16 March 2022, The Tablet

Why the disastrous episode at Southwark will inflict serious damage on Catholic education

Homophobia and Catholic schools

Why the disastrous episode at Southwark will inflict serious damage on Catholic education

The episode reinforces public perceptions of Catholics as prejudiced.
Chris Canon / Alamy


The archdiocese of Southwark’s decision to ban a popular writer of young adult fiction from speaking in one of its schools will severely damage the credibility of Catholic education

Homophobia, defined as dislike of or prejudice against gay people, is condemned by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. But it is alive and well on a Scottish-based website called Catholic Truth, which whipped up a hysterical campaign against a visit to a Catholic boys’ secondary school in Surrey by a gay author. Archbishop of Southwark John Wilson – who had apparently been “bombarded” with complaints – decided to step in and cancel the event, humiliate the head and sack the governors.

The website described the author’s planned talk as a scandal. “I’ve already heard the opinion expressed by one parent,” the editor wrote, that “for any Catholic school to organise such a blatant promotion of the LGBTQ+ ‘lifestyle’ is tantamount to child abuse.” It was a “major problem” that “young boys … are being misled into accepting, as normal and good, sexual behaviour which is condemned by the Catholic Church”. The school chaplain used the school database to email all parents saying that the proposed event had “caused scandal in the local area and has brought our international reputation into doubt”. The diocesan director of education described the author’s visit as “potentially offensive to parents, past pupils and wider members of the Catholic community”. It “has brought the school, the Church and all its historic legacy into disrepute”.

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