Monday, 22 May 2017

Catholic Teachers Deserve Better

I know I keep going on about the CES document (see CES Scandal, passim) but new aspects keep occurring to me. I have already mentioned what a difficult position it could place teachers in, who assume it was written by the CES and St Mary's, not realising that large portions were in fact written by LGBT propagandists. 

But now, consider the position of a teacher who suffers from same sex attention. He or she, striving to be faithful to the teachings of the Church, recognises that this is an inclination to sin and battles with it. It is not for us to inquire how successfully; all we can do is consider our own struggles with our own particular temptations, and sympathise with the struggle; and, as ever, pray.

But where does this document leave him or her? What internal conflicts does it exacerbate? What external prurience might it provoke? What kind of betrayal does it represent?...

Our teachers deserve so much better than this...

Sunday, 21 May 2017

So, to summarise...

In this weekend's edition of the Catholic Herald, there is a piece by Dan Hitchens on the #CESScandal. It seems to me rather to miss the point. Therefore I thought it might be helpful to summarise the issues which I  have raised in one place, as so far they have been scattered over some 20-odd posts.

The first thing to say, of course, is that bullying is always contrary to Catholic teaching, and educating children not to bully (or to put it in the positive, to practice the virtues, in particular the virtue of charity) is fundamental to a Catholic education. Let nobody say that those who oppose this document are in favour of bullying.

There are two broad aspects to this scandal (and I use the word advisedly, and not unaware of the resonance with Luke 17:2): the document itself, and the way in which the CES has gone about producing, and communicating about, it. There is also something to be said about the context.

Looking first at the document itself, there are several problems.

The approach
The overall thrust of this document is that we should not bully people who identify as gay or bisexual (or whose parents or carers do) because gay and bisexual people are just as good as us, but different.  That is wrong. We should not bully them because we should not bully anyone - even if they (or their parents) are bad. The risk of the approach taken is that the implicit message is that if someone is bad (by whatever current measure that is unacceptable - say racist or indeed homophobic) he or she may be bullied; and likewise if someone's parents are racist, homophobic or whatever. So the whole premise of the approach is flawed. 

The anthropology
The document accepts the language and worldview of the LGBT movement entirely and uncritically. The ideas that gay is a valid way of describing a human being, that people are born gay, that to be gay means that fulfilment may only be found in a sexual expression, and so on are all, to say the least debatable propositions; and are all at odds with a Catholic understanding of reality and humanity.

The ambiguity
The unquestioning use of the LGBT language (and indeed pages and pages of material lifted from LGBT sources) means that much that should be clear is ambiguous (possibly to prevent overt heresy) but clearly inclines in a particular (and anti-Catholic) direction. Thus the definitions of homophobic bullying, the reification of 'gay,' the elision of same-sex attraction and homosexual behaviour under that single word, and the implication in the title 'Made in God's Image' that God has created some people this way so it must be good, are all profoundly problematic, and such ambiguity is very poor from any educational standpoint.

The propaganda
Some of the material presented is simply untrue, and is outright propaganda for the LGBT worldview. The presentation of the 'case study' about Alan Turing is one obvious example. The attempt to control language and how it is used, defined as LGBT propagandists define it, is another. 

The omissions
Nowhere does this document contain Catholic teaching on chastity, on human sexuality, on concupiscence or anything else to provide a Catholic context for a discussion of homosexuality. "But it's about bullying" the apologist cries. OK: nowhere does it contain any reference to the Catholic understanding of virtues (and contrary vices), of temptation and grace, of the need for self denial in order to develop necessary self-mastery for moral and spiritual combat, of the need for a prayer life, and grace through the sacraments, and  so on. 

Turning now to the role of the CES, again there are several problems.

The opacity
Who wrote this document? Why was it being kept hidden? Why the fury when it was made public - whilst on its way into our schools? Why no acknowledgement of sources, when it gives the appearance of being a well-referenced academic document?

