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30 years ago

Criticism by Bill McKechin of Archbishop Thomas Winning over his statement on the duty of Roman Catholic parents to send their children to Catholic schools (TESS, last week) prompted a vigorous defence from Brian Gill, now Lord Gill, a leading advocate (TESS, February 20, 1976): I dispute the assumption that commitment and insight are true alternatives.

There is no reason why commitment to a clearly defined religious standpoint should necessarily deprive a child of insight into the general features of religion as a social phenomenon. I assert as a fact that that need not be and is not the effect of Catholic education. What evidence is there to the contrary?

I certainly dispute the assumption that Catholic education limits a child's religious education to a recital of the beliefs and practices of his religion. What evidence is there to support this assumption?

And, even if such a recital of beliefs and practices was the sum and substance of Catholic education (which is not the case), it by no means follows that the effect of it is to "abort" the possibility of the individual's religious development. Again, what evidence is there for such an assertion, and what does Mr McKechin mean by "religious development" in this argument?

Is it a maturing of a religious faith, in which case how can that be achieved in the young without instruction in the beliefs and practices of that religion? Or does "religious development" contain, as I suspect, a further covert assumption, namely that it refers to a desired maturing out of any specific sectarian allegiance?

Anyone pretending to serious participation in this debate has to come clean about these assumptions, because they are by no means too obvious for argument, least of all when they are prefaced by such question-begging propositions as that "in this ecumenical age" separate Catholic schools have an "inbuilt inward approach to separateness".

No one, so far as I am aware, has claimed that the abolition of the Catholic schools would mean the abolition of the Catholic Church in Scotland, but it would, in my view, gravely impair the Church's mission.

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