Overview:

A UK Catholic priest has courted controversy for calling teachers who teach the "abomination" of "gender ideology" "devils."

Reading Time: 12 minutes

Controversy has visited a town in the south of England over this last week with a taste of American-style preaching very rare in the chapels, cloisters, and vestibules of traditional English holy buildings.

Gosport is a town in Hampshire on the south coast of England that enjoys very little news fame. This week has seen a local Catholic church there become somewhat noteworthy, and people in education in the council scrabble are about to understand the ramifications.

The homily of Fr. Rosario Ebanks in Gosport’s St. Mary’s & St. Columba’s Catholic church last Sunday has so far hit the local headlines, and could perhaps go further, as it has called both Catholic teachers and OFSTED (the UK’s education regulatory organization) inspectors “devils” and the teaching of modern relationships an “abomination.”

Simply put, his homily is not something you would expect to see and hear in an otherwise traditionally quiet and conservative English church setting. While US churches may well experience this on a weekly basis, this sort of homily in a local Catholic church is a very rare occurrence in the UK.

For the record, the local schools have been rocked by the homily, reacting vociferously against the messages that Fr. Ebanks was espousing, with the local education authority and safeguarding teams also becoming involved. This is definitely encouraging.

His homily distorts reality, and is dripping with other disinformation inferences. This is classic culture wars territory: whip up a storm of outrage by claiming something that is not happening is rife.

Just in case locals might have thought this was merely hearsay, the church itself proudly uploaded the homily to YouTube (titling it “The Evil Agenda Infiltrating Our Catholic Schools”), where it has gained much traction (relatively speaking, for them) further afield than Gosport:

Although one shouldn’t make too much of YouTube comments, there has been an inundation of similarly feeling Catholics from around the world on the thread to the video, implying that this homily has been shared on social media around the world. They have lauded this “beautiful priest” with his “wonderful homily” going as far as to say “Don’t just talk about it, go down there and drag that teacher out. Close the school if need be, but quit being a party to this.”

In other words, this is a call to arms.

This is, as it happens, my local Catholic church. I am not Catholic but have worked in the local Catholic education system. I know these people, I have worked in the schools he is talking about, and I know the sterling work they do to educate children in an inclusive environment.

While I have transcribed almost the entire homily below (I will be writing a further theological criticism on it this week), it is worth pointing out some of the choice excerpts, with Fr. Ebanks stating:

…the Devil is tempting the faithful, tempting the little ones—those who are innocent and pure. It’s very sad, dear brothers and sisters, that we have opened up a door to the Devil in our Catholic schools, embracing all of the ‘gender ideology’ and this ‘rainbow flag revolution.’

He continued, fueling animosity toward teachers (and later school inspectors):

We’ve been learning about this at school—learning about relationships—and I was told that all of this was acceptable and okay. One of the teachers spoke to us about different families and different forms of love and we’re even going to have a club at school called The Rainbow Flag Club. And once, we were shown a picture of two people holding hands with the words that says, “Everything is okay. It’s all okay.”

Dear brothers and sisters, those teachers are a bunch of devils. What a scandal! What an abomination to think that in some so-called Catholic schools, these abominations are being presented and promoted, promoting sin, promoting a sin against chastity, promoting a sin against nature.

Some of the congregation were shocked, and it was brought to the attention of the local school and education authority, especially as there were Catholic school-attending children present for the homily who left the church confused and somewhat upset. Due to many people involved wanting to remain anonymous, I cannot give further information (especially given my writing for a nonreligious organization).

There is no formal separation of church and state in the UK like there is in the US, with some 37% of primary schools being faith schools. However, these schools still have to adhere to statutory requirements for the national curriculum. In fact, it is even more controversial because in most set-ups for faith schools (such as a “voluntary-aided school”), the Diocese is only responsible for funding 10% of any new build.

That is to say, faith schools are almost entirely funded by taxpayers, most of whom will not be part of that faith. This is a fact of which most of the population seem unaware.

And yet, even given the funding by taxpayers, from an employment point of view, faith schools opt out of supposedly universal human rights legislation. So such schools can sack a teacher for being gay or an overt atheist. But they still have to teach children that which is set out by the government.

What a scandal! What an abomination to think that in some so-called Catholic schools, these abominations are being presented and promoted, promoting sin, promoting a sin against chastity, promoting a sin against nature.

Fr. Roasario Ebanks

And this includes the Relationships and Sex Education curriculum.

Fr. Ebanks arguably misunderstands the National Curriculum completely. For children up to 11 (primary education), Sex Education is not compulsory, so the focus is on Relationships Education. The curriculum, only as far as can be linked to Fr. Ebanks’ tirade, stipulates:

  • that families are important for children growing up because they can give love, security and stability
  • the characteristics of healthy family life, commitment to each other, including in times of difficulty, protection and care for children and other family members, the importance of spending time together and sharing each other’s lives
  • that others’ families, either in school or in the wider world, sometimes look different from their family, but that they should respect those differences and know that other children’s families are also characterised by love and care

From the way the priest talks in his homily, he is clearly referring to primary schools (especially given that there is no Catholic secondary school in his area, and one primary, with another in the next town of Fareham).

