Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Sexual Education Foundation

 Moving away from the risk management /symptom alleviation model, which passes for sexual education in so many of our schools, The Sexual Education Foundation proposes a new approach which is based on personalism and Catholic Social Doctrine.

Here's a quote from what a secondary school Religious Education teacher had to say about the Foundation's work:

"The bottom  line is that when you spoke of the beauty of chastity, love and marriage,you struck a deep chord with all present. This aspect of your talk was positive and life-affirming and true to John Paul II's own vision."

More details at Robert Colquhoun's blog Love Undefiled. Robert is an Associate Director of this non-profit organisation

Friday, 29 January 2010

Eric Hester's challenge to the CES

From this week's Catholic Herald , with  apologies for such a long post, but the entire article is well worth  reading.

How we lost control of Sex Education

'This Government consists of people of great integrity, is pro-life, pro-family and so it is good news that it is putting before Parliament a scheme of compulsory sex education which will apply to every child in a maintained school in England, which includes all Catholic schools except independent schools."

I venture to believe that there is not one reader of The Catholic Herald who would agree with that statement. Indeed, there is only one Catholic body that subscribes to that view - the Catholic Education Service, (CES). It is the only Catholic body that supports the Government in its plan to make political sex education compulsory for all children in maintained schools.

Before looking at what the Government is planning, I set out the present position. The governors of all maintained schools are currently required to make a decision about sex education. At primary level, that decision can be to do nothing and to have no sex education. At secondary level, the policy must include teaching about marriage and about Aids but schools are not bound to have sex education lessons. All this is to change. The Government is planning to make sex education a compulsory part of the National Curriculum for all children from five upwards.

Let us be clear that this is not a little talk about the birds and the bees. This is what it says in its official announcement: "Personal, Social, Health and Education [PSHE] education (which includes sex) will therefore be a foundation subject in the national curriculum in Key Stages 3 and 4, with the existing non-statutory programmes of study forming the basis for a core entitlement that all pupils should receive... This must include contraception and 'how to obtain emergency contraception'."

The Secretary of State for Education, Ed Balls, made it quite clear: "You can teach the promotion of marriage, you can teach that you shouldn't have sex outside of marriage, what you can't do is deny young people information about contraception outside of marriage."

Anyone not convinced should look at Government material. A big disadvantage for me writing in a Catholic family newspaper is that I cannot quote from the material. The Government recommends organisations such as the militantly pro-gay rights Terrence Higgins Trust and Stonewall as organisations to provide sex education in schools. Both organisations have been represented on every Government commission to consider sex education alongside the Family Planning Organisation, the Brook Agency but not one pro-family organisation. Their values - anti-family, anti-life - are entrenched in the Government's proposals.

Then have a look at the website of the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). Or go to the Parliament home page. Governments have to say in what way the Bills they are promulgating differ from existing legislation.

Currently the Education Act of 1996 says this about sex education, which is not, in any case, compulsory: pupils "must learn the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and the bringing up of children". This is how the Government intends to change that act: pupils "must learn about the nature of marriage and learn the nature of civil partnerships and the importance of strong and stable relationships". Currently, the 1996 Act contains this defence that children "are protected from teaching and materials which are inappropriate having regard to the age and the religious and cultural background of the pupils concerned".

Is the Government going to change that clause? No, it is not going to change it - it is going to delete it entirely. How can the CES defend this? It has made several statements, some of which are confusing and have been shown up by clear analysis in an open letter by the National Association of Catholic Families (NACF) a letter which, as far as I am aware, was not given the courtesy of an answer. The CES has issued what it calls a "clarification" on its website.

I reproduce it here in full:

"The proposals announced by Ed Balls today (5th November) confirm that, from September 2011, Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education, including Sex and Relationships Education (SRE), will be compulsory in all schools. We welcome the Government's reiteration of its support for the important principles underlining SRE [Sex and Relationship Education], which emphasise that schools continue to have the legal right to determine the content of what is taught in PSHE within their schools and that governing bodies retain the right to determine what is taught, and must determine this in line with the ethos of the school."

That sounds reassuring, but it is not true and the CES knows it is not true. Governing bodies will not be able to "determine the content" of what is taught but will be forced to include that which the Government wishes including "civil partnerships", and how and where to obtain abortions and contraception without the knowledge of parents' let alone their consent.

What is the Bishops' Conference doing about all this? It discussed the Government's proposals at its November meeting but did not issue any statement about the matter and I am told it made no resolution.

