Call for heads to show `humble side'

Catholic leader speaks out in the wake of Cardinal Keith O'Brien's resignation

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The director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service has called on schools to show a more humble side to the Church in the wake of the scandal that led to Cardinal Keith O'Brien's resignation.

Michael McGrath spoke of the "emotions, surprise, disappointment, hurt and puzzlement" caused as Cardinal O'Brien retired after admitting that his sexual conduct had fallen below expected standards.

Heads from Scotland's Catholic secondaries listened as Mr McGrath sympathised with their predicament in dealing with "young people who were trying to make sense of it", even though "no one quite knew what the full story was".

Mr McGrath spoke at the annual conference of the Scottish Catholic Headteachers' Association of Scotland, in Crieff, which had the theme "Values Into Action".

He showed compassion for the cardinal, recalling that, "as a human, there was a great warmth (towards him)". But he said that "there are still issues that as a church we have to deal with - issues of leadership, and values such as integrity and honesty and so on".

Archbishop of Glasgow Philip Tartaglia, he said, had called on the Scottish Church to be "more humble" and "less aggressive" in expressing its views. It had to "try to get away from accusations of moral hypocrisy".

The resignation of Cardinal O'Brien, who was outspoken on homosexuality, came after The Observer disclosed that three serving priests and a former priest had accused him of "inappropriate acts" against them nearly 30 years ago.

Mr McGrath stressed that schools and the wider Catholic community could draw strength from Pope Francis, who had shown humility and "commitment to service" since his election in March.

He quoted a passage from the Pope's homily on 14 April: "Inconsistency on the part of pastors between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the Church's credibility."

Mr McGrath reminded headteachers of what often attracted parents to Catholic schools: "They are looking for some sort of moral perspective that they maybe wouldn't get in another context."

Highlights of the conference

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, founder and chief executive of the Mary's Meals charity, revealed how a conversation in an Argyll pub with his brother led to a project that now feeds 755,000 children a day.

It was 1992 and they had just seen a news report about Bosnian refugee camps. They decided to load a Land Rover with food, clothes and medicine and drive to Bosnia.

That sparked what was to become Mary's Meals, which is based on a simple concept: if there is one good meal a day at school, children are more likely to turn up for an education. The charity now operates in 16 countries. In Malawi, where it first operated, there are 65,000 volunteers.

Mr MacFarlane-Barrow stressed that 18,000 children continue to die of hunger-related diseases every day, but said it was a myth to suggest world population was outstripping food supplies.

Gerry McCormac, the man who headed 2011's controversial review of Scottish teachers' terms and conditions, said that having a clear "value system" can be a "powerful tool" in attracting staff.

Professor McCormac, principal at the University of Stirling, said that no matter how well prepared candidates were for interviews, it was possible to detect whether their values clashed with those of the employer. He also underlined the danger of doing things in the workplace because that was how they had always been done.

Photo credit: Rex

Original headline: Catholic leader calls on schools to show their `humble side'

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