Laurence England has posted the letter he received from Bishop McMahon in which the good Bishop attempts to defend the work of the CES regarding its input to the sex education aspect of the DCSF Bill. Bishop McMahon states:
"As the Bill stands at the present time, it will not be made statutory for Catholic Schools to promote abortion, contraception and homosexuality.
I suggested in a comment over on Fr. Ray Blake's blog, that the CES/Bishop McMahon position hangs on what they mean by that word 'promote'.
Lord Alton, a prominent Catholic peer, believes that teaching children how to get an abortion, is promotion of, rather than information about, abortion.
This is a part of the Hansard record of Lord Alton's speech in the House of Lords on the 8th March 2010:
"Last week, I tabled a Written Question to the Government, indicating my intention to raise this point. It was reported in the media that:
"Catholic schools must teach pupils where to access an abortion, Schools Secretary Ed Balls has said".Mr Balls said this on the "Today" programme:
This is not a trivial matter, and I hope that the Government realise the implications. The Government need to understand that such a fundamental attack on the character and ethos of faith schools will create a crisis of conscience for parents and teachers alike. After their inept handling of the adoption agencies issue, the Government should understand the enormity of this question which they have opened.
As someone who left a political party when it said that abortion had to be a party policy rather than a matter of conscience, I can say with some feeling that Catholics and many others will not meekly accept that their children should routinely be taught how to procure abortions. That is promotion, not information, and the Government really do need to clarify the difference between the two. This is a wholly unacceptable assault on the rights of conscience, beliefs, the integrity of religious foundations, and the integrity of families." (my emphasis)
Had Bishop McMahon included in his letter to Laurence England, a statement that Catholic schools would not teach children how to access abortion (or indeed contraception), that could possibly have put the CES in the sort of direct confrontation with the Ed Balls department, that Bishop McMahon believes would not achieve anything. However, we are now in the deeply worrying situation whereby a failure to stand up against "such a fundamental attack on the character and ethos of faith schools" could result in Catholic schools teaching children how to procure an abortion, whilst simultaneously claiming that this does not promote abortion to children, and is consistent with the ethos of a Catholic school.