30 years ago

10th February 2006 at 00:00
A statement by the late Archbishop Thomas Winning of Glasgow that Catholic parents must send their children to Catholic schools prompted an outspoken attack by Bill McKechin, vice-chairman of Strathclyde's education committee and himself a Catholic (TESS, February 13, 1976):

Throughout the statement, education is confused with schools. But education existed long before schools and will continue to exist long after schools depart. So also will Catholic education. The Roman Catholic Church has existed for almost 2,000 years: compulsory universal schooling has only recently celebrated its centenary.

It is disturbing to think that a church with a tradition of transmitting its faith with undiminished fervour for centuries through generation after generation of illiterate peasants now claims it can only be done propped up by a school system subsisting on public funds, a claim all the more damning when one can see all around other churches, none of whose resources bear comparison, doing it successfully and unaided.

How did the Catholic Church manage in the 19 centuries preceding universal schooling? How did it get Christ's message across? How did it fulfil Christ's mission? Perhaps because it exercised a more energetic witness.

Perhaps because then it really was what it now claims it is, a teaching church. The church is where commitment should begin, where it should be nurtured and where it should come to fruition.

Commitment should not be hived off to a vehicle which is incapable of coping with it. Not only is it ruining the education of Catholics, it is destroying the very fabric of their church.

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