Not content with recommending the murder of unborn children in its December 2017 report, the Joint Oireachteas Committee on the Eighth Ammendment also called for the national sex education programme, RSE (Relationships and Sexuality Education), to be provided independently of school ethos.
Currently, all schools – Catholic or otherwise – are obliged by the Department of Education to provide the RSE programme in its entirety. However, a school may teach it in the context of its ethos. Concretely, this means that every school must teach about contraception, for example, but an individual establishment may point out to students that its ethos does not endorse it.
This status quo is already an attack on the independence of Catholic schools and Catholic morality. No Catholic school should accept it. As Pius XI teaches in Divini Illius Magistri:
“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 youth 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 recognize 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 the intellect, as of weakness of a will exposed to dangerous occasions and unsupported by the means of grace”.
However, the Oireachtas Committee wants to further erode this independence and this morality by ensuring that the very possibility of any Catholic “spin” being put on the RSE course is eliminated. This is notwithstanding the fact that many so-called Catholic schools across Ireland are already openly promoting this agenda which is at odds with Catholic ethos.
At least two of the Committee's members, Deputy Bríd Smyth and Senator Paul Galvan very clearly targeted Catholic schools. Deputy Smyth said that “the ethos of Catholicism should be removed from the delivery of sexual health programmes in schools”. Senator Galvan was even more explicit, saying: “We know what the problem is – the vast majority of our schools are still under Catholic control”.
Should the Committee's recommendations become law, which is rather probable, then all Catholic schools will be obliged to teach the content of a sexual education programme, which is clearly at odds with Catholic teaching. Furthermore, it will possibly be forbidden for teachers to state that this is against the Law of God. This will be an additional nail in the coffin of an already moribund Catholic education in Ireland.