Service, on behalf of the bishops, that a feeling of "aversion" to "homosexuality" (including homosexual acts and advances?) means that there's something wrong with them — they are guilty of "irrational fear" or "hatred." Is this not what's called "grooming"?
It's also been reported that at least 10 Catholic primary schools in the Liverpool Archdiocese alone have been using a notorious secular LGBT indoctrination program called No Outsiders — which made national headlines last year because it sparked protests by parents when it was introduced into predominantly Muslim schools in Birmingham. The express aim of No Outsiders is to convince young children that to be "gay, lesbian, transgender or bi-sexual is normal, acceptable and ok," that they may identify or may not identify as LGBT as they grow up, and that "whoever they grow into as an adult is also perfectly normal and acceptable." The current Archbishop of Liverpool, who presides over these schools, is Malcolm McMahon, who, whilst Chair of the CES, had supported and welcomed the Government's imposition of compulsory pro-LGBT relationships and sex education on all children in the country.
So, overall, the situation that Church leaders have helped put faithful Catholic parents in is very dire. However, there have been signs lately of what might be the start of a possible change in direction on the part of the Catholic Education Service, which is now under the Chairmanship of Bishop Marcus Stock. When the Welsh Government announced last year that they were proposing to remove the parental right of withdrawal from the new compulsory Relationships & Sexuality Education, due to come into force in September 2022, the response from the bishops was quite out of character — in a positive way. In fact, the CES launched a small campaign opposing the Welsh Government's moves, encouraging Catholics to write to register their disapproval of them with their Assembly member.
It might be contended that the hand of the CES was forced in this respect as the Welsh Government were more brazen and explicit about their intentions to remove the parental right to withdraw one's children from RSE, whereas in England they'd been able to go along with the pretence that it had been retained in the shape of the "right to request withdrawal." However, Bishop Stock also issued a statement for the December 2019 General Election urging Catholics to challenge their Parliamentary candidates on a range of issues relating to Catholic education, including "the right of parents, as primary educators of their children, to be fully consulted and to maintain their ability to withdraw their children from [RSE] lessons." Whilst maintaining (without irony) that Catholic schools deliver RSE in accordance with the teachings of the Church and the wishes of parents, he said "the same cannot be said for other schools. Hence for Catholic parents who do not have the option to send their child to a Catholic school, it is vital that this parental right remains in place."
What a crying shame therefore that the CES had been so instrumental in supporting through the changes in England that it now stands to oppose in both England and Wales. Please God, however, this represents the start of a positive change of approach for the CES under new leadership which must be encouraged.
As expected, the Welsh Government announced in January 2020 that they intended to go ahead anyway with their plans to remove the parental right of withdrawal when their new RSE regime comes into force in 2022. And from September 2020, the new compulsory subjects come into force in England. However, due to disruptions caused by the Coronavirus lockdown, the Government is allowing schools, where necessary, the opportunity to delay the full implementation of the new subjects until the start of the Summer term (April) 2020. This therefore presents us with a small window of opportunity to come together to build an even stronger and greater movement in opposition to the new RSE regime before it comes fully into force and entrenched in all of our schools. Parents wanting to make a stand at schools where they are already facing compulsory RSE will also need our help and support. With recognition of positive signs in the right direction, we call on Church leaders now to robustly and publicly come out in support of such parents, and actively support the campaign to reinstate the right of withdrawal.
Our efforts on that front could also be aided by a Judicial Review currently being pursued by the Let Kids Be Kids Coalition, and supported by SPUC, which is challenging the RSE legislation over its violation of human rights law which guarantees parents the right to choose an education for their children "in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions."
There is also much to be done in challenging the growing stronghold of LGBT ideology in our schools, including an increasing number of Catholic schools. Pro-family groups including SPUC, the Latin Mass Society, and Catholic Man UK have formed the "Coalition in Defence of Primary Educators," with the aim of protecting children and encouraging Church leaders to now be a true prophetic voice in this critical area. They are calling on lay Catholics to pray and offer sacrifices that the country's bishops will turn fully away from the betrayals of recent times and help lead the resistance in this most crucial of battles for the lives and eternal souls of our children.