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9-TEACHER

Teachers should be free to share Catholic theology

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However, the old voiceless, intimidated groups have been replaced by new ones; faithful Catholics for example.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

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

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