I have been informed by one bishop that they were given assurances by the CES that governors would have complete control and that there would be no question of any teaching about civil partnerships or information given to pupils about how to obtain contraception and abortion without parental consent.
It seems as if the bishops have relied entirely on the information of the CES and ignored other advice. They have been deceived. Bishop McMahon, who is in charge of education for the Bishops' Conference, met me on October 30 and said he had been assured categorically that sex education would not be part of the National Curriculum. A week later, the Government announced that it was to become part of the National Curriculum.

Catholic teaching on sex education could not be clearer: only the parents have the right to administer it and their right is "inalienable" which means that no one else can take that right and the parents themselves cannot give up the right. The best document to consult is the document of the Pontifical Council for the Family, The Truth And Meaning Of Human Sexuality. This can be seen online on the Vatican website.

John Paul II put the rights of parents like this in his Charter of the Rights of the Family: "Article 5 c. Parents have the right to ensure that their children are not compelled to attend classes which are not in agreement with their own moral and religious convictions. In particular, sex education is a basic right of parent and must always be carried out under their close supervision, whether at home or in educational centres chosen and controlled by them."

I publicly challenge the CES to obtain from any Government Minister a statement that it is true that school governors can "determine the content" of what is taught in sex education and can omit anything that they do not like. Everything the Government has said is to the contrary. Under the Freedom of Education Act I have obtained correspondence between the CES and the Government, where the CES asks for that very assurance and is not given it.

So does the CES claim that it has been given private assurances that all will be well? That was exactly the argument used about gay adoptions, where the Government broke any promises given and which has resulted in the ending of Catholic adoption in England as we used to know it. I further challenge the CES to debate sex education with me, or a better speaker, on behalf of Catholic teaching at a public meeting.
Eric Hester was headmaster of Catholic schools, grammar and comprehensive for 24 years.
He has extensive experience of inspecting schools "

Why isn't Eric Hester the Chief Executive of the Catholic Education Service?

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Oral Evidence from the CEO of the Catholic Education Service

 The  Director and CEO of the Catholic Education Service, Oona Stannard  has given Oral evidence at the Public Bill Committee, Children, Schools and Families Bill, at which evidence was also given from the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group, the Personal, Sexual, Health Education Association, the Church of England,  and the Campaign Against Premature and Inappropriate Sex and Relationship Education in Schools.

The CES has issued a press release containing the Hansard transcript of this evidence taking session, which is on the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales website, linked here

Oona Stannard suggested that the formal teaching of  PHSE (which includes sex education) in schools, could be viewed as an entitlement on the part of the child.
She also suggested that parents would be beneficiaries as they would have rights  " far more overtly to engage in consultation about what is happening, seeing resources and being advised of what is happening."

On the question of whether attainment targets(!)  or tests should be set, Oona Stannard took the view that it wasn't necessary.

 On the question of compulsory sex and relationship education from the age of 15, she said :
"The possibility of not being able to withdraw a child after 15 has been a challenge to me. There are certainly people in my community who would wish it to stay until the end of schooling. I feel that the role of parents is paramount in all this. It is parents who educate children, not Governments."
She offered this opinion

"Good sex and relationships education is not about sexualising children; it is anything but. It is about keeping them safe, when it is done well. We all have to be very sensitive to this, and we have to ensure that people understand the reality of what the education will look like at the different stages. We must also keep in mind that it is “and relationships”. If we do it well, we will be helping to keep children safe, and if done well, it will not undermine the invaluable work that parents are doing."

A proposed amendment to this Bill would change  the age from which sex education becomes compulsory from “15” to “16”. Those giving oral evidence were asked:

"If you were to vote, would you vote in favour of that amendment or against it?" 

Oona Stannard initially responded that she would like to sit on the fence on that question, but when pressed further she eventually said:

"At this point in time, I would probably err on saying: allow the right of withdrawal until 16." 

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Fr. Benedict Groeshel: the corrupting influence of hedonism

In an excerpt from a series of talks entitled 'Road to Cana', Fr Benedict Groeshel looks at the state of marriage within the Western culture, identifying hedonism as a principal threat to marriage.
Although this series of talks is aimed at single Catholics, many in other states of life, particularly those in marriage preparation, would have much to gain from the wisdom of this great priest.

The talks are available on DVD and  can be obtained from the 'Road to Cana' website. 

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Archbishop Nichols interview

Archbishop Nichols, who is in Rome with some of the Bishops of England and Wales for their Ad Limina visit, has given an interview to Phillipa Hitchen of Vatican Radio.
Zenit has the translation of the interview.

