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St. Mary Magdalen's
Catholic Church
Willesden Green
London NW10
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Saturday, February 27, 2010
(This week’s front page headline in The Catholic Herald)

1. On 23rd February last Ed Balls, the Minister for Children Schools and Families, said that from September 2011 Catholic schools will by law need to teach pupils “how to access contraception, [and] how to use contraception. [...] they must explain how to access an abortion". Also, incredibly, Mr Balls implied that the Catholic Church was supporting such measures.

2. Actually it is impossible for Catholic schools to do this without contradicting their very nature as Catholic. This is because it would be “formal” cooperation with a very wrong act, e.g. ending the life of an unborn baby. It’s wrong to give boxing gloves to bullies or to inform an intent robber about quick lock-picking, in the (forlorn) hope that they’d do less damage. This is because you become an accomplice. It is a principle basic to the Catholic moral tradition and, therefore, enshrined in western legal traditions under "aiding, abetting and encouraging crime". It flows from Christ's revelation and right reason.

So how did it come to this? Well, at the very least there seem to be two opposed interpretations of the understanding reached between the government and the Catholic Church concerning relevant aspects of the government's Bill. In Church circles the understanding might possibly be interpreted as ruling out co-operation with abortion. Interpeted legally - which is what matters in this situation - it clearly does not.

3. What is this 'understanding'? On the same day as Balls' comments the Government passed an amendment permitting faith schools to teach Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) “in a way that reflects the school’s religious character”. The Church, through our Catholic Education Service (CES - see their website), seems to have agreed with the government that this means that “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.”

4. The government clearly believes that the emphasises of 1. and 3. above are compatible, and that their Bill assumes this. Whilst co-operating in an abortion is not compatible with Catholic moral teaching (or right reason), tragically it seems that such co-operation is compatible with a legal interpretation of the terms of 3. That is, legally speaking, enabling an abortion doesn't necessarily fail to “reflect ... the school's religious character", or to be ”rooted in" Church teaching of "profound respect for" human life. So enabling access to abortion will be legally mandated whilst at the same time teaching it's wrong will be legally permitted.

Balls, and presumably Government legal experts, seem to think that a Catholic school teaching that ‘abortion is wrong’ is enough to ensure that its SRE is "rooted in the Catholic Church's teaching", irrespective of what other enabling or encouraging is done in the opposite direction. Maybe legally, certainly not theologically.

The government may have been misinformed. Many people on both sides of this debate have recognized the illogicality of this situation. For even today most people in the traditionally Christian West accept that it’s wrong to cooperate with wrong. It is crazy and corrupting to cooperate with what you have just taught is wrong.

5. Balls well clarifies his government’s interpretation of how this law should play out with the example of St Thomas More Catholic school in Bedford, who have found the way to satisfy both 3. and 1. (but not to satisfy our faith, or right reason). That is, in the schools’ own words, also on 23rd, it is “placing [SRE] in the context of the Catholic faith [...] resting on the profound respect found in the Catholic faith for the sanctity of all human life”. And yet, at the same time, according to Balls’ unchallenged claims, "The school nurse provides students with clear accurate information about the full range of contraception and STIs and details of local services. [...] Pregnancy options, including abortion, are also discussed in a non-judgemental way.”

This is clearly what the government want and what the law will require, from all our secondary schools. From Sept 2011 local Catholic schools will be required to have classes, for 11-14 yr olds, saying, in effect: “what we are about to do is immoral according to our Church but we have to, so here goes: here’s how you/girlfriend can confidentially get an abortion in Brent ...”.

posted by Sinead Reekie at 10:44 am

Tuesday, February 23, 2010
This Tuesday the Government’s “Children, Schools and Families Bill” reaches the advance “report” stage. The Bill would make sex and relationships education (within Personal, Social, Health and Economic education) a statutory part of the national curriculum. The bill currently states that children must “learn the nature of Civil Partnership” - the legal definition of which includes a sexual relationship – “and the importance of strong and stable relationships”. It intends to remove from the current statute book a rejection of ‘teaching and materials which are inapprop-riate, having regard to the age and the religious and cultural background of the pupils concerned’.
The specific implications of all this are to be worked out by later government “guidance”, for Sept 2011 implementation. The government has assured us that faith schools will still be able to present their moral teachings. However in their draft guidance - which is now being consulted upon until 19th April, cf. - there are elements at Key Stage 2 which are in serious tension with Catholic teaching and at Key Stage 3 which directly contradict it.
At Key Stage 2 (ages 7-11) children are to be introduced to sexual intercourse, contraception and homosexuality – the latter in the context of the wrongness of bullying. For the school to deal with such subjects at Primary age, unless in some form of urgently needed rectification, is against formal Church guidance. If it happens the Catholic school would obviously have, at the very least, to contextualize such teaching by giving its own teaching, e.g. about sex being only for marriage, and its teaching on the reality of “disordered desire” from Original Sin.
At Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14), pupils will be taught about abortion, told where they can obtain (without parental consent) contraception and the morning-after pill – which latter causes an early abortion. Again the school might contextualize this by Church teaching. However the process of proactively providing this information would be to enable, and thus technically to become party to, teenage promiscuous behaviour.
For instance to insist that all pupils be told where they can confidentially get boxing gloves for free to reduce the adverse effect of any bullying they might engage in, even if it is contextual-lized by the teaching that bullying is morally wrong, would be to cooperate with the bullying. This indeed is the actual dynamic of the government’s past sex education approach which has led to relentlessly increasing STDs, pregnancies and abortion amongst teenagers in this country.
It is not too late to send a first class letter, email or phone call to our M.P. Sarah Teather, especially, to take part in the above-mentioned consultation. There are numerous other very worrying aspects to this legislation. Cf. the Family Education Trust: Jubilee House, 19-21 High Street, Whitton, Twickenham TW2 7LB Tel: 8894 2525 ,

