Thursday, February 28, 2008

'Catholic' Sex Ed in Archdiocese of Birmingham

Action: parents in the Archdiocese of Birmingham should find out about this and take action. Birmingham is especially significant since the Archbishop, Vincent Nichols, is the Chairman of the Catholic Education Service. The programme the Archdiocese uses is called 'All That I Am', and a very rough summary can be seen on the web here. Even from this, it is apparent that the programme contravenes several key principles of Catholic education in the area of sexuality.

What the Church teaches (see end of post) is that parents are the primary educators of the child in all matters, but in the matter of sexuality the parent-child relationship is so vital to personal formation that it is wrong to take this function away from parents unless they are for some reason incapable of performing it. If this is the case, then the child needs to find an individual (teacher or other) who the child can trust. This individual must know the child well enough, and be guided by the child's questions, to know what information it is appropriate to supply at what time. The whole process must be one-to-one, built on understanding, trust, and confidentiality.

'All That I Am' envisages a sex-ed teacher crashing into the lives of an entire class with a heap of information the Government has decided children should know several years before the children want to know it: this is gravely wrong.

John Flemming, an Australian commentator who seems broadly sympathetic to the notion of class-room sex education nevertheless points out several other flaws in this programme.

- Natural Family Planning is presented as a form of contraception.
- Biblical teaching on homosexuality is rubbished and a quotation on homosexuality from the Catechism is bowlderised to omit the connection between the Church's teaching and the Bible, and the sentence 'They [homosexual relationships] do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.'
Flemming comments: The real concern of the programme appears to be the protection of homosexuals from unjust discrimination and persecution. That is very laudable and fully in accord with the teaching of the Church in the Catechism in article 2358, cited on page 72 of the book. But this virtue cannot vitiate the confused, unconvincing and even distorted account of Church teaching on homosexuality which occurs in this programme.
- Contraception, NFP and the Church's teaching are presented 'to be able to make informed choices', as if they were simply pieces of information. Rather, the teaching of the Church gives us the moral principle by which we can make correct choices.
- Teachers do not have to be Catholic: they do not have to have any values at all, but to be 'affirmative, encouraging, to be acknowledging and to be empathetic', and 'offer time to listen and time to challenge'. Catholic children cannot be formed as Catholics by teachers who reject the Church's teaching.

See Flemming's whole report here; hat-tip to Catholic Mom of 10.

Pontifical Council for the Family: The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines For Education Within The Family December 8, 1995

See here for the full text.

23. Other educators can assist in this task, but they can only take the place of parents for serious reasons of physical or moral incapacity. On this point the Magisterium of the Church has expressed itself clearly, in relation to the whole educative process of children: "The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to find an adequate substitute. It is therefore the duty of parents to create a family atmosphere inspired by love and devotion to God and their fellow-men which will promote an integrated, personal and social education of their children. The family is therefore the principal school of the social virtues which are necessary to every society".

65. 1. Each child is a unique and unrepeatable person and must receive individualized formation. Since parents know, understand and love each of their children in their uniqueness, they are in the best position to decide what the appropriate time is for providing a variety of information, according to their children's physical and spiritual growth. No one can take this capacity for discernment away from conscientious parents.

66. Each child's process of maturation as a person is different. Therefore, the most intimate aspects, whether biological or emotional, should be communicated in a personalized dialogue. In their dialogue with each child, with love and trust, parents communicate something about their own self-giving which makes them capable of giving witness to aspects of the emotional dimension of sexuality that could not be transmitted in other ways. 78. It can be said that a child is in the stage described in John Paul II's words as "the years of innocence" from about five years of age until puberty — the beginning of which can be set at the first signs of changes in the boy or girl's body (the visible effect of an increased production of sexual hormones). This period of tranquility and serenity must never be disturbed by unnecessary information about sex.

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Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen