News Analysis

‘I ask our teachers to be very vigilant’: Bishop Davies on sex education

Damian Hinds, the Education Secretary, last week finally offered some clarity about the Government’s Relationships and Sex Education guidance that will be compulsory in all schools from 2020.

“Children should leave school having learnt about LGBT relationships,” he said. “I would strongly encourage schools to discuss with children in class that there are all sorts of different, strong and loving families, including families with same-sex parents, while they are at primary school.”

The magnitude of the changes, and what they will entail, is however being downplayed and understated by Mr Hinds.

Such ideas are so radical and intrusive that wherever they have been imposed they result in conflicts as parents reject them.

Such instances include that of a school in Croydon, south London, which reportedly tried to ensure that all pupils took part in a Gay Pride march, which led to 110 children being removed by their parents. The same school a fortnight ago suspended two 10-year-old children who said they did not wish to take part in an LGBT lesson held to mark Pride Month.

In Birmingham, hundreds of Muslim parents are still upset about the introduction of No Outsiders, an LGBT teaching programme, at Parkfield School, their children’s primary in Birmingham; yet Ofsted has dismissed their concerns.

Nor is there much sympathy for such parents in Parliament: Roger Godsiff, the Labour MP for Birmingham Hall Green, received a warning from Nick Brown, his party’s chief whip, after he dared to express “concerns about the age appropriateness of children of four and five being introduced to these ideas”.

Unease reaches deep into schools throughout the country, including those in such affluent counties as Cheshire, home of St Ambrose College, the alma mater of Mr Hinds, and an area covered by the Diocese of Shrewsbury.

There, Bishop Mark Davies last week wrote to headteachers, governors and priests in response to fears expressed to him by “a number of teachers, parents and clergy” about requirements to teach the new ideologies. His 1,400-word letter represents a bold and concise statement of Catholic teaching on marriage and sexuality.

What it most certainly is not is an attack on anyone who either disagrees with such teaching or who fails to abide by it. “The same teaching of Christ that challenges us to live the truth and use the gift of sexuality for our ultimate good also prohibits anything that would promote hatred or unjust discrimination against any person,” the bishop writes. “We respect and value all people, no matter how much their views or lifestyles may be at variance with the teaching of Christ … The Church is called to love all people in a charity that embraces even those who disregard or disagree with her teaching.”

Yet the bishop emphasises that marriage between a man and a woman remains “the only morally appropriate context for a sexual relationship”, adding that, because the teaching is from Christ, the Church “must always remain faithful to it”.

To suggest that such doctrine promotes disregard or hatred of other people would be a “parody of the truth”, Bishop Davies explains, suggesting he envisages situations where those who strive to remain faithful to Our Lord may face unfair criticism.

He tells teachers that the witness of saints Thomas More and John Fisher ought to remind them “how we might one day face a choice between our faithfulness to Christ and His Church and an intolerant ideology pursued with all the force of the state”.

Today’s culture “has substantially abandoned the Christian vision of life”, especially in the area of sexuality, Bishop Davies notes, adding that, although the Catholic Education Service accepts assurances from the Government that it does not seek conflict, the people who have contacted the bishop “have reason to be concerned”.

“The Government has given its clear assurance that questions of relationships and human sexuality may continue to be taught according to our faith and with respect for the inalienable right of Christian parents to pass on this faith to their children,” he said.

“I wish to state unambiguously that, as your bishop, this is my clear expectation and direction in the face of anyone who seeks or claims to form our children and young people in ways contrary to Christian faith and morality.

“In my responsibility as ‘first teacher of the faith’ in this diocese I wish to ask our teachers to be very vigilant in ensuring that any of the resources they use do not, however subtly, propose teaching or a view of life contrary to our Catholic faith.”

Bishop Davies’s opinion is clear: there must be no changes in what Catholic schools teach faithfully about marriage, sexuality and family life. His purpose in emphasising this is to encourage Catholic teachers to propose the teachings of the Church with “greater confidence and joy”.

In such confusing times, Catholics ought to be grateful to Bishop Davies for such clarity. It is vital that they know precisely what the Church teaches and from where it derives its authority if in future they are to stand firm in their faith.