The sex education agenda and the Catholic Church

This address was given by Matthew McCusker, deputy international director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, on 18 May 2017 at the fourth annual Rome Life Forum, organised by Voice of the Family.

On 25 September 2015 the member states of the United Nations approved the Sustainable Development Goals. These consist of 17 goals and 169 targets which nations have committed achieving by 2030. The threat to the family that is most immediately apparent when reviewing the SDGs is the promotion of abortion and contraception. Goal 3 aims to:

“Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.”

And target 7 of this goal calls on nation states to:

“ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programs.”

Furthermore, goal 5 aims to:

“Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”

Target 6 of this goal states that nations must:

“Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.”

The definition of “sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights” accepted by United Nations member states at the ICPD and at Beijing, with reservations from a number of nations, includes contraception, including forms with an abortifacient mode of action”. The documents also consider “abortion” to be a “basic component of reproductive health care services” in jurisdictions where it is “not against the law” and it is stated that in some cases there may be a “need for abortion”.

And of course, in reality, “sexual and reproductive health” is almost universally considered to include much wider access to abortion. The World Health Organisation, for example, considers abortion to be an integral part of “sexual and reproductive health” and as part of its work to promote “reproductive health” is working to “improve access” to abortion in countries with very restrictive laws, such as Ireland.

All over the world national governments and powerful international organisations are aggressively promoting abortion and contraception under the banner of “sexual and reproductive health.”

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals must be understood then as effectively calling on member states to secure universal access to abortion worldwide by 2030.

The threat posed by the SDGs extends also directly to the main theme of this year’s forum as well. As you will have noticed, goal 3 calls for “universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services, including for family planning, information and education”. Thus the SDGs promote sex education, which is one of the major battlegrounds at the United Nations and in other international institutions. A team from SPUC was in New York during the Commission on the Status of Women in March and the Commission on Population and Development in April and during both sets of negotiations language regarding “comprehensive sexuality education” was among the most controversial issues.

The adoption of the SDGs will only further the expansion of damaging sex education programmes worldwide. Indeed such programmes are already in widespread use worldwide, including in Catholic schools. Before looking in more detail at the use of such programmes in Catholic schools I would like to show a brief video, produced by Family Watch International, which gives an excellent overview of what so-called “comprehensive sexuality education” generally entails.

The information contained in this video is of course very disturbing, but if anything can be more disturbing it is surely that such programmes are not only in use in Catholic schools but are even being produced by Catholic authorities.

A case study: the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

I would like to look first at the situation under one particular bishops’ conference, that of England and Wales, and then expand our view to the universal church. I am going to look in particular at the policies and actions of the Catholic Education Service, which is the official agency of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales dealing with education. I am going to examine this in some detail in order to demonstrate just how far Catholic structures can become aligned to secular ideology.

From 1999 until 2008 the Chairman of the CES was Archbishop Vincent Nichols, then the Archbishop of Birmingham, and now the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. Under the chairmanship of Archbishop Nichols the CES developed a policy that resulted in providing children in Catholic schools, including adolescents under the age of consent, with access to abortion and contraception services without parental knowledge or consent, through a state run confidential advice agency, named Connexions.

Also under his chairmanship the CES joined the Sex Education Forum and agreed to policies directly contrary to Catholic teaching and the natural law. Membership of the forum required agreement with the Sex and Relationships Education Framework (2003, reissued 2005). By accepting the membership of the SEF the Catholic Education Service, with Archbishop Nichols as its Chairman, agreed, among other things:

– to the “Forum’s aim” that sex and relationship education (SRE) should be given to “all children”

– that sex education is “an integral part of the lifelong learning process, beginning in early childhood”

– that they “welcome” the “diversity of society” in the area of “sexuality”

– that sex education is “an entitlement for all boys as well as girls; those who are heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual; those with physical, learning or emotional difficulties; and those with a religious or faith tradition – everyone whatever their background, community or circumstance”

– to plan for “providing SRE before the start of puberty and sexual activity, and as an on-going programme”

– that a “key element” of sex education “provide them with sufficient information and skills to resist pressure, have a sense of their own rights and protect themselves and their partner from unintended/unwanted conceptions or sexually transmitted infections”

– that children should be given “relevant information” which “is accurate and non – judgmental” about “the potential consequences of unprotected sex” including “abortion”

– that “advice and confidential support available to children and young people including leaflets, websites, help-lines and other health and support services.”

