Homophobic bullying plainly exists and is contrary to the teaching of the Church – so what could be wrong with a document on combatting it? As the Catholic Education Service (CES) discovered last week, things aren’t quite as simple as that.
Challenging homophobic and biphobic bullying in our Catholic schools, a 40-page document for dioceses, has been posted online by the blogger Mark Lambert, who called it “Stonewall propaganda with a Catholic label on it”. The anonymous blogger Countercultural Father – who, like Lambert, has a parent’s experience of the school system – called it “lamentable”. The hastag #CESScandal began doing the rounds.
The CES told the Catholic Herald: “How schools tackle homophobic bullying is something to which Ofsted [the school inspection authority] is now paying specific attention”, and that the document was a response to requests for guidance from dioceses and schools.
The text explains that Catholic teaching is against homophobia, then gives some examples of homophobic bullying and suggests ways – including lesson plans – in which schools might respond.
One teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, says: “The CES probably see the legislative storm on the horizon.” It’s true that Catholic teaching makes the necessary distinctions, the teacher goes on, but school inspectors “have their own perceptions and agendas, and an explicit document and evidence of actively addressing the issue would give a greater feeling of security when that occurs.”
The occasional alarming incident suggests that schools may have to prepare for a concerted attack. In 2014 an Ofsted inspector tut-tutted that one school’s “Christian ethos” had “restricted the development of a broad and balanced approach to the curriculum”. Last year, the “integration czar” Louise Casey told a parliamentary committee: “It is not OK for Catholic schools to be homophobic and anti-gay marriage.”
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