Saturday, 20 March 2010

Another excellent article on government sex ed by Fr Cleevely

On 12 March I recommended to readers an excellent article on the Children, Schools and Families bill by Fr Philip Cleevely of the Birmingham Oratory (pictured). This weekend Fr Cleevely has followed up with a similarly excellent article on the same subject. Below are some key points from it, though do read it in full. This second article is a very good antidote to the recent article in The Times by Bishop Malcolm McMahon, chairman of the Catholic Education Service (CES).

Fr Cleevely writes:
  • "Any similarities between the Bill's approach to PSHE [personal, social and health education] and some fundamental teachings of the Church are illusory. Under the surface momentous threats to Catholic education remain."
  • "In PSHE, the two most influential buzz-words are 'diversity' and 'social cohesion'."
  • "'Respecting human diversity', for example, means opposing prejudice towards minorities; in PSHE, the most important minority is of course the 'gay community'. Thus the Bill insists Catholic schools must teach that civil partnerships are 'stable relationships' analagous to marriage."*
  • "Bullying, often wheeled out in this debate, is a smokescreen. Of course the Church opposes bullying. And of course she opposes 'homophobia' - if this means hating people identified as 'gay'. But 'homophobia', in our society, means a lot more than that."
  • "'Social cohesion' in PSHE means signing up to the Government's demoralised, fatalistic agenda of using 'facts' (abortion) and 'responsibility' (contraception) to reduce teenage ('unwanted') pregnancies. Education in chastity thus goes out the window."
  • "For the Church to fall in with the State's agenda under cover of bogus 'theological' justifications would be disastrously misconceived. Catholics promoting 'diversity' and 'social cohesion' in our schools must think again."
*(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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Friday, 19 March 2010

Armchair moralising undermines child protection

Quentin de la Bedoyere's portrait of his hands
Quentin de la Bedoyere, who authors a weekly column on ethical and other issues in The Catholic Herald, wrote a feature article for last weekend's Herald which he says that, under the Children, Schools and Families (CSF) bill, Catholic schools
"will remain entirely free to teach full Catholic doctrine".
I have addressed the fallacy of that argument many times in recent blog-posts. Instead I wish to turn readers' attention to the background of Mr de la Bedoyere's article. (I do so in my capacity as a Catholic pro-lifer.)

Mr de la Bedoyere wrote:
  • "[A] new educational approach will bring its own advantage" 
  • "[A] Catholic school ... must also evaluate, with scrupulous fairness, the opposing arguments."
  • "[T]here are alternative views which others hold, and are entitled to hold, even though we may believe them to be mistaken."
Mr de la Bedoyere's idea of education is this area seems remarkably similar to the "values clarification" method, which (as even its inventor now admits and regrets) was invented to eradicate from education any concept of right and wrong, such as the wrongness of abortion or of particular sexual practices.

No one is "entitled to hold" that abortion - the intentional killing of an innocent human being -  is morally permissible. Nor are Catholic schools morally permitted to present arguments in favour of abortion, contraception and homosexuality as if those arguments are equally as valid as pro-life/pro-family values.

Mr de la Bedoyere claims that:
"[T]each[ing] them the facts on contraception ... is general knowledge, not advocacy of a way of life." 
That is only true if the Church's teaching on sexuality is taught, not as general knowledge, but advocated as a way of life - indeed more than that: as a truth to be believed, with an obligation to practice it.

Mr de la Bedoyere asks:
"Do we really put such little trust in our ability to present the Church’s good or in our young’s ability to recognise it? And, if so, what have we been doing as parents?"
The answer is that many Catholic bishops and Catholic schools do not present (or present an erroneous or debased version of) the Church's teaching on pro-life/pro-family issues, and therefore the ability of Catholic pupils and their parents to recognise it is frequently thwarted.

