Scots RE Teacher: why lack of teaching on purity & sin in Catholic Schools?

Scots RE Teacher: why lack of teaching on purity & sin in Catholic Schools?

Pauline Gallagher, an RE teacher in Glasgow Archdiocese, argues that LGBT guidelines make it difficult to keep teaching true to the Gospel

AS a dedicated RE teacher in a Catholic school in Glasgow Archdiocese, I want to share fully the Church’s teaching and the Gospel with my pupils.

In Scotland today, as the authorities prepare to embed LGBT-inclusive education across the curriculum, those who disagree with the unquestioned promotion of the LGBT agenda have lost confidence.

We are marginalised and branded as old-fashioned. Injustice towards marginalised groups, such as LGBT people, is real. I know this. I witnessed and abhorred it as a teenager in Glasgow in the 1970s.

However, the old voiceless, intimidated groups have been replaced by new ones; faithful Catholics for example.

I am concerned about the legacy of the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign and the new LGBT materials which will be delivered in Scottish Catholic schools early in 2019.

I support inclusion, yes, but not without open debate and a full encounter with Gospel values and of the Youth Catechism on this issue. However, protecting and promoting Church teaching in its entirety is easier said than done.

Catholic schools have a distinct character and duty. This distinction has Gospel values as its cornerstone.

I have been an RE teacher for 30 years. Maintaining this spirit has been both a privilege and a challenge.

Catholic RE teachers propose rather than impose the Gospel. This is what Jesus did. God is love and love does not force.

When pupils ask their RE teacher a question about morality, including sexual morality, we should be free to share with them Catholic teaching even if it is not politically correct.

Pupils love engaging in the marketplace, or battlefield, of ideas. They may not agree with us but they respect our right to speak. They are happy when a strong set of Gospel values is witnessed to.

They prefer this to woolliness. They understand that difficult truths, shared out of genuine concern, are a sign of love. Children feel secure with clear boundaries. Rebellious teenagers are no different.

In Catholic schools this should mean responding to pupils’ questions as a faithful follower of Christ.

However fidelity to the Gospel has been growing steadily more difficult in recent years.

Many topics concerning human sexuality are considered too risky to engage with. LGBT issues, in particular, are off-limits. Meaningful dialogue is stifled to avoid ‘triggering’ anyone.

This is frustrating; pupils keep asking questions and, sometimes, we have to avoid giving them the answers we would like to give. At a time when they need us most we are spectacularly failing them.

Why is purity a bad word? Why is sin a banned word?  

The Catechism teaches that homosexual feelings are not sinful but like all sexual attraction are subject to the call to chastity inherent in the sixth commandment. The new LGBT materials are extensive, scriptural, quote the Catechism and, as their point is anti-bullying, emphasise Catholic social teaching.

Church teaching on sexual morality, on the other hand, is minimised and unclear in these materials.

This is a missed opportunity since the Youth Catechism alone deals comprehensively and eloquently with the sixth commandment.

RE teachers in Catholic schools in Scotland no longer have freedom of conscience. To be politically correct, we have to be compliant or vague.

Jesus was never vague. He was passionately inclusive yet crystal clear when pointing out sin.

The Catechism is like this. Teachers and pupils have no need to fear or avoid it any more than we need to fear Christ himself as long as we have honest hearts.

Jesus was gentle with sinners because everybody sins, everybody makes mistakes. This is why he told us not to judge each other.

The Church in Scotland is full of men and women of integrity and valour struggling to deliver the Gospel while trying not to offend anyone.

Their task is rendered even more difficult due to a priesthood made fragile by scandal. This is truly a cross of great weight for our bishops, priests and all those in the Scottish Catholic Education Service.

Many priests are exceptional in their fidelity to Christ and his doctrine. But they need support.

All Catholics, and those of us involved in Catholic education in particular, need to stand with them.

We are leaving our clergy ever more alone; we should wake up and stop walking on PC eggshells.

It could cost us dearly to rebel. Do we fear the loss of Catholic schools?

Yes! But I would argue that we are en route to that destination anyway if we take the path of further dilution of Gospel values. Our distinctive character is growing faint.

