LONDON – The Catholic Bishop of Birmingham, William Kenney, has criticized a scheme at six Oxfordshire schools, including one Catholic school, where students will be given access to contraception including the emergency pill and advice on how to use it.
The scheme is set to be piloted in July. The "emergency" pill is considered by many to be a form of abortion.
Bishop Kenney, who also performs mass at St. Gregory the Great Catholic School every year, said, "It goes against the very central idea the Catholic church has on human life," as reported by The Telegraph.
He continued, "It is sending out the message that it was better to deal with the aftermath of what people do, rather than the causes … I don't think this will help solve the teenage pregnancy rate and is taking away responsibility from parents."
Governors at St. Gregory's and the five other schools where the scheme is being run have been given no right to refuse the scheme by the Oxfordshire Primary Care Trust and the Oxfordshire County Council.
The authorities claim that the service is "outside the governance of the schools" as it will be offered after school hours.
The headmaster of St. Gregory's, John Hussey, did not comment.
The school chaplain, Father Daniel Seward, said, "The school is part of the Catholic church and the church has a very clear view that sexual relations take place properly within marriage and that any abortion or contraception is contrary to the dignity of the human person.
"Sex is never just a recreational activity," he added.
The Oxfordshire authorities said they were setting up the service to deal with "persistently high" levels of teenage pregnancies in the area. The six schools which were chosen to take part in the programme have teenage pregnancy rates higher than the national average.
In a joint statement the primary care trust and the county council said, "The plans are still in the early stages and discussions will be taking place with a wide range of people including the schools.
"However, these plans are about giving young people access to a school health nurse outside the school and therefore fall outside the governance of schools.
"This is not about giving out contraceptives in schools, it is about providing access to advice on a wide range of health issues from a school health nurse outside the school setting, to support vulnerable young people who may need help outside of school hours.
"It is not that the schools involved have high conception rates but rather, that they sit in wards that have been shown to have persistently high teenage conception rates."
The primary care trust also said that it would bring in child protection staff if children between the age of 11 and 13 asked for contraception.