Here's one of the questions and the Archbishop's response:

Q: Great Britain is perhaps today one of the most secularized societies in Europe. You said recently that it "has sold her soul to scientific learning and to materialism heedless of religion." And yet, there is also an intense thirst for spirituality.

Archbishop Nichols: British society is quite complex and some key institutions -- often the universities and at times the machinery of government in its legislative activity -- concentrate almost exclusively on factual data and I don't think that this reflects the common feeling. I think that in this country an uncertainty is emerging about the type of society we desire, about what are the true values to pursue and about what profound identity to construct and sustain. Religious faith helps us to live in this uncertainty, because it gives us an openness to the transcendent and to the full awareness that we do not know or control everything.

As Church we seek to participate fully in the public debate on these topics. This means that at times we must speak with the statistics in hand. Sometimes, instead, we must try to enter the debate with rational reasoning, rather than that of faith: This is the case of the present debate on assisted suicide. Other times we must again seek to show the role of religious faith in the public arena. Hence, we must operate at different levels.

In the interview, Archbishop Nichols was also asked was about relations with the  Anglican Communionfollowing  Anglicanorum  Coetibus.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Bravo, Baroness O'Cathain!

                                                 Baroness O' Cathain

"The Government has lost in the House of Lords over its attempt in the Equality Bill to alter the law on who churches and other faith-based groups can employ.

Peers voted 216 to 178 in favour of Lady O’Cathain’s amendment to keep the current law unchanged.
Then in an extraordinary move the Government broke with House of Lords convention in a bid to damage Lady O’Cathain’s victory.
But in two further votes Lady O’Cathain won by 195 votes to 174 and by 177 votes to 172.
In the debate before the votes, the Government claimed its plans would simply ‘clarify’ the law.

Ahead of tonight’s vote a Government spokesman said: “The Equality Bill will not change the existing legal position regarding churches and employment.

“It simply clarifies the current law to ensure a balance is maintained between the rights of people to manifest their religion and the right of employees not to be discriminated against.”   More from the Christian Institute          

If the existing legal position regarding churches and employment was not to be changed, why did the government try this challenge to religious liberty?

And from Andrea Minichiello Williams, Director of Christian Concern for our Nation :

“This is a great day for religious liberty in the UK. We are thankful that the law has not been changed and the freedom of Churches to control their own affairs has not been restricted any further. The results show what can happen when Christians pray and take action. Let us be encouraged that even in an increasingly secular society, the voice of the Church can still be heard.”

Most of all we are thankful to God for answering our prayers. We serve a mighty God!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Priests and Blogs

In his  message for World Communication Day, the  Holy Father  offers encouragement to priests to become bloggers that  the Gospel may be heard everywhere.

"Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audio-visual resources – images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites – which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelisation and catechesis," he said. " -From the Daily Telegraph report.

I think the Pope must have had in mind the many priestly bloggers out there, who are already labouring in the virtual vineyard, catechising, evangelising and inspiring us all.
My favourites are all linked in the sidebar, but I see Fr. Finigan has a much more extensive list on his excellent blog.
(I am sorry I can't make  links, I am using a different computer at the moment and different network, and it just won't  do links!Hopefully, back to normal later.)

Friday, 22 January 2010

Keeping up in Rome

 I knew it would be necessary to hire a car at Ciampino airport, in order for us to attend the funeral of my sister-in-law, in Rome itself. For the first time, I signed various papers in almost total ignorance of what both the large and small print said. The car hire attendant did assure me (in much better English than my attempts at Italian) that the insurance was comprehensive...except for.... 'damage caused by trees and bushes passing'. So I made a mental note to watch out for those!
On the day of Angela's funeral, it was arranged for us to fall in behind the cortege and follow it to the church. We would be driving slowly, lights on, and the journey would take about an hour. As soon as the hearse appeared round the corner, about ten cars (mine was third) moved out from the car park and slid into line behind the hearse, with the assistance of a gentleman whom I took to be a car park attendant (?) who stopped the traffic for us.
I didn't know which direction we were taking or what the route was, my job was to keep the car in front, in sight. It worked pretty well  on the way to the church, I managed to avoid all trees, bushes and pedestrians, including the one with the death wish; and the Roman traffic, realising this was a funeral cortege, kept out of the way. 'Driving slowly' turned out to mean keeping within the speed limits, rather than keeping the needle at 20 or 25 miles an hour!

The return journey was the real test.

