The Catholic Union has responded to the Call for Evidence from the Department of Education on Relationships and Sex Education. To read the response please click on the link below.
On 8th June, 2015, Louise Kirk gave a talk at Notre Dame University, London SW1, on how the Catholic Church could take the lead in sex education away from an existing establishment whose evident failures make it vulnerable to attack. Her talk was followed by a lively discussion over a glass of wine. Read her address here.
Louise Kirk is UK Co-ordinator for the international PSHE programme Alive to the World and author of Sexuality Explained: a Guide for Parents and Children. She serves on Shrewsbury Diocese’s Commission for Marriage and Family Life. To read more about her work, see: www.alivetotheworld.co.uk.
The Chairman had prepared a short summary of points from the last meeting for Archbishop Peter Smith, copied to his own Archbishop Bernard Longley, and also to the Cardinal via his sectary. There had been no acknowledgement, but he hoped to meet with Archbishop Longley and with the Cardinal’s secretary and find out if this was of any interest.
Catholic Medical Alliance Submission on Mitochondrial Donation
Both the PPAC and the CMA had made a submission to the consultation. This was basically about how it should be done, not whether it should be done. There were two possible methods of ‘mitochondrial engineering’:
- Pronuclear transfer: a fertilised embryo is taken from an egg with faulty mitochondria and inserted into an egg with healthy mitochondria from which the fertilised embryo has been removed and discarded.
- Maternal spindle transfer: The nucleus is removed from an egg with faulty mitochondria and inserted into an egg with healthy mitochondria from which the nucleus has been removed. This egg is then fertilised.
- The first method kills an embryo while the second does not. However both involve alteration of the germ line and we did not know if it was safe. The Government’s committee said there was no evidence it was unsafe. The principal non-ethical objection was safety. The legislation is likely to be whipped and will open a Pandora’s Box on the subject.
There had been a much recent debate on this and a number of Catholic MPs had spoken. There was a drive for legal action against 67 doctors using pre-signed forms. The DPP had pushed this across to the GMC which had told them it was illegal and they must not do it again. The GMC thought the practice was so common they couldn’t do anything except in the case of gendercide. This was in hand with the all-party life group led by Jim Dobbin MP, which is working with the Metropolitan Police and the DPP. Fiona Bruce MP was asking the attorney general what action he had taken. The Chairman had received letters from Baroness Knight who wishes to call a meeting in the Lords about the false nature of the form all pre-signed for category “C”, risk to themental health of the mother. There is probably no risk, but it is unclear whether this has been looked into.
The document “Living and Dying Well” said the law deters but is flexible. Prosecutions are almost nil. Concern is not just for the terminally ill but for the suffering. The Nicklinson case would not be covered by the bill which is therefore not honest. The Court of Appeal has passed it to the Supreme Court but it won’t change the law; that is for Parliament to do. The DPP’s guidance falls into two classes. Class 1: where the assistor is a family member and the deceased is mentally capable. Class 2: Doctors and ‘strangers’, where the guidance is not sufficiently clear. This is now in the Supreme Court. The Royal Society of GPs stated this bill would spoil the relationship with patients and palliative care would lose funding; a neutral stance would be seen as acceptance. Sir Edward Leigh MP said that altough he always voted against, pressure was relentlessly growing and the state was increasingly concerned with the cost of rising numbers of elderly dementia patients.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference’s brief document “Sense and nonsense on assisted dying” (circulated) was a valuable contribution and would be distributed to the entire CU membership.
Same sex marriage Northern Ireland
This was defeated again 53 to 48. The subject of the consultation draft on “Applying Equality Law in practice for Catholics” was raised. Reactions and comments were to be submitted by the end of May.
“Safe at School” campaign
The latest bulletin for (not just Catholic) parents describes what is being taught in schools. The materials used in Catholic schools are usually less damaging than those in state schools,
but can still cause problems. Sex education must remain non-compulsory. There is a move to update the 2000 Guidelines; the consultation was for teachers and students but parents had been omitted and there was nothing about love and marriage. The Government is resisting this move. A good Catholic resource, “This is my Body” is available.
A Christian Country?