And Mr de la Bedoyere is really plumbing the depths of naivety when he writes about the CSF bill:
  • "There is nothing to lose" 
  • "[W]e can insist that secular schools give an equally balanced account of our views"
  • "[W]e may hope that our judges still remain even handed".
But we don't have to go far to find that Mr de le Bedoyere's ideas about the Church and Catholic doctrine are, shall we say, somewhat unusual:
  • "The history of the Church and sexuality is not edifying." (blog)
  • "[T]he Church appears not to offer, either officially or pastorally, good teaching on the formation of conscience" (blog)
  • "[B]ullying a gay person on the grounds of orientation or lifestyle is a sin against love far greater than any which might be imputed against homosexual acts." (blog)
  • "The ultimate result [of Humanae Vitae] has been high lapsation, few vocations, decreasing Catholic marriage, and abandonment of Confession as a regular sacrament. I would not excuse people for doing this, but I would suggest that the Magisterium has made a big contribution to this sorry situation." (blog)
  • "[T]he Church’s teaching on contraception applies only to marriage" (blog) and "[The Church] makes no statement about the use of contraceptives outside marriage; and that would equally apply to homosexual acts." (blog)
Mr de la Bedoyere's claim (above) about "bullying a gay person on the grounds of orientation or lifestyle" simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Even if it may be held that such bullying is driven by anger and hatred and is therefore a mortal sin, homosexual acts are also mortal sins (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2357). It is therfore false that such bullying is "a sin against love far greater than any which might be imputed against homosexual acts." [my emphasis]

Mr de la Bedoyere's last claim (above) - that the Church is silent on the use of contraceptives outside marriage - is simply wrong as a matter of historical fact. Here are some teachings from Church authorities throughout the centuries (my emphases in bold): 
  • St John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church, A.D. 390, referring to men who use prostitutes: "Why do you sow [w]here there are medicines of sterility? ... [F]or she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. What then? Do you condemn the gift of God, and fight with His laws? What is a curse, do you seek as if it were a blessing?" Professor John T. Noonan, author of a famous history of Catholic teaching on contraception, has written about this sermon: "[T]he reason given for condemning contraception is equally applicable whether contraception occurs in fornication or in marriage."
  • St Augustine, Doctor of the Church, A.D. 419: "[I]f he does not control himself, let him enter into lawful wedlock, so that he may not beget children in disgrace or avoid having offspring by a more degraded form of intercourse." (De Conjugiis Adulterinis 2, 12; CSEL 41, 396)
  • St Jerome, Doctor of the Church, A.D. 384: "I cannot bring myself to speak of the many virgins who daily fall...Some go so far as to take potions, that they may insure barrenness." (letter 22 to Eustochium)
  • Second Council of Braga, A.D. 572 : "If any woman...contrives to make sure she does not conceive, either in adultery or in legitimate intercourse...such women and their accomplices in these crimes shall do penance for ten years. (Canon 77; Mansi IX, 858).
  • Decretals of Burchard, an influential collection of canon law, A.D. 1020: "Have you done what some women are accustomed to doing when they fornicate...if they have not yet conceived they contrive not to conceive? If you have done so, or consented to this, or taught it, you must do penance for ten years on legal ferial days." (num. 19; PL 140, 972)
  • Holy Office (now known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), answer, 1853: "[C]ondomistic copulation [is] a thing intrinsically evil." (Enchiridion Symbolorum Definionum et Declarationum de Rebus Fidei et Morum n.2795, Q.2 and ad 2. ed H. Denzinger, A Schonmetzer, Romae, 1974)
  • The bishops of France, November 1968, pastoral note on Humanae Vitae: "Contraception can never be a good. It is always a disorder..."
  • The bishops of the United States, 1976: "In contraceptive intercourse the procreative or life-giving meaning is deliberately separated from its love-giving meaning and rejected; the wrongness of such an act lies in the rejection of this value." In other words, contraception is wrong in itself, not only in the context of marriage.
    Some Catholic scholars or writers who agree that the contraception outside marriage is wrong, including in the light of the Church's teaching, are:
    In short, the use of contraception in non-marital acts is an aggravation of the principle sin which is non-marital sexual acts.

    May I suggest that the Catholic Herald replaces Mr de la Bedoyere with someone who actually understands, upholds and promotes Catholic teaching on pro-life/pro-family issues? His armchair moralising undermines the protection of both born and unborn children.

