Scots RE Teacher: why lack of teaching on purity & sin in Catholic Schools? 

Pauline Gallagher, an RE teacher in Glasgow Archdiocese, argues that LGBT guidelines make it difficult to keep teaching true to the Gospel

AS a dedicated RE teacher in a Catholic school in Glasgow Archdiocese, I want to share fully the Church’s teaching and the Gospel with my pupils.

In Scotland today, as the authorities prepare to embed LGBT-inclusive education across the curriculum, those who disagree with the unquestioned promotion of the LGBT agenda have lost confidence.

We are marginalised and branded as old-fashioned. Injustice towards marginalised groups, such as LGBT people, is real. I know this. I witnessed and abhorred it as a teenager in Glasgow in the 1970s.

However, the old voiceless, intimidated groups have been replaced by new ones; faithful Catholics for example.

I am concerned about the legacy of the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign and the new LGBT materials which will be delivered in Scottish Catholic schools early in 2019.

I support inclusion, yes, but not without open debate and a full encounter with Gospel values and of the Youth Catechism on this issue. However, protecting and promoting Church teaching in its entirety is easier said than done.

Catholic schools have a distinct character and duty. This distinction has Gospel values as its cornerstone.

I have been an RE teacher for 30 years. Maintaining this spirit has been both a privilege and a challenge.

Catholic RE teachers propose rather than impose the Gospel. This is what Jesus did. God is love and love does not force.

When pupils ask their RE teacher a question about morality, including sexual morality, we should be free to share with them Catholic teaching even if it is not politically correct.

Pupils love engaging in the marketplace, or battlefield, of ideas. They may not agree with us but they respect our right to speak. They are happy when a strong set of Gospel values is witnessed to.

They prefer this to woolliness. They understand that difficult truths, shared out of genuine concern, are a sign of love. Children feel secure with clear boundaries. Rebellious teenagers are no different.

In Catholic schools this should mean responding to pupils’ questions as a faithful follower of Christ.

However fidelity to the Gospel has been growing steadily more difficult in recent years.

Many topics concerning human sexuality are considered too risky to engage with. LGBT issues, in particular, are off-limits. Meaningful dialogue is stifled to avoid ‘triggering’ anyone.

This is frustrating; pupils keep asking questions and, sometimes, we have to avoid giving them the answers we would like to give. At a time when they need us most we are spectacularly failing them.

Why is purity a bad word? Why is sin a banned word?  

The Catechism teaches that homosexual feelings are not sinful but like all sexual attraction are subject to the call to chastity inherent in the sixth commandment. The new LGBT materials are extensive, scriptural, quote the Catechism and, as their point is anti-bullying, emphasise Catholic social teaching.

Church teaching on sexual morality, on the other hand, is minimised and unclear in these materials.

This is a missed opportunity since the Youth Catechism alone deals comprehensively and eloquently with the sixth commandment.

RE teachers in Catholic schools in Scotland no longer have freedom of conscience. To be politically correct, we have to be compliant or vague.

Jesus was never vague. He was passionately inclusive yet crystal clear when pointing out sin.

The Catechism is like this. Teachers and pupils have no need to fear or avoid it any more than we need to fear Christ himself as long as we have honest hearts.

Jesus was gentle with sinners because everybody sins, everybody makes mistakes. This is why he told us not to judge each other.

The Church in Scotland is full of men and women of integrity and valour struggling to deliver the Gospel while trying not to offend anyone.

Their task is rendered even more difficult due to a priesthood made fragile by scandal. This is truly a cross of great weight for our bishops, priests and all those in the Scottish Catholic Education Service.

Many priests are exceptional in their fidelity to Christ and his doctrine. But they need support.

All Catholics, and those of us involved in Catholic education in particular, need to stand with them.

We are leaving our clergy ever more alone; we should wake up and stop walking on PC eggshells.

It could cost us dearly to rebel. Do we fear the loss of Catholic schools?

Yes! But I would argue that we are en route to that destination anyway if we take the path of further dilution of Gospel values. Our distinctive character is growing faint.