Scottish Catholics need to take a sgian-dubh and cut the fetters with which our bishops, priests, and RE teachers are bound.  Source – Scottish Catholic Observer (SCO)  [emphases added]

—The author can be contacted at:


Congratulations to Pauline Gallagher for her courageous article.  Catholic teachers challenging the modernist stranglehold in Catholic schools have been known to suffer, even finding themselves visiting the local jobcentre.  So, we must pray that Pauline’s right – indeed her duty –  to bring her perfectly legitimate concerns to the attention of the wider Catholic community without fear of reprisal, is respected.  Her SCO article reflects the concerns expressed in the Catholic Truth article published on page 4 of the current, January newsletter, LGBTI Issues in Catholic Schools,  which you can read by clicking here

One key point of discussion for this thread might focus on the following comment from the above article: “Catholic RE teachers propose rather than impose the Gospel. This is what Jesus did. God is love and love does not force.”

This idea of “not imposing” Catholic teaching/the Gospel, seems now to be rooted in the contemporary philosophy of Catholic education – I first heard it formally stated in a newspaper article by the then new (now former) Director of the Scottish Catholic Education Commission, Michael McGrath.  However, this way of thinking stands in stark contradiction to the traditional purpose of Catholic schools which was to pass on the Faith, to nurture the Catholic religion in pupils;  parents were required to take their children to Mass, inculcate devotions, while Catholic dogma and morals were systematically taught at school, just as every academic subject is taught.  The Faith was to be taught across the curriculum so that pupils would leave school with a Catholic world-view.  Catholic home-schooling programmes continue to pursue the traditional method, with much success. 

The modern, rather apologetic attitude, this reassurance of “not imposing” the Faith suggests that it is optional, that the Catholic Church is not God’s means of salvation. The ecumenical times in which we live, the fact that we have both teachers and pupils from non-Catholic backgrounds in attendance at our schools partly explains this major omission, although it must be noted that from the beginning, certainly in Scotland, Catholic schools could not even have been established without the help of non-Catholic staff. And, in my own experience at Open Evenings with prospective non-Catholic students  (including Muslims) visiting, those parents understand that their child will be exposed to Catholicism;  as one Muslim parent told me, that was why she had chosen that particular school!  

Pauline adds that Jesus Himself did this – i.e. He “proposed not imposed” the Faith, because “love does not force”.  But, surely, it’s not about “forcing” – nobody speaks of proposing to give family and friends gifts and cards at Christmas. It’s not an imposition to offer gifts.  The gift may not be accepted – the recipient may choose to return the gift, buy something else with that gift receipt, but few would consider the offer as an imposition, of being forced to accept a gift. And the Faith IS a gift – from God.  He has given us free will in the expectation that we will accept this great gift.  There really is no right to refuse.  And that is because, in fact, Our Lord did NOT simply “propose” the Faith – his very last words on this earth were a clear instruction to His apostles:  “All power is given to Me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Certainly, we cannot “force” the Faith on anyone, in the sense of coercion; but we must avoid the sin of omission by failing to teach the elementary dogma that – as the Fathers of the Church have taught from the beginning – outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation (Catechism of the Catholic Church #846).  One famous educational psychologist, whose name escapes me at the moment, said that children can be taught anything, as long as the teacher has thought it through carefully.  In other words, this dogma CAN be taught, without “offending” anyone – the current (and perhaps only) mortal sin! 

Of course, given the weakness of the Scottish Catholic Education Commission for many years now, it is extremely difficult for any Catholic school to truly offer an authentic Catholic education in the sense traditionally understood.  Goodness, as Pauline indicates, it is almost impossible for Catholic schools to teach  purity and the abhorrence of sin, let alone imbue young people with a Catholic world-view.  

For now, though, congratulations to Pauline Gallagher – I will email her the link to this blog so let’s assure her of our prayers and support, with gratitude for her courageous article,  sincerely hoping that she will be able to make a real difference in the work of restoring authentic Catholic education in our schools.  

Comments (86)

  • crofterlady

    The proof of the pudding is in the eating! I can say that 2 of my siblings and I sent our children, all 14 of them, to State schools and they ALL still practise their Faith AND know it too. Conversely, the other siblings sent theirs to “Catholic” schools, all 19 of them, and NONE of them now practise their Faith. In fact the rebellion started at around 12 years of age in most cases.

    Shame on our “shepherds”!!!! Shame on them and bring on Judgement Day!

