Tag Archives: religious education

Summary notes of the meeting of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee 13th May 2014


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.

Assisted Suicide

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.









Catholic Union says Religious Education Council report “inadequate”

The following press release was issued by the Catholic Union today, Wednesday 18th December 2013

A report on religious education by the Religious Education Council was criticised as “unrepresentative” and “inadequate” at a meeting of religious organisations and parliamentarians at the Palace of Westminster today.

The meeting consisted of those representing the Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Catholic, Anglican, Evangelical and Free Church faiths.

“Very few mainstream faith groups were properly consulted for this report and yet it claims to be representative and to influence the RE curriculum”, said James Bogle, Vice-Chairman of the Catholic Union of Great Britain.

“Clearly the minister, Michael Gove, was misled into thinking otherwise, since he claims that it has been endorsed widely. As our meeting today shows, that is not so and there is considerable dissent from the report’s view.”

“The 1944 Education Act and the Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education have provided an excellent framework for providing an education that families and communities can support and that promotes harmony and tolerance,” said Mr Bogle, “yet, without properly consulting the statutory bodies, this report claims to speak for mainstream faith communities whilst largely excluding them.”

The new working group will be producing an alternative report to submit to the All Party Parliamentary Group which will receive it in the New Year.

The new report is expected to say that Religious Education must be informed by the actual faith and practice of faith communities and should not be confused with a museum or “gold-fish bowl” approach that looks at religion as one might look at animals in a zoo rather looking at religion as a living faith.

“Religion is fundamental to the development of a young person’s culture and identity, their character and their ability to relate to others and wider society” said Mr Bogle.

He added “those who think that secular humanism is simply a neutral approach to religion overlook the fact that secularism is, itself, a belief system. To impose this belief-system upon faith communities is neither tolerant, nor respectful, nor just. Moreover, religious education is not merely religious studies.”

The new working group expects to produce an interim report in the New Year and then, later, a final report. The group will also be writing to the Secretary of State to express its dissatisfaction with the Religious Education Council’s report.

The Catholic Union AGM 2013 and the Catholic Union Charitable Trust

At the Annual General Meeting of the Catholic Union, held on 21st November 2013 in London, Robert Rigby was re-elected as Chairman for a further year.  At the same time, John Barrie, a long –serving member of the CU Council was elected one of the vice- chairmen, together with Jamie Bogle.  Retiring vice chairman, Dr Tony Cole, remains chairman of the Parliamentary and Public Affairs Committee.

Robert Rigby

Robert Rigby, Chairman

James Bogle, Vice Chairman

James Bogle, Vice Chairman

John Barrie, Vice Chairman

John Barrie, Vice Chairman



Tony Cole

Dr Tony Cole

Chairman Robert Rigby said “I want to pay tribute to Tony Cole for his tireless commitment to the Catholic Union and to thank him for all he has done as vice chairman.  His sterling work in helping to bring about the demise of the Liverpool Care Pathway, must surely stand as his lasting legacy and is a shining example of his integrity and desire to promote the Common Good.  I am very pleased to be able to welcome John Barrie to one of the vice chairmanships.  Along with Jamie Bogle, he brings a wealth of invaluable knowledge and experience to the position”.

Also at the AGM, the Catholic Union Charitable Trust (CUCT) was formally endorsed by the membership.  The Catholic Union will build a series of high profile events, which bring to the public arena social, moral and ethical issues of the day under the umbrella of the Catholic Union Charitable Trust (Registered Charity No 1137317) which will allow the Catholic Union to add a Gift Aid element to its fundraising activity.    Robert Rigby commented: “These seminars and open discussions will showcase Catholic social action and Catholic social teaching including education and moral responsibilities in today’s ever secular world.  As the voice of Catholic laity in this country, we are uniquely positioned to undertake this sort of activity, building on our established provenance, capabilities and support of our membership as well as developing partnerships with other interested bodies.  2014 is going to be a year of real growth and development for us”.

This will also be supported by an active Public Relations campaign with special emphasis developing and implementing a social media strategy which positions the Catholic Union at the heart of the debates around social and moral issues of the day.

The Chairman’s speech can be downloaded here:  Catholic Union AGM Speech Nov 13

CU Vice Chairman becomes President of The International Federation of Una Voce

Jamie BogleWe offer our hearty congratulations to Catholic Union Vice Chairman, Jamie Bogle, on his election as President of Una Voce.  The International Federation of Una Voce works to uphold the living Tradition of the Church especially through the the Traditional Liturgy of the Roman Rite.  Further details can be found here

Catholic Union Chairman Robert Rigby commented “I offer my heartiest congratulations to Jamie on this important appointment.  I know he will bring to Una Voce, the same spirit and enthusiasm, he shows in his work with the Catholic Union and I hope that in due course the two organisations might work on related topics, which seek the furtherance of the Common Good in today’s society.”

