A faith-based RSE resource saying the contraceptive pill is dangerous, that gay and lesbian people cannot marry and must entirely abstain from sex, and that men were ‘created to initiate sexual relationships’ and women to be ‘receiver-responders’ has been defended by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cardiff on the grounds it ‘authentically reflects Catholic teaching’.
The Director of Religious Education at the Archdiocese, Father Bernard Sixtus, made the comments in response to criticism of the resource, A Fertile Heart: Receiving and Giving Creative Love. Humanists UK, which was responsible for exposing it and uncovering its use in schools across England and Wales, has said his comments show why faith groups should be prevented from teaching RSE from a religious perspective.
A Fertile Heart was produced by a group of priests from the dioceses of Birmingham, Cardiff, Clifton, and Shrewsbury. The Archdiocese of Cardiff instructs all of its schools (which are located in both Wales and England) to use it for their RSE provision. The resource also says that artificial contraception is wrong and, on this basis, should even be discouraged in cases where it is used to manage the menstrual cycle. The pill is referred to as a ‘danger’ on multiple occasions.
One of the schools found to be using the A Fertile Heart is St Mary’s RC High School in Herefordshire. There, the local Council has criticised the content, saying ‘it seems to be at odds with the essential role of a school to foster caring and cooperative relations between all children and staff, to respect differences and to support and encourage children as they negotiate the difficulties of adolescence.’ However, local authorities have no power over what schools with a religious character teach in the subject, with this delegated to religious bodies – in this case, the Archdiocese of Cardiff who helped to produce the resource. The Council has also stated that the Archdiocese has repeatedly failed to respond to its request to discuss the issue and ‘other matters concerning safeguarding.’
A former pupil of the school who is now a university professor told the local paper that, when he attended the school, ‘there was an unhelpful attitude towards LGBT as well as female students’. He has called on the Head Teacher to ‘abandon the use of such a medieval doctrine and ensure that all students are treated with equal respect regardless of gender or sexuality.’
Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham commented:
‘The Archdiocese’s defence of this unjustifiable resource shows just why faith-based RSE is a term used as a fig leaf to cover a wide range of unjustifiable prejudices and factual inaccuracies based on religious ideology being taught as true.
‘A Fertile Heart exemplifies attitudes that are actively damaging to young people and society as a whole. The UK and Welsh Governments must take swift action against schools using it. They must also address the broader issues that allow it to be taught in the first place. It simply cannot be right that such important aspects of the state school curriculum can be dictated by the prejudices of faith groups, with public authorities having little to no power to stop this.’
For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7324 3000 or 07725 110 860.
Read the Hereford Times article in which Father Bernard Sixtus defends A Fertile Heart and St Mary’s.
See a sample of resources from A Fertile Heart: Receiving and Giving Creative Love.
Read our original exposé on A Fertile Heart.
Read more about our work on relationships and sex education.
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