My sister, armed with a satnav, volunteered to lead us back to the hotel in Ciampino.
It would have been sensible to have taken the same route back, as the the one we arrived by, since we had skirted round the edges of the city, mostly on a road that I thought must be a bypass. But now we were in the hands of the satnav, and it decided, mercilessly, to take us through the centre of the city.
Again, the only option,  (if we wished to be reunited with our hotel  by bedtime), was to hang on to the tail of the car in front.
Driving priorities in Rome are somewhat different to those in the UK. It isn't so much that you are on the right hand side of the road, not the left (as in the UK), or that roundabouts operate anti-clockwise instead of clockwise. It's much more about  who has priority to drive in the space immediately ahead. In practice, it  seemed to be whoever gets there first. For example, in the UK, generally, you would wait for a space in the traffic then join it, but, in Rome, you move straight out into the road and expect the oncoming vehicles to take evasive action. Which they do. And he who hesitates is lost (or at the very least will be quickly parted from the car in front with the satnav).
Then there are the motorbikes which seem to have a free pass anywhere.....and drive through the smallest of gaps.
For most of the journey, the city passed by in something of a haze, as we dodged our way through the main thoroughfares and sidestreets, always keeping close together.
We approached  a major junction, vaguely aware of St. Peter's over on the right. We were to take the left turn and I was in the correct lane, indicating left. My sister's car had sailed through, then the traffic lights changed, leaving me at the junction with an escort of motorbikes, swerving frighteningly close on the left and the right, as they jostled for position. As I  rounded the corner of the junction I realised there were two options for turning left, but had no idea which was the one my sister had taken! With more bikes cutting in left, right and centre, I decided to follow the main flow of traffic, and hope for the best; luckily, a moment later, I saw my sister's car ahead, and off we went again.
More sidestreets, main roads, junctions, double and triple parking, pedestrians, and both  the light and my concentration were beginning to fade...

By the time we arrived back at the hotel, we felt in need of a stiff drink, but settled for some good, strong Italian coffee, mightily relieved that the 'white knuckle' drive was over!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The next few days....

.....will be be rather quiet on the blogging front:  we are off to Rome for the funeral of my sister-in-law.
Hopefully, I shall be able to resume shortly....

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Prayer Request

Of your charity, please pray for the repose of the soul of Angela, my sister-in-law, who died early this morning.
Angela bravely suffered and endured cancer for many months,  until God's call came. 

Eternal rest grant to her O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Mgr. Marini's Address: 'The Spirit of the Liturgy'

What a wonderful read this is!
I found the text of the address given by Mgr.Guido Marini, Pontifical Master of Liturgical ceremonies, to the Year for Priests Clergy Conference in Rome.

Here's little from his opening remarks ( the emphasis is that of the New Liturgical Movement who have posted the full text of Mgr Marini's Address):

"it is now all the more necessary to speak about the spirit of the liturgy, especially for us members of the sacred priesthood. Moreover, there is an urgent need to reaffirm the “authentic” spirit of the liturgy, such as it is present in the uninterrupted tradition of the Church, and attested, in continuity with the past, in the most recent Magisterial teachings: starting from the second Vatican council up to the present pontificate. I purposefully used the word continuity, a word very dear to our present Holy Father. He has made it the only authoritative criterion whereby one can correctly interpret the life of the Church, and more specifically, the conciliar documents, including all the proposed reforms contained in them. How could it be any different? Can one truly speak of a Church of the past and a Church of the future as if some historical break in the body of the Church had occurred?"

Certainly the 'Reform of the reform' will need the faithful and obedient co-operation of our good priests indeed it may well start with them, but the laity would benefit hugely by supporting and co-operating too, especially with their priests.

Which brings me to this !!
Here's an idea of what 'Stand up 4 Vatican 2' is about, copied from its website, linked above:

"The changes in our Sunday worship were only part of the sense of renewal that was sweeping through our church. Pope John XXIII had asked for 'aggiornamento' the bringing up to date of our church and we felt that this was really beginning to happen. As the windows of the Church gradually opened the Spirit blew in, giving the People of God worship in the vernacular, breaking down post Reformation sectarianism, endorsing the work of biblical scholars, affirming the primacy of conscience, acknowledging the need to learn from the secular sciences.." 

These are some of it's concerns:

"Encouraged by the Vatican, and increasingly evident in many parishes in the UK the celebration of Mass in Latin under the old Tridentine Rite, in some cases this happens not as an occasional event catering for a select group of people but as the main Sunday Mass in a parish."

"It is not unreasonable to assert that many of the decrees emanating from the Vatican in recent times have sought to put a brake on the developments that grew out of the discussions at the Council."

