From Miss Oona Stannard, chief executive and director of the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales (CESEW) SIR – CESEW expects all Catholic schools to continue to impart authentic Catholic teaching under the Children, Schools and Families Bill (Report, February 26).
Catholic schools uphold the teachings of the Church in all that they do. This applies, in particular, to all work about sex and relationships education (SRE). They robustly teach, for example, about the sanctity of life and do not and would not promote abortion.
We do not expect the situation to change in the light of the Children, Schools and Families Bill which, after all, enshrines principles of “equality”, “the importance of both rights and responsibilities” and “acceptance of diversity”; all principles which should uphold our rights in imparting authentic Catholic teaching. We will not seek to withhold facts in SRE and, indeed, discussion on the many sensitive matters in SRE is likely, in age appropriate ways, so that young people will understand that there are different perspectives but know what the Church teaches and expects of us.
Those other professionals or volunteers who the school invites to contribute to the curriculum are expected to work within the parameters of the school’s distinctive ethos and its values. Our headteachers take their responsibilities to ensure this very seriously and, in turn, require that their expectations are respected.
CESEW will be commissioning work to offer guidance to schools on implementing the statutory requirements of SRE.
Yours faithfully, OONA STANNARD London SW1 From Mr Robert Pellegrinetti SIR – As chair of governors of a Catholic voluntary-aided (VA) primary school, I am writing to point out that Fr Aidan Nichols (Comment, February 26) has got it wrong when he says: “Despite the obligations of governors to the bishop, the actual employer of staff in the state sector is the local authority...” In voluntaryaided schools (Catholic, Church of England, or whatever), the actual employer of staff is the governing body. In every Catholic VA school, a majority of the governing body (the foundation governors) is appointed by and accountable to the bishop. Catholic governors control staff appointments, and Catholic bishops have authority over Catholic governors.
If Fr Nichols feels we do not have a sufficient number of believing and practising Catholic teachers for our schools, independent and state, would it not be rather more radical to reverse his idea and reduce the number of our schools in the independent sector? Our resources could then be concentrated on our state schools, avoiding the need for the fees and bursaries which his proposal envisages.
Perhaps Fr Nichols could research the number of our schools and teachers in each sector, and give us figures for what he regards as “vocationally committed Catholic teachers”, before he takes further his proposal to start shutting down our schools.
Yours faithfully, ROBERT PELLEGRINETTI London NW5 From Mr Alan Bancroft SIR – Remarkable incomprehension is behind the state’s insistence that faith schools will not be permitted to suggest that “their views” on matters such as abortion are the only valid ones. Seemingly, the Government finds it incomprehensible that Catholics believe that Our Lord is God incarnate and that His Church’s teachings therefore are of divine authority whatever Parliament says.
Mr Balls appears to think a dismissive wave of the hand is an appropriate response to what we deeply believe. Why do he and his colleagues assume the right to make us substitute their relativistic beliefs for our religious beliefs by an Act of Parliament?
Our bishops (not the CES) must protect our young people from the state’s abusive devaluing of the Church’s teaching on abortion and contraception. If the House of Lords fails to repulse the attack on religious freedom, then in fidelity to Christ and in defence of our youngsters, the bishops will surely declare that they are unable to comply, that our schools will not comply, with the direly unjust elements of the new legislation.
As men like John Fisher would tell us, when something is quite unacceptable you do not accept it. A perverting of Catholic moral teaching is no small matter. How to access abortion has no place in any Catholic school.
I respectfully advance the following remark, made and repeated on the Catholic blogosphere: it much impressed me. “It will take one bishop to say that he is not going to have this kind of corruption in the schools of his diocese.” I’m sure all our bishops will take that admirably firm line, and I greatly doubt that the state will arrange executions on Tower Hill in consequence.
Yours faithfully, ALAN BANCROFT By email From Fr John Cahill SIR – Last week saw the advance of the Children, Schools and Families Bill through another parliamentary stage and with it the Church in our country has reached a moment of profound crisis. Statements from the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and the Catholic Education Service suggest that the Church in our country is supporting this legislation.
We await a denial of these claims or some further clarification. This Bill opens the way for secondary legislation that will enforce the explicit naming of sexual organs in classes of five and six year olds; that will establish erroneous “safe sex” propaganda as a compulsory part of the secondary curriculum, that will promote an equivalence of marital and deviant forms of sexual intimacy; that will force secondary schools to “sign-post” abortion and family planning services where children are immorally advised without the knowledge or consent of their parents.
In respect of this latter provision, it is apposite to note that material cooperation in the procurement of abortion is a mortal sin which falls under the canonical censure of automatic excommunication.
The logic in the suggestion that any of this can be done in a “Catholic way” escapes me. But it is not just an issue for Catholic schools. What about the Church’s duty to defend and promote the truth for the whole of society? Rather than being seen to support these moves the Church ought to be shouting its opposition from the rooftops.
Yours faithfully, JOHN CAHILL Holy Souls, Scunthorpe