The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales made five resolutions at their November 2012 plenary meeting at Hinsley Hall in the Diocese of Leeds last week.
These were announced at a press conference at the Ecclestion Square on Friday morning. The resolutions are: Catholic Education, Human Trafficking, Same-Sex Marriage, Prayer for Peace in the Middle East and the principle of the Living Wage.
The Bishops’ Conference recognises that fair wages are essential to the common good of our society. The Bishops’ Conference recognises that fair wages are essential to the common good of our society. In accordance with Catholic social teaching, and as part of its mission to support the poor and vulnerable, the Bishops’ Conference fully endorses the principle of the Living Wage and encourages Catholic organisations and charities in England and Wales to work towards its implementation.
The bishops agreed four resolutions relating to Catholic education and schools at their November 2012 plenary meeting: Religious Education and the Common Good, Religious Education in Catholic Schools, Religious Education and Parental Choice and the bishops welcomed the publication of the new Religious Education Curriculum Directory.
Religious Education and the Common Good
The Bishops’ Conference affirms the important role that good quality Religious Education, taught with proper academic rigour, plays in the education of young people and in developing the spiritual dimension of the human person. Therefore, the Bishops’ Conference urges the UK and Welsh Assembly governments to safeguard the place of Religious Education in the curriculum of all schools and academies, and, in the case of England, to reconsider the inclusion of Religious Education in the English Baccalaureate and in the proposed English Baccalaureate Certificates (EBCs).
Religious Education in Catholic Schools
The Bishops’ Conference reaffirms that Religious Education is the core subject in Catholic schools and academies requiring 10% of curriculum time. In view of the recent reallocation of resources in Initial Teacher Training to English Baccalaureate subjects in England, the Bishops’ Conference seeks assurances that the supply of highly qualified Religious Education teachers will be ensured as a matter of government policy.
Religious Education and Parental Choice
The Bishops’ Conference recognises that all parents and legal guardians have the right and duty to educate their children. Catholic parents have an additional duty and right to choose those schools and academies which best promote the Catholic education of their children (cf. Can. 793 §1). Mindful that Religious Education is at the very heart of the curriculum in Catholic schools and academies, its exclusion from the core academic subjects as defined by the English Baccalaureate effectively limits the ability of parents to choose schools and academies, and their right to ensure the education of their children is conducted in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions (cf. European Convention on Human Rights, Protocol 2, Article 1). The Bishops’ Conference therefore requests the government to uphold parents' rights in this regard.
Religious Education Curriculum Directory
The Bishops’ Conference welcomes the new Religious Education Curriculum Directory for Catholic Schools published by the Department for Catholic Education and Formation as the foundational document for the development of Religious Education in Catholic schools, academies and colleges in England and Wales.
Day of Prayer for Peace in the Middle East
Conscious of the civil war in Syria and its impact on neighbouring countries, as well as the continuing conflict in the Holy Land, the Bishops’ Conference asks that a day of prayer for peace in the Middle East be observed on 4 December 2012, the Feast of St John Damascene. See also: catholicnews.org.uk/middle-east-analysis (The popular podcast series on the Middle East North Africa region with Dr Harry Hagopian - international lawyer and consultant to the Bishops on the region.)
Resolution: Day of Prayer for Victims of Trafficking. The Bishops’ Conference commends the request to observe the Feast of St Josephine Bakhita - 8 February - as a Day of Prayer for Victims of Trafficking and those who work to combat it.
See also: catholicnews.org.uk/trafficking-conference-rome-2012
The Bishops’ Conference agreed the following statement:
"Together with many people both within and beyond the faith communities of England and Wales we remain firmly opposed to the government's proposal to redefine marriage.
"We await the publication of the results of the public consultation and the government's response. At this time, we urge all who oppose the government's proposal to make their views known to their own member of parliament. As we stated in our submission to the government in June: 'The uniqueness of the institution of marriage is based on the fact that the human person exists as both male and female and that their union for the purpose of procreation, mutual support, and love has, over the centuries of human history, formed a stable unit which we call the family. Marriage has long been recognised as a positive building block of human society and has therefore been rightly recognised by societies and cultures as worthy of legal protection.'
"What is at stake is the intrinsic meaning of marriage and what is best for society as a whole. Redefining marriage is therefore a fundamental moral issue which concerns everyone. It is also one for which no mandate was sought or given to any party at the last general election. It should therefore be treated as an issue of conscience, and we urge all parties to offer a free vote to their members if a Bill ever comes to Parliament."
On Tuesday, a small group of students from St Mary's University College, Twickenham travelled up to Leeds and held a vigil outside the conference in Leeds, appealing for the Bishops to intervene in a number of dificulties at the College. They also held a vigil in London on Friday at Ecclestion Square during the press conference.
One of the students, Heather Kuhlman, said that Mgr Stock, General Secretary of the Bishops' Conference, spoke with them for a long time in Leeds and London. She said he was very concerned and promised to passed their message on to the Bishops.