Wednesday, 4 May 2011


"I went looking for a job and then I found a job/And Heaven knows I'm miserable now..." ('Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now', The Smiths)

According to my ACN diary today is the Feast of the English & Welsh Martyrs of 1535-1680.

It just so happened that my induction day for my new job fell upon this day, today. I thought that was a bit weird but dismissed any thought that it was in any way providential...until I went to my induction day.

The breaking news is that I have a job. That should be enough to get anyone out of their computer chair and splutter their coffee over their computer screen in shock. The other breaking news is that I am unsure whether in good conscience I can accept this job. Please allow me to explain why...

At some point in Lent I applied myself to applying for some jobs. I didn't get any positive news back until I was invited for an interview at a local College for the position of exam invigilator. Incredibly, I was successful in the interview, even though when I was asked about my experience in 'project leadership', I cited organising a pilgrimmage to see the Holy Father in Hyde Park, so I can't accuse them of not being 'equal opportunities' employers.

Anyway, so I got the job and was invited to fill out a CRB form, some other forms and to attend today's induction class on how to be an exam invigilator, receive documentation on our hours, and the rest. The second half of the class, however, was devoted to 'Child Protection and Safeguarding'. So, I listened with the other new employees to a lady discussing what we need to know about child protection and safeguarding, all the legislation and the rest. Now, at some point while she was talking I began to feel a little bit sick.

The lady was talking about how the College has to 'safeguard' the students. It means looking out for their welfare.  She talked about circumstances and situations in which students may make a 'disclosure' to staff and what staff are to do. While it was incredibly unlikely that, as exam invigilators, we would be privy to students personal concerns, it was not totally unfeasible that we might be trusted with information from students who have hit some kind of crisis. So, the rules are, if a 'disclosure' is made to you, you must listen to it and report it to your superiors. My mind flitted to potential 'disclosures' and wondered how one would be called upon to react to news of an 'unwanted' pregnancy.

Delicately, I asked her what was the most common crisis or concern for students. For some reason, I had the word "abortion" ringing in my ear. I can be quite naive at times, as friends will tell you and for some reason, on this gloriously sunny day, as I had approached the College, walking past a lecturer explaining, with the window open, the bibliography of George Orwell to his class, I walked into the induction happy as Larry, thinking what a pleasant College this is. In many ways I expect it is a very pleasant College, but by the end of the said lady's very slick PowerPoint presentation, I was beginning to wonder whether this is the place for me.

So, anyway, when I asked the lady what was the most common situation of distress for students, I wondered whether she might say, "pregnancy" because I'd bet what I own that it is. She replied saying something along the lines of "panic attacks, pre-exam nerves, etc." I asked this because during her presentation the College website's Personal Support team came up and I saw the word, 'Sexual Health Clinic' with this service available to students..

  • C-Cards and free condoms
  • Chlamydia tests
  • Advice on where to go locally for further sexual health services
This is a completely confidential service. Do drop in!

Their words, not mind, you understand. Now, I am aware that various Catholic colleges, schools and possibly universities have been surreptitiously co-opted, somehow, by secular groups like Connexions who promote nefarious 'choices' to the students of Catholic schools, but I would doubt that any Catholic college or school would promote artificial contraception, abortion and 'emergency contraception' to students so flagrantly. Having already in the course of the afternoon visited the canteen for a parched throat and walked past the College Philosophy Society's next seminar, touchingly entitled 'Strength in Unity: A Defense of Fascism', I was not all that shocked to see in the side entrance corridor to College, the obligatory board promoting condoms to the students, alongside a large Marie Stopes Clinic poster, basically, advertising the notorious global abortion providers for those times when the former product fails.

It should be noted that a key aspect of 'safeguarding', of course, is that 'confidentiality' is guarded safely, so that students maintain a relationship of trust with the College staff. I'm guessing therefore, that when students are referred for abortions by the Personal Support team, parents are not informed, if that is the student's expressed desire.

I left the induction day without having said anything afterwards to the 'Personal Support' staff member, something for which I shall have to answer to God, but I do have her email. I'm sure that the likelihood is extremely low of me receiving a student 'disclosure' of information which would place me in the awkward position of having to report an 'unwanted' pregnancy to more senior staff who would most likely go on to advise or acquiesce in contacting BPAS or Marie Stopes, but I can't help feeling that that isn't the point. Obviously, it would be 'unprofessional' of me, in that situation, to prepare by having a stash of Good Counsel Network leaflets to give out, wouldn't it?

Somehow, I can't help feeling that the details of this are subsidiary to the more important moral question, in which I hope you can help me: Can I, in good conscience, be a practising Catholic and work for and be paid by, even as an exam invigilator, a College that promotes contraception to and most certainly refers students for abortions? One word answers to the question will suffice, but your additional comments are most welcome. It's very depressing, isn't it? I wonder why they can't advertise the Good Counsel Network or LIFE? On the upside I have had an order for 100 Divine Mercy leaflets from a Catholic chaplaincy in the UK. More generally, I'm wondering if British Catholics should just move to Poland, where life is still defended. It's a new phenomenon called moral emigration...Poles come here for jobs, we go there for their morality...


