Belgium: learning from the troublemakers

Rorate Caeli has been covering the events in Belgium where the police have, quite rightly, been  investigating crimes against children, following the revelations of the crimes of Bishop Vangheluwe of Bruges. The methods used by the police do, however seem over the top; they have included drilling into the tombs of Cardinal Suenens and Cardinal Mercier in the crypt of the Cathedral at Mechlin, as well as raiding the palace of the Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and detaining the Belgian hierarchy for several hours.

One element of the story has caught the eye of many bloggers: the article written by Alexandra Colen, member of the Belgian Parliament for Antwerp for the Brussels Journal: The Fall of the Belgian Church. Other bloggers have warned, and I do too, that some of the sex-education material that she describes in the catechism textbook Roeach is disgusting and sick. The editors of Roeach was were Professor Jef Bulckens of the Catholic University of Leuven and Professor Frans Lefevre of the Seminary of Bruges. The Bishop responsible for both institutions was Bishop Vangheluwe, who, as it now turns out, was sexually assaulting his nephew at the time.

Colen describes her campaign against the sex-education textbook Roeach . She and her fellow-campaigners were stonewalled, told to be obedient to the Bishops, and characterised as troublemakers: the Nuncio told her that her campaign was offensive to the Church. Eventually she withdrew her children from the Catholic education system and started homeschooling.

In England, the Channel 4 sex-education programme "Living and Growing" has elements that are remarkably similar to some of the material described by Alexandra Colen. See, for example these posts:

Sex-ed: pouring petrol on the fire (18 July 2006)
Sex-ed programme slammed by Daily Mail (1 March 2007)
Mother's shock at Channel 4 sex-ed programme (10 March 2010)

I sincerely hope that this programme is not used in any Catholic schools now (it has been used in some in the past). It should not be used in any school since it is outrageous for such obscene material to be inflicted on any child.

The current storm engulfing the Church in Belgium is a warning that we need to undertake a long overdue reappraisal of the whole question of sex education in our own Catholic schools. To be authentic, such a reappraisal would have to take on board the criticisms of those offensive troublemakers, the pro-life activist Catholic parents, and commit to implementing The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality without reservation. To save re-inventing the wheel, it would be sensible for Dioceses to give a clear encouragement to schools to use programmes such as Alive to the World and This is my Body which I wrote about last November.

If challenged by the Government or the Inspectorate over the content of such pro-life and pro-family programmes, we could, for once, take the initiative, point to the example of Belgium, and insist that we are learning lessons from there about the effective safeguarding of children. A strong condemnation of the Channel 4 programme, with explicit examples, would restore some balance by calling the secularists to account for inflicting such material on innocent children. At the same time the Church would do a service to non-Catholic parents by alerting them to the danger posed to their sons and daughters.

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