Act in defence of the innocence of Ireland’s children

In a special Ireland edition of Catholic Schools Watch, Voice of the Family is calling on Catholics throughout the world to unite with parents in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in defence of their children. Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) resources recently published by the Irish Episcopal Conference’s Council for Education present an intense threat to the innocence and healthy development of pupils in Catholic schools.

Catholic Schools Watch was launched in the summer of 2023 to report on RSE programmes enforced in Catholic schools all over the world, and to help the laity, whether parents or not, to take appropriate action. The danger to the Catholic faith and to the innocence of children is all the graver, however, when the attacks come from those whose primary responsibility is to go into the world “and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15).

The Irish bishops now encourage pupils to engage in (at best) inappropriate and (at worst) salacious discussions on propositions such as:

“Everyone has a right to sexual pleasure … I can do what I like with my body, including masturbate to achieve sexual pleasure … It doesn’t matter how you achieve sexual pleasure so long as it’s between consenting adults … No one has the right to tell me what to do with my body … The only rule about sex that I need to listen to is that of consent … I can’t be truly fulfilled in life without sexual pleasure.” (Catholic Education Partnership, “Living Love” (RSE resources), lesson on “sexual attraction”, slide 20)

Nowhere in the RSE resources is Catholic doctrine on the moral evil of vices such as self-abuse, fornication, homosexual acts presented according to Church teaching. Parents may be permitted to doubt whether RSE teachers in Ireland’s Catholic schools are expected to know and believe Catholic doctrine on these or any other matters.

In his 1929 encyclical, Divini Illius Magistri, on Christian education, Pope Pius XI condemned the kind of specious education as is now being promoted by the Irish bishops:

“Far too common is the error of those who with dangerous assurance and under an ugly term propagate a so-called sex-education, falsely imagining they can forearm youths against the dangers of sensuality by means purely natural, such as a foolhardy initiation and precautionary instruction for all indiscriminately, even in public; and, worse still, by exposing them at an early age to the occasions, in order to accustom them, so it is argued, and as it were to harden them against such dangers.

“Such persons grievously err in refusing to recognise the inborn weakness of human nature, and the law of which the Apostle speaks, fighting against the law of the mind; and also in ignoring the experience of facts, from which it is clear that, particularly in young people, evil practices are the effect not so much of ignorance of intellect as of weakness of a will exposed to dangerous occasions, and unsupported by the means of grace.”

Divini Illius Magistri, 65–66

The Irish Episcopal Conference emphasises that its RSE resources have been developed “in harmony” with the policies of the Republic of Ireland’s National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), which it has also extended to Northern Ireland, where Catholic schools already labour under similar strictures enforced by the UK government. The NCCA draft guidance requires students to be able to “explore sexual and reproductive health” which they further define to include “learning about … contraceptive options”. 

The bishops’ RSE lesson on “the gift of fertility” bows appallingly to this requirement by listing various contraceptive drugs and devices, and undermining Catholic teaching by stating that, “The Church encourages spouses to … respect their procreative potential and not deliberately frustrate it through contraceptive measures”. (Slide 7, emphasis added)

By suggesting that the Church merely encourages parents not to contracept, the Irish Episcopal Conference fails to uphold that contraceptive actions are “intrinsically evil” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2370): in other words, it is a mortal sin, which, when carried out with full knowledge and consent, “causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1861)

This catastrophic failure is also manifest in an RSE lesson on “responsible parenthood”, where it is emphasised that “Catholic teaching does not say … that a couple must intend to have a child every time they make love … [or] that couples should have many children”, without mentioning that “each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life”. (Humanae Vitae, 11)

Despite Archbishop Martin’s reference to the “inalienable right” of parents as primary educators of their children, the powerlessness of parents is clearly underlined by the “cross-curricular” approach to teaching RSE, emphasised by the bishops in 2021 document “Relationships and Sexuality Education: guidance for Catholic post-primary schools”. Here, the bishops describe consultation with parents as “key to the effective delivery of the school’s RSE programme”, but add that such consultation must also include, in accordance with the Irish Government’s requirements, the School Board of Management, the School Trustees, the Teachers, the Senior cycle students, the Student Council, the Diocesan Advisor, the local bishop … in addition to which the school’s RSE co-ordinator has a most influential role. (pp 26–32)

Whilst the bishops, citing government documents and Irish law, insist that “parents have the right to withdraw their child from any aspect of RSE if they so wish”, the same document prescribes that, “in so far as possible RSE will be taught in a cross-curricular way. The following subject areas could contribute to a cross-curricular approach: Home Economics; Physical Education; Religious Education; Science; English; Music; Art”. (p 40 and elsewhere)

In other words, it is morally impossible for parents to withdraw their children from all the subject areas which might be covering RSE without withdrawing them entirely from the national school system.

The real nature of the rights and duties of parents was made clear in the 1890 encyclical, Sapientiae Christianae, in which Leo XIII laid the foundation for the bulwark of Catholic doctrine against the assault of secular education:

“By nature parents have a right to the training of their children, but with this added duty that the education and instruction of the child be in accord with the end for which by God’s blessing it was begotten. Therefore it is the duty of parents to make every effort to prevent any invasion of their rights in this matter, and to make absolutely sure that the education of their children remain under their own control in keeping with their Christian duty, and above all to refuse to send them to those schools in which there is danger of imbibing the deadly poison of impiety.”

Sapientiae Christianae, 46

We encourage all our supporters to familiarise themselves with the content of Catholic Schools Watch and respectfully raise their concerns with the bishops in Ireland. We also encourage our supporters to pass it on electronically or in print — especially to anyone they may know in Ireland — and to take what appropriate action they can to turn the tide of “the deadly poison of impiety”.