THE CATHOLIC HERALD NOVEMBER 18 2011
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School criticised for showing graphic video to pupils
BY ED WEST
A SCHOOL in south London is the centre of a controversy among parents after sexually explicit material was shown to 14-yearolds in a Religious Education class.
Parents at Bonus Pastor Catholic College in Downham, south-east London, were alarmed after being told about the videos by their children.
One of the videos, from the 2005 film Keeping Mum, shows a young couple being caught having sex by the girl’s mother, who then seduces a golf instructor after being taunted by her daughter that she “isn’t getting any”. The fiveminute clip includes female nudity and several uses of the F-word.
Another film, A Short Stay in Switzerland, presents a positive image of euthanasia. It shows a woman, after a failed suicide attempt, travelling to Switzerland to get “the medical assistance I need to die”. At the clinic she dies surrounded by her family.
The films were shown to a Year 10 class of 14- and 15-year-olds as part of a Religious Education module on adultery. But in February one parent, Joseph Clovis, wrote to the school expressing concern and met headmistress Ruth Holden.
Mr Clovis said: “There were some issues that I really wasn’t happy about. She seemed concerned but she said there was nothing wrong with it.” He then went to the chair of governors, who was surprised by the content, but the matter did not go any further.
He said: “My son was too embarrassed to tell me about it.
He only mentioned it to his brother. It didn’t destroy their modesty, but it did attack it. My son had actually stood up in class and asked to be excused, but he was forced to stand down.
“The topic was adultery and fornication. I’m just glad they were not teaching about child abuse and rape if this is how they teach it.”
He said that the chair of governors was “visibly horrified” by what he showed her. But then “we got a letter back saying it’s quite appropriate. She acknowledged that some families had a different attitude, but that the children are living in the real world.”
Mr Clovis said that “up to 20” families shared his concern, and with the help of family members he set up a website, Bonus Pastor Exposed, which published their correspondence with the school,
Bishop disputes claim of abuse in landmark case showed the videos in question and invited Catholic parents to write to the school. Google gave the videos an adult certificate.
Last week, when Mr Clovis, his brother Greg and three other supporters turned up at the school gates to distribute leaflets to children, the school called the police.
Joseph Clovis, whose son achieved among the best GCSE results of his year, has since been told that he cannot attend the prizegiving ceremony.
Father-of-10 Greg Clovis said that other parents had asked not to be identified for the time being and that the website received 12,000 hits on its second night.
He said: “It’s hard to raise children when the school does not reflect our world view. It is important for us to get the school to review the material, to at least take out the offending bits. I would love to take the website down. We could have said nothing, but as Edmund Burke said: ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.’ If nothing else it will help other parents with difficulties with the school.
“Ever since sex education came in we have always said: ‘Look, we don’t want our children to go through this.’ But the reality is that parents consistently lose.”
Principal Ruth Holden said: “The school does not concur with the statement made, which does not resemble the reality of school life at Bonus Pastor Catholic College. We are a thriving community with strong support from the parents, the local community and the diocese. Ofsted recently judged the college’s curriculum, care, guidance and support to be outstanding. We also received many outstanding features in the Section 48 Inspection, which is the Religious Education inspection, which takes place alongside the whole school Ofsted inspection.
“The Catholic ethos at the college is very strong and we value the close relationships that we have with our parishes and our community. GCSE RE results are outstanding and the RE department is one of the strongest in the college for both teaching and endorsing our strong Catholic ethos.”
The Southwark Diocese Board of Education was unavailable for comment.
Norman Wells of the Family Education Trust said it was “disturbing” that such clips “should be considered suitable for pupils to view as a basis for discussion in a course on Catholic Christianity”.
He added: “It is no less disturbing that a faith school should use such explicit and blasphemous films in class without exercising their discretion and then dig their heels in when challenged by parents. It is quite possible to discuss sexual ethics and life issues without using graphic and explicit films.”
Fr Tim Finigan, a parish priest in south-east London, said: “As a priest I have heard many similar stories from other Catholic schools and colleges, though usually those who complain do not wish to be in the public eye, and do not gather materials and correspondence in the way this family has. If they complain... they are fobbed off with excuses and nothing is done.”
BY SIMON CALDWELL
A CATHOLIC bishop has disputed the claims of a woman at the centre of a landmark court ruling against the Church that she was raped by a priest as a child.
Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth said he did not accept the woman’s story because the priest was stationed many miles away from the children’s home where she lived.
The woman, known by the initials JGE, last week won a major legal ruling against the Church when High Court judge Mr Justice MacDuff gave her permission to sue the diocese and its bishop for damages if her case proved successful when it is heard next year.
The woman is seeking thousands of pounds in compensation for abuse she says she endured at the hands of Fr Wilfred Baldwin at a children’s home in the Diocese of Portsmouth in the 1970s.
