Helen Martin: Don't blame Catholic schools for sectarianism

EVERY so often in the Evening News letters page, a reader calls for an end to Catholic schools, insisting that they create and feed sectarianism in Scotland.

Monday, 9th October 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Monday, 11th December 2017, 8:18 pm
Scotlands sectarianism can be traced back to Calvanist revulsion for Romanist beliefs. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

It’s an interesting argument, but not one that carries much weight. Peek across the “border” to England, and Catholic-Protestant sectarianism doesn’t exist. In England it was Henry VIII that broke away from Rome on two counts. He wanted to legalise divorce within the church, and he wanted to replace the Pope as its head. Otherwise, particularly in the High Church of England, little else changed.

Catholic schools are highly regarded and most of the Christian public in England see their state church and the Catholic church as just two branches of the same broad religion.

On holiday recently in Germany, which is often defined as a Protestant state despite having almost as many Catholics, we visited two or three Protestant Lutheran cathedrals and churches. To most Scots that would be a surprising experience as they all had prayer candles, golden chandeliers, paintings and statues . . . contents that would be seen in Scotland as decidedly “Catholic”. Apart from less adorned altars, all that was missing was Holy Water.

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More and more youngsters are buying 'basic' mobiles. Picture: PA

It may be embarrassing to admit but the places most widely known for this sectarianism (even though the culprits are in the minority) are Scotland, and Northern Ireland, where even modern history was based on religious difference.

Most members of the Church of Scotland today are middle-of-the-road, non-prejudiced people who (like any other church) recognise their role in the community and helping the less fortunate, regardless of race or religion. They’ve moved with the times, choosing to worship in their own way while respecting others’ rights to do the same.

But finding the link between Scotland and Northern Ireland when it comes to sectarianism isn’t difficult. Go back in history and both countries’ main Protestant churches were built on Calvanism, at the time a fairly extremist form of theology that regarded Catholic teachings as evil and false, believed “Romanists” were damned and destined for Hell, and that statues, saints, relics and other aspects of Romanism were revolting.

The average Church of Scotland minister or church-goer wouldn’t sign up to any of that now. But for the sectarian minority, these “rules” still apply, perhaps fuelled by the religious bias of football. But schools? For anyone who knows anything about Catholic schools, nothing could be further from the truth.

More and more youngsters are buying 'basic' mobiles. Picture: PA

Catholic primary schools in Scotland have a sizable non-Catholic pupil population though understandably are not applied to by parents of a secular disposition.

They are also popular among the Muslim community and those of many other religions who prefer a school with a faith ethos, even if it’s different from their own. That’s because Catholic schools really are inclusive and respect other faiths.

They do, however, have a duty to give Catholic pupils religious instruction and it’s for that reason – not cold discrimination – that key teaching staff have to be Catholic.

Catholic schools don’t cost a penny more per head than non-denominational state schools. They don’t teach or support the idea of social segregation. And they are an essential for many European immigrants who now live and work here.

Ending Catholic schools would not end sectarianism. It would epitomise it.

The right to bear arms is wrong

FOLLOWING the Las Vegas tragedy, a gun shop salesman defended the right to sell military-level weapons to the public.

In a TV interview he tried to explain the constitutional position, that the government had no right to be more weaponised than citizens.

Back in the days of the Wild West that might have made some sense. But time changes everything, including the US constitution.

Does it follow that every American should have a nuclear warhead in their back garden?

The police and politicians agreed that there was no way of legislating against and preventing Stephen Paddock, an ordinary man with no record of wrongdoing, from going nuts and committing mass murder. Oh yes there is. Simply repeal the public’s right to bear arms and buy machine guns from corner shops.

Sympathy and compassion for those who were killed or injured is indisputable. So is recognition that the US government is to blame.

Teenagers go back to basics

IN a poll by Digital Awareness UK, 63 per cent of secondary school kids said they wouldn’t care if social media didn’t exist. They’re fed up with it, the abuse and the fake news, with more now buying “basic” mobiles. Oh, the wisdom of youth!

Government must stop them in their tracks

MANY people believe that the tram extension should go ahead to make the most out of the ludicrous over-spend we’ve already made.

The devastating news from the inquiry that everyone involved in the project knew it couldn’t possibly be delivered on time and in budget long before the contract was even signed should make them think again.

The council is trying to get charities to help uplift bulky rubbish. It can’t even afford grass cutters to maintain council-run sports pitches, let alone provide enough affordable housing, sufficient manpower in social work, carry out road and pavement repairs etc.

Even if the inquiry produces recommendations the council believes it can stick to in future, the fact remains the city is stony-broke.

It’s becoming ever clearer the Government must step in to stop Edinburgh Council proceeding with the next phase.