    January 22, 2019 at 8:47 am
    • editor


      That’s great news about your own children; however, there is still an important consideration to take into account in that I imagine, from your various posts, some of which hint at your age (!) that you would have been able to supply solid Catholic teaching at home, and fill in the gaps for your children attending non-denominational schools. Parents who have themselves not been taught the Faith today, can’t do that. However, the fact remains that in a non-denominational school, they would NOT be meeting with teachers (or are less likely to meet with teachers) who will undermine their Catholic Faith – assuming the school is made aware of the fact that these are Catholic children and the parents do not want them to be in the position of hearing or being presented with anti-Catholic material.

      Having said that, I remember being asked to help out in the History Department and I was appalled at the series of glossy books, complete with cartoons, being used across the year groups. The presentation of the Catholic Church was entirely negative to the point of being openly hostile. I couldn’t believe it. When I spoke to the Head of History, she agreed to look at some alternative materials for the work I was doing with my classes, which presented the topic very differently indeed and she approved those for use, no problem.

      So, we can’t rely on teachers in every subject in non-denominational schools knowing the facts about the Church, but that is also true in Catholic schools. Unless parents are alert to the dangers of both ignorance and prejudice, there will always be an issue of concern about the educational provision on offer today in the UK, whether in Catholic or non-denominational schools. It is much easier, however, to “contradict” or correct teaching given in a ND school, than a Catholic school – that is likely to lead to real confusion in the minds of young people.

      January 22, 2019 at 11:28 am
      • crofterlady

        Yes Editor, you have a point, or many points (!) but my children are in their 20s so I’m not that ancient! My husband is a convert and is completely self taught. True, between us we did manage to pass on the faith. I might add that we sent them to yearly summer schools in England and then to Evangelium when they were a bit older. We also invited, on a yearly basis, various very sound priests and lay people to holiday with us. It was a struggle alright!

        The ironic thing about my nieces and nephews is that they are a fair bit older than mine (therefore schooled before the complete rot set in) but they are utterly ignorant of even a modicum of the Catholic faith. Not a clue. Literally.

        January 22, 2019 at 1:18 pm
  • Catherine

    What a fantastic article. You point out many of the reasons why I home-educate my children. When my eldest went to college, a few of her class members said to her: “You are the most innocent 16 year old I’ve ever met.” I teach my children about purity, and I know it will serve them well in the future.

    I’m delighted to hear of a teacher sticking up for what is morally right.

    Thank you, and God bless you.

    January 22, 2019 at 9:24 pm
    • Pauline Gallagher

      Thanks Catherine! Please Pray for the campaign.

      January 24, 2019 at 12:15 am
      • Catherine

        Pauline Gallagher,

        I am very interested in your mention of a campaign – I presume this is about the LGBT input in Catholic schools, so I will definitely keep that in my prayers. There is no way the TIE people should be dictating what is taught in Catholic schools about LGBT issues.

        I hope you don’t mind if I ask you a couple of questions because I am so pleased to find a teacher in a Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Glasgow who is fighting against the whole LGBT lobby in our schools.

        What is the rest of the RE curriculum like? Do you get to teach Catholic doctrine properly or is it watered down?

        Are there ever traditional Latin Masses provided or are the children only taught about the new Mass?

        January 24, 2019 at 12:22 pm
      • Petrus


        I know your question is directed to Pauline, but I thought I would jump in and give you my perspective.

        The curriculum is known as This Is Our Faith. I think it is seriously lacking in doctrine. I did a review of it a number of years ago and found some very suspect content. I can’t remember the exact details.
        It’s important to note that it has never received an Imprimatur from the Vatican.

        As for the Mass, I’ve never seen anything about the Latin Mass mentioned in any material being used in schools. Certainly I talk about the Traditional Latin Mass, but all the material is based on the New Mass.

        January 24, 2019 at 1:49 pm
      • gabriel syme


        I think it is seriously lacking in doctrine

        I have not seen the material myself, but that was my experience and is what I would expect: very effete, lovey dovey dross about “feelings” and how everyone is “nice” etc.

        It’s important to note that it has never received an Imprimatur from the Vatican.

        That is amazing (and not in a good way). Any Catholic should feel free to reject it then and “do their own thing” with solid catechisms.

        Does it have any formal approval at all? From whom?

        I have spoken to some people who attend the traditional mass but use Catholic schools. They have an agreement with the school(s) that the children do not attend novus ordo masses or RE classes.

        I think that would make the schools viable for traditionalists, but isn’t it sad that what the schools offer (wrt the faith) has to be treated like toxic material?

