Catholic diocese cancels gay author event at UK school

A priest wears a rainbow ribbon during a vigil against Anglican homophobia, outside the General Synod of the Church of England in London, Britain, February 15, 2017. |

A UK Catholic diocese is facing backlash after it canceled a children’s book signing event featuring a gay author at one of its schools, and reportedly fired school governors for supporting the decision to invite the speaker.

Like the Scottish site Catholic Truth first reportedchildren’s book author Simon James Green was due to visit eighth and ninth year pupils at John Fisher School in Purley, London on March 7.

As noted in a letter obtained by Catholic Truth and written by the Catholic Boys’ School librarian, the book signing event was part of World Book Day and LGBT History Month celebrations. school.

The purpose of the event was for Green to discuss his novel, Noah can’t even which features a gay character. Another of Green’s books, Alex in wonderlandwas “selected as one of the top 20 LGBTQ+ books of 2019 by Attitude,” according to its website.

The prospect of a Catholic school promoting books advancing an ideology contrary to Catholic Church teachings on marriage and sexuality did not sit well with the Catholic website, which seeks to “report on the crisis of the Church and denounces “infidel clergy who live a double life of sexual immorality.”

“Catholic schools may not, under any circumstances, endanger the faith of the pupils in their charge by presenting as good something which is condemned by the divinely bequeathed teaching authority of the Church of Christ,” explained the website.

The article, which urged Catholics to protest Green’s speech and called for its cancellation, cited paragraph 2357 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as justification for its position. The document states that “homosexual acts are inherently disorderly”, “contrary to natural law” and “in no way can they be approved”.

Simon Hughes, Director of Education and Coordinator of Diocesan Schools for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark, Posted an “official position statement” on the March 3 book signing event, four days before Green’s scheduled guest appearance speech.

“Once in a while, materials or events emerge for consideration that fall outside the scope of what is permitted in a Catholic school,” he wrote.

“The book signing event scheduled for March 7, 2022 at John Fisher, Purley is one such event and we have recommended that school leaders cancel it,” Hughes added.

While the school originally planned to go ahead with the event despite the Archdiocese’s recommendation, a headteacher strenuously opposed the move.

In a message share Per Green on Twitter, John Fisher school chaplain Father James Clark warned parents that “the event involves an author whose books are not in line with Catholic education and are contrary to the ethics of our school and the teachings of the Church”.

“The director and some governors have decided to disobey clear instructions from the diocese and this will have serious consequences in the weeks to come,” Clark lamented.

Clark encouraged parents to “email the school emphasizing your request to cancel the event and restore your trust.”

“It’s not about diversity,” Clark argued. “No one denies the existence of those who have beliefs different from ourselves, the event is to promote the literature of a life choice contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ, and therefore has no place in a Catholic school.

While the event was canceled, the fallout continues.

I News reported last week, Hughes expressed outrage that the school’s “foundation governors” had decided to allow the event to go ahead. In the letter published March 5, Hughes said the decision had “eroded” his and Archbishop John Wilson’s “confidence in the governing body” and that they were “removing the remaining foundation governors under the powers set out in the articles and the governing instrument”. This decision renders “the governing body inaccurate and dysfunctional”.

Correspondence reviewed by The tablet indicates that two of the school governors resigned while the other foundation governors had been removed from office by the Southwark Board of Education.

Catholic Truth reported that Clark resigned over the weekend, citing a conversation with a source familiar with the matter who claimed that “Father Clark decided he just couldn’t work at a school that promoted and sold pornographic material inappropriate to children”.

For his part, Green stress a need to “make some noise” by liking, retweeting and amplifying the story of his event’s cancellation.

“I want [the Archdiocese of Southwark] to see how wrong they are,” he tweeted. Green emphasized that he didn’t want people to direct their outrage at the school itself because “they’ve been lovely.”

The archdiocese’s decision to cancel the event has been criticized by the Catholic Education Service, an arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

“Catholic schools welcome students from all walks of life. This isolated incident gave a false impression of the inclusive nature of Catholic schools,” a CES said. declaration bed.

“Catholic schools are places where all children can thrive and as such have a zero tolerance approach to LGBT+ discrimination. Nationally, CES has worked closely with schools, dioceses and charities to produce guidance and resources on Catholic inclusivity for schools that have been acclaimed by LGBT+ organizations. »

The National Secular Society, a British group that opposes government funding of religious schools, also condemned the archdiocese’s cancellation of the event.

In one declarationNSS chief executive Stephen Evans has claimed that “if a visit by one of Britain’s leading writers of LGBTQ+ teenage fiction is considered ‘outside of what is allowed in a Catholic school’, the state should reconsider the public funding of these schools.”

“The disturbing behavior of this diocese highlights a broader problem with faith-based schools stigmatizing same-sex relationships and thus contributing to a climate where many young LGBT people grow up ashamed or afraid of who they are,” he added. . “Our own research has shown that a significant number of denominational schools promote the idea that same-sex attraction is ‘morally wrong’, ‘disordered’ or a ‘lifestyle choice’.

Evans described such ideas as unacceptable for a “state-funded school”.

“Regardless of their sexuality or the sexuality of their parents, children of all religions and beliefs should have the right to study in a caring and welcoming school,” Evans explained.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education told The Tablet that the ministry is “investigating the circumstances surrounding the role of the diocese in this incident”.

“We have made relationship education compulsory for all primary school students, and relationship and sex education compulsory for all secondary school students,” the Ministry of Education statement said.

“Schools should teach students that everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect, particularly in relation to their duties under the Equality Act.”

James wrote on Twitter that another visit to a Catholic primary school under the control of the archdiocese was also cancelled.

“It was for a conference on my picture books and MGs, which do not contain any LGBT content,” he said. tweeted. “All I do with my books and school events is encourage reading for fun, acceptance of difference, and celebration of who we are.”

“You can’t become gay by reading books about gay characters,” he added. “If you’re LGBT, you’re LGBT. I want LGBT kids to find comfort and understanding in my books, and for non-LGBT kids to understand other lives, to empathize, to see that we’re not really not that different.”

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

Lola R. McClure