Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Petition Against Ed Balls' Sex Ed

The petition: Against Government-Led Sex Education in Catholic Schools has a thousand signatures, a large number I recognise as priests and prominent lay people.  In my post about it there are over 100 comments, they are still coming in, there would be more but some were direct criticisms of individual bishops or schools, so I dreleted them. I think this has become a useful forum that complements the petition, and many have gone from this blog directly to the petition itself, maybe to sign, maybe to look at who else has signed.

I am glad that my friend Fr John Boyle was willing to take my decision not to sign to task and to state why he felt under an obligation to do so, important, here at least, to have both sides of the arguement.  I disagree with him only on the wording of the wording of this petition, not on manifesting our concerns to the bishops. I am in total sympathy with the sentiments of the petition, but not with the words used. I have been avidly watching the numbers rise, because at least it demonstrates the sense of outrage of many, a thousand is a significant number of signatures.

Bishops are  the shepherds of the flock of Christ not hirelings. It is very sad that amongst those commenting here there are so many expressions of frustration, not only at the repeated failure of bishops to respond to letters expressing serious concerns but also the concerns themselves, the fact is that abortion "access" and contraception are available in our schools already. "Access" is one word however collusion to procure an abortion might actually be more accurate. If bishops allow it passively they are not simply obeying the law, they are colluding in sin, and allowing others to be led into sin. Millstones spring to mind.

I urge giving our bishops time for a response, because Mr Balls' bill would turn passive collusion in procuring an abortion into active support in procuring one, which is a very grave sin iundeed. It is something no bishop, no priest, no Catholic lay-person, parent or teacher could be party to in anyway. Even signing a form for a child to be given a place in such an educational system will challenge the consciences of at many priests. Increasingly the only option for many will be home-schooling.

There are a few comments from Catholic teachers who obviously recognise this fact, the most committed of our teachers will have to consider their futures very seriously. I am sure that the Bishops are organising delaying tactics in the House of Lords, with a likely May election they only need to hold out until the Easter recess for the bill to be lost. Our bishops are teachers, governors and sanctifiers of the Church before they are negotiators with the government. Most are rightly much loved, unfortunately so far they have failed to teach on these very important moral issues. The problem is our Bishops Conference structure; having a single spokes-Archbishop on Life issues and a spokes-bishop on schools allows others to negate their responisibilities. In each diocese, every bishop is Apostle and High Priest, he can't delegate it to other bishops, either collectively or individually.

What concerns me about many of the comments on this subject is their insular concern with the Church; abortion and the other issues are not just an evil for Catholics, they evil for everyone. The usurpation by the government of parental rights is a serious affront to justice  and human rights within our society, not just the Catholic environment, the same goes for the exultation of other relationships at the expense of marriage. An appeal to reason, a rejection of an untried "morality" makes Mr Balls' bill easily redraftable, under another government, in terms that would respect conscience and be acceptable to Catholics.


Jackie Parkes MJ said...

I like this explanation & can see the points you are making..I'm thinking of asking Oonagh Stannard to come to my Catholic Women's Book Club to talk on Catholic Education. I notice she was a speaker 2007/8 for the Oxford Newman Society on Catholic Education. You don't fancy a visit one month do you Fr Ray? I'd go easy...

Crux Fidelis said...

Would it be appropriate for me, as a resident of Scotland, to sign this petition as the Bill applies to England only?

RJ said...

Agree with what you're saying here, Father, including what you say about the wording of the petition, even though I signed it.

Michael Petek said...

At this stage I'd reiterate my previous point that a Bishop - even the Pope - is subordinate to parents in what concerns the education of their child.

So in that capacity they have the same rights as any superior.

santoeusebio said...

Father Ray - you gently chide us:
What concerns me about many of the comments on this subject is their insular concern with the Church

The problem is that if we laity try and put forward the orthodox view to non-Catholics we get the retort "But your Bishops seem to have accepted it". This totally undermines our position. We therefore do have to concentrate on the Church with a view to getting our divided house in order. This is where the kind of blind loyalty suggested by Volpius and often used as an excuse for inaction by the clergy is so dangerous.

