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10 opinion edit

Be ready to stand up for Catholic education as secular agendas gather pace

In our increasingly secular society, Catholic schools and their ethos, through which pupils are encouraged to put their Faith into action, enhance our society.

By Mary McGinty

That’s life believes Catholic schools equip young people with values which enrich the wider society

The subject of Catholic schools and their existence is rarely off the agenda. Back in September, the football commentator Archie Macpherson waded in with his tuppence-worth, calling for an ‘open and bold discussion.’

He wasn’t really calling for a discussion—open, bold or otherwise. What he was calling for was the abolition of Catholic schools. Separating children at the age of five is the cause of Scotland’s sectarian shame, he claimed.

As the Church’s response made clear, anti-Catholicism pre-dates the existence of Catholic schools and in the many countries around the world in which Catholic schools flourish there is no such problem.
Mr Macpherson asked: “What sort of education system do we want in an increasingly secular society?”

Obvious answer

The answer, I would suggest, is blindingly obvious. In our increasingly secular society, Catholic schools and their ethos, through which pupils are encouraged to put their Faith into action, enhance our society. Through their Catholic education our children and young people learn to recognise and respond to the needs of others.

As they navigate their way through life, they will have much to offer others and will see how self-giving is where real happiness and contentment lies. Their lives are enriched by it and society is all the stronger for it.

Soon our primary pupils will begin preparing their Nativity plays and practising their carols. Without the celebration of the coming of the Christ-child, what is left to think of as Christmas approaches except Santa and presents? Today’s consumerist culture is damaging enough without taking the Baby Jesus out of it.

At morning Mass last Friday, the anticipated feast of St Margaret of Scotland was celebrated for the children of Notre Dame Primary School. One class performed a tableau after the Gospel.

Queen Margaret

Enacting the life of Queen Margaret and her husband King Malcolm, they showed us what they had learned about these two important figures in Scotland’s history and in the history of our Faith.

Feeding the needy, caring for orphans, and washing the feet of the poor in imitation of Christ, this woman, noble by birth and in character, was an example then and is today.

I’ve no doubt this little presentation will have been played out in many other churches and schools across the country. For me it was a lovely example of the riches our Catholic schools have to offer.

After Archie Macpherson’s comment came those of former Deputy Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police, Tom Woods, banging the same drum, as it were. Abolish Catholic schools and we will see an end to sectarianism.

On the subject, the Humanist Society of Scotland says it wants to see schools in which ‘children of all faiths and none can learn beside one another.’

As we know their whole existence is predicated on the eradication of Faith from society, so no one’s buying that one.

Then the comic book writer Mark Millar had this to say in a Tweet: “Massive push in Scotland coming to close down Catholic schools. I’ve seen this coming for a while, several high-profile politicians privately telling me they want them gone. All parties.”

Call It Out is concerned about what appears to be growing evidence of a concerted campaign against Catholic schools. After every Orange parade in the city, you can be sure the Herald and the Evening Times will be blaming Catholic schools.

At the Cardinal Winning Lecture to commemorate the centenary of the 1918 Catholic Education Act, the First Minister described our schools as a national success story.

Benefitting the country

“The partnership between Church and state which began in 1918 hasn’t just endured, it has prospered. And it has done so in a way which has benefited all of our country,” she said.

“The Scottish Government is an unequivocal supporter of Catholic Schools. We value the contribution that Catholic schools make to modern Scotland. We want that contribution to continue in the years ahead.”

Strong words indeed from Nicola Sturgeon, although it has to be remembered she was addressing a Catholic audience. Mark Millar’s words are worrying; we need to be ready to fight for our schools.

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