Scottish Bishops Step Up Defense of Catholic Schools

"Not Breeding Grounds for Bigotry," Says Glasgow Prelate

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GLASGOW, Scotland, JAN. 10, 2003 (ZENIT.org-Fides).- Scotland's Catholic bishops restated their strong backing for Catholic schools, following recent negative media coverage of denominational education.



In particular, Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow launched a fierce attack on critics who accuse Catholic schools of fostering sectarianism.

In a New Year's pastoral letter he affirmed: "I intend to defend them (Catholic schools) from all unjust attacks that they are nurseries and breeding grounds for bigotry."

In an article published in Glasgow's Herald newspaper on Dec. 11, the archbishop compared recent attacks on Catholic schools to the campaigns to deport the Irish from Scotland in the 1920s. He defended the Catholic Church's record on ecumenical dialogue and the promotion of religious harmony, and pointed out that Catholic schools are "consistent with European legislation, a good obtained by hard work and protected by law."

A Scottish Catholic Media Office poll in May found that 74% of Scots regard themselves as Christian. Ninety-six percent said they believe that moral values should be taught in school.

More than 90% of Catholic parents make use of Catholic schools, where they are available. Eighty percent of Catholic parents believe the provision of Catholic schools to be an important issue and over half of all Scots believe it is important that Catholic schools are available for those who wish them.

In a conversation with the missionary agency Fides, Peter Kearney, director of the Catholic Media Office in Glasgow, said: "Catholics represent about 16% of the population and around 18% of Scottish children are pupils in Scotland's Catholic schools, including 350 primary schools, 62 secondary schools, and four special schools for children with handicaps, mental and physical."

Kearney stressed that Catholic education is appreciated and requested also by non-Catholics and even non-Christians.

In Glasgow there is one primary school where 95% of the pupils are Muslims. "In this ever more secular world of today, Muslim parents want the moral upbringing offered by Catholic institutions," he explained. Scotland also has a Jewish school and an Episcopalian/Anglican school.

In view of Scottish Parliament elections in less then five months time -- the second since Scotland established its own Parliament -- the bishops' conference urges the Catholic community "to raise the issue of education, especially, with their candidates across the country and convey in the strongest terms their support for Catholic schools."

It added: "Catholic parents, taxpayers like everyone else, have a right to choose Catholic schools for their children."