BY Ian Dunn | January 19 2018 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

1-STURGEON

First Minister to deliver lecture to mark Catholic schools centenary

Cardinal Winning Lecture announcement has sparked an online backlash

Nicola Sturgeon is to give the 2018 Cardinal Winning lecture at Glasgow University to mark the 100th anniversary of the act that brought Catholic schools into the state system.

The announcement was called a huge ‘milestone’ in the year of celebrations—but some Catholics have criticised the decision because of the First Minister’s pro-abortion stance.

The First Minister will give the lecture on Saturday March 3 at Glasgow University, in order to mark 100 years of the 1918 Catholic Education Scotland Act, which saw the transfer of Catholic schools from diocesan control to the state school system.

“The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, will give the 2018 Cardinal Winning Lecture… to mark the partnership between the Catholic Church and the state in Scotland in the provision of education to our young people, the University of Glasgow has announced,” Bishop John Keenan of Paisley Diocese said. “A huge milestone in this year’s celebrations.”

 

Backlash

However the announcement provoked a negative response from a number of Catholics on Facebook who questioned the choice.

“The same First Minster who is to offer free abortions to women from Northern Ireland,” one said. “With all due respect Bishop John, I don’t see this as a milestone.”

Another added: “Why does anyone think this is a good idea. Thought the Catholic Church didn’t condone abortions.”

Bishop Keenan said he understood ‘the real pro-life anxiety around it, given Nicola Sturgeon’s agreement to facilitate Scottish abortions for Northern Irish women, following on from the decision of the UK Conservative government to set up a proxy abortion service for Irish women.’

“I challenged this at the time, considering it to be both immoral in itself and an awful and unwarranted political meddling of the Scottish and UK governments in the legitimate autonomy of a devolved region of the UK,” he said.

However, the bishop added: “I support this invitation and think it quite appropriate, in the year that marks the centenary of the Education Scotland Act and the long, fruitful partnership between the Church and the state in the provision of Catholic education for our citizens, that a current First Minister of state of Scotland be invited to make this address in some tribute to the enormous contribution Catholics have made to Scottish society over the century, and continue to make even today.

“As such, it is an invitation to the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon in office, more than to Nicola Sturgeon as a politician.”

The bishop also suggests that the lecture could be ‘the occasion of honest dialogue as to how much freedom our Catholic schools are presently afforded by the state simply to be Catholic and to propose and promote our particular Christian vision of the human person, without undue political pressure to conform to an aggressively secular anthropology currently in vogue, that often threatens to undermine our own Gospel truths.’

“Just one plea: that frank and honest debate always be, from our side, carried out in civility, good faith and charity so that, even in the way we make our points, our Catholic approach to the human person might find itself better understood, respected and appreciated by civic society today and in the century to come,” he said.

 

Winning’s legacy

The lecture takes place annually at Glasgow University following Catholic Education Week. It was renamed in honour of Cardinal Thomas Winning, president of the Catholic Education Commission, following his death in 2001.

Previously the lecture has been given by senior Church figures including Archbishop Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation. Academics like Tony Finn and Sir Tom Devine have also delivered previous lectures, as has the then-First Minister Alex Salmond in 2008.

The lecture is part of a bumper year of events for Catholic education in Scotland, marking the anniversary of the act, which includes a national tour of a specially commissioned icon, Jesus Our Teacher, by artist Bernadette Reilly for the Scottish Catholic Education Service (SCES).

Parliamentarians of all parties at Westminster have signed a motion celebrating Catholic schools in Scotland.

An early day motion lodged by Christopher Stephens MP invited the House of Commons to recognise ‘the positive contribution of Catholic schools to Scottish society.’

The motion, which is also sponsored by Brendan O’Hara, Stephen Gethins, Carol Monaghan, Philippa Whitford and Hugh Gaffney, has attracted a number of supporting signatures since it was published in late 2017.

The 1918 Education Act, the motion states, represents a ‘unique and successful partnership, that continues to serve the people of Scotland well,’ and notes the ‘continuing support of government and all of the main political parties’ as being encouraging for the future of denominational schools.

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