The collusion with Stonewall and LGBTYouth Scotland
What relationship has been established with these two organisations, whose work is extensively quoted, and who apparently gave permission for that to be done? Given that their work is in large part aimed at overturning a Catholic understanding of human sexuality this is a very serious question.

The questions over funding
The CES have contradicted themselves over the funding of this document. Initially, they said:  'The CES has received funding to cover the printing and distribution of a hard copy for each school.'

A number of sources whom I deem credible and honest have told me that the CES had received money from Stonewall. As this was reported, the CES changed their tune, and said: “The document is a collaboration between the CES and St Mary’s and no external funding has been received for it.” and also:  “The CES has not received any funding for either the printing or the distribution of the document.” 

There was no explanation of the contradiction. What are we to believe?

The response to the questions raised
Other than the completely inadequate response to the question over funding, I have seen no attempt by the CES to address any of the other concerns. Privately, they seem more intent on tracking down who 'leaked' the document.  This falls far short of the standards one would expect of a body funded, in large part, by the laity. The Nolan principles of public life would be useful standards to look to for guidance here. Nobody I know who has contacted the CES privately has yet had a response, beyond the autogenerated acknowledgement.


A few words about the context...

A few commentators have accused me of ignorance of the context, so I shall just add a few words on that.  There is no doubt that Catholic Schools will come under scrutiny from OFSTED on this topic. However, that can be no justification for teaching anything that is contrary to the Faith.  I believe that a truly Catholic approach should be enough to satisfy OFSTED; but if it is not, then we should not shy away from the resulting confrontation. To refuse to teach the Faith in order to stay open is a completely self-defeating policy.

A Catholic approach would consist of teaching that all bullying is wrong, forming children in the virtues, with the associated teachings (on the spiritual life, grace etc) to underpin that, and having a robust anti-bullying policy in place, that could demonstrate that Catholic Schools do not tolerate bullying of anyone, for any reason. 

Finally:

It seems likely that this post may be read by people beyond my usual readership. For their sake, I should make it clear that I have no hostility towards (nor fear of) those who identify as LGBT. I merely disagree with them on some things.  The Church teaches that we are all damaged by Original Sin, that we are all sinners, and that we all sin in many and various ways: that is certainly true of me.  Likewise, made in the image of God, we all have intrinsic worth and are worthy of respect and should love each other. The path to salvation is to deny ourselves, take up our cross (whatever that may be) and follow Christ, who became Man - like us in all things but sin - and lived, died and rose again, so that we might be divinised and share in eternal life and happiness. That is my wish for myself, for those I love and for those with whom I disagree.


For more detailed analysis, including quotations, links etc, see my previous posts on this topic, all of which have the label CESScandal.


For the contact details for the CES and responsible bishops, should you wish to raise your concern and request action (which, of course, you should...) see here.

And pray!
--

Sancte Michael Archangele,
defende nos in proelio;
contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium.
Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur:
tuque, Princeps militiae Caelestis,
satanam aliosque spiritus malignos,
qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo,
divina virtute in infernum detrude.
Amen.


Holy Michael, Archangel,
Defend us in the day of battle;
Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, 
And do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, 
By the power of God,
Thrust down to Hell Satan and all wicked spirits
Who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.

Amen.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

CES and Stonewall: What degree of cooperation?

I was interested to read a piece by Professor Charmley in Christian Today. Charmley is always worth reading, as anyone who follows the blog All Along the Watchtower will know: perceptive, and profoundly Catholic in his outlook. The piece in Christian Today was about Tim Farron and what seems to be the reincarnation of the Test Act. It was a thoguht-provoiking piece throughout, addressing a serious social and political point. But I have to confess that my attention was particularly caught by this paragraph: 
My own university, which is explicitly Catholic, welcomes students of all faiths and none, asking only for mutual respect. One of our research centres is producing a handbook for the Catholic Education Service on how to combat homophobic bullying. Some have criticised it because it used, with permission, material from gay campaign group Stonewall, but that, for us, is part of a Catholic ethos. It has expertise here, and while not adopting its assumptions we can use its expertise. Should we have expected Stonewall to have left its principles at the door?

