Comment Opinion & Features

Letters: We can resist the sex education lobby


Parents versus the sex ed establishment

SIR – James Caffery’s letter (January 3) highlights a major issue – and source of considerable conflict and dismay – in schools: the incoming RSE, or Relationships and Sex Education, mandatory from September this year.

He is right to highlight the call for support from Muslim parents over the issue. He is right to bemoan the lack of public support from “our bishops and people”, but not entirely.

There are grounds for concern and indeed righteous anger, particularly concerning primary schools where there is no call from parents, schools or teachers for the teaching of LGBT issues as characterised by the No Outsiders programme that caused uproar and revolt in Birmingham schools. Also the “early adoption” of this without the statutory parental consultation cuts across the law. Sadly even Catholic dioceses such as Liverpool have succumbed to this.

But there is a growing and vocal reaction to what the state is doing – effectively nationalising childhood. And one of its extraordinary features is its utterly ecumenical or cross-faith aspect. All religious families have suffered: Christian (in all its denominations – Anglican, Catholic, Evangelical and more), Jewish and Muslim alike. We have joined forces and it is exhilarating – and educative – to work with so many different partners from the Abrahamic faiths.

For those parents or teachers who need support and advice as to their legal rights – which are far stronger than current educational practice would evidence – is one of the main points of contact, and emails and enquiries stream in at the moment. We have a panel of advisers who can help. But also check the Values Foundation ( which is advocating and lobbying at government level for parental rights and rights of conscience and for a proper interpretation of the law.

At the moment the state, the funds and the weight of influence lies with those lobbies and ideologies who want to use children for the advancement of their cause. But none of us who are active in this field think for a moment that the good God will desert or disavow his children when they cry to him, especially in England, the country given over to his Mother for her care and nurture alone.

So yes – a cause for dismay and anger and upset. But no cause for despair, rather every reason to acquaint yourself with your legal rights, and unite to protect and safeguard your children. Join us.

E J Matyjaszek
Principal, Priory School of Our Lady of Walsingham, Whippingham, Isle of Wight

A simple answer to the catechetical crisis

SIR – With reference to Andrew Gray’s disturbing letter (January 10) about lack of Catholic education, may I suggest the return of what in my youth was the Penny Catechism. Every pupil in my youth at my convent school had one, and from it learned the basics of our faith.

I even now, 90 years on, recall some of the questions the answers to which we had to learn.

Who made you?  

God made me.

Why did God make you?  

God made me to love him, serve him and obey him in this world and for ever in the next.

To whose image and likeness did God make you?  

God made me to his own image and likeness.

Is this likeness in your body or in your soul?  

This likeness is chiefly in my soul.

Just an idea to return to that little book. Methinks worth considering.

Marianna, Viscountess Monckton of Brenchley
Harrietsham, Kent

A ‘quasi-Mass’

SIR – In response to the recent letter titled “Daily nourishment” (December 20), I am writing to suggest that there is perhaps misunderstanding of the valid questions that have been raised by other correspondents regarding the Eucharistic or Service of the Word practice now so commonplace.

I am of the opinion that the Eucharistic services that currently take place are perhaps structured on official publications for Sunday celebrations in the absence of a priest. As these publications are aimed at celebrations for Sunday, is it not time that some official thought was given to a more relevant way of showing devotion during the week that is not based on the structure of the Mass? I am extremely uncomfortable with a service that is held that only differs from the Mass in the absence of a priest, blessings and the Consecration.

I suggest that an official national service is considered that is devotional yet clearly not based too close to the Mass. Readings, the rosary and relevant prayers could well be introduced to provide a devout service rather than the current quasi-Mass.

I feel that all the recent correspondence on this subject has been from extremely well-meaning and concerned individuals who are not promoting a ban and trying to deprive others of spiritual nourishment, but trying, as I am, to introduce a more relevant structure of prayer along with the vital need to be able to receive the Holy Eucharist.

J McKenna
Chorley, Lancashire

SIR – On your letters page in recent months I have seen several points made for and against services of the Word and Holy Communion without a priest. Elizabeth Price (December 20) seems to interpret what Pope Francis says on daily nourishment from God’s Word to vindicate her opinion of such services, but that is not the Holy Father’s intention. The Word speaks to us in the Mass, in the Liturgy of the Hours and at other times. We may ponder and assimilate. It more fully in the silence of our home and when we meet other people for that purpose, with a Bible, Missal or other printed or online resource made for that purpose. A reliable Bible commentary may help.

Pope Francis urges us to carry a pocket-size New Testament to read when we travel and at other opportunities, and there are little booklets of daily Mass readings.

I remember a priest saying that current thinking was that services of the Word and Holy Communion without a priest were intended only for Sundays. Different conferences of bishops seem to have different opinions. Absence of such services does not prevent the faithful from hearing or studying God’s Word together or alone.

P Whitney
Doncaster, South Yorkshire

Papal drama

SIR – Bishop Robert Barron writes that he would be prepared to sit through a four-hour film “that was as honest and insightful about Joseph Ratzinger as it was about Jorge Mario Bergoglio” (January 10).

Some might assume that, as Ratzinger spent much of his life as a university professor, that his life lacked drama. But consider the following episode. After Hitler’s death, the young Ratzinger decided to desert the German army, although soldiers had orders to shoot deserters. Taking a back road out of town, he was confronted by two armed soldiers. “Thank God,” he later wrote in his memoirs, “that they, too, had had their fill of war and did not want to become murderers.” They waved him on, and he returned home safely.

Peter Tomaso
Omaha, Nebraska, United States