As you can see from the above message, St. Paul’s Catholic high school, county Armagh, Northern Ireland invited it’s pupils to represent the school at the 2014 Newry Gay Pride march.
The pupils attended in full school uniform and were accompanied by members of staff. Here they are pictured at the march meeting the Northern Ireland education minister Sinn Féin politician John O’Dowd. The invitation was widely publicised by the school via its website, Facebook and Twitter pages.
School Principal Jarlath Burns claims to be committed to the schools Catholic ethos. But when questioned about this on Twitter he reveals the fact that he either does not know the church teaching on sex and marriage, or he is just completely disregarding it:
“Our pastoral care policy is light on dogma and heavy on compassion and celebration of diversity.” - Jarlath Burns
He claims he would “die for Catholic education” but also that on the issue of Homosexuality he says “This is one area of Church teaching where I part company completely with the Church.” I wonder what pupils who support the Catholic teaching on marriage felt when called to attend this event. Not very ‘included’ I would say. What is he doing to support them? Or how about those incredibly brave individuals who struggle with same sex attraction and who wish to remain celibate out of love for our Lord? Has Burns considered them in his ‘celebration of diversity’? Does he even know the Catholic view on homosexuality?
Here’s what the Youcat (Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church) has to say about the topic of homosexuality:
“The Church believes that, in the order of creation, man and woman are designed to need each other’s complementary traits and to enter into a mutual relationship so as to give life to children. That is why homosexual practices cannot be approved by the Church. Christians owe all persons respect and love, however, regardless of their sexual orientation, because all people are respected and loved by God.
“There is no man on earth who is not descended from a union of a mother and a father. Therefore it is a painful experience for many homosexually oriented people that they do not feel erotically attracted to the opposite sex and necessarily miss out on the physical fruitfulness of the union between man and woman according to human nature and the divine order of creation. Nevertheless, God often leads souls to himself along unusual paths: a lack, a loss, or a wound – if accepted and affirmed – can become a springboard for throwing oneself into the arms of God: the God who brings good out of everything and whose greatness can be discovered in redemption even more than in creation.“ (Youcat, 65)
“God created man as male and female and destined them for each other in a bodily way as well. The Church accepts without reservation those who experience homosexual feelings. They (persons who experience homosexual feelings) should not be unjustly discriminated against because of that. At the same time, the Church declares that all homosexual relations in any form are contrary to the order of creation.“ (Youcat, 415)
The twitter debate continues:
“I’ve a feeling @jburns834 (Burns) thinks ‘Catholic ethos’ means whatever he says it does. Compassion is part of CC teaching. So is marriage. A conception of marriage that Pride events want to redefine & re-conceptualise. Sending pupils in their uniforms looks like using them to make a statement. And a statement that compromises Catholic schools, the one place where Catholic teaching ought to be respected & defended.”
“What Burns does in his own time is no bodies business but he has no right 2 hijack a school 2 push his own agenda. He can support what he wants but he should leave the school out of it. All girls as well. The boys must have told him 2 stuff it.”
“He (Burns) supports redefining marriage & seems to think it’s ok to use the school & its pupils to make a statement about that. Even posting images of the pupils on his Twitter.”
“After the child abuse scandal the leaders r now 2 spineless 2 stand up 4 their own teachings. Has allowed chancer’s like Burns 2 push agenda.”
“I hope @stpaulsbbrook clarify their position on marriage & whether the school will be used for more events where promotion of Same Sex Marriage is one of the main purposes.”
“I thought as a teacher you had to subscribe to church teachings?”
There was plenty of anti Catholic agenda at the march. But it gets worse. It seems that the main speaker at Newry Pride 2014 was none other that Peter Tatchell:
“All just “dogma”. Peter Thatchell is the person Catholic schools want to listen to? He was at Newry Pride. I wonder does @jburns834 endorse his extreme views on age of consent? If they don’t know Peter Tatchell, they should have informed themselves of his extreme views b4 sending pupils along.”
“That b the same Tatchell who endorses adult child relationships. I don’t think 2 many ppl realise Tatchell’s support 4 child adult ‘consensual’ sex.”
“Yep. There’s no way pupils should have been at an event where he was the main speaker. I wonder were parents of @stpaulsbbrook pupils informed that P Tatchell was the speaker & what his views are? Schools are for learning, not for political campaigning. And Catholic schools like @stpaulsbbrook send their pupils to listen to P Tatchell! who @stpaulsbbrook thinks pupils should be listening to as anti-Catholic as any public figure out there.”
“Tatchell believes St Pauls has no right 2 exist. So much 4 diversity.”
“Any political campaigning or marching is not a matter for school endorsement. Particularly when that campaign (redefining marriage) goes agst CC teachings. And particularly when the guest speaker says the CC ‘blights the lives of millions’. Grandstanding of that type cannot be dressed up as compassion. All the hallmarks of political exploitation and faux compassion.”
For those who don’t know Peter Tatchell’s views, here is a little snippet:
“The positive nature of some child-adult sexual relationships is not confined to non-Western cultures. Several of my friends – gay and straight, male and female – had sex with adults from the ages of nine to 13. None feel they were abused. All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy.” – Peter Tatchell
You can read more about Peter Tatchell’s views on child/adult sexual relationships by clicking here.
Is it really possible that Jarlath Burns does not know Peter Tatchell’s views? Or does he agree with them? Does he think it appropriate that his school pupils should be at an event in their school uniform where this man is the key speaker? Did he inform their parents Peter Tatchell would be there? What is the real agenda here?
Would the school put as much effort into encouraging pupils to attend a pro-life event in full school uniform? I think not. It seems to me that Jarlath Burns is a man who is more concerned with popularity, forwarding his careerer and making a name for himself as a ‘progressive’ than actually fulfilling his responsibilities as a Catholic Headteacher.
As a Principal of a Catholic School, Jarlath Burns has a duty to remain faithful to Catholic teaching. UK Statutory legislation makes provision for schools with a religious character to maintain their relevant religious ethos. Section 60 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 makes the following provision:
(4) In connection with the appointment of a person to be headteacher of the school (whether foundation or voluntary controlled) regard may be had to that person’s ability and fitness to preserve and develop the religious character of the school.
(5) If the school is a voluntary aided school – (a) preference may be given, in connection with the appointment, remuneration or promotion of teachers at the school, to persons:
(i) whose religious opinions are in accordance with the tenets of the religion or religious denomination specified in relation to the school under section 69(4), or
(ii) who attend religious worship in accordance with those tenets, or
(iii) who give, or are willing to give, religious education at the school in accordance with those tenets; and
(b) regard may be had, in connection with the termination of the employment of any teacher at the school, to any conduct on his part which is incompatible with the precepts, or with the upholding of the tenets, of the religion or religious denomination so specified.
In short I believe that through either ignorance or disobedience, Principal Jarlath Burns has clearly demonstrated that he is not in line with the Catholic Church in his personal or professional views and he should get the sack. He is failing the children in his care.
The time has come for you to make a decision Mr. Jarlath Burns: Will you choose the Rainbow flag or the Cross? I’m afraid you can’t have both in the Catholic Church. And if you really can’t choose between the two, i’m sure there are plenty of Protestant churches who would welcome you with open arms.
I have written to Cardinal Brady and Archbishop Eamon Martin (both at firstname.lastname@example.org) to express my disgust at Jarlath Burns’s actions and very much suggest you do the same.