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    Thursday, 18 March 2010

    Petition against anti-life sex ed closes 25 March, please sign and promote today

    I'm advised that the excellent petition, "Against Government-led Sex Education in Catholic Schools", will close for signatures on 25 March, the feast of the Annunciation (pictured). If you are a resident of England and Wales, please sign it (if you haven't done so already) and urge other residents of England and Wales to sign it. It's addressed to the Catholic bishops of England and Wales and says:
    We, the undersigned, call upon the Bishops of England and Wales and the Catholic Education Service to fulfil their duty as guardians of our Catholic Faith and unequivocally reject recent Government measures forcing Catholic schools to teach what is explicitly condemned by the Church, viz: presenting active homosexuality as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, and providing information on the nature - and provision - of contraception and abortion services. Compliance on the part of the Bishops and the CES in such measures would effectively render our schools no longer Catholic in any meaningful sense, and would place the faith and moral life of our children in jeopardy. As Catholic parents, teachers and pastors, we earnestly beg of you, our Shepherds in Christ, that you do not allow this to happen.
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    Tuesday, 16 March 2010

    Don't trust the government with sex ed plans

    Baroness Morgan, schools minister in the House of Lords, has answered the following question from Lord (David) Alton:
    Lord Alton: "To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Children, Schools and Families Bill will place a requirement on Catholic, Jewish, Anglican and Muslim voluntary aided schools to provide children with details of abortion clinics and abortion referral agencies."

    Baroness Morgan: "It will not. Schools will have to teach their pupils where and how to obtain health information. They will also be encouraged to teach their pupils how to access information about contraception and sexual health as part of their delivery of SRE, but whether and how they do that will be at their discretion."
    I have two reactions to Baroness Morgan's answer:
    (1) it is internally contradictory
    (2) you can't trust this anti-life/anti-family government.

    The government interprets "health information" to include information on how to use and where to access abortion and contraception. For example, it is clear from the government's' "strategy for children and young people's health" entitled "Healthy lives, brighter future" that the government believes that information about contraception is essential health information for children.

    Another example is the Department for International Development's 2004 paper on sexual and reproductive health and rights says (my emphases in bold):
    • "Sexual and reproductive health is an essential element of good health and human development"
    • "[P]eople’s sexual and reproductive health needs are rights that they are entitled to demand"
    • "Specific rights relevant to sexual and reproductive health [include][r]ight of accesss to information"
    • "Comprehensive sexual and reproductive services aim to provide: [e]ducation and information
      on all aspects of sexual and reproductive health ... safe abortion services where legal .... contraceptives, condoms..."
    So what the government appears to give with one hand, it takes away with the other. This tactic is commonly used by Communist China. Every so often, government officials make statements, disseminated in the Western media and intended for foreign consumption, which suggest that the regime is relaxing or reforming the one-child policy in some way. These statements are soon followed by other statements, not so widely reported in the Western media and intended for domestic consumption, making clear that not only is the one-child policy not being relaxed or reformed, but that it is to be more strictly enforced. The British government (which is complicit in the one-child policy) is using the same manipulative tactics with regard to its sex education plans. Baroness Morgan's replying to Lord Alton is propaganda for its external critics, viz., Catholics, pro-lifers, conservative critics of its teenage pregnancy strategy. Ed Balls' comments to the Today programme is the reality clarified for the Labour government's natural supporters viz., secular humanists, who had been confused by the goverment's smokescreen concession (sic) to the Catholic Education Service (CES).

    Bishop Malcolm McMahon, the CES's chairman, has replied to a critic of the CES, saying:
    "The Catholic Education Service which I chair has been working very hard to secure the rights of parents and school governors as the Children, Schools and Families Bill passes through Parliament. There is no question of the CES colluding with the Government."
    Really? As the bill has been passing through parliament, Oona Stannard, chief executive and director of the CES, has been been both helping draft and welcoming (as "a positive step forward") the government's draft sex education guidance, which is a veritable cornucopia of anti-life/anti-family ideas and practices.

    The lesson from history applicable in this case were learnt by the Papacy last century. The Nazi regime began to violate the terms of the concordat between Germany and the Holy See as soon as it had been signed. This moved Pope Pius XI to write:
    "[I]it will be every one's duty to sever his responsibility from the opposite camp, and free his conscience from guilty cooperation with such corruption. The more the enemies attempt to disguise their designs, the more a distrustful vigilance will be needed, in the light of bitter experience."
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