Nicolas Bellord

On the side of the angels said...

Thankyou - Thankyou - Thankyou - Thankyou - Thankyou - Thankyou!!!

David Joyce said...

What concerns me about many of the comments on this subject is their insular concern with the Church; abortion and the other issues are not just an evil for Catholics, they evil for everyone.

This struck a cord with me, Father, and it is an easy trap to fall into. Often we forget that Our Lord said that "That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" - hell will not prevail against the Church, not simply that the Church will withstand the attacks of hell.

At the same time, up until these recent acts of legislation, Catholics can - without breaking the law - pass on the faith of the Fathers in a definitive manner. We have been able to dig our own shelter away from the storm, whether in Catholic schools (those that haven't invited the storm inside) or via homeschooling. This government, though, is attacking both the faith taught in schools and the independent nature of homeschooling, thus ensuring that their insidious agenda finds its way into the heart of every child. This country, it seems, is not just unchristian, but totalitarian.

Kate said...

Another great post Fr., thank you!
Of course it is not only the consciences of priests which are challenged by what may already be happening in schools, as well as what may come, if the sex education bill becomes law.
We have just been informed of a proposal to put a confidential drop in clinic at our children' (non Catholic) school. The school nurse would staff it, and she would refer pupils to 'other services' as she felt appropriate.
Condoms, pregnancy testing, STI screening, relationship advice and so on, would all be readily available.
If we can't persuade the school to reject this proposal, it's hard to see how, in conscience, we could allow our children to continue at the school.

George said...

Good article on this 'explosive' subject by Joanna Bogle on Mercatornet. This is the link:

This anti-life, anti-family and morally bankrupt government will 'go down' like a lead balloon at the elections in May and Ed Balls Bill with it, hopefully! No Catholic can surely vote Labour?!

As the Liberals are also a 'lost cause' with all their eggs in the secular, humanist basket it really only leaves the Conservatives as a plausible alternative government. However they will have to get their moral compass to point TRUE NORTH before I put my X on the ballot paper.

So here's a challenge for Mr Cameron, you have a lot of work to do. If you do it right you may find that you do not 'please all of the people all of the time' and enjoy celebrity status, but you may just finally begin to get this country of ours back on track. What is required is an immediate return to a healthy respect for the Catholic Christian precepts that built and fuelled the development of this great Country.

A good dose of common sense policies must be injected back into all levels of society, at the same time a rejection indeed a severe 'cull' of the PC nonsense that is 'all pervasive' in our culture. This may lead to some prospects for a healthier and more stable society for our future.

Isn't this what governments are supposed to do - they are 'servants of the people' not dictators who laud it over others.

Independent said...

In the year when the Pope comes to England to canonise Newman is it not appropriate to read Newman's "On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine" and take heart? As Newman said to Ullathorne the Church would look foolish without the laity. He provides ten pages of evidence on the apostacy of the bishops during the Arian controversy and sixteen on the laity's fidelity.

A petition would seem wholly appropriate
as an affirmation of a very traditional way of doing things - a tradition dating from the 4th century no less.
However as it is a matter which rightly concerns all Christians, and Orthodox Jews and indeed Muslims, may they sign it, as the Catholic Bishops could speak for England in support of our traditional morality, acting as the spearhead of a wider movement?

Mike said...

Mr Balls' Bill does not, thanks to devolution, affect Scotland. (At least, not the parts we are all complaining about.) So it’s maybe none of my business, living in Scotland. But I wonder if a certain amount of calmness is not called for? The Bill is horrendous. The attitude of the CES seems to be incompetent. But the Bill has not yet been passed. It still has to complete all its stages in the Lords.

There is still time to do something about the Bill before it becomes an Act of Parliament. The forthcoming General Election may scupper the Bill if it has not been passed by the time Parliament is dissolved and the Tories haven’t agreed to pass it. What I am saying is that the emphasis just now should be on getting the Bill amended rather than on thinking about what to do once the Bill has been passed.