Catholic Young Writer of the Year Award 2013

Cecile Janssen, Catholic Young Writer of the Year 2013, with Anthony Tyler of Fisher Press, former Master of the Guild of Catholic Writers

Cecile Janssen, Catholic Young Writer of the Year 2013, with Anthony Tyler of Fisher Press, former Master of the Guild of Catholic Writers

For a number of years, the Catholic Union, in association with the The Keys, the London branch of   the Catholic Writers’ Guild, has sponsored this award which is open to all Catholic Secondary Schools across the country. Participants are invited to submit pieces of work each spring, and the pieces are judged by a panel over the summer.

This year’s first prize has been awarded to Cecile Janssen, of St Mary’s School Ascot.  She received her prize, a shield to be kept for one year as well as a cash prize (£50), and books donated  by the Catholic Writers’ Guild.  These were presented  at a meeting of the Guild at St Mary Moorfields, the only Catholic Church within the precincts of  the City of London, whose Parish Priest, Canon Peter Newby is Chaplain to the Guild.  The presentation included  dinner  and a talk by  Catholic Journalist and writer Christopher Howse, a columnist on the Daily Telegraph.

The theme of this year’s Award was God’s mercy and forgiveness, and students had to discuss the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, writing a letter to an imaginary friend who had challenged them on the subject.,

Pupils at a number of other schools gained runner-up prizes, including copies of YOUCAT, the new Youth Catechism, donated by the international charity AID TO THE Church in Need.

Commenting on the award, Catholic Union Chairman Robert Rigby said “I am very pleased by our continuing association with the Catholic Writers’ Guild, which does important work in allowing Catholic writers in this country a forum for the exchange of ideas and mutual support.  Joanna Bogle, who is our main link with The Keys, has, as always, done sterling work in promoting this Award, which is a great way to develop budding young Catholic writers.  It is an important part of our outreach and educational work in promoting the Common Good amongst a younger generation.  All the prize winners deserve hearty congratulation and we especially congratulate Cecile on her excellent performance”.

The Catholic Young Writers’ Award falls under the remit of the Catholic Union Education Committee, whose recently appointed Chairman Stuart Sexton, was a one-time special adviser to Sir Keith Joseph, and brings to the role his long experience in education, both at local and national level.

Pictures from the event will be posted shortly.

“The Narrow Gate” – A Reflection by the Archbishop of Westminster

Following the passing of legislation regarding same sex marriage, the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev’d Vincent Nichols, has published a reflection on marriage and its true meaning, as well as the Church’s view on civil partnerships and the consequences of same sex marriage.


The full text is available here

Summary of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee Meeting 16th July 2013

Chairman’s Announcements

An outline report was given of a meeting held in late June between the Catholic Union, represented by Robert Rigby and John Barrie and the Bishops’ Conference, represented by Mgr Marcus Stock and Charles Wookey. During the course of the meeting, it was suggested that the Catholic Union should consult other Catholic bodies to ascertain possible areas of alignment and synergy.  Introductions to a number of prominent Catholics in public life were offered, as the Catholic Union could play a role in bringing Catholics together.  Subsequent to the meeting a memorandum was received suggesting that the Catholic Union is out of step in today’s world. A measured response has been sent to the Bishops’ Conference.

The Chairman considered that the PPAC membership is a good example of linking with other organisations, given the scope of memberships and affiliations currently enjoyed by the PPAC members.

The Married Couples’ Tax Allowance has been accepted by the Government and will appear in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement

Same Sex Marriage

A letter had been received from Oliver Letwin MP regarding same sex marriage and safeguards for teachers who teach traditional marriage.  The letter made clear that Mr Letwin regards same sex marriage as nothing more than a ceremony and so has no idea of the wider ramifications and time-honoured role of true marriage in society.  The Prime Minister is understood to regard same sex marriage as merely a “relabeling” of the wedding ceremony.  With regard to the safeguards for teachers, this appeared to be seen as straightforward and of little issue.

The House Lords did not feel that they should frustrate the will of the elected chamber (from where many of their number have come).  10 Amendments were moved – these were moderate and well-phrased – all were defeated.  The legislation has been rushed through and is badly drafted.  The law will be tested in the Courts.  There were a total of 55 Lords Amendments.  The campaign against same sex marriage will have to be carried on from a Catholic perspective.  The position for teachers and others will be extremely difficult, since they will be tied by both SSM legislation and the Equality Act.  It was pointed out that although the Bill has been passed, pressure against the law should be maintained by members of the Union and by the public, so that David Cameron is not allowed to forget the opposition this measure has generated. This pressure should be maintained until the 2015 General Election at least.

Neuberger Review – The Liverpool Care Pathway

The final report is extremely welcome.  The Liverpool Care Pathway is to be terminated with immediate effect and replaced with individual care plans in consultation with patients and relatives.  The CMA has put together a list of 6 key questions that families and patients can ask, which include, how near to death is the patient, what is the effect of the drugs likely to be and will they suffer thirst.  The Falconer Bill on Assisted Dying is due in the autumn.  There has been a softening of language and a gradual change in attitude.

Embryology – Question by Lord Alton in the Lords

The Government is set to introduce regulation by 2014 so that Medical Research Council guidelines become standard practice.  It was noted that germ line medical procedure is extremely risky. The Committee was advised that Josephine Quintavalle is taking the lead on countering this with a meeting in October to gather one million signatures in order to procure a debate on the matter in the European Parliament.

School Governors and Local Councillors

The position of local councillors and school governors as Catholics working at a local level “on the front line”, trying to ensure compatibility between their beliefs and what is asked of them.  The case of the Plymouth Brethren, a narrow, yet extremely law abiding Protestant sect, who do not wish to engage with the secular agenda and thereby risk losing their charitable status, was given as a case in point.  The secular agenda is increasingly incompatible with Christian belief and mores

Persecuted Christians

The general feeling is that this is a very low priority for the FCO.  President Assad protects the Christians as part of the pluralist society in Syria.  Arming the rebels would be unhelpful in this regard.  The exemplary work of Baroness Cox in working against Christian persecution globally was cited.

The Catholic Union Summer Gathering July 2013

Gaspar da Silva writes:

Members of the CU gathered in Ealing over the weekend on the anniversary of the death of their patron St Thomas More (6th July), for their annual Summer Party. In his honour a Votive Mass was celebrated by the retired Bishop Emeritus, the  Right Rev’d Bishop Howard Tripp of the Archdiocese of Southwark. In his homily he exhorted the Catholic Union members to emulate their patron in his love of God who shunned human respect and gave his life for his faith.  As Catholics in public life we are not to be cowed by the evil around us, Christ has purchased us with his blood. So we need to stand up for the common good at all times. He said though we may be persecuted but as St Matthew reminds us “Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.   Happy are you when people abuse and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great on heaven”. (Matt V 11) The Bishop exhorted us never to relinquish public life and cited Blessed John Paul II Cristifideles Laici to underscore and emphasise the need for the catholic laity to participate more in public life for the promotion of the common good in all walks of life. “In order to achieve their task directed to the Christian animation of the temporal order, in the sense of serving persons and society, the lay faithful are never to relinquish their participation in public life, that is, in the many different economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural areas, which are intended to promote organically and institutionally the common good.”

As part of the programme, two discussion sessions were held – one in the morning after Mass and the other in the afternoon after the lunch break. In his remarks as the lead discussant in the morning session, Lord Brennan lamented that same sex marriage regrettably is expected to become law sometime this year in spite of the heavy opposition against it and the lack of mandate for it. He cited three main areas of concern in which protection is needed for those who support traditional marriage viz: on education, public servants and Registrars with conscientious objection and protection of churches against litigation.

The interval for pre-lunch drinks was the highlight of the day. Members mixed and chatted  freely basking in the glorious sunshine in  the   beautiful gardens of the school with a stunning view stretching for miles. Next was a sumptuous lunch. Feedback of most attendees was “….excellent venue; …..good food  and drinks and enjoyable company”

The afternoon session was dominated by issues involving the Parliamentary and Public Affairs Committee. (Viz:  Same sex marriage, the Liverpool Care Pathway) the Membership and Communication Committee (membership drive initiatives) as well as the Outreach Committee (Fund Raising).  However, the highlight of this session was a period for soul searching and self assessment of the Union by members. A lot of good and indeed, inspiring ideas were mooted and noted for possible action. A new development plan will be completed incorporating a revised strategy for expansion, source of finance and overall implementation.

Conference on Educating Children in Sexuality

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.