The prime minister claimed over the Easter that this country remains essentially Christian, but the Cardinal had countered by saying that with SSM, the country had lost the last vestige of the Judeo-Christian ethos. The chief Rabbi however had said “of course we are a Christian country”. The prevailing ethos seemed to be “I have the right to have what I want and to ignore your opinion”. Most people now think religion is not in the public interest.
Any Other Business
There was a debate on Catholic “Free” schools: would the Government give way on capping Catholic admissions at 50% as demanded by the Liberal Democrats? There were a large number of Catholic Academies – now more in thrall than ever to the DofE. Parents, school and parish working together gives stability.
The Education Parliamentary Select Committee has launched an inquiry into personal, social and health education (PSHE) in schools. PSHE covers a number of topics such as drug education, healthy eating and so on. Sex and relationship education (SRE) is also covered in this topic.
We are very concerned that this inquiry will be used to make sex education a compulsory schools subject. This would mean that children as young as five years old would have to learn about sexual matters.
Parents would be unable to protect their children from inappropriate teaching.
It is absolutely vital that there is an overwhelming response from parents, grandparents, teachers, clergy and all concerned citizens saying “no” to compulsory sex education. Compulsory sex education will sever parents from the moral upbringing of their children. And the innocence of children will be wiped out by ever more sexual content in the classroom.
Every school will be affected by this. Every child deserves to be protected.
Please read the briefing on the SPUC website to help you respond to this inquiry. Please circulate the briefing as widely as possible asking others to respond to the inquiry. The deadline for this inquiry is 6 June 2014.
In addition, the Parliamentary & Public Affairs committee wishes the Assisted Dying document prepared by the Bishops’ Conference to be circulated to members.
Antonia Tully/John Barrie
Members of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Union
David O’Mahony, a CU Council Member, was elected a member of the Committee.
The chairman had written to Jane Spencer at the Department of Health about the dangers of mitochondrial donations and the lack of an ethical framework. He asked for details of the advice received by the government. He received a reply from a senior official, saying there was an expert committee that had met three times and which advised that was no great danger in mitochondrial donation. There was no reply on the ethical basis. There was however a reference to a web site Catherine Sampson (sic). This is in fact a high powered scientific committee which has met twice and is due to meet again. Parliament in 2008 effectively cleared the way for mitochondrial donation. It was concluded it was safe for [laboratory animals] and should be tested on primates. If used on humans it should be followed up for a long time; this is not in fact a green light. There has been a public consultation, now finished. It looks as if the government are determined to introduce mitochondrial donation. In 2008 the government had removed the right for those born via IVF et al to know the identity of their biological parents. This would mean the subjects of mitochondrial donation could not be informed of this. There had been no answer on the subject of ethics. Britain has no medical ethics committee. “Consequential ethics” now seems popular, that is, the end justifies the means. Any action on this taken by the Bishops’ Conference is to be advised to the Committee in due course.
MSP Vote on SSM 4th February 2014
This vote in the Scottish parliament to redefine marriage was carried by 105 votes to 18 with supporters of traditional marriage subject to verbal abuse. Amendments to protect teachers, adopters, fosterers etc. were all defeated. Scotland is becoming very nearly a totalitarian society. Anyone who disagrees with same sex marriage will be called intolerant, discriminatory and hateful and may lose their position in public bodies. Further, the Children and Young Person’s bill introduces a “Named Person” imposed by the state on every child without consent and without opt-out whose function, according to the Bill “cannot be carried out by a parent of the child or young person”. People are regarding developments in Scotland as a social revolution. People now live in fear of being overheard in a public place, being reported to the police and arrested, in some cases held overnight. It was agreed the CU should revive an active committee to support John Deighan in presenting parliamentary developments to the Catholic public. The guidelines for sex education were being revised; this should be resisted because current guidelines give parents a very strong position to demand to know what was being taught. The Labour party had tried to introduce sex education into the primary curriculum but had been defeated.
The Lunacek road map for LBGT rights has been overwhelmnigly accepted by the European Parliament. It calls for the criminalisation of homophobia throughout Europe, for same sex marriage in every country, for teaching of homosexual practice to all children from which parents may not dissent and people who speak out against are to be silenced.