People, are understandably, looking to the Bishops to do something about the Bill but what is to prevent the laity doing something? How about using some of the methods of other pressure groups to get what you want? I think that the days of relying on cosy little deals with Government Ministers to get what Catholics want may be over. Perhaps the time has come for using other methods. Admittedly they will often cost money and the Church’s money is controlled by the clergy but does it really cost a lot of money to organise mass petitions (not ones that get a puny 6,000 signatures or so)? We have a ready-made organisation for collecting large numbers of signatures. It is called the Parish and the members have the handy habit of assembling in the one place on a Sunday and so collecting signatures should not be difficult. Or what about mass demonstrations? Some might say that Catholics don’t go in for that sort of thing. Well, just remember the Pilgrimage of Grace of 1536 and the Western (Prayer Book) Rebellion of 1549. Catholics in those days risked their lives for demonstrsating. Nobody risks their lives today. Have we the guts to do today what our forefathers did all those years ago? (Faith of our Fathers, etc.)

The homosexual lobby has been enormously successful. For a description of their methods see:

The total number of Catholics in England and Wales must be far, far greater than the number of homosexuals. It’s time to get organised and make those number tell.

Last time I looked, the on-line petition in favour of the Pope's visit had fewer than 7,000 votes. Come on, there must be far more than 7,000 Catholics in any large northern town (eg. Preston, where I was brought up.)alone. Time to make the numbers count.

Michael Petek said...

"As the Liberals are also a 'lost cause' with all their eggs in the secular, humanist basket it really only leaves the Conservatives as a plausible alternative government."

In a pig's eye! The only thing you can guarantee about the next government is that it'll be even more wicked than its predecessor.

David Cameron can't make a mora distinction between marriage and cohabitation whether of same or different sex. I expect that he'll deal with the economically unproductive by replacinf social security benefits with the option of a pill or an injection to end it all.

Don't forget, the Conservatives believe that the world was made for rich people like themselves, while the rest of us are only there to make up the numbers.

Volpius Leonius said...

Governments can only do what the governed allow them to do George.

RJ said...

I have to say I also agree with most of what Volpius says. Political action is primarily the responsibility of the laity. Comments re personal action/inaction: guilty as charged
Another thing: although, according to Church teaching, parents do have primary responsibility for the education of their children, I'm not sure that makes them the superiors of the Pope. (Primary responsibility = primary authority? discuss) Obviously not in matters of doctrinal teaching.
Moreover, the Pope and bishops not only teach the faithful, they also rightfully rule the Church (yes, of course, in a Christ-like manner). (cf Lumen Gentium again)

Paul, Bedfordshire said...

This is treating the symptom not the problem.

It is inevitable that, if you allow the state to prescribe in detail what all schools should teach, that individuals who rather like the idea of imposing their philosophies and views on the entire country's children will, sooner or later, get themselves in to a position of authority in the government to ensure that they can do so, as surely as a moth shall entangle itself in the lightshade.

The problem is that the Government presumes to tell the governors and teachers of schools what to teach, not what it tells them to teach.

Consideration of this inevitably leads to the more protracted problem that the government is the paymaster of the teachers (income) and governors (capital), not the parents, and he who pays the piper, calls the tune. And here Socialism is found wanting.

What is needed is Power-To-The-People-Not-The-State.

While I have a lot of reservations about the tories, I suspect there are some distributist tendencies in aspects of the Cameron project, in particular IDSs Social Justice proposals, I also suspect that such views are not univerally accepted in the party. It remains to be seen whether this is true. We will probably know 6 months after the election when, unfortunately, it will be too late to do anything about it if I am wrong.

Anthony Ozimic said...

Fr Ray, I understand your decision to delete criticisms by your commenters of individual schools, though SPUC would welcome those commenters sharing such information privately with us by email to

Dominic Mary said...