Leaving aside the defence of the use of the Stonewall material (which I thought poor, to be honest) I think this is the first time I have seen it explicitly stated that Stonewall's material was used 'with permission.'  Stonewall, like the CES, have mastered the art of the ambiguous statement, and 'denied the group had any specific involvement with the production of the document,' according to the Catholic Herald  

As I have mentioned before, I think the Nolan principles should apply here: Catholics funding the CES have a right to know precisely what the links are between Stonewall and the CES document. And nobody has mentioned lgbtyouth Scotland, from whom far more of the document was copied.

This murky affair is far from over, and we have the right to expect open and honest accounts of what has gone on; not self-contradictory snippets addressing only the most damning questions, without in any way explaining anything.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Strange Bedfellows

If it is true that the CES not only collaborated with Stonewall and its allies in producing the content of Made in God's Image, but also accepted money from them for its printing and distribution to Catholic schools, that suggests a serious break down in the governance of the organisation and its oversight by the bishops.

Of course, there is nothing to suggest everyone in the CES, even, knew about this. It may have been one enthusiastic and naive individual, striving to do her very best, but without proper supervision. Who knows? But there can be no doubt that the body charged with promoting Catholic teaching in our schools, and the organisation dedicated to a very different agenda, directly at odds with a Catholic worldview, make very strange bedfellows.

Before people start running around saying that the CES Director's head should be put on a stake on Tower Bridge, or the CES should be burned to the ground, or the bishops on the management committee should be made to walk from Liverpool to Rome on their knees, I think a full investigation is needed; and that (pace Nolan) there is adequate transparency, honesty and openness with regard to its findings, so as to learn from this debacle and to rebuild the trust of the Catholic laity, who (in the main, and with the exception, apparently of LGBT lobbyists) fund the CES.

My guess is that the bishops will be shocked by this revelation, when they learn of it. I do not imagine any of them read this blog, so it is down to you to write to them, asking them to investigate what has gone wrong here and to put it right. Only if they know can they respond appropriately, so it is essential that they hear from more than one person.

Their problem is a tricky one. Quite rightly, in view of Catholic teaching on subsidiarity, the bishops delegate some of their authority to people such as the CES. However, delegation of authority should not be abdication: appropriate checks should be in place as final accountability (again pace Nolan) remains with the bishops.

I should have thought that before something goes out to all our schools, it should be scrutinised by a responsible bishop, who would then declare that there is no reason why it should not be published, and sign his name to that effect. Those who know me and my love of Latin, will not be surprised to know I have dreamed up a lovely Latin tag that could be used: Nihil obstat.

Then, to make assurance doubly sure, a second scrutiny, by another named individual, should be undertaken immediately prior to publication. That could be signed off as an Imprimatur. Then there could be no doubt as to who was vouching for the Catholicity of things presented to our teachers as guidance in forming Catholic children.

I realise that some are averse to change, and to such newfangled ideas, but let us recognise that the CES Scandal calls for a creative and innovative response, to ensure that it is not repeated. 

--

UPDATE 17 May 14.26

I have just seen that the Catholic Herald have updated their article with a new CES quotation on this topic: 

The Catholic Education Service did not receive any outside funding for either writing, printing or distributing its document on homophobia, a spokesman has said.
So whilst my informants may have been mistaken, we have at least got a clearer statement out of the CES. All other questions and issues remain unaddressed, of course; including why they previously said that they had received funding. When people say two opposite things, how does one know which to believe?

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Did the CES Accept Money From Stonewall?

I have now heard from several sources that the CES has been given money by Stonewall, a group fundamentally opposed to Catholic teaching on human sexuality, to print and distribute copies of Made in God's Image, to Catholic Schools.

