Current Affairs

Oxford priest under fire for homophobic remarks

A priest at The Oxford Oratory has been criticised after sending an online petition opposing LGBT teaching in primary schools to his parishioners. Catholic priest Fr Joseph Welch, of The Oratory in Woodstock Road, sent said petition to the mother and toddler group mailing list, which he encouraged the recipients to sign. 

In an email, Fr Welch wrote that he finds “attempts to teach our children that LGBT relationships are the moral equivalent of traditional marriage between a man and a woman…deeply offensive”. He also stated that the “present day LGBT campaign” is “deeply offensive”.

Said online petition, named “Reject LGBT teaching in primary schools”, and addressed to the Secretary of State for Education, calls for the government to revise the Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) Regulations issued by the Department for Education in February 2019. This guidance replaces the Sex and Relationship Education guidance (2000), and first required teaching will be from September 2020. The online petition, which has over 30,000 signatures at the time of publication, argues that the new regulations “effectively force primary schools to introduce LGBT content into the classroom”.

The petition goes on to say that the “ideology has the potential for real harm, both prematurely sexualising children and making them vulnerable to sexual predators and introducing confusing ideas about sex and gender”. It argues that the government are “behaving like a totalitarian regime which treats children as state property” with the introduction of the new guidelines, and that it is “illegally prioritising one view over another and effectively suppressing faith-based views”.

The regulations, which came into effect last year, outline statutory guidance for schools on Relationships & Sex Education (RSE) teaching. The document states that in teaching RSE, schools should ensure that the “needs of all pupils are appropriately met” and that they must comply with the Equality Act (2010), under which sexual orientation and gender reassignment are protected characteristics.

On approaching LGBT content, the regulations state that “schools should ensure that all of their teaching is sensitive and age appropriate”, and that the content is fully integrated into their programmes of study for this area of the curriculum”. The guidelines also state that the government expects all students to have been taught LGBT content at a “timely point” in the curriculum. These regulations apply to all schools, including state-maintained, independent and faith schools. 

This opposition is contrary to the Vatican’s current stance on gay rights. In 2016, Pope Francis said that the Catholic Church “owes LGBT people an apology”, and said last year that “homosexual tendencies are not a sin”.

The archdiocese responded to our request for comment with this statement:

“All Catholic schools in the diocese follow the Catholic Education Service’s model Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) curriculum which prepares young people for life in modern Britain. This includes teaching about non-traditional family structures such as single parent families, same sex partnerships and those who live in care.

“Outstanding RSE in Catholic schools is expected to provide a positive view of human sexuality and dignity of the human person. Because of this high quality and holistic approach to RSE, the Department for Education has recognised the Catholic curriculum as best practice for all schools in England.”

Lois Heslop

Lois Heslop is the co-founder of The Oxford Blue and was Editor-in-Chief for HT20 and TT20. She is in her second year studying Physics at Lady Margaret Hall, and hails from South London. Her other interests include classical music and opera, and she is currently a choral scholar.