Catholic bishops accused of ‘indoctrinating’ primary school kids with controversial sex and relationships lessons

Teacher and school children at school

The Irish Bishops’ Conference has been accused of “indoctrinating” primary school kids with a new relationships and sex education programme.

The programme, titled “Flourish”, has been designed by the Irish Bishops’ Conference for primary school children who attend Catholic-ethos schools.

It will see children told that sex only belongs in “committed relationships” and that puberty is a “gift from God” that means they are “perfectly designed by God to procreate with him”.

Another section, titled “Keeping Safe”, will see children encouraged to recite the “Angel of God” prayer when they face difficulty with relationships or sexuality.

Some 90 per cent of all primary schools in the Republic of Ireland have a Catholic ethos, meaning many parents don’t have an option but to send their child to a Catholic school.

While schools will not be obliged to teach the Flourish programme, concerns have been raised that it could jeopardise the wellbeing of LGBT+ young people while also exacerbating stigma in the classroom.

In the introduction to its programme, the Irish Bishops’ Conference tell teachers that children should be taught about sexuality and relationships “based on the teachings of Jesus Christ”.

The programme states that children cannot be taught about relationships and sexuality without reference to “moral decision-making”, but says children should not be made to feel “othered” by teachings.

“Children in the senior classes in primary school will be aware of the existence of LGBTQI and some may question their own identity in this regard,” the programme says.

“The RSE programme in the Catholic school must not promote shame, but rather seek to affirm that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God and is loved by God as they are.

“The same moral obligation to respect and treat our bodies with dignity applies to people of all sexual orientation. However, the Church’s teaching in relation to marriage between a man and a woman cannot be omitted.”

The programme has been condemned by Atheist Ireland, which pointed out that even many Catholic parents will not want their children taught the church’s stance on LGBT+ identities.

“Why on earth would non religious parents want their children taught moral and social values based on the supposed teachings of a god? There is no balancing of rights here, but the tightening of control to ensure that the Catholic Church can continue to evangelise and indoctrinate,” Atheist Ireland said.

The National LGBT Federation also criticised the programme, telling PinkNews that sexuality and relationships education should be “fully LGBT-inclusive” and “rooted in equality”.

“The right of LGBT students – indeed all students – to an affirming and inclusive education needs to become the priority in this crucially important area,” said Adam Long.

“It is also important to note that the All-Party Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) Committee on Education took an extensive look at this issue and produced a report in 2019 calling for a fully LGBT inclusive RSE curriculum to be implemented in all schools regardless of ‘ethos’. A call we echo,” Long said.

Speaking on Ireland’s Newstalk radio station, Solidarity TD Mick Barry said the programme could be “harmful”.

He pointed out that LGBT+ children are likely to be exposed to the programme and could be taught that marriage is between a man and a woman in school.

“I don’t think that that’s helpful, and I could say that that is harmful,” he said.