Scottish Catholics need to take a sgian-dubh and cut the fetters with which our bishops, priests, and RE teachers are bound.  Source – Scottish Catholic Observer (SCO)  [emphases added]

—The author can be contacted at: paulinemarygallagher@gmail.com

Comment: 

Congratulations to Pauline Gallagher for her courageous article.  Catholic teachers challenging the modernist stranglehold in Catholic schools have been known to suffer, even finding themselves visiting the local jobcentre.  So, we must pray that Pauline’s right – indeed her duty –  to bring her perfectly legitimate concerns to the attention of the wider Catholic community without fear of reprisal, is respected.  Her SCO article reflects the concerns expressed in the Catholic Truth article published on page 4 of the current, January newsletter, LGBTI Issues in Catholic Schools,  which you can read by clicking here

One key point of discussion for this thread might focus on the following comment from the above article: “Catholic RE teachers propose rather than impose the Gospel. This is what Jesus did. God is love and love does not force.”

This idea of “not imposing” Catholic teaching/the Gospel, seems now to be rooted in the contemporary philosophy of Catholic education – I first heard it formally stated in a newspaper article by the then new (now former) Director of the Scottish Catholic Education Commission, Michael McGrath.  However, this way of thinking stands in stark contradiction to the traditional purpose of Catholic schools which was to pass on the Faith, to nurture the Catholic religion in pupils;  parents were required to take their children to Mass, inculcate devotions, while Catholic dogma and morals were systematically taught at school, just as every academic subject is taught.  The Faith was to be taught across the curriculum so that pupils would leave school with a Catholic world-view.  Catholic home-schooling programmes continue to pursue the traditional method, with much success. 

The modern, rather apologetic attitude, this reassurance of “not imposing” the Faith suggests that it is optional, that the Catholic Church is not God’s means of salvation. The ecumenical times in which we live, the fact that we have both teachers and pupils from non-Catholic backgrounds in attendance at our schools partly explains this major omission, although it must be noted that from the beginning, certainly in Scotland, Catholic schools could not even have been established without the help of non-Catholic staff. And, in my own experience at Open Evenings with prospective non-Catholic students  (including Muslims) visiting, those parents understand that their child will be exposed to Catholicism;  as one Muslim parent told me, that was why she had chosen that particular school!  

Pauline adds that Jesus Himself did this – i.e. He “proposed not imposed” the Faith, because “love does not force”.  But, surely, it’s not about “forcing” – nobody speaks of proposing to give family and friends gifts and cards at Christmas. It’s not an imposition to offer gifts.  The gift may not be accepted – the recipient may choose to return the gift, buy something else with that gift receipt, but few would consider the offer as an imposition, of being forced to accept a gift. And the Faith IS a gift – from God.  He has given us free will in the expectation that we will accept this great gift.  There really is no right to refuse.  And that is because, in fact, Our Lord did NOT simply “propose” the Faith – his very last words on this earth were a clear instruction to His apostles:  “All power is given to Me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Certainly, we cannot “force” the Faith on anyone, in the sense of coercion; but we must avoid the sin of omission by failing to teach the elementary dogma that – as the Fathers of the Church have taught from the beginning – outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation (Catechism of the Catholic Church #846).  One famous educational psychologist, whose name escapes me at the moment, said that children can be taught anything, as long as the teacher has thought it through carefully.  In other words, this dogma CAN be taught, without “offending” anyone – the current (and perhaps only) mortal sin! 

Of course, given the weakness of the Scottish Catholic Education Commission for many years now, it is extremely difficult for any Catholic school to truly offer an authentic Catholic education in the sense traditionally understood.  Goodness, as Pauline indicates, it is almost impossible for Catholic schools to teach  purity and the abhorrence of sin, let alone imbue young people with a Catholic world-view.  

For now, though, congratulations to Pauline Gallagher – I will email her the link to this blog so let’s assure her of our prayers and support, with gratitude for her courageous article,  sincerely hoping that she will be able to make a real difference in the work of restoring authentic Catholic education in our schools.