At least three Catholic schools in Ireland have rejected a controversial curriculum on sexuality and relationships developed by the nation’s bishops, a rejection due, in part, to the curriculum’s LGBTQ-negative teachings.
Lacken National School in County Wicklow first announced that it would not be employing the Flourish curriculum for the primary school’s sexual education program. The Irish Times reported:
“The decision by Lacken national school management follows protests by parents at the Blessington school who, in a letter to the school board of management on May 17th last, said: ‘We do not feel the Flourish programme is fit for purpose when teaching RSE to children. It is discriminatory to LGBTQ+ children and families and it does not correspond with the view of the State.'”
In response, administrators at Lacken, including Principal Fiona Jones, responded to parents twice. At first, administrators said Flourish could be used as supplementary material. But after further pushback from parents, Jones wrote:
“‘[W]e intend to continue with our present RSE programme going forward. This rules out the use of any other programme, supplementary or otherwise.'”
Flourish was developed by the Irish Bishops’ Conference for use in Ireland’s Catholic schools, which comprise the vast majority of the nation’s public schools, to present sex education “within a moral framework that reflects the teachings of the Church.” That intention has raised concerns from LGBTQ advocates who fear that LGBTQ-negative messaging might harm students, as well as deprive them of sufficient or correct information about sexual orientation and gender identity. The controversy prompted former Irish president Mary McAleese to say she would not have sent her children to Catholic schools had she known then what she knows now. Other politicians have been critical, too.
David Graham, a spokesperson for Education Equality, which advocates for religious classes to occur outside the school day, said he was aware of at least two other schools who followed Lacken National School’s decision. According to NewsTalk, Graham commented:
“‘It’s really a good news story. What has happened is what is supposed to happen in schools: that parents feel empowered enough to express their concerns to the school in relation to a matter that concerns the education of their children.
“‘I have to give full credit to the school for listening to those concerns and responding with a very practical, common-sense decision.
“‘I’ve become aware in the last 24 hours of two other schools… that have also taken the same decision. This school is not alone.'”
No Irish church leaders have weighed in yet on the decision by Catholic schools to dispense with the Flourish curriculum. Previously, Archbishop Dermot Farrell of Dublin offered his support for it against critics.
In related news in the United Kingdom, a church-sponsored sex education curriculum, known as “A Fertile Heart,” has been criticized by the nation’s Schools Minister, Nick Gibb. i News reported that Gibb wrote a letter to a concerned legislator suggesting that the curriculum “contains content that would be hard for a school to present in a school setting in a way that is consistent with the relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) statutory guidance,” including its teachings on same-gender relationships. Gibb said he would address the issue with Archbishop George Stack of Cardiff, one of the curriculum’s supporters, as well as its publishers.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 16, 2021