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A fish out of water.

Today I experienced an alienation from the society in which I live. It was made clear to me in no uncertain terms. Crystal clear!

My staunch commitment to the Truth, cultured by Catholic Social Teaching and the adherence to Tradition which in turn supports and bears the weight of the Catholic dogma underpinning the of Dignity of the human (from conception to natural death) was challenged in its totality.

In this instance, I was surrounded by twenty or so professionals from different agencies who work towards an integrated approach in order to protect children and young adults who may be considered ‘at risk’ . Social workers, health visitors, managers in the education field, pastoral workers and teachers, to name but a few. This group yielded an interesting mix of  rich and varied opinions,  providing a wide learning platform that united us in our ultimate aim: to work towards early intervention in the lives of children and young people in an assured way with the understanding of the importance of sharing relevant information between our agencies consistently. So far so good.

Much of the day was impregnated with the legalities surrounding sharing information in relation to the Data Protection Act, The Children’s Act, the Human Rights Act, and not forgetting, the EU Bill of Human Rights. As professional people dealing with issues that arise from our work, we need to be up to speed with all this , in order to protect ourselves as well as the institutions in which we work, but most importantly, the children’s and families rights with whom  we interact.

The challenge for me arose towards the end of the day, when we were presented with a case study. I will highlight only a few of the issues that were contentious for me as a practising Catholic Christian.

  • Two teenagers aged 12 and 14 years of age engage in ‘consensual’, unprotected sex.
  • The distraught 12-year-old girl approaches the Pastoral Carer at her Secondary school asking for advice on what to next,  as she doesn’t want a baby.
  • She does not want to disclose this information to her parents. (No mention was made of the other human participant in this sexual act, other than his involvement in the act!!)

As the outline of the case study unfolded, my whole being sensed the reverberation of the negative consequences of the secular, English society in which I have chosen to live.

Here are some of the observations I made not only from this case-study, but also from the immediate and impassioned responses from my colleagues: a lack of conscience regarding the role of  the parental right to know about what’ s happening in their daughter or son’s lives,  although to be fair, within the constraints of the Data Protection Act, they were responding ‘appropriately’; the total lack of respect for a possible human life that may have been created by this union, concentrating suggestions wholly on getting the girl to a health visitor where she would be prescribed the morning after pill, (without parental consent!!); focussing directly on information targeted at ‘educating’ the girl on existing birth control options rather than highlighting the best option of remaining sexually inactive as the safest birth control measure. Not only does this option rule out the possibility of contracting STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases which soon proved to be the next biggest concern for the group) but it’s a sure way of allowing yourself to develop in the  understanding of your body and emotional self, as a still growing and developing person. This was really an eye-opener for me. I realised just how much I have been sheltered from the reality of secular decision-making, having worked mainly in a Catholic environment for majority of my adult working life.

These issues were raised as a matter of course and I could see  they are here to stay. No longer is Faith in God resonant in the fabric of this society. Perhaps, maybe in name only, but not in other tangible everyday situations where informed decisions matter the most.

I left contemplating my options if I were ever to be in the shoes of the pastoral advisor  in this case study. I would have to tread very carefully indeed. I would most definitely not accompany the girl to the health facility  that would offer the morning after pill, and I suppose I would opt for the ‘easy’ way out and refer her on to another member of staff that would spout the secular blurb with little more than a bat of an eyelid.

In a more positive light, I would be interested in reviewing the social and emotional programme/s offered at the school with the view to suggesting additional options be made available to the young people. I would work doggedly on the improvement of self-appreciation and self-worth of those attending the school. Of course, this is wishful thinking, and I hope never to be put into a situation such as this.

In God only do I trust. Who knows what lies ahead of me on my journey of Faith?