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Girls 'told to take morning-after pill'

Girls in Catholic secondaries are apparently being advised by health staff within the school to take the morning-after pill, Cardinal Keith O'Brien revealed.

Issuing a further alert on the Scottish Executive's proposed sexual education strategy, he said newspaper reports indicated that health advisers or school nurses were advising girls to visit agencies outside the school if they wanted the pill.

But these staff were in loco parentis and were acting without the knowledge of parents and teachers and counter to the beliefs of the Church.

"We have to be intensely careful," the cardinal continued.

He did not apologise in any way for his recent outburst against the Executive's outline plans for teaching sex education to young people. There had been little or no discussion about the consultation on a vital matter to the Church. A consultation on banning smoking in public places had produced 27,000 responses, but there were only 1,000 on sexual education.

In the Lothians, where he lives, the cardinal said he had witnessed the downside of "rampant secular materialism" with rising teenage pregnancies and abortions. He was appalled at the moral and sexual behaviour of young people.

In pre-school and primaries, where his concerns were forcibly expressed to Jack McConnell, the First Minister, it was almost as if sex education was taking a medicinal or physical approach without being backed up by a moral or educational approach.

"Many, many parents object to anything at all being given to their pre-school or nursery children," he said.

The cardinal, however, said he believed schools were a wonderfully safe environment in which to be taught about the physical and moral gifts of sex.

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