MAR 1st 2017 By Deacon Nick Donnelly GB
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Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP, Chairman of the Catholic Education Service, has welcomed the UK government's decision to introduce compulsory relationship and sex education in England for 4-year-olds and upwards. Archbishop McMahon also welcomed the government's commitment to protect parental rights in this matter, a fundamental Catholic principle.

As Chairman of the Catholic Education Service Archbishop Malcolm McMahon committed the Catholic Church to engage with the government  in drawing up new guidance that would "enable Catholic schools to continue to deliver outstanding RSE, in accordance with parents’ wishes and Church teaching.”

Education Secretary Justine Greening has confirmed that Sex education is to be made compulsory in all schools in England, including Catholic schools. Ms Greening said statutory guidance for Relationships and Sex Education (SRE) needed updating to address risks to children from online pornography, sexting and staying safe online. 

The government will introduce legislation to bind by law all primary, secondary, maintained and academy schools to teach Relationships and Sex Education. The government has promised that Faith schools will be able to continue to teach sex education “in accordance with the tenets of their faith”.

Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP said:

Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) forms part of the mission of Catholic schools to educate the whole person. Our schools have a long track record of educating young people who are prepared for adult life as informed and engaged members of society, and high quality RSE plays an important part of this.

We welcome the Government’s commitment to improving Relationship and Sex Education in all schools. Catholic schools already teach age-appropriate Relationship and Sex Education in both primary and secondary schools. This is supported by a Catholic model RSE curriculum which covers the RSE curriculum from nursery all the way through to sixth form.

We additionally welcome the Government’s commitment to protect parental right of withdrawal and involve parents in all stages of the development and delivery of RSE in all schools. It is essential that parents fully support the school’s approach to these sensitive matters. The experience of Catholic schools is that parental involvement is the basis for providing consistent and high quality RSE at home and at school.

We look forward to working closely with the Government to shape any new guidance to enable Catholic schools to continue to deliver outstanding RSE, in accordance with parents’ wishes and Church teaching.

Comment

It is reassuring that the Government has given a commitment to protect parental rights and the right of Catholic schools to teach Relationship and Sex Education according to Catholic moral teaching. However, what is concerning is that the Government is proposing for the first time to legislate what Catholic schools teach in such a sensitive and politically charged area of the curriculum.

The Catholic Church upholds sexual morality that the rest of English society once valued, but has now rejected. LGBT advocacy groups, secularist groups and feminist groups all share an agenda to stop our schools teaching Catholic sexual morality. These groups will seize on the government's announcement to introduce compulsory sex education as an opportunity to whittle away, if not end, the Church's freedom to teach Catholic children according to God's plan for love and marriage. 

The current government promises to uphold parental rights and our freedom of religion, but what about future governments that are not so benevolent towards Catholic schools? The fact that this legislation exists at all will give governments antagonistic to the Catholic faith the legal power to interfere with how we raise Catholic children. There are good reasons to fear that Teresa May's legislation brings the conflict between the Catholic Church and the State one step nearer.