I have argued from the first that this document looked like Stonewall propaganda, and that certainly adds weight to that view.


As indeed does coverage like this.

Of course, it is conceivable that my sources, all of whom I deem trustworthy, are mistaken or have been misled: in which case, the CES should quickly and clearly refute the claim.


The absence of any such refutation will raise serious questions. Who knew? And who put out the lie that no external funding was received? 


The CES Scandal has just taken a turn for the worse. The restoration of good governance is now essential.


Pray for all concerned, and write to the bishops! (Contact details here)



UPDATE 17 May 14.26


I have just seen that the Catholic Herald have updated their article with a new CES quotation on this topic: 

The Catholic Education Service did not receive any outside funding for either writing, printing or distributing its document on homophobia, a spokesman has said.
So whilst my informants may have been mistaken, we have at least got a clearer statement out of the CES. All other questions and issues remain unaddressed, of course; including why they previously said that they had received funding. When people say two opposite things, how does one know which to believe?

So What Is To Be Done?

I have chronicled the slow-motion car crash of the CESScandal in some detail over the last 11 days or so (what was it Alastair Campbell said about making toast?) It is a sorry story (though I am reminded of the dentist's comment about tooth decay: it's terrible of course, but it's good for business! - this has certainly been a story that people have been keen to read about, judging by the hits on this blog).

But what is to be done about it? There are those out there in the Twittersphere who think we might as well give up: 'they' will never listen to us.  I am always wary of such conflation: who are 'they?'

The people we need to listen to us are either the CES chaps (whom I don't know) or the bishops (some of whom I do).  The bishops, I think it is fair to say, are a mixed bunch; and some of them are very good indeed. So to say 'they' won't listen seems to me both a counsel of despair and a potential injustice.

But beyond them, we need Our Lord and Our Lady to listen. And anyone who says that they won't has departed from the path of wisdom and from the Faith.

So what is to be done?  Firstly, as always, pray! Pray to the Blessed Trinity, to our Immaculate Mother, to all the saints in heaven. You choose - but choosing not to pray is not a Catholic option.

And then, write to the CES and write to the bishops. Write with charity, avoid accusations about people's motives, and ask what is being done to address the concerns that have been raised.

You might want to make one or two points from amongst from the many that Joseph Shaw, Mark Lambert, Caroline Farrow or I have made, or from the Catholic Herald's reporting (here and here). I would recommend not making too many points, nor writing at too great a length (I am sure that when another 10 page letter from Trovato Towers arrives, in lurid green ink, it is quickly binned...)

Here are some useful addresses:

Catholic Education Service

Paul Barber
Director
Catholic Education Service
39 Eccleston Square
London
SW1V 1BX

(or use the form at http://www.catholiceducation.org.uk/about-us/ces-team)

Bishops with oversight of the CES (ie on the Management Committee):

The Most Reverend Malcolm McMahon, Archbishop of Liverpool
19 Salisbury Road
Liverpool
L19 0PH
Tel: 0151 494 0686
Fax: 0151 306 7762
Email: archbishop.liverpool@rcaolp.co.uk

The Right Reverend Terrence Drainey, Bishop of Middlesbrough
 16 Cambridge Road, 

Linthorpe, 
Middlesbrough
TS5 5NN

Telephone: 01642 818253
Email: bishopsecretary@dioceseofmiddlesbrough.co.uk

The Right Reverend David McGough, Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Birmingham
The Rocks
106 Draycott Road
Tean
Staffordshire


Tel & Fax: 01538 722433
Email: dmcgough@btinternet.com

The Right Reverend Marcus Stock, Bishop of Leeds
Diocese Of Leeds
Hinsley Hall
62 Headingley Lane
Leeds
LS6 2BX


The Right Reverend Alan Williams, Bishop of Brentwood
Cathedral House, 

Ingrave Road, 
Brentwood, 
Essex, 
CM15 8AT

You might also wish to write to the Cardinal, both as Chairman of the Bishops' Conference, and in his role with oversight over St Mary's, and of course to your own diocesan bishop. 