We might, of course, hope for a hung Parliament, when - at least in theory - legislation will only get through if it can truly command the support of a majority : and somehow I don't think that most MPs would want to pick a fight with religious element of the population in those circumstances.

George said...

VP says, 'Governments can only do what the governed allow them to do George'.

If that were true VP then we wouldn't be having these petitions, these posts on the blogosphere or this discussion etc... and the likes of Mr Balls would never have seen the light of day. And VP, I did qualify my suggestion by saying that Mr Cameron would have a lot of work on his hands to kick the Conservative party into moral shape!

Let's face it though - could they possibly do the job any worse than the current motley crew at the helm?!

Anyway VP, what is important at the moment is to find ways to scupper Sex Ed Balls Bill!! If somehow several bucket-loads of lengthy, drawn-out, yawn-inducing, Parliamentary/Lords debating sessions can be organised to drag out any final decision making 'till well past 'Last Orders Please' and after the election then surely this Sex-Ed Bill will die a death on Labours demise! Such tactics have won the day on other issues if memory serves.

Richard Collins said...

Mr Petek
I am not rich but I find that I can only vote for the Conservative Party, until such time as my constituency can float a Christian candidate.
Thank you Father Ray for a good blog.

Adulio said...

Don't forget, the Conservatives believe that the world was made for rich people like themselves, while the rest of us are only there to make up the numbers.

You will find such snobbery also prevalent in the higher echelons of New Labour. The only difference is that some Conservative supporters may be honest about it.

Volpius Leonius said...

"If that were true VP then we wouldn't be having these petitions"

It true it is just the that majority of the governed are quite happy for Catholic schools to be stripped of their Catholicism, or at least indifferent, they don't like Catholicism anyway.

And Catholics for their part waste their time having petitions to make themselves feel good when what they really need to do if they are serious about making England a more Catholci society and our schools Catholic requires much more work.

The laity need to either form a political party of their own or become a significant group within a existing party, become involved in local governance by been elected councillors, become involved in running their schools by been placed on the board of governors, become a significant group in powerful unions such as the national union of teachers or form their own catholic union.

And most of all start to actually love each other enough to actually want to live in real physical communities and neighbourhoods with one another, make the spiritual communion we have actually manifest in the physical world.

Michael Petek said...

I sent the following letter this week to the Catholic Herald:

Dear Editor

There are a number of points I want to make in relation to your front-page article and editorial on the Government's legistation on sex-education (26 February).

What the Government will not tell us is its true purposes in forcing faith schools to promote abortion, contraception and civil partnerships.

Its stated purpose is to reduce teenage pregnancy by 50 per cent from 1998 to 2010. I put it to readers that its true purposes do not include reducing the number of teenagers who have sex, because this would destroy the lucrative market for contraception and abortion services. That is why the Government is anxious about getting children ready for sex and raring to go by the time they start secondary education, though clueless about preparing boys to be ready for work, marketable for a family wage and therefore marriageable by the time they finish it.

The Government couldn't care less about reducing the number of girls who get pregnant, since its policies are about reducing the number who stay pregnant for as long as nine months.

All these policies are part of a package for destroying the family, and presuppose that the Government has an ideological interest in promoting sexual immorality among the young. Catch them early, and by the time they hear the Gospel in adulthood their vested interest in it will make it harder for them to find the Christian message acceptable.

George said...

I agree with Dominic Mary - hang the government!!!! :-)

George said...

Good letter Michael Petek - I'm very much behind your line of thinking. I believe you are right on the nail as Marie Stopes and IPPF rely on teenage preganancy and abortion for their existence!

Sick but true!!!

santoeusebio said...

The problem with VP's thesis about the respective roles of the laity and the bishops is that the bishops have taken it upon themselves to represent us in political matters. Thus so long as the bishops remain silent or give in to the Government, that Government can always say to any group of the laity that they are not representative and they will only listen to the Bishops. This severely limits the effectiveness of any action by the laity if not totally scuppering it.

