The Catholic Church in Scotland has condemned as “bigoted” a call by a leading legal journal to abolish the Catholic school system.
“The blunt truth is that sectarianism fuels the continuous attack on Catholic education in Scotland,” said Bishop Joseph Devine of Motherwell to the Scottish Catholic Observer May 13.
“The real enemy of all religious people is secularism which breeds sectarianism and those who espouse it and propagate it are Christianity’s greatest foes.”
The editorial in this month’s edition of the Scottish Legal Action Group journal was written in the wake of a parcel bomb being sent to the head coach of Celtic Football Club. The Glasgow soccer team is closely associated with the Catholic community in Scotland.
Devices were also sent to two prominent Celtic supporters, as well as to an Irish Republican supporters group. Two men have now been arrested in connection with the incident.
In the view of the legal journal, “The degree to which such legal measures can counteract sectarianism is questionable and even doubtful when in other regards our law and civic bodies continue to enshrine, protect and systematically promote social division on religious lines.”
“That is done most widely and effectively in our education system where the maintenance of religious instruction and observance, along with the public funding of denominational schools create and perpetuate religious discrimination.”
The Catholic school system in Scotland is fully funded by the state. The Church, though, provides pastoral care to its schools and maintains a veto over appointments to key teaching posts.
Bishop Devine says the success of the system should silence critics.
“I challenge these groups to produce the hard evidence to support their irresponsible claims or withdraw them. Around 130,000 young people—just over 20 per cent of the school population—are taught in 369 Catholic schools across Scotland. It would appear that the greater the achievements of (our) Catholic schools… the greater the hysteria grows for their abolition.”
He was also eager to point out that the Catholic school system enjoys the backing of all political leaders including the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, and the U.K. Prime Minister, David Cameron.
“The Prime Minister believes that faith schools should be seen as the model for all state schools to follow, while Scotland’s First Minister urges us to celebrate our distinguished achievements.”
“Most important of all, of course, is the fact that over 95 per cent of Catholic parents freely choose to have their children educated in Catholic schools.”
He concluded by noting the significant number of non-Catholic families who wish to send their children to Scotland’s Catholic schools.
“(This is a) a clear demonstration by their parents of their recognition of the value of Catholic schools in providing their children with an excellent academic, spiritual and well-rounded education,” Bishop Devine said.