The Archdiocese of Southwark is defending the cancellation of a gay author’s visit to a Catholic school

0

The Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark has defended its decision to cancel a gay author’s visit to one of its schools.

Simon James Green has been invited to the John Fisher School in Purley to speak to Year 8 and Year 9 students aged 12-13 as part of World Book Day.

His appearance was canceled by the Archbishop of Southwark after concerns were raised about the content of Green’s teenage LGBT books.

The decision triggered a rapid inspection by the Ofsted Schools Inspectorate, which in its report this week criticized the archdiocese, saying it had left staff and students “angry, confused and frustrated”.

The school was forced to close temporarily this week after staff went on strike over the cancellation of Green’s visit.

In a detailed statement, the Southwark Archdiocese Education Commission has defended its actions and raised concerns about parts of Green’s books. Noah can’t even and Noah never couldwhich contain sexually explicit material and a distortion of the Lord’s Prayer.

The Education Commission said that the sexual imagery was “not appropriate for school-age students in a Catholic context” and that the use of the Lord’s Prayer in this manner was “a source of deep concern”.

It added that it’s not about the character’s sexual orientation, but about the content of the material.

“For Christians, the Lord’s Prayer is something very precious,” said the Education Commission.

“We believe it was taught by Jesus Christ to His early disciples as a pattern for all prayer. We would not expect anyone who is not a Christian to accept what we believe about this prayer.

“However, we would hope that it would be respected as a valuable and essential part of a great world faith, prayed by millions of people every day.

“The Lord’s Prayer is an integral part of Catholic worship and devotion. It is taught to children by both their families and school staff and is part of the spiritual life of a Catholic school.”

The Education Commission’s full statement:

Due to the concerns expressed, the Archdiocese of Southwark was made aware of Mr Green’s book Noah Can’t Even (2017) This was the focus for the World Book Day presentation and signing at the John Fisher School. The event was aimed at students in grades 8 and 9, the vast majority of whom would be aged 12-13. The book has a sequel Noah Never Could (2018).

For Christians, the Lord’s Prayer is something very precious. We believe it was taught by Jesus Christ to His early disciples as a pattern for all prayer. We would not expect anyone who is not a Christian to accept what we believe about this prayer. However, we would hope that it would be respected as a valuable and essential part of a great world faith prayed by millions of people every day. The Lord’s Prayer is an integral part of Catholic worship and devotion. It is taught to children by both their families and school staff, and is part of the spiritual life of a Catholic school.


READ MORE: The Archbishop of Southwark deserves applause for his stance against sexually explicit LGBT books in Catholic schools


In the book Noah can’t even Chapter 13, on pages 124-125, begins:

“Let’s pray.”

“Our father, who is the gay boy? Noah is his name…” […]
“He calls for Harry. He gives him one. On earth as in heaven. …” […]

“And tempt him directly. Straight to a gay bar. Because Noah is a gay boy. Who likes to blow. Forever and ever. He is gay.”

“Okay, sit down!” said Mr. Baxter, leader of the year.

The eleven year olds all shuffled back to their seats. Noah flopped back dejectedly, squarely onto a banana that the hilarious inmates in the row behind had placed on his seat during prayer.

“Awww – right up his ass!” said one of the guys. (It wasn’t.)

“He loves to!” said another. (He did not do it.)

“Oh Harry! Do it to me!” a girl sighed. (Not a word he would ever use. He wasn’t a classless porn star.)

See Appendix I (below) for the Lord’s Prayer as used by the Roman Catholic Church.

Asterisks are included in the above text for the sake of modesty, but are not present in the original.

Mr Green has commented that his book simply has a gay character and some “kissing”. Looking at the text above, the narrative uses sexual imagery that we believe are inappropriate for school-age students in a Catholic context. The use of this prayer in this way and its promotion in a Catholic school is a source of deep concern.

In the book Noah never couldearly in chapter 4, there is the following narration.


READ MORE: When ‘Good Intentions’ Fail: LGBT+ Teen Fiction and the Church


Rumor has it that Connor was dating a boy in thirteenth grade – two years older than him! How very nervous. That meant Connor was probably sexually skilled now too, taken under the wing of this sixth grade sugar daddy who would no doubt have shown him exactly what to do and when to do it. …

The context is Noah’s ongoing personal journey. The question is whether the topics addressed are appropriate for school-age students. If the narrative were about an 11th grader and a male 13th grader who was and had their “sugar daddy”. ‘shown no doubt [her] exactly what to do and when to do it’ The concern would remain the same. It is important to reiterate that sexual orientation is not and never was a cause for concern. It is the content of the material. If a passage like the above had been written from a heterosexual perspective, it would have been equally unacceptable.

Additional concerns arose regarding inappropriate language towards women, particularly the mother character in the book, who is described as “A total slut from Hell” (p. 196) and “Kantankerous Hag” (p. 202) during a scene , in which Noah and Josh give girls points out of ten based on gender, is disrespectful of women and promotes this attitude as acceptable (pp. 223-224).

We hope this information about the content of the material in question will help clarify the real concerns. Our priority has been and continues to be the thriving of students at the John Fisher School (see Appendix II). We continue to work with the wider school community and local authorities and are committed to the academic, pastoral and spiritual care of the students.

Appendix I

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;

your kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts

how we forgive those who transgress against us;

and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Amen.

Annex II

Letter to parents and students at The John Fisher School, Purley, March 18, 2022

Like all Catholic schools, the John Fisher School is a welcoming and inclusive place for all students and we were delighted to have this recognized by Ofsted. However, the Archdiocese of Southwark was concerned that the report of Mr Green’s canceled visit contained inaccuracies, with the evidence appearing to come solely from media reports. The Diocesan Education Commission wrote to Ofsted today asking them to reconsider the report.

Respect for the God-given dignity of every human life is central to Catholic education, and respect is a two-way street. Insulting literature, which in the case of Mr. Green’s book was a highly sexualized paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer, is understandably offensive to many Christians and, as such, has no place in Catholic schools.

It is important that the school can continue now and the Diocese Education Commission will continue to work with the local authority, board of directors, unions and senior management at The John Fisher in the best interests of parents, students and all staff.

Share.

Comments are closed.