Plight of Syrian Refugees
The government has now agreed to take in a limited number of Syrian refugees. A Syrian Catholic Bishop warned against the possibility of a mass exodus of educated Syrians, who would be needed during the process of reconstruction and development in the hopefully near future.
The Falconer Bill is not being put before the House of Lords, although Lord Falconer denied claims in a Times article (20th January) that his Bill was about euthanasia, rather it was about allowing those terminally ill patients wishing to die access to drugs to enable them to do so. Belgium and Dutch law covers the non-terminally ill. A Bill on Assisted Dying is likely to be presented in the next session of Parliament, with input from Living and Dying Well, which will hopefully be better drafted than the Belgian and Dutch versions.
Sir Edward Leigh MP – Further Questions on Abortion
The government reported there had been an error in their previous reply. Sir Edward therefore asked the following questions:
i. When the problem on the extraction of data had first started and what the government intended to do about it.
ii. Is there any data on how many women seeking abortion had actually met the authorising medical practitioner;
iii. How many of these practitioners have training in mental health issues.
A ComRes poll had found that 95% of the public felt it was wrong for a woman to have an abortion without seeing doctor.
Westminster Hall Speech on Marriage – Sir Edward Leigh MP
This speech was well received by the press. The speech was part of a Westminster Hall debate about strengthening relationships among couples.
Any Other Business
Injunctions to prevent Nuisance and Annoyance replacing ASBOs had been defeated by the Lords and replaced by Injunctions against causing Harassment, Alarm or Distress.
A UN committee on the Rights of the Child severely criticised the Holy See for concealing child abuse by priests. In fact responsibility here lies with diocesan bishops, not the Holy See, who must act in accordance with the civil law of the local jurisdiction which subsists to Canon Law.
A topic which has particularly exercised those who resist the Government’s same-sex marriage proposals has been the impact upon schools. On 1 March, the Catholic Union in conjunction with the Diocese of Shrewsbury co-sponsored a conference which addressed the whole subject of educating children in sexuality, its dangers and the potential for taking a completely new Catholic approach. “Educating Children in Sexuality” was held at Aquinas College, Stockport, and was enthusiastically received by a large audience of teachers, priests and parents. Chaired by Canon Anthony McBride, Dean of Salford Cathedral, the keynote speaker, Fr Jaroslaw Szymczak, came from the Institute of the Holy Family in Poland. He showed with examples drawn from his twenty-five years of pastoral practice with families that the Church’s teaching on sexuality not only makes sense in theory but in practice, too. He referred to sexuality as a beautiful but fragile gift, one that is endangered as soon as it is treated as a toy.
Louise Kirk, co-ordinator of the Alive to the World PSHE programme, followed on with a stark account of how current sex education is already failing children. She pointed out that much school sex education is not only immoral in its content, but also factually inaccurate. In treating a private subject publicly, children are also being robbed of natural modesty. Her answer is to go back to the Church’s clear guidance and explore how parents can instead be helped to teach their own children. It was to help them in this vital task that she wrote her book Sexuality Explained: a guide for parents and children, which was launched at the conference (Gracewing; £12.99). This 150 page book describes in ten incremental chapters the delicacy of our bodies’ makeup, and how men and women complement each other spiritually, emotionally and physically. The book is not religious but instead uses biology to inspire wonder and respect. The chapters are written in story form so as to be accessible to anyone. It is intended that the book should be recommended by schools to their parents, and so revitalise whole communities with a true understanding of sexuality.
The third speaker, Robert O’Brien, Head of RE at Westminster Cathedral Choir School, began his talk by describing how schools can contribute to building the rounded, strong characters on which happy schools and families depend. He described how the Alive to the World PSHE programme, which the Choir School has been using for some years, had helped to turn bring back its full Catholic ethos after a difficult period when the school had grown too fast. He said that it was not only the children who had benefitted from it, but also the teachers, and made particular mention of how the Ofsted inspectors had singled the programme out for special praise. (The full conference papers can be found on the Shrewsbury Diocese website here. For further details of Sexuality Explained and Alive to the World, please go to www.alivetotheworld.co.uk.