(CP) Roman Catholic bishops in Scotland are criticizing the government for its new guidance on sex education, which they warn could threaten the ability of Catholic schools in the country to teach according to their faith.
According to a statement released earlier this month, the Bishop's Conference of Scotland is taking issue with the draft of new government guidance titled "Guidance on Relationships, Sexual Health, and Parenthood (RSHP) Education," which deleted reference to Catholic schools.
The deleted paragraphs noted the Scottish government's support for "the right of the Roman Catholic Church to give witness to its faith and to uphold the traditions of Catholic education," according to The National Catholic Register.
The bishops claim the deletion will hamper the historic ability of Catholic schools in Scotland to steer their own curriculum in accordance with Church teachings.
"The Bishops' Conference of Scotland is both disappointed and confused at the decision by the Scottish government to delete all reference to Catholic schools in its 'Guidance on the Delivery of Relationships, Sexual Health, and Parenthood (RSHP) Education in Scottish Schools' document," the bishops said in their statement.
"We strongly request the reinsertion of the paragraphs relating to denominational education from the previous iteration of the guidance, which would reflect both the legal protection for schools with a religious character and the previously supportive position of the Scottish government for Catholic schools."
Sources within the Scottish Catholic Church maintained that the guidance had been influenced by LBGT ideologues, according to The Herald Scotland.
"This would present a serious problem for our schools," a source within the church told the outlet. "Our teaching is rooted in traditional Catholic theology, which promotes loving relationships between men and women within the framework of the family."
"Of course, our schools have always informed pupils about same-sex attraction and the rights of non-binary people, but we will only endorse what has always been the Church's teaching in this area," the source continued, adding that the "removal of any explicit reference to Catholic parents' protected rights to have their children educated according to their faith, is deeply concerning."
A spokesperson for the Scottish government pushed back against the claims from the Church, telling The Herald Scotland that "the role of denominational schools is already recognized in the Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) guidance — Catholic schools in Scotland play a crucial and valued role in the education system."
The government spokesperson maintained that more than 30 stakeholders were consulted when drafting the guidance, including the Scottish Catholic Education Service. However, the church spokesperson reportedly said that any claim it had been consulted was "disingenuous."
"A proper consultation is where the views of a participant or stakeholder are taken on board," the church source said. "Ours were willfully ignored. It is striking that the term Catholic School is not used within this document and the phrase 'denominational schools' only once."
Parents at St. Ninian's High School in Giffnock, East Renfrewshire, have circulated a bulletin calling on parents to petition the government regarding the guidance, according to The Catholic News Agency.
"For many years now, the content of sex education in Catholic state schools has been determined by the Catholic Church," the bulletin said. "That system has worked well for our children. It teaches sex education within a Catholic moral context. Our children are not thereby exposed to the 'free-for-all,' and more extreme and graphic content, that is available to children in nondenominational schools."
The bulletin claimed that the draft of the government's new guidance removes the right of the Catholic Church to determine the content of sex education in its schools, which it notes has been in place for more than a century.
"The draft guidance also seeks to enforce the active promotion of an LGBT-inclusive education across the entire school curriculum (literacy, sciences, history, religious, and moral education, etc.) in order to determine the 'ethos' of the school," the parents said.
The deadline to submit public feedback on the draft guidance was Thursday.
Rates of Christianity in Scotland have plummeted in recent years, with the Church of Scotland losing more than half of its members since 2000, according to a report released earlier this year. The average age of its attendees is 62.
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