Catholic schools in NSW are combating homophobic bullying with the -˜hate the sin, love the sinner’ approach, an inquiry heard last week.

Catholic Education Commission policy director Ian Baker told the NSW bullying inquiry he wanted to challenge the assumption that Catholics promote the bullying of homosexuals.

Quoting catechism, he said homosexual persons must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.
But the Catholic Church had no intention of backing away from its understanding of family, marriage and sexuality.

They are not mutually exclusive propositions and certainly no Catholic educator should be harassing, bullying or demeaning any person of homosexual persuasion, Baker said.

Each diocese and school could develop their own anti-bullying policy, he said, but the example offered by the Commission specifically addressed homophobia and racism as causes, and suggested strategies for making Catholic schools safer environments.

Greens MP John Kaye challenged the Commission on how Catholic schools could be safe for same-sex attracted students when Archbishop George Pell said the normalisation of homosexuality was eroding the moral ecology of society and was a greater health hazard than smoking.

Archbishop Pell is a leader of one of the dioceses that runs Catholic schools. If you are modelling empathetic behaviour and then Archbishop Pell says things that are openly hostile to homosexuals and homosexuality, is there not a disjuncture between what is being said? Kaye asked.

Respect for human dignity and human rights were applied equally, Catholic child protection officer Carolyn Hadley said, whether bullying was based on same-sex attraction, racism or any other distinction.

We would make a very clear distinction between the moral rejection of certain behaviours and the acceptance and understanding of the person and respecting that person’s rights and dignity within the school setting.

Kaye told Sydney Star Observer he was appalled by the response and felt it let down same-sex attracted students who are already at greater risk of suicide.

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