His homily distorts reality and is dripping with other disinformation inferences. This is classic culture wars territory: whip up a storm of outrage by claiming something that is not happening is actually rife.

Moreover, there is no such thing as a “Rainbow Flag Club” in any school I know of, though there is the use from one school of a “Rainbow Curriculum,” which has nothing to do with sexuality but uses the rainbow to signify different learning pathways. Could the priest have been given misinformation and based his torrent of intolerance upon it?

Almost certainly.

What you don’t want to do—and I can tell you this from personal experience s a teacher—is incur the wrath of OFSTED. The regulatory organization is already very hot on faith schools that struggle with navigating human and civil rights in light of their own religious agendas. So when Fr. Ebanks states the following, he is merely going to make matters far, far worse for those schools about which he is talking:

So dear brothers and sisters, I say all of this because we have to warn people as well that God is displeased with all of this. And those who are responsible for Catholic education who do not give a very clear answer: maybe it’s because some of them agree with these abominations because some of them say nothing, they do nothing, they don’t oppose it. Or, some are willing to compromise because of fear or human respect. They say, ‘Oh well, we have to compromise because our school is going to get closed down; the OFSTED inspectors are going to come and they are going to fail the school, so we have to compromise.’ NONSENSE! It’s as if the Devil is an OFSTED inspector. What did we hear in today’s Gospel: ‘The Devil said to Jesus, taking him up to a height, and said, “I will give you all of this power and the glory of all these kingdoms for it has been committed to me and I give it to anyone I choose.”

It’s as if we’ve made an agreement with the Devil and have shaken hands with the Devil at the cost of innocence of our children. ‘I give it to anyone I choose.’ So, what, is the OSTED inspector a devil, and we bow down to him at the cost of what? The innocence of our young people. What a disgrace! And I say this also to warn those teachers because they will have it on judgment day. What did you do to these little ones? If they don’t repent, Jesus said, ‘Whosoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fast and round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.’ Let me repeat that: ‘Whosoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fast and round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.’ Is that clear?

Local paper The News interviewed Stonewall’s (the LGBTQ+ civil rights charity) Sasha Misra about the homily, who told them:

It’s appalling to hear people make such offensive judgements about LGBTQ+ inclusive education and the wonderful teachers that welcome all students into their classrooms.

When young people are taught about different families and relationships, we know that it not only helps prevent anti-LGBTQ+ bullying but also ensures all students feel welcome and included.

LGBTQ+ people are an important part of faith communities and it’s vital that all faith schools teach about LGBTQ+ issues.

Local Conservative MP Caroline Dinenage told The News, ‘It saddens me that prejudices continue to exist. Given the turmoil in the world at the moment, I would hope we are all focusing on kindness and tolerance.’

This is a dangerous move by the priest because it pits the institution of the Catholic church, in this situation, against schools and teachers. It could even be, and this is supposition on my behalf, that the Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth may well in principle agree to some extent with what the priest has said, but has felt that they need to come down hard on him in light of public outrage, school reality, and statutory requirements. Their statement was fairly robust:

The Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth is very sorry to learn about the details of a homily preached recently and the inflammatory language has caused great offence to many.

The Catholic Church promotes a wonderful vision of what it means to be a human person and we are immensely proud of our schools for all they achieve and our school leaders who uphold and teach these values.

We disagree with the statements that have been made and would emphasise that the Catholic Church respects and welcomes all people.

We are investigating the matter and will consider what appropriate action is required.

Or they could be the liberal, inclusive bastion that we know them to be. It’s hard to tell.

It seems pretty obvious that they aren’t particularly concerned by the content of what the priest said because they haven’t asked for the YouTube video to be taken down yet.

The take-away for this story? The disease that is disinformation through the perpetuation of the culture wars narrative has spread from the US to the UK and is here to stay, no doubt.

For those who want to see it in written form, here is almost the entirety of Fr. Ebanks’ homily:

Now I’d like to speak about a very particular way in which the Devil is tempting the faithful, tempting the little ones—those who are innocent and pure. It’s very sad, dear brothers and sisters, that we have opened up a door to the Devil in our Catholic schools, embracing all of the ‘gender ideology’ and this ‘rainbow flag revolution.’ So what if, one day, your little son comes home one day and says, ‘Mummy, I want to start wearing a skirt. I want to change my name to Jessica and I am no longer a boy but I’m a girl. That’s who I want to be; that’s who I am. We’ve been learning about this at school—learning about relationships—and I was told that all of this was acceptable and okay. One of the teachers spoke to us about different families and different forms of love and we’re even going to have a club at school called The Rainbow Flag Club. And once, we were shown a picture of two people holding hands with the words that says, “Everything is okay. It’s all okay.”