A number of priests some anonymously, are supporting this campaign which appears to be highly critical of 'The Vatican' and of the Holy Father.
 Cafod has an advert on the campaign's website. Does that imply Cafod's support for this organisation? Cafod is an agency of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales- are our Bishops supporting it, too?
Thanks to Fr. Mildew and NLM

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Shepherds watching their flocks..

Pope Benedict, the Chief Shepherd, in his Angelus address on the feast of the Holy Family:
"God, by having come into the world in the bosom of a family, shows that this institution is a sure way to meet and know Him, and a permanent call to work for the loving unity of all people,” he continued. “Thus, one of the greatest services which we as Christians can offer our fellow men and women is to show them the serene and solid witness of a family founded upon marriage between a man and a woman, defending it and protecting it, because it is of supreme importance for the present and future of humankind.”

 Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwauki U.S., in his homily given at his Installation Mass:
"The direction to Peter is to demonstrate His love for Jesus by feeding his lambs, tending his sheep, feeding his sheep. Jesus is asking Peter to care for His Church. The love for Jesus will be in the very sacrificial acts offered in service for the faithful.The truth is at times difficult but the Church does not follow the Lord’s request to tend his sheep if it fails to teach the truth with love."

 Archbishop Carlos Osoro of Valencia, Spain, speaking about abortion, in a sermon given on the Feast of the Holy Innocents:
 "the worst dictatorship that can exist" and "the greatest injustice in history because it ends the lives of the weakest.
In questioning life, liberty in itself is brought into question, and the most profound injustice that can exist is established, which is to take away the life of the most defenseless."

Sometimes the cost of telling the truth with love, in season and out, can seem heavy, but the price of hiding, subverting, or lying about the truth which is handed down to us from the Apostles, is surely a dead weight.

Thank God for our Holy Father, and for all those men called to be our  Shepherds. Thank God especially
for their courage in faithfully fulfilling the duties God has laid upon them, for standing fast when the wolves appear.

Thanks also to Lifesite news

Dominican Sisters doing Snow!

I just had to post this!

Thanks, Godzdogs

Monday, 4 January 2010

Dr. Gerard Nadal's new pro-life blog

I have just come across the great blog of Dr. Gerard Nadal, an 'unapologetic Roman Catholic, loyal to the Magisterium', who is a scientist , Molecular Biologist and Micro Biologist, and who hails from across the pond.

Dr Nadal with his family, courtesy of 'Coming Home'blog
Here's a little from his first post:

"The purpose of this blog is to explore the lost human essence in the headlong embrace of reductionism, to promote the dialogue between Christian Anthropology and the sciences, primarily the Biological Sciences. Abortion, Euthanasia, Eugenics, Physician Assisted Suicide, all threaten human life on a scale never before imagined. There have been 1.8 BILLION abortions worldwide since the year of my birth, 1960. That’s one abortion for every 3.7 people walking the planet today. Where did we go so terribly wrong?
This blog will pursue the truth, wherever the truth leads. I invite the gentle reader to walk with me on the road of exploration. I am Roman Catholic, unapologetically so. I believe that much of what has been lost in human anthropology can be found in my Church’s documents, and in the scholarship of her sons and daughters. So too do I believe that my Protestant and Orthodox brothers and sisters, enlightened by the leading of the Holy Spirit, bring their very powerful witness to the truth, as do our elder brothers in faith, the Jews.
Indeed, pro-life is not the sole province of any one church or religion. We are all children of God, sharing the same dignity as such. Restoring that lost dignity is what this blog, and my life’s work is all about."
Here is the link to Dr. Nadal's blog, Coming Home.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

New Year Retreat at Balham

We arrived home late yesterday, having been at Balham, for the Youth2000 retreat, over the last few days. It was a wonderful experience to be among families, young people, priests, religious, parishioners, for the purpose of worshipping God, deepening our faith in Christ our Saviour and uniting ourselves to Him.
I heard one young man say that during some time spent with the Blessed Sacrament, (which is exposed throughout the retreat), he was able to recognise that Jesus was really present in the Sacred Host, that it was not 'just a piece of bread' . A young woman said that her degree in Theology meant nothing compared to the reality of Christ truly present in the Sacred Host, who loves us with a love beyond compare.
I am sure that many seeds were planted in the hearts of these and of all who came to Balham seeking  Christ, who Himself never ceases to seek for His children.

I managed to take a few pictures of the action, sorry they are a little grainy:

Fr. Stephen Langridge has also posted about this retreat (and with better photos!).