I'd hoped not to start the year with a pop at the guardians of high moral fibre and religious doctrine, but this beauty in Sunday's Observer couldn't be missed.
Not content with letting the religious fundies in the developing world hog all the kooky kudos that fanaticalism brings, it seems a few of our home-grown holy men are after the dubious honour of being known as fundamentalist nutters too.
In the past the Roman Catholic Bishop of Lancaster, Patrick O'Donoghue, has challenged both the Trident replacement project and the demonisation of immigrants. On those points I agree with him - they are fair and ethical points to raise.
But now he has authored a report called Fit For Mission which includes descriptions of the measures Catholic schools should introduce to indoctrinate their pupils.
Among his proposals is that crucifixes should be displayed. Pretty much a no-brainer for a Roman Catholic school. You wouldn't expect to go into the MacDonald's Hamburger University without seeing the Golden Arches.
But in a line which will have some African Anglican bishops drooling with medieval appreciation, O'Donoghue stepped into the contraception arena and railed against barrier protection, because of "the deluded theory that the condom can provide adequate protection against Aids".
I wonder if the Bishop could really care less about AIDS, other than as a good 'ole smiting tool for the Big Cahuna as punishment for sex outside marriage, or for chaps engaging in conjoined posterior action. His foremost concern seems to be in ensuring that the young Catholic faithful get it from an early age that they don't do contraception - just abstinence. Pure indoctrination.
As the guide to Fit for Mission says, "All our Primary and Secondary schools should be at the cutting edge of the ‘New Evangelisation’ at every level", and that the "priority of mission must be at the heart of the school ethos". Here's me thinking educashun is wot skools r 4.
If it was just a standard doctrinal issue then it wouldn't be important - in practice most Catholics ignore doctrine on contraception already. Perhaps the Bishop knows that Catholics are drifting from this Papal diktat, so he wants to push his hardline dogma on children to bring the next generations into line. If it's taught in class that condom use is based upon a 'deluded theory', it becomes pure evangelical propaganda - not education.
Hopefully the schools in the Lancaster diocese will ignore this particular direction.
Knowing that children are impressionable and particularly susceptible to repeated messages, the advertising of junk food to children during children's' TV shows has been banned. What about banning the Bishop's junk philosophy from young ears too?
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