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Catholic Education Service defends ‘homophobic bullying’ document

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The Catholic Education Service has defended a controversial booklet on homophobic bullying in Catholic schools.

The 37-page document, titled Made in God’s Image, will be distributed to Catholic schools across the country. It sets out lesson plans and advice for teachers on dealing with discrimination against same-sex attracted pupils.

However, critics have accused the document of failing to adequately explain Church teaching on sexuality while adopting the secular language of the gay rights lobby.

Joseph Shaw, chairman of the Latin Mass Society, wrote that the document’s authors are “playing a dangerous, if familiar, game”.

“Fear and hatred of ‘gays’ is wrong, they say, and few indeed would disagree. The Church’s teaching on sexuality can still be taught in Catholic schools, they say: and isn’t that nice?” However, Shaw wrote, the document’s examples imply that, “when it comes down to it, being influenced by that teaching just is homophobic.To distance oneself from wrongful public behaviour cannot, we are told, be separated from the idea of fearing and hating a whole category of people, on the basis that some of the people in this category might on occasion behave wrongly.”

Critics have also pointed out that there are similarities in wording in the document to that of materials produced by gay rights groups Stonewall and lgbtyouth Scotland.

The Catholic Education Service defended the document, saying in a statement: “How schools tackle homophobic bullying is something to which Ofsted is now paying specific attention. As such, both schools and dioceses have asked for guidance on this and how can be approached within a Catholic context.”

In 2006, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, then Archbishop of Birmingham and head of the CES, dismissed calls for specific measures on homophobic bullying, telling the Commons education committee that a “robust policy on bullying of all kinds” was the “best way forward”.

“If you begin to pick out particular sections then the list of special policies is going to get very long and there probably would not be too much room on the walls to accommodate it,” he said.