Communicating a Threat to the Family

John Boyle FAITH Magazine July-Aug 2007

Finding ways of helping parents to take on board their role as primary ‘educators in chastity’, and to be aware of the practical ways in which this role is being undermined, is an important task today. It is another of those areas where the subtle and not so subtle cultural tide is coming in the opposite direction. It is another of those areas where priests need to be clear as well as sensitive, and they need support in this. The following is a development upon a piece Fr John Boyle made available to his parishioners in South Ashford, Kent.

It is not often a Parish Priest issues a‘Pastoral Letter’ to his parishioners. I feel moved to write about what I perceive to be a critical cultural situation. Powerful well-funded agencies, often promoted by the State (I avoid the word ‘Government’ as I do not want to speak in party-political terms), are mounting a relentless onslaught upon the family and especially the moral sense of our young people.

Almost every organisation that has anything to do with the family, health, education is targeted by these agencies. Perhaps most pernicious is the targeting of the very young in ways that bypass parents. This culture was recently further supported by the defeat of a ten-minute rule bill in the House of Commons which envisaged greater rights of parents to know what about their children’s medical treatment.

Our local Primary Care Trust operates a clinic for young people which “provides a wide range of information and advice on issues regarding sexual health such as; fertility, unplanned pregnancy and contraception. There is also a full contraception service offering condoms, pills, emergency contraception and pregnancy testing. This service is aimed at people under 25, with no lower age range” (see their website, my emphasis)

Whenever the phrase ‘emergency contraception’ is used, what is meant is the ‘morning-after pill’ which works to ensure that – should conception have occurred – the newly conceived embryo does not implant in the mother’s womb and a miscarriage is provoked. When you read ‘emergency contraception’ you should understand ‘pharmaceutical abortion’.

Much more widely known and accessible to the young is the Brook Advisory Centre, which provides ‘free, confidential sex advice and contraception to all young people.’ A visit to their website, which has as its motto ‘putting young people first,’ lists having sex, receiving confidential advice, receiving contraceptive treatment and buying condoms among the rights of “young people”.

There are links to other ‘helpful’ websites such as the BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Service – which describes itself as ‘the leading provider of abortion services in the UK’), Childline (which advises a girl named Chantelle, aged 14, that if she is afraid that she might be pregnant she can still prevent pregnancy by using emergency contraception up to three days after intercourse),)

Like It Is which is run by Marie Stopes International (MSI) and is described as a website for 11-15 year olds, providing advice on issues such as contraception, periods, teenage pregnancy, sex and sexuality. MSI runs many of the abortion ‘clinics’ throughout the country and provides services such as abortion, contraception, ‘emergency contraception’, female sterilisation, screening, vasectomy and so on. I would advise every parent to view this website, directed as it is at 11-15 year olds. Parents should note that this website brazenly drives a wedge between parents and children by including a ‘Hide this page’ icon, a feature which enables a child to press it quickly if he/she is unexpectedly disturbed by a parent.

A local pharmacist at a major supermarket was recently featured in our local newspaper holding cards produced by For Young People. Again, every parent should visit its website which, along with its Sex Education pack, is heavily reliant upon links to the Brook Advisory site. Every headteacher in Kent (including primary heads) has been sent a manual of sexual health education produced by the Kent Education Service in conjunction with For Young People. The ‘Speakeasy’ programme in use in many organizations such as Sure Start also promote ‘family planning’ according to the philosophy of Brook and fpa (formerly known as the Family Planning Association).

I know that many parents are very worried about the physical and moral welfare of their children, and quite rightly so. We should also be concerned about the social consequences of the State-promotion of increased availability of contraception and sex education to ever younger age groups.

The policy followed to date has not resulted in reduced teenage pregnancies. It has not resulted in the reduction of sexually transmitted infections. People are getting infected at younger ages and in greater proportions of the population than ever before. Why? Because in the absence of any clear-cut and/or coherent approbation by adult mentors they are having sex at ever younger ages.

As Catholics, we believe that sex is for having children within a state of love which is marriage. In virtually all the Statesponsored programs sex is reduced to an activity which can be engaged in whenever it feels right. As the For Young People website puts it, ‘Sex should be fun, don’t make it a problem.’

Every parent has a right and a duty to ensure that their primary role as educators of their children is not sub-contracted out to schools. The Church teaches that parents must be involved in teaching their children about chastity and – in a way appropriate to their ages – the purpose and nature of sex. The school and, of course, the State may be called upon by parents to assist them in their task but cannot take over that right and responsibility.

Lip service is often paid to the importance of parental involvement, while the role of parents is everywhere undermined, as you will see if you check out the websites I have mentioned. Moreover on the matter of giving contraception to children and referring them for abortions the basic rights of parents to know have been trampled upon again and again in the courts.

We ought to seek a fuller understanding of the Church’s teaching on sex and marriage, particularly why practices such as contraception, abortion and IVF go against the dignity of the human being and are therefore morally and intrinsically evil. Cf. the March 2006 version of this column.

A climate of prayer in the home is essential. If you do not pray as a family, begin to do so, even if one of the parents is not a Catholic. Those times of prayer with children before they go to bed can be graced opportunities to have that quiet intimate chat with your child. I remember many such moments, particularly with my mother, before I went to sleep, as she educated me in the ways of love and purity in a manner appropriate to my stage of development.

Not every child develops at the same rate and so a one-size-fitsall sex education policy is fraught with problems. To confront a child with concepts that he/she is not ready for can disturb and cause a premature awakening of sexual drives with consequent psychological and emotional trauma. A parent (so often the mother – but the father has his important role too) who has got to know his/her child is often best placed to judge the appropriate moment to discuss particular issues with that child.

We would all wish to build a civilisation of love. The vision of love that the State is presenting to our youngsters is not the vision of love that Jesus Christ came to share with us. Let us join together in helping to promote this Catholic vision of true love. We need to find practical ways of supporting each other in this process, perhaps talks, discussion and/or support groups.

Can we find some way of making our positive vision more widely known? Can we ensure that our objections to the provision of the death-dealing abortion pill in our supposedly family-friendly supermarket pharmacies is heard?

I would like to take the opportunity of reminding you about the wonderful sacrament of God’s mercy: Reconciliation or Confession. If one has fallen in these matters, the road to forgiveness remains open. Should anyone have failed in any of these areas, I urge them to avail themselves of this gift of mercy. No priest will condemn you. Rather, he will administer lovingly and joyfully the forgiveness of Christ, and provide help to avoid falls in the future. All that is needed on our part is sincere sorrow and a purpose of amendment.

It would be very appropriate to entrust our young people to the intercession of St Maria Goretti, the 12 year old martyr for chastity, and ask Mary the Virgin Mother of God and her holy and chaste spouse St Joseph to help us all lead pure and holy lives worthy of our condition as disciples of Christ.

Visit Fr Boyle’s parish website. He also has a blog

Faith Magazine

July - August 2007