With Freedom for Catholic Education Uncertain, UK Diocese Charts a New Path
by KEVIN J. JONES
Portsmouth Bishop Philip Egan’s letter introducing the diocese’s guidelines on sex and relationship education aims to ‘articulate the Christian vision of human happiness in a life lived in fidelity to Christ with love and respect for neighbor.’
Catholic schools in England could face problems under both a new “British values” government mandate and demands to approve same-sex relationships. But in the Diocese of Portsmouth, new education guidelines focus on Catholic fidelity, love of neighbor, and the love of Jesus Christ.
Bishop Philip Egan has written a letter introducing the diocese’s guidance on sex and relationship education. He said the document aims to “articulate the Christian vision of human happiness in a life lived in fidelity to Christ with love and respect for neighbor.”
The June 29 guidance was issued because the bishop and the diocese’s trustees recognize “the need for Catholic schools to navigate carefully through the current statutory landscape whilst critically engaging with its requirements.”
He said that everyone faces challenges in living up to Christian ideals. Those who fall short of these ideals or view them differently should be shown “genuine pastoral sensitivity.” At the same time, Catholics must also recognize that God gives the grace and help to “grow in human maturity and to aspire in practice to what Christians profess.”
Bishop Egan’s letter did not mention specific regulations. However, the British Department for Education has required schools to teach “fundamental British values.” The requirements were created after reports that extremist Muslim groups were trying to infiltrate schools.
The education department’s November 2014 guidance added stronger language that requires schools actively to promote what it sees as British values. The rules require all schools to promote equality and diversity, as defined by the education department’s guidance.
This requirement includes “challenging opinions or behaviors in school.” According to the British newspaper The Guardian, these rules are likely to conflict with Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and other religious schools because they require them to prioritize secular law over religious teachings.
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