However I have written to my MP Nicholas Soames and he has replied as follows:

My Party is supportive of some of the measures introduced by the Government: for example, we were pleased that the guidance places value on marriage and family. However, we also find some aspects of the PHSE requirements problematic. Firstly, we feel that there should be a better consultation process between the school and the parents about the content of sex and relationship classes. It is a sensitive issue - particularly so for certain communities - which is why the Conservatives tabled an amendment to the Bill to ensure that clear and meaningful consultations occur. Secondly, we have concerns about the highly-prescriptive nature of the new PHSE curriculum. It is imperative that the right aspects of sex and relationship education are taught at the appropriate age. Thirdly, we strongly support parents' right to withdraw their child from sex and relationship education lessons. We are disappointed by the Government's proposal to ignore this important right.

We feel that the content of sex and relationship education classes should derive from consultations between schools and parents. We believe that sex and relationship education is an important component of learning about responsibility, and it is for precisely this reason we believe that schools should have the freedom to deliver it in a way most suited to the needs of their pupils and parents.

In one word what he is suggesting is "subsidiarity". His position seems perfectly acceptable.

Every one should be writing to their MPs!

I wrote to His Grace Archbishop Nichols on the same day with a copy to Bishop McMahon. No doubt his reply has got delayed in the post.

Nicolas Bellord

Michael Petek said...

Thanks, George. I've just received through the post the SPUC Briefing on National Curriculum Sex Education and the Children Schools and Families Bill.

The Government's proposals remind me of the classroom scene in The Wicker Man (1973).

The next thing they'll do is require homeschooling parents to make sure their children know the Karma Sutra from cover to cover.

If they refuse, we can expect the the police to smash down the front door at 3 o'clock in the morning with a team of child-snatching social workers trailing behind them.

The next thing the parents will know is that their child has been (irreversibly) adopted, and it's better than evens that the adopting couple will be same-sex.

Of course, a gagging-order will be slapped on the case, so if they whisper a word about it to their neighbour - or even to their MP - they'll be thrown into prison for contempt of court.

Volpius Leonius said...

"The problem with VP's thesis about the respective roles of the laity and the bishops is that the bishops have taken it upon themselves to represent us in political matters. Thus so long as the bishops remain silent..."

Can you not see your own self contradiction, you say the Bishops are representing us, they you say the Bishops are been silent.

If they are been silent then they are not representing us. If you allow the government to shut you down so easily that is not the Bishops faults.

Believe me if you got organised and formed a group with significant numbers and unity of purpose the government would listen to you, its not going to listen to you as an individual though.

Or you could just keep moaning about how everyone else is letting you down and its all their fault, you of course been completely blameless, after all you signed the petition right what more could you do?

Its very easy to point the finger outwards, very easy to tell the Bishops what they should be doing, but the truth is the only person you have control over is you, so the question you need to ask is what can you do about. And you can do much more than sign your name to a online petition.

santoeusebio said...

VP really! You surprise me!

The Bishops through the CES have negotiated with the Government and we have seen the outcome which looks bad. The Bishops by their silence appear to be accepting the situation. An omission? De facto they are our representatives.

As to other action one can sign the petition which I have done. I have also written to my MP with the result I have shared with you. That is a start! I have asked what we might do next. You suggest forming a group - not a bad idea - any takers?

I have a group - the Restituta Group - which has been campaigning for some years to restore the Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth to Catholicity. It requires a great deal of hard work and campaigning skills - we have a bulletin which I distribute to over 300 members, we have raised a small amount of money but not one Bishop has given us any sign of support other than Bishop O'Donoghue. The Charity Commission have been helpful asking such questions such as "Is the Cardinal happy with this which seems to go against his publicly stated position?" only to get lies in response claiming that he was happy. When asked directly he has not replied - silence. It reminds one of the mafia.

I am also Deputy Chairman of the Equitable (Life) Members Action Group which has spent millions campaigning to get compensation from the Government - not as penny as yet but always hopeful.

It is so easy to criticise ordinary people for not doing the right thing!

Nicolas Bellord

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