Friday, February 26, 2010

Britain and Sex Ed: Zenit sums it up!

The following is from yesterday's Zenit news.

In the Name of Diversity

Catholics in England might like someone of Cardinal Martino's caliber at the moment.

This week, the U.K. parliament voted to pass an amendment to a bill that, according to the government and an agency of the Catholic Church, will allow faith schools to teach sex education according to their religious ethos.

But pro-life organizations and many orthodox-thinking Catholics say the amendment is deceptive and misleading, as it will still require all schools, including Catholic schools, to give information about contraception, abortion, and homosexual partnerships in the name of equality and diversity. The government's education minister, Ed Balls, seemed to admit as much on a BBC radio program on the day of the vote.

"They can explain the views of their faith," he said, "but what they can't do is say that they are not going to teach children about contraception, how to access contraception, or how to use contraception." He added that what the bill changes is that for the first time "these schools cannot just ignore these issues or teach only one side of the argument."

Teachers in faith schools, he said, will have to teach "different views on homosexuality, they cannot teach homophobia, they must explain civil partnership and must give a balanced view on abortion. They must explain both sides of the argument and how to access an abortion. The same is true on contraception as well."

Faith schools will, therefore, now be obliged to instruct young girls on where to kill a child in their womb, say pro-life organizations. They also say there are many other aspects to this legislation which will "advertise" to pupils pro-abortion messages, mandate the teaching of lurid sexual material, and ultimately lead to the further "sexualization of children." As one observer put it: Catholic schools will from now on be coerced by the state’s concept of ‘neutrality’, to present as ‘choice’ what hitherto has "not been a choice; to give pupils the options as though they were all morally equivalent; to promote what has traditionally been judged to be ‘sin’. It is facilitation under the guise of information."

But the Catholic Education Service, the agency which has worked with the government on the bill and which is governed by the bishops of England and Wales, supports the legislation. It insists that the teaching of all aspects of the curriculum in Catholic schools "reflects their religious ethos," and that sex education "will be rooted in the Catholic Church's teaching of the profound respect for the dignity of all human persons."

This hasn't placated pro-life organizations, some of which feel "utterly betrayed" by agency's stance. One group said the new curriculum "is going to put conscientious Catholic teachers, parents and young people in an utterly invidious position." So far, only Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien, president of the Scottish bishops' conference, has spoken out on the Church's behalf against this week's vote on the bill. The bishops of England and Wales are expected to comment once they reach an agreement on a way forward but some suspect they wanted the amendment passed just in case the bill cannot be defeated.

Some priests and laity see this legislation as the fruit of decades of dissent within the Catholic Church in Britain. And both inside and outside the Church, this bill is being viewed as flagrantly opposed to the natural moral law which governments are supposed to uphold.

Benedict XVI reminded the bishops of England and Wales earlier this month that such legislation which restricts religious freedom "actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded." He then urged them to ensure that the Church's moral teaching "be always presented in its entirety and convincingly defended." Fidelity to the Gospel, he said, "in no way restricts the freedom of others -- on the contrary, it serves their freedom by offering them the truth."

The legislation will now head to the House of Lords where much hard work is expected to ensure the bill is defeated.

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