by Peter Stanford A SEX education textbook used in more than a third of America's Catholic schools has been attacked as "scandalous" by a top Vatican official. Cardinal Edouard Gagnon, prefect of the Pontifical Council for the Family, described the New Creation series as a 'travesty of sex education".
The book carries the imprimatur, or seal of approval, of Archbishop Daniel Kucera of Dubuque, Iowa, who has now challenged the cardinal's authority to speak officially on the matter.
Cardinal Gagnon's comments came in a letter, dated May 28, to Nancy Evers of Milwaukee, who had complained about New Creation. The letter is now being circulated by a traditionalist group, Catholics United for the Faith.
The cardinal spoke of "repeated warnings" from the Holy See to teachers using the book, and noted that Pope John Paull! "is also informed of the matter".
Critics say the book dwells at too great a length on the clinical aspects of sexuality and provides overly detailed descriptions of sexual organs and processes, without an equal stress on moral considerations.
Archbishop Kucera rejected this view and said that he had never been contacted by any Roman official about the question. He noted that any such request would have to come from the relevant office — that is the congregations for Catholic education, for the clergy, or for the doctrine of the faith, but not Cardinal Gagnon's Council for the Family.
This view was rejected by an aide to the cardinal, Mgr Diamuid Martin, who said the mandate of the office was to teach about "family values which include sex education".
New Creation is used in 70 or 80 of America's 170 dioceses, and whilst it has been banned by some bishops, most notably Bishop Leo Maher of San Diego, it has received much praise since its publication 18 months ago from officials of the archdiocese of Chicago.
I Junior education minister, Chris Patten, has urged Tory MPs to drop their opposition to clauses in the education bill urging "moral considerations" in sex education in schools.
Catholic MP, Mr Patten has written privately to 68 backbenchers urging them to change their minds. He said that children must be properly equipped by their schools to face the modern world. Critics of the clause of the Conservative benches have said that while it is worthy, it is "ambiguous and meaningless" (Catholic Herald, August 15).