MPs investigate Catholic influence on schools

A Commons select committee is to investigate evidence that the Roman Catholic Church is pursuing a more fundamentalist approach towards religion in its schools.

Members of the Children, Schools and Families Committee plan to call senior bishops to give evidence in an inquiry into the approach schools are adopting towards a range of issues – including abortion, sex education and PSHE (personal and social health education) classes.

The move comes after a 66-page circular from the Bishop of Lancaster, Patrick O'Donoghue, instructed Catholic schools in the North-west to stop "safe sex" education and place crucifixes in every classroom.

Schools were also told not to support charities that promote or fund pro-choice policies, singling out Amnesty International – which is in favour of abortion for women who have been raped in war zones. Barry Sheerman, the Labour chairman of the committee, said there was evidence from other areas of the country of Catholic schools being told to adopt a more fundamentalist line.

Mr Sheerman said the official spokesmen for the Catholic Church often peddled a softer line – but that was at odds with what was happening on the ground.

"A lot of taxpayers' money is going into church schools and I think we should tease out what is happening here," he added. "We seem to have a shift in emphasis on the ground despite what the reasonable voices of the leadership are saying.

"Two years ago, it was possible to set up an inter-faith academy in Liverpool (jointly run by the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England)," he said. However, an attempt to set up a similar school in the Huddersfield area – where he is a constituency MP – had been scuppered when a letter had been read out in all parishes prior to a meeting to discuss criticism of politicians for trying to dilute Catholic education. "I just want to know why it is not now possible to set up an inter-faith school," Mr Sheerman said.

Teachers' leaders have also expressed concern.

In his document, Fit for Mission, Bishop O'Donoghue wrote: "The secular view on sex outside marriage, artificial contraception, sexually transmitted disease, including HIV and Aids, and abortion, may not be presented as neutral information."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
tv

News
VIDEO
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
news
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
books...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

WORLDbytes: Two-Day Intensive Camera training and Shoot: Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th March

expenses on shoots: WORLDbytes: Volunteering with a media based charity,for a ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 4 Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: A school in Tameside is currently l...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 - £70 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind are currently looking for ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower