In an open letter to the Scottish Executive's Sexual Health Strategy Reference Group, Fr. Joseph Chambers a member of the group representing the Catholic Church has set out his reasons for refusing to sign and endorse the final report which he claims pursues the "same policies which are patently failing" in the field of sexual health.
In a strongly worded letter, Fr. Chambers alleges that the final report bore little resemblance to the substance of discussions the group had in a series of several day-long meetings.
Speaking at the release of the letter, the Director of the Catholic Media Office, Peter Kearney said; "It is clear from Fr. Chambers comments that the consultation process in this instance can best be described as 'a sham' something which should be a matter of grave concern to the Scottish public" he added
"In the area of sexual health we see Scotland's abortion figures standing still, no decrease in teenage conceptions and a massive increase in sexually transmitted infections all of which attest to the total and absolute failure of current approaches. yet the Scottish Executive and Scotland's Health Boards refuse to take a moral stance of any kind in stark contrast to the moralising message which has succeeded in anti drink drive and speeding campaigns."
The full text of the letter is reproduced below;
Sexual Health Strategy Reference Group
As a member of the Reference Group I regret that I am unable to add my signature to the report.
My reasons are:-
I did attend most of the meetings but fail to recognise within the report much of the debate which took place. This leaves me with the feeling that there existed a pre-arranged agenda.
In spite of the fact that Scotland appears to have the worst record in Europe on "sexual health", the report would appear to be endorsing the continuation and extension of the same policies which are patently failing.
Little regard is given in the report to the views of many religious groups on such important issues as abortion, contraception, homosexual activities as opposed to homosexual tendencies, under-age sex; although the report regularly refers to the need to take account of the views of "minorities".
Despite the theological/moral discussions which did take place within some of the meetings there is no attempt to provide any moral framework in the report which is important to our society whether or not the population comes from a religious background or none. The McCabe Report (2000) is a useful reference and example of this.
Reflecting on the society within which we live in Scotland there is a seriously inadequate recognition of the importance of marriage and the rights and responsibilities of parents, including those who are separated or divorced.
The "confidentiality" issue regarding under-age children is seriously understated and requires a much fuller review with clear, unequivocal guidelines. The pastoral care of children and the law should never be in conflict.
Some of the guidelines on curricular development are totally unacceptable, e.g. Key Learning Objectives S2. Good Health and Sexual education would seem to be pivotal for the future but this has been dealt with in an unsatisfactory fashion in the report in fact, the vision for good education is poor in contrast to current developments in other curricular fields.
Representing the Catholic Church I am speaking on behalf of approximately 20% of the population in Scotland; even allowing for those who no longer practise a faith, I am quite sure that I would have the support of the vast majority when they are made aware of my reasons for refusing to sign this Strategy Report.
I see this report as a poor, inadequate vision for the future health of Scottish young people and I am sure the wider public will have much to criticise when it becomes available for consultation if, indeed, it ever does.
Since the document is now closed to amendment I shall make a full and detailed report to the Minister for Health.
Rev. Joseph Chambers
OUR LADY OF GOOD COUNSEL
6 Broompark Circus
Glasgow, G31 2JF
Tel/Fax 0141 554 1558
Catholic Media Office
0141 221 1168