Finally, there are those bishops with the wisdom and orthodoxy to see the problems without needing the problems to be pointed out to them.  So a letter to (say) +Moth, +Davies, +Byrne, +Campbell, or +Egan (to take a few names purely at random, you understand) asking them to use their influence and assuring them of prayerful support, might also help.

Monday, 15 May 2017

On 'gay' and language policing

I had an interesting conversation with our youngest, Dominique, at breakfast this morning. She is in her final term at school (what I, in my unreconstructed fashion, think of as the Upper Sixth).

I asked her about the current use of the word gay. She was very clear that it has two quite distinct meanings in her school. The older meaning, of happy and cheerful, is not current. It is used both to mean homosexual and also something between rubbish and stupid: an all-purpose pejorative term. And which is meant is always quite clear from the context.


The latter use has no connotation of anything to do with homosexuality. So I asked if it would be wrong for someone using that term to be had up for homophobic bullying. She hemmed and hawed a bit at that. The point is that although the word is not used with that connotation, its power as a pejorative comes from the fact that it is known to be a forbidden word; and it is known that it is a forbidden word because of its potential use as a  bullying term.


Indeed, she said, it is the school banging on about it that gives the term its allure. It's precisely because it is a forbidden word that it is an appealing one.


That makes perfect sense to me.


It also seems to me that if a school is to discipline someone for using the term gay as a pejorative, the charge should not really be one of homophobia, as that is not the intention. The intention, in so far as it is malign, is to rebel against authority.


Language, of course, changes meaning over time. If one considers the word queer, one can see that. It started by meaning odd, was then applied as a discreet way of referring to homosexuals, then became an extremely offensive way of referring to them, and has since been reclaimed by at least some and become the way they prefer to describe themselves.


It is not a word I would use myself in that context; but in that word context lies another part of the complexity of language.


Which brings me to the CES document, Made in God's Image.  Here we read:
Homophobic language
This could be the casual derogatory use of the word ‘gay’ to mean something negative or the use of explicit homophobic terms.
For example: • ‘that’s so gay’, or ‘you’re so gay’; ‘those trainers are so gay’
• someone calling another student a ‘dyke’ or ‘faggot’ 
I would suggest that these are two entirely different cases. Dyke or faggot are currently both clearly offensive and derogatory terms, and it is hard to conceive of an innocent use of them, unless it is the mere repetition of them by a younger child who has heard them as insulting words but does not know what they mean (and that is always a possibility that adults should be alive to, before coming down too heavily: children often learn words in that way from other children - getting the intent and general pejorative meaning, without knowing a specific meaning).

But the meaning of gay seems to be shifting again; it is quite probable that many children use it with no homophobic intent. What then is to be done?

The thought-police mentality of the authors of Made in God's Image are in no doubt: its use is homophobic bullying. But to lay such a charge against children who may be wholly innocent, or even those who use it as a show of bravado, is an injustice. 

Further, given that it may frequently be used with no homophobic intent, is it helpful to sensitise people to it, so that homosexual people will feel attacked every time they hear it used in that way?  I worry about approaches that end up making people feel like victims unnecessarily. 

Of course, the argument would be that they want to eradicate such language; but my daughter, at least, thinks that this approach is precisely what lends it potency. And there is a lesson to be learned from Canute: like it or not, language is not subject to control.  I have a lot of sympathy for the French Academy, and their attempt to maintain certain standards through a prescriptive approach to dictionary-making. But in England, we have always tended towards a descriptive approach, and that may be wiser.  And I notice that the online Urban Dictionary gives three distinct definitions of gay...

And always, I come back to Orwell, and his insights into the use of language control to control the thoughts that people are allowed to think.  And I ask myself, are the CES entirely ignorant of the complexities of the issues that they have waded into? Or do they have an agenda, and if so, what is it?

Oh, and by the way, who paid?...