Maronite prelate urges prudence online amid media flurry
Maronite Catholic Bishop Charbel-Antoine Tarabay has defended the Diocese of Parramatta’s controversial religious education plans for next year and called for calm from anxious parents.
“Despite some media reports to the contrary, the program does not teach gender theory or gender studies,” Bishop Tarabay said in a social media post on 10 September.
“As clergy and laity, we all want our teachers to be equipped to answer questions that the students ask them.
“That comes with formation and direction. It does not come with vilification. More importantly we want our children to be equipped for the questions that the world is going to ask them and in the end we want to have confidence that our children will go out into the world and choose Christ and give witness to him.”
“If you have questions, please direct them to the Diocese of Parramatta with charity,” Bishop Antoine-charbel Tarabay
Bishop Tarabay’s comments came following his first-ever visit to the Parramatta diocese’s offices last Tuesday, at which he was presented with a contribution towards the Maronite diocese’s Beirut Disaster Relief Appeal.
It was also an opportunity to discuss the new Religious Education curriculum with his counterpart Parramatta Bishop Vincent Long.
The inquiry-based draft syllabus which is already being trialled in some schools, has been making headlines locally and even overseas with claims that students from Year 7-12 will be taught gender ideology, identity politics, and LGBT studies in their religious classes.
In a second letter to parents in two weeks, episcopal vicar for education and formation Father Christopher de Souza said he understood their “fear and anger” based on reports.
“It is your right to be concerned with these reports, if they were true. Yet, they are not,” Fr de Souza wrote.
“There is no truth to reports that we are developing a curriculum that goes against the Catholic faith. It’s nowhere to be found in the curriculum, and completely untrue to say this curriculum teaches gender theory or gender studies or associated material. That is just wrong.
“Without any shadow of a doubt there is nothing in the curriculum, specifically the ‘Essential Content’ component that is not Catholic.”
Questions about sexuality that have been the focus of concerns about the draft curriculum were derived from students during the seven-year survey and consultation process, Fr de Souza added.
“They are questions that might arise and that will be critiqued through a Catholic perspective,” he wrote.
Bishop Tarabay said he also understood the concerns of some parents but asked them to be “prudent” in their use of social media about the issue.
“If you have questions, please direct them to the Diocese of Parramatta with charity, remembering that every staff member of the Diocese is worthy of our respect and should not be attacked or abused while they perform their job,” he added.
“I am confident that a process is in place which will ensure that schools in the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta will continue to deliver Catholic education which inspires our children to Christ and teaches in line with our Catholic Church.”
The Maronite bishop said he would read and provide feedback on future drafts during the four-draft process “as they become available”.
“Thank you for clarifying and confirming the Maronites’ position on this subject,” wrote one Facebook user.