In April 2010 the CES, now under the chairmanship of Malcolm McMahon then bishop of Nottingham, now Archbishop of Liverpool, appointed as deputy director, Greg Pope, a former Labour member of Parliament, who had an extensive anti-life, anti-family voting record. During his time as an MP he signed parliamentary motions praising:

  • a condom manufacturer for helping schools host “National Condom Week”
  • the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Choice and Sexual Health Group
  • International Planned Parenthood Federation
  • Marie Stopes International, and the
  • United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

In 2004 he voted in favour of the Mental Capacity Act which legalised euthanasia by neglect and also in 2004 and in 2005 he signed parliamentary motions promoting homosexual unions.

Despite this voting record Greg Pope was considered to be an appropriate person to be placed in a position with great influence over the education of children in Catholic schools. He remained in that post until his promotion, earlier this year, to be the Assistant General Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

In 2010 the British government introduced legislation which would have made sex education compulsory in all state-funded schools, which includes the vast majority of Catholic schools in England and Wales.

On 23 February 2010, the relevant government minister, stated clearly in an interview on the BBC that:

“If you are currently a Catholic school… you could choose to teach only to children that contraception is wrong, homosexuality is wrong. That changes radically with this Bill.”

“A Catholic faith school can say to their pupils: ‘We believe as a religion contraception is wrong.’ But what they can’t do is therefore say that they are not going to teach contraception to children, how to access contraception, or how to use contraception. What this changes is that for the first time these schools cannot just ignore these issues or teach only one side of the argument.”

“They also have to teach that there are different views on homosexuality. They cannot teach homophobia. They must explain civil partnerships. They must give a balanced view on abortion. They must give both sides of the argument. They must explain how to access an abortion. The same is true on contraception as well.”

The minister also said:

“To have the support of the Catholic Church and Archbishop Nichols in these changes is, I think, very, very important, is a huge step forward.”


“[T]he Catholic Church, which I really welcome, is supporting, for the first time, compulsory sex education”

Sure enough, shortly afterwards, both Archbishop Nichols and the CES portrayed the legislation in a positive light and claimed that Catholic schools would still be able to teach in accordance with the Catholic faith, despite the clear explanation of the bill by the education minister.

Fortunately, partly as a result of SPUC’s lobbying and the action of Catholic head teachers, Catholic priests and a number of individual bishops, those particular provisions failed to become law in 2010, though the threat has now once more become critical.

So what action, you may ask, has the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales taken during the intervening period to protect parents and children. You might expect, or at least hope, that they might have used the time to mobilise parents and clergy against such threats. Quite the contrary, the CES, has in fact used this time to produce a radical sex education curriculum of its own which essentially implements the legislation that was withdrawn in 2010. Rather than fight for the rights and wellbeing of parents and children they have in fact been preparing to implement the previous government’s radical legislation to the full, even without any legal requirement to do so.

To demonstrate this I wish to look briefly at the recently issued model curricula (see primary curriculum and secondary curriculum) for Catholic schools produced by the CES, the official education department of the Bishops’ Conference.

From the age of 3 to 7 children are to be taught, after the standard model of such programmes, “the name of external parts of the body” and “the similarities and differences between girls and boys”. Another part of the curriculum, for the same age group, says that pupils should be taught about “identifying and correctly name their ‘private parts’ for the purpose of safeguarding them from sexual exploitation. Children in this age group, 3 to 7, are also to be directed towards outside agencies, rather than parents “if they are worried or need help”.

Children in the same age-group, 3 to 7, are to be taught that “there are different family structures and that these should be respected.” Such phrases as “different family structures” or, “various forms of the family” are, of course, widely used to promote homosexual unions and adoption. Language developed in order to promote this agenda, and which is therefore vigorously opposed by many nations at the UN for that reason, is being introduced into an educational programme for 3 to 7 year olds by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. It should also be noted here that Pope Francis adopts the use of this seriously problematic language in paragraph 53 of Amoris Laetitia when he writes that:

“We need to acknowledge the great variety of family situations that can offer a certain stability”

The CES guidance for children from ages 7 to 11 is of similar content, with many of the same themes being repeated. The advice for children from 11 to 14 however goes further. Children of this age-group are to be taught, and I quote:

“That certain infections can be spread through sexual activity, including HIV, and ways of protecting against sexually transmitted diseases, including abstinence”

In other words, abstinence is to be presented in Catholic schools as just one of a range of possible options for protecting oneself against sexually transmitted diseases.

Children aged 11 to 14 must also be taught, according to this model curriculum, that “homophobic” and “transphobic” “language and behaviour” is “unacceptable” and that they must be taught about “the need to challenge it and how to do so.” So Catholic schools must not only buy into the false notions of “homophobia” and “transphobia”, which of course are used to pathologise those who defend the moral law, but must teach Catholic pupils how to oppose them, that is, effectively, to how oppose the Church’s own teachings. Furthermore they should be taught about “the concepts of sexual identity, gender identity and sexual orientation” and that “there is diversity in sexual attraction and developing sexuality”.