She said that as a sevenyear-old she was repeatedly raped by the priest and even attacked by him in the robing room of a church on the day she made her First Holy
Communion. She is also seeking damages from the English Province of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity because she says the nuns witnessed the abuse but did not intervene.
Bishop Hollis said: “The primary reason that we are defending this claim is that at the time the claimant was resident at the home Fr Baldwin was based at the other end of the diocese and had no connection with the children’s home.
“The diocese does not therefore accept the claimant’s allegations against Fr Baldwin,’ he said.
“The claimant has the benefit of a court order whereby she cannot be identified,’ Bishop Hollis added.
“Unfortunately, the same consideration has not been extended to Fr Baldwin, who was a priest of unblemished character until these allegat ions were made shortly before his death and who had no opportunity to respond to the allegations made against him.”
The accuser first made her complaint in 2006 after detectives investigating Fr Baldwin contacted her to ask if she had been abused by him. Inquiries concluded the same year with the death of the priest at the age of 75.
JGE is now seeking compensation for pain, injury, humiliation and hurt feelings, saying that she suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, a borderline personality disorder, has attempted suicide and seen her career prospects suffer as a result of the abuse.
Her victory at a preliminary hearing in the High Court redefined the relationship between a bishop and his priests as that of employer and employees, instead of the priest being self-employed.
Survivors’ groups hope that i t will mean that complainants will be able to obtain compensation more easily.
But this week they were furious that Bishop Hollis, who is considering an appeal against the ruling, had spoken out so strongly against the woman so pivotal to their efforts.
Anne Lawrence of Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors said: “To infer that the victim is lying about what happened to her is outrageous, as the bishop has
The Cathedral of St John the Evangelist, seat of the Bishop of Portsmouth absolutely no evidence to support such an allegation. People, including Roman Catholic priests from England, have been known to travel the world to abuse children, so a hop in a car across a diocese would be no great obstacle to overcome.”
But Chris Saltrese, a solicitor who specialises in representing people who say they have been falsely accused of abuse, welcomed the bishop’s intervention.
“It’s refreshing to see the Bishop of Portsmouth taking a stand,” he said. “There has been a concerted campaign of ‘mission creep’ against the Catholic Church in the courts where the cases may be judged not by the likelihood of abuse, but by the alleged psychological effects. This can be highly misleading and prejudicial.
“It’s time the public woke up to the fact that in addition to genuine cases of abuse, false allegations, whether through conscious lying or delusion, are common.”
Allegations of child abuse by priests doubled last year when the visit by Pope Bene
Catholicrelics.co.uk dict XVI triggered a fresh surge of historical claims. Figures released in the summer showed that half of the allegations – 46 of a total of 92 – were dismissed after investigations by the statutory authorities found many of them to be unfounded.
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Heart of saint to be venerated at vocations festival BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
THE MIRACULOUSLY incorrupt heart of St John Vianney will prolong its visit to Britain next year by adding the extra destination of Birmingham to its itinerary.
The famous relic, which was expected to tour the Diocese of Shrewsbury only, will be taken to a major vocations conference in Birmingham, which is scheduled to take place next year.
The heart of the patron saint of priests, which is encased in a glass reliquary, will be taken to the third Invocation festival for young Catholics considering life as either a priest or a member of a religious order or congregation.
Fr Stephen Langridge, the chairman of the Vocations Directors’ Conference of England and Wales and an organiser of Invocation, said: “The presence of the relic of St John Vianney should encourage us all to reflect on the importance of the priesthood in Christian life.
“For any young man considering a priestly vocation the example of the parish priest of Ars is a reminder that he is called above all to union with Christ in prayer and also in self-sacrificing dedication to his people.
“St John Vianney used to say: ‘The priest is the heart of Jesus Christ.’ What is important for us is not only that the relic will be at Invocation but that through it we are put in contact with the example of a saintly priest and intercessor for all priests before God’s throne.
“Having taken groups of young pilgrims to Ars in the past I am very confident the presence of the relic will resonate with them in ways some older people, along with a secularised world, may find difficult to comprehend.
“But we shouldn’t be surprised that in a world which proposes the real absence of God there remains a deep yearning for His Real Presence and therefore the relic of St John Vianney’s heart can help us transcend the present to draw inspiration from eternity.”
The vocations event, which next year will focus particularly on the priesthood and its role in the life of the Church, will be held at St Mary’s College, Oscott, Birmingham, from July 6 to July 8.
The organisers hope that the relic will be present at the festival during the morning of Sunday July 8 before the wider public may be given the opportunity to venerate the heart at the college later in the afternoon.
St John Vianney, who grew up amid religious persecution in France after the Revolution, was a parish priest in a French village where his reputation as a confessor and director of souls made him famous across the world. Pope Benedict XVI declared a Year for Priests in honour of the 150th anniversary of his death.
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