EAST ANGLIA, England—An English bishop has been ordered by the Holy See to remove his approval of a religious education book used in Catholic schools.

Bishop Peter Smith of East Anglia quietly published on his diocesan internet site his decision to conform with Rome's request.

The textbook in question, entitled Roman Catholic Christianity, has been a cause of controversy for some years in England. Written by Clare Richards, until recently head of religious education in Our Lady's Catholic High School in Norwich (the cathedral city of East Anglia diocese) and a member of the committee which advises the bishops on religious education, the book attracted scathing reviews from many catechists when it was published in early 1995.

Apart from glaring inaccuracies, what clergy and laity alike objected to the most was the fact that it had received both an imprimatur and a nihil obstat from the Diocese of East Anglia, granted under the then-ordinary, Bishop Clarke. The current Bishop, Peter Smith, took office in September 1996 to a clamor of complaint about the book and he gave the book and its author his full support.

In a statement issued via internet last week, Bishop Smith said, “At the request of the Sacred Congregation of the Clergy, I am withdrawing the imprimatur accorded to the book Roman Catholic Christianity on October 6th 1994. In the judgement of the Congregation, the expression of some elements in the book are not in full conformity with the Catholic faith.”

This statement, in contrast to the Bishop's earlier defense of the book and its author, was not handled by the National Catholic media office or sent to the major Catholic press in Britain.

When Roman Catholic Christianity was published the letters pages of the Catholic press became clogged with the worries of Catholic parents at their children being exposed to the book. (Jim Gallagher)