The guidance for the 14-18 age group restates many of the same points but some new problems are to be found. 14-18 year olds in Catholic schools are to be taught “the importance and benefits of delaying sexual intercourse until ready” – not until marriage – but until ready. They are merely to be taught “the idea of appropriateness” whatever that means and the “importance of marriage” – the importance, but not necessity of marriage as the only relationship in which sexual intercourse is morally licit.

Also of serious concern are those parts of the guidance which deal with abortion. 14-18 year olds are to be taught “About abortion, including the current legal position, the risks associated with it, the Church’s position and other beliefs and opinions about it”. They are to be told “Where and how to obtain sexual health information, advice and support” and “About who to talk to for accurate, impartial advice and support in the event of unintended pregnancy.”

So you can see here exactly what I mean by the CES effectively implementing the previous governments proposed legislation. Catholic teaching on abortion is to be presented as one opinion amongst many and children are to be given access to outside organisations who will help them to access abortion. Note also how they are to be told that “homophobic” and “transphobic” bullying are “completely unacceptable” but are to be taught that there are a range of views about abortion and are to be put in contact with those who will give so-called “impartial advice”.

Last week a new CES document entitled Made in God’s Image: Challenging homophobic and biphobic bullying in Catholic Schools was leaked. This document consists of 40 pages of guidance and lesson plans developed to tackle the alleged problem of homophobic bullying in Catholic schools.

I haven’t yet had opportunity to look at this document in detail but what is immediately apparent is the enthusiastic adherence of the guidelines to LGBT ideology rather than the teachings of the Catholic Church.

For example, the guidance states children must be taught to use “the correct terminology of LGBT”, and the definitions given are those of the LGBT movement. To give just two examples, children in Catholic schools are to be taught that the term “transgender” is “frequently used as an umbrella term to refer to all people who do not identify with their assigned gender at birth or the binary gender system. Some transgender people feel they exist not within one of the two standard gender categories, but rather somewhere between, beyond, or outside of those two genders.” They are taught that the word “ally” refers to “any non-LGBT person who supports and stands up for the rights of LGBT people, though LGBT people can be allies, such as a lesbian who is an ally to a transgender person.”

And this is, I feel necessary to repeat, is guidance produced by an official body of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

  1. Sex education and the Holy See

Faced with such opposition to Catholic teaching by local churches it is natural of course for Catholics to turn to the official teachings of the Church, such as those defences of parental rights to be found in the teachings of popes including Leo XIII, Pius IX and John Paul II or to the detailed treatment of sex education found in The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality produced by the Pontifical Council for the Family in 1995.

Tragically however clear adherence to the Church’s previous teaching on sex education is not to be found in the recent Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which includes a section entitled “Yes to Sex Education”, translated in the English version as “The Need for Sex Education”. This section does not make any reference to the role of parents in educating their children in the area of sexuality but only makes reference to “educational institutions”. Yet, according to Catholic teaching, I’m quoting here from Familiaris Consortio, sex education is “a basic right and duty of parents” which “must always be carried out under their attentive guidance, whether at home or in educational centers chosen and controlled by them.” Amoris Laetitia does make brief reference to the general rights of parents in an earlier chapter but the omission of any reference to parental rights in the entire chapter on education, and in particular from a section dedicated to asserting a “need for sex education” is a grave omission. This whole section of Amoris Laetitia, by placing sex education in the context of educational institutions rather than of parents and the home stands in conflict with the Church’s traditional approach.

The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality taught, for example, that for education in “sexuality and chastity” “to correspond to the objective needs of true love, parents should provide this education within their own autonomous responsibility.” (No. 24)

And that

“Each child is a unique and unrepeatable person and must receive individualized formation. Since parents know, understand and love each of their children in their uniqueness, they are in the best position to decide what the appropriate time is for providing a variety of information, according to their children’s physical and spiritual growth. No one can take this capacity for discernment away from conscientious parents… Therefore, the most intimate aspects, whether biological or emotional, should be communicated in a personalized dialogue.” (No. 65)

And the Church upholds:

“… the right of the child and the young person to be adequately informed by their own parents on moral and sexual questions” (No. 119)

“Other educators can assist in this task, but they can only take the place of parents for serious reasons of physical or moral incapacity.” (No. 23)

The Pontifical Council for the Family, however, no longer abides by its own teaching. The Pontifical Council has, since the promulgation of Amoris Laetitia, published its own sex education programme, entitled The Meeting Point. This programme, which is intended to be taught in schools, in mixed classrooms, and not by parents, contradicts the teaching just quoted. It fails to adequately convey Catholic moral teachings, it adopts a secularised and secularising approach, and exposes children to obscene and pornographic images.