        Still, I am heartened by the fact that there are teachers such as yourself and Pauline Gallagher to be found!

        January 24, 2019 at 9:26 pm
      • Pauline Gallagher

        Hi Catherine, Sorry late is hectic.
        I have to say that the faith directives of SCES ‘this is our faith’ are greatly to my satisfaction. They are faithful to the teachings of Christ and the Church.
        All the more reason for my dismay at the TIE directed materials.
        I am glad to tell you that Latin Mass is sometimes provided, rarely but at least it is valued.

        February 9, 2019 at 12:02 pm
      • Petrus

        Sorry, Pauline, I must disagree with you profoundly. This Is Our Faith is not at all sound, hence the reason why the Vatican has only provisionally approved it. It’s vague, at best.

        I’ve also never, ever known there to be any mention of the Traditional Latin Mass, nevermind it being provided! Never in 21 years of being involved in Catholic education.

        February 9, 2019 at 2:27 pm
      • Josephine


        Could you give us an example of something from This is Our Faith that you think is sound Catholic teaching


        Could you give us an example of something that you think is “not at all sound”.

        It’s difficult for us to know which of you is correct, without a solid example.

        February 9, 2019 at 10:46 pm
      • Petrus

        Good point, Josephine. I will get back to you.

        February 10, 2019 at 5:53 am
  • crofterlady

    Petrus, are you criticising the SCES?

    January 24, 2019 at 2:29 pm
  • gabriel syme

    I wonder if it is not time for the Church in Scotland to move its schools outside of the state sector?

    I am open to correction, but I believe the system in France is that the Church runs its schools distinctly. However, they are paid for by the taxes of those families who use them. The State essentially gives tax rebate to the Church, given the families are not using secular state schools.

    This works well for everyone, (I think), because the Church can theoretically teach what it wants, and the French state can still tout itself as secular.

    Of course, they probably still teach dross thanks to modernism, but they could change that if they wanted (!).

    I think it would be much better than our set up, where the main priority is always to please secular politicians, more than it is teach the faith.

    Maybe blogger Lionel could advise us on how the French do this?

    January 24, 2019 at 9:21 pm
    • Lionel

      Gabriel Syme,
      En France, il y a sous l’autorité de l’État l’école publique qui n’est pas vraiment satisfaisante et il y a aussi l’enseignement privé qui est sous l’autorité de l’Église.
      Dans les deux cas les programmes sont fixés par les Inspecteurs d’Académie mais plus ou moins aménageables pour ce qui concerne les écoles privées.
      L’enseignement privé pèse lourdement sur le budget des familles, car seulement partiellement financé par l’État, mais les personnes qui le peuvent, quelle que soit leur religion, préfèrent envoyer leurs enfants dans les écoles privées où l’éducation y est menée beaucoup plus sérieusement…

      In France, there is, under the authority of the State, the public school (State school) which is not really satisfactory and there is also the private education which is under the authority of the Church.
      In both cases the programs are set by the Academy Inspectors but more or less convertible within private schools.
      Private education is a heavy burden on the family budget, because it is only partially funded by the State, but those who can, whatever their religion is, prefer to send their children to private schools where education is conducted much more seriously…

      January 25, 2019 at 10:48 pm
      • gabriel syme


        Many thank for your kind response – it is much appreciated.

        May I ask – what % of the catholic school fees are paid by the State?

        Do you know if the schools in France are more successful at passing on the faith than the ones in Scotland and the wider UK?


        January 28, 2019 at 12:03 pm
      • Lionel

        Gabriel Syme,
        Sorry, I cannot comment on the “percentage of the catholic school fees being paid by the State” as I simply do not know. I thing that the State helps the poorest families.
        With regard to “religious education” I do not know the situation in Scotland, therefore, I am not able to compare.
        In France, free schools (private schools) must meet the requirements of families because those who do not provide quality education are deserted and therefore doomed to disappear.
        I must specify that as far as the transmission of the Faith is concerned, everything depends on the orientations of the leadership and of the teachers.
        In the North of Paris, some religious schools are attended practically only by Muslims and Jews…

        January 28, 2019 at 10:08 pm
      • gabriel syme


        Many thanks for this feedback!

        January 29, 2019 at 8:04 am
  • Petrus

    Pauline has said that if anyone wants to join her Facebook group, the link to which I’ve posted below, they should send her a friend request.

    January 25, 2019 at 9:50 pm

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