Dear brothers and sisters, those teachers are a bunch of devils. What a scandal! What an abomination to think that in some so-called Catholic schools, these abominations are being presented and promoted, promoting sin, promoting a sin against chastity, promoting a sin against nature. And you wonder why there is an increase in parents who are taking their children out of these so-called Catholic schools and they’re home-schooling them. They’re home-schooling them.

And those who are responsible for Catholic education have let the faithful down, they have betrayed the faithful, they have betrayed our Lord Jesus Christ because they are not faithful to his teaching. And they behave like serpents and politicians when the parents ask the teachers, ‘Are my children going to be exposed to all of this? Can you give me any guarantee that it won’t be presented to them? Are you going to expose my child to all of this?’ When they ask the teacher this question, some of them will behave like serpents and politicians, giving a very evasive answer, like a politician. Let us remember Jesus said, ‘Let what you say be simply “Yes, yes, no, no.” Anything more than this comes form the evil one.’ So you ask them a very direct question and they try to go around it. They are asking, ‘Can you give me a guarantee my child won’t be exposed to all of this abomination?’ Let your answer simply be ‘Yes, yes, no, no.’ Anything more than this comes form the Evil One because they try to get around answering the question. And that is why some parents are home-schooling their children.

Dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t become a friar or a priest for people to like me, so I’m going to speak the truth even if I’m going to get my head chopped off for this. So dear brothers and sisters, I say all of this because we have to warn people as well that God is displeased with all of this. And those who are responsible for Catholic education who do not give a very clear answer: maybe it’s because some of them agree with these abominations because some of them say nothing, they do nothing, they don’t oppose it. Or, some are willing to compromise because of fear or human respect. They say, ‘Oh well, we have to compromise because our school is going to get closed down; the OFSTED inspectors are going to come and they are going to fail the school, so we have to compromise.’ NONSENSE! It’s as if the Devil is an OFSTED inspector. What did we hear in todays Gospel: ‘The Devil said to Jesus, taking him up to a height, and said, “I will give you all of this power and the glory of all these kingdoms for it has been committed to me and I give it to anyone I choose.”‘

It’s as if we’ve made an agreement with the Devil and have shaken hands with the Devil at the cost of innocence of our children. ‘I give it to anyone I choose.’ So, what, is the OSTED inspector a devil, and we bow down to him at the cost of what? The innocence of our young people. What a disgrace! And I say this also to warn those teachers because they will have it on judgment day. What did you do to these little ones? If they don’t repent, Jesus said, ‘Whosoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fast and round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.’ Let me repeat that: ‘Whosoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fast and round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.’ Is that clear?

So if your child is at school and they are loooking at what uuis being presented to them and they say, ‘Well, I like…I might want to try that one day… ‘Whoever causes one of these little ones who believes in me to sin…!’

I mention this also because, if we look at the state of the world, it seems that God is really going to punish us for our sins and our crimes, not just because of what is happeneing in Ukraine and with Russia that I mention this, but we risk having a worst punishment than the deluge, dear brothers and sisters, worst than the Great Flood. It’s as if we are calling on God to punish us with fire. ‘And the sin of Sodom is one of the four sins that cry to heaven for vengeance.’ Do you know what that means? Cryign to heaven for vengeance. So, dear brothers and sisters, we have to do pennance. We have to be like the people of Ninevah, who when they were warned by the prophet Jonah, they did pennance and God did not punish them.

Because there are too many sins of omission, dear brothers and sisters. We don’t do anything, we don’t say anything, we just sit back and hand over our young people to be brainswashed and poisoned and corrupted. So let us be generous with our prayers and our sacrifices, dear borthers and sisters, let us meditate more on the passion of Christ. Let us do more Eucharistic adoration this Lent. Try to do a Holy Hour this Lent and spend more time with Jesus in the blessed sacrament….

Kneel down before a cross, before a crucifix. Gaze at Jesus on the cross and see how much he loves you, that he died for you, he died for the forgiveness of sins, he died so that you can go to heaven. Look how much he suffered—let us do a little bit of suffereing as well. It is not fair that he suffer all the pains of hell to save us and we don’t do anything. We complain if we have a splinter in our finger. We’ve got to be a bit more generous, dear brothers and sisters, and try to return the love that God showed to us….

The Blessed Virgin Mary, the victorious queen of the world, will help us whenever we are tempted. Call upon her always, flee to her, place yourselves under the mantle of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and go one step further and place yourselves in her imaculate heart. There you will find a mother who loves you with a love that you couldn’t believe—you couldn’t believe how much she loves you. Get to know this love of the Mother of God during this Lent because she wants to help us be conformed to Christ…

Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...