Serious questions about the programme have been raised by Dr Rick Fitzgibbons, a psychiatrist and adjunct professor of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, at the Catholic University of America. I would like to read an abridged version of an analysis provided by Dr Fitzgibbons:

“As a psychiatrist, I have worked extensively with Catholic youth severely harmed psychologically by the divorce of their parents, frequently enabled by ‘easy’ annulments of their parents’ sacramental marriages, in disregard for justice, mercy and psychological science, and by the epidemics of narcissism, marijuana, pornography, and sexual hooking up (using others as sexual objects), and the enormous peer pressure to be sexually active, and suffering the psychological conflicts in their parents, siblings, and peers.

“However, in my professional opinion, the most dangerous threat to Catholic youth that I have seen over the past 40 years is the Vatican’s new sexual education program, The Meeting Point: Course of Affective Sexual Education for Young People.

“The Meeting Point was released at World Youth Day in Poland by the Pontifical Council of the Family then under the direction of Archbishop Paglia and is now available online, for free, in five different languages. …

“In a culture in which youth are bombarded by pornography, I was particularly shocked by the images contained in this new sex education program, some of which are clearly pornographic. My immediate professional reaction was that this obscene or pornographic approach abuses youth psychologically and spiritually.

“Youth are also harmed by the failure to warn them of the long-term dangers of promiscuous behaviors and contraceptive use. As a professional who has treated both priest perpetrators and the victims of the abuse crisis in the Church, what I found particularly troubling was that the pornographic images in this program are similar to those used by adult sexual predators of adolescents.

“The person primarily responsible for the development and release of this harmful program, Archbishop Paglia, the former leader of the Pontifical Council of the Family, should be required in justice to go through an evaluation by a review board as described in the Dallas Charter norms for placing youth at risk. Such a review is particularly important as he is now been put in charge of further teaching regarding sexuality and marriage at the John Paul II Institute for Family Studies.

“The Meeting Point program constitutes sexual abuse of Catholic adolescents worldwide and reveals an ignorance of the enormous sexual pressure upon youth today and will result in their subsequent confusion in accepting the Church’s teaching. It represents a grave future crisis in the Church and particularly for Catholic youth and families in far greater proportions than the scandalous sexual abuse crisis of youth recently so widely reported in the press.”

To summarise – there is a clear similarity between programmes such as those produced by the Catholic Education Service in England and Wales, the Pontifical Council for the Family in Rome and those materials examined in the video with which I began this presentation. We can see a clear convergence between the approach adopted by radical sexual rights activists and that adopted within the institutions and structures of the Catholic Church.

This convergence is perhaps nowhere clearer than in Pope Francis’s endorsement of the United Nations Sustainable Development goals.

On 1 September 2016 Pope Francis stated, in his message “For the celebration of the world day of prayer for the care of creation”, that he was “gratified that in September 2015 the nations of the world adopted the Sustainable Development Goals”.

He had previously stated, during his address to the General Assembly of the United Nations on 25 September 2015, that “The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the World Summit, which opens today, is an important sign of hope”.

On 25 May 2016 Archbishop Jean-Marie Mupendawatu, of the Pontifical Council of Healthcare Workers, made an intervention at the World Health Assembly in Geneva in which he stated, without referring to any reservations, that the Holy See welcomes the SDGs. He specifically welcomed goal 3 and said that it “has 13 targets that are underpinned by universal coverage as the key to the achievement of all the others.” Goal 3, as I said earlier, includes a target calling for universal access to “sexual and reproductive health”, that is, abortion and contraception, and thus Archbishop Mupendwatu is essentially stating here, on behalf of the Pontifical Council of Healthcare Workers, that universal access to abortion and contraception is a key to the achievement of universal health.

Many of you will also be aware of other high-level collaboration between organs of the Holy See and the population control movement, particular that by the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Sciences, who recently held a seminar attended by leading population controllers including Paul Ehrlich. More information about this and similar events can be found in the briefing in your conference packs.

It is clear then that the crisis in the Church has reached its gravest point yet. Churchmen at every level of the hierarchy are embracing an agenda, which is radically destructive of human life and of the family, which is the very basis of human society. Pope Francis himself has professed to be “gratified” by, and considers “an important sign of hope”, goals which effectively call for universal access to abortion, contraception and sex education by 2030.

Let us pray with renewed hope and fervour to Our Lady of Fatima, in this centenary year, that she may crush the head of Satan and that we may soon witness the complete Triumph of Her Immaculate Heart.