posted by Sinead Reekie at 10:24 am

Saturday, February 13, 2010

[…] Even amid the pressures of a secular age, there are many signs of living faith and devotion among the Catholics of England and Wales. I am thinking, for example, of the enthusiasm generated by the visit of the relics of Saint Therese, the interest aroused by the prospect of Cardinal Newman's beatification, and the eagerness of young people to take part in pilgrimages and World Youth Days. On the occasion of my forthcoming Apos-tolic Visit to Great Britain, I shall be able to witness that faith for myself and, as Successor of Peter, to strengthen and confirm it. During the months of preparation that lie ahead, be sure to encourage the Catholics of England and Wales in their devotion, and assure them that the Pope constantly remembers them in his prayers and holds them in his heart.

[…] I urge you as Pastors to ensure that the Church's moral teaching be always presented in its entirety and convincingly defended. Fidelity to the Gospel in no way restricts the freedom of others, on the contrary, it serves their freedom by offering them the truth. Continue to insist upon your right to participate in national debate through respectful dialogue with other elements in society. In doing so, you are not only maintaining long-standing British traditions of freedom of expression and honest exchange of opinion, but you are actually giving voice to the convictions of many people who lack the means to express them […]

If the full saving message of Christ is to be presented effectively and convincingly to the world, the Catholic community in your country needs to speak with a united voice. […] Make it your concern, then, to draw on the considerable gifts of the lay faithful in England and Wales and see that they are equipped to hand on the faith to new generations comprehensively, accurately, and with a keen awareness that in so doing they are playing their part in the Church's mission. In a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church's Magisterium that sets us free.

posted by Sinead Reekie at 11:04 am

Monday, February 08, 2010
POPE LIKE JESUS IN LAST SUN’S GOSPEL: “The People suddenly became enraged”
Last Monday Pope Benedict said that the measures enshrined in the government’s Equality legislation partly go against the “natural law”. For saying this he has received much criticism and ‘gay rights’ campaigners along with ‘humanists’ have said that they intend to mount pro-tests when Pope Benedict comes to England later this year. The Chief Rabbi & others have supported him, and the government has pulled back, probably with an eye to the Papal visit.

The position of the government and of such campaigners and many other cultural icons in our society is that the rights of active homosexuals to be unimpeded in having their relationship treated as normal trump the rights of Christians not to so cooperate. Hence Catholic adoption agencies have been closed down, individuals such as Gary McFarlane (who refused to give relationship counselling to same-sex couples) and Lillian Ladele (who refused to register civil partnerships) both recently lost their jobs and their appeals, Catholic schools are being forced to make children aware that, without their parents consent, they can access medical contraception and abortion services, and now, in the latest Equality legislation, religious organizations were to be forced to be open to employing people who are publicly living lives that contradict our vision of love e.g. actively ‘gay’ ‘partners’. (Though on this latter point the government backed down on forcing us to employ such people as leaders, and since the Pope’s remarks, to employ such people in any capacity.)

The Pope has, in recent years, quite often pointed out the perversity of this drift concerning human rights: - it is cutting off the branch upon which it is sitting. The very concept of “rights” flows precisely from the Christian vision concerning the dignity of the human person, which was at the roots of western civilization. However because this very civilization, at least in England, is removing its Christian foundation, it is removing the coherence of its vision of rights. Thus, with an extreme irony, and arrogant inconsistency, an exaggerated version of ‘gay rights’ is being used against the right to religious freedom, which latter concept is at the very heart of any coherent concept of rights at all. The Pope has repeatedly pointed out that this is a dangerous situation. Whose rights will be next to go in the headlong march to make sexual gratification an absolute right? For this is surely driving so much of the secularization

posted by Sinead Reekie at 9:00 am