Rita said...

This is the reality an awful lot of Catholics find themselves in.

There are two ways we can go through life: either like St Christina Mirabilis, aesthetically floating above the sinful stench of her fellow men or getting stuck into that stench and doing what you can to be a witness to the truth amongst the depravity.

The rules for disclosure are a good thing, don't think it will automatically lead to the wrong path being taken. The rules will protect you and to a certain extent the student. You could say what I say to them "this is the procedure we have to go through, it is the law, however do not let anyone force you to do something you feel is wrong, if you feel you are getting an unbalalced message, come back to me and without further disclosure, I can put information about other organisations your way".

Pray for wisdom, but take the job! Oh, and stop listening to the Smiths, they're pure jaundice (IMHO) ;-)

P Standforth said...

We live in an imperfect world, and this dilemma is no different to that which we each face everyday. My local council does much that I disagree with, yet I still must pay my local tax in accord with the civic requirement. Should it come to actually being asked to do something against my creed then that is a different situation. It seems that is is a very long shot that would put you in the position you fear. Don't fret about what might be. Take the job and do it with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Should the unlikely occur, pray and do as your consience needs in those particular circumstances. Don't try to second guess life, it will always be a step ahead. God Bless.

epsilon said...

First of all, Laurence, everyone who pays taxes in this country, including me, contributes to a state that performs "free abortions", goes to war against people I have no fight with, etc.

"My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before."

You can't save the world, Laurence - you can only try your best in whatever place you find yourself in.

BTW what are you promoting in the Smiths' video!!

A Friendly Word said...

May I make a point about the caption under the picture and your first paragraph. The caption is wrong as it states 'The Forty Martyrs of England and wales'. It is not THE Forty Martyrs etc but simply 'Forty Martyrs ... There were many more than 40 but these forty were chosen to represent the many hundreds (thousands?) who dies for the faith in those desperate times. Thus, we do not speak of 'THE' Forty Martyrs as it is not correct.
In your first paragraph you mention only English martyrs but there were Welsh martyrs also.

Mulier Fortis said...

You'll be fine.

I've been teaching for 14 years, and I've never been "confided in" in the way described. As an invigilator, your contact will be minimal, and it's highly unlikely anyone will tell you about their sex life.

It's not illegal - and immorality is going on everywhere. You don't refuse to buy medicines at the chemist because they also provide the MAP.

The only thing I advise is removing the name and website of the college from the post - that *can* get you the sack!

Ordo scrutineer said...

The Forty Martyrs in the image are those 40 canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1971(?)- their feast used to be celebrated in October (25th). 85 more Blesseds were raised by Blessed John Paul - the feast for the Blessed Martyrs used to be May 4.
A recent revision of the proper calendar for England moved them all to May 4th. In our Ordo only the English Martyrs are referred to (which leaves out some of the 40 and the 85 who weren't English). I suspect the Welsh have their own Welsh Martyrs' feast in their ordos.

Laurence - just take the job and keep saying your prayers. Good Catholics who work in the public sector often speak volumes by their silence.

Juventutem London said...

Yes you can.

Tares and wheat.

Unknown said...

Of course you can. It is as good as, or better than, drawing dole money from a government which promotes the same idealogy as the college. At least you will be earning a wage, you can be discreet, and you have at least some control over the sorts of situations that might place you in a compromising position with your Faith. Other than that...become a Brother or a priest.......

pelerin said...

I agree with the others - take it Laurence.

We do indeed live in an imperfect world. One of my grandsons said to me recently that it was impossible to live a completely moral life which rather shook me. He then asked whether I bought clothes at a certain well known inexpensive shop (knowing full well that I did) and then proceeded to tell me that the reason they are so cheap is because they use cheap labour out east so I was being immoral in supporting them.

Being an invigilator it does seem unlikely that any pupil would approach you - before the exams they are concentrating on how it will be, and after they will be relieved it's over and will want to get out as soon as possible to chat with their friends about how difficult/easy it was.

I notice that you mention that you were told that any disclosure must be reported to your superiors. So it will not be your responsabilty to advise anyone but who knows you might just be able to influence someone.... There could be a good reason why you have been offered this job. P. Standforth puts it very well in his comment.

Tim said...

Yep - take the job. It's not the same as working for an organisation whose very purpose is to promote or profit from abortion. The current policy is rather a subornation of the institution and a corruption of its founding principles. Your employment there may contribute in some tiny way to the restoration of something that was originally good. Brick by brick!

A Reluctant Sinner said...


Maybe St Paul can help with your dilemma?

"I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people." (1 Cor 5:9 - 11)

I think what the Apostle is saying is that we must engage with sinners, and with institutions that might be contrary to the Gospel, otherwise we might as well be dead - or life will at least become very constricted. But, it is only when we have dealings with so-called Christians / Christian institutions who are living or promoting lives or sins contrary to the Gospel that we have to withdraw and show disapproval by not engaging with them.

Olivia Cooney said...

Sounds like you might be searching for reasons not to take a job?!

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