THE Roman Catholic Church is mounting a stern defence of its schools by urging followers to turn the heat on candidates ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections in five months' time. It is re-establishing its task group to highlight the success of Catholic schools.
Responding to the political and media focus on the possible integration of denominational and non-denominational schools, the Bishops' Conference of Scotland said it was "dismayed and angered" by attempts to link the existence of Catholic schools to sectarianism.
"As a Church, we abhor bigotry and sectarianism wherever they are found. We continue to work tirelessly with people of all faiths to promote dialogue and tolerance. Under no circumstances can we accept the assertion that denominational schools promote or perpetuate bigotry," it states.
The bishops argue that Catholic schools exist worldwide and nowhere else are accused of promoting sectarianism. They insist Catholics have a fundamental human right to have an education service that accords with their religious convictions.
They add: "While shared campus arrangements are not our preferred option, we can, where local needs dictate, accommodate such arrangements provided certain conditions are met which preserve the ethos and identity of the Catholic school."
The bishops point out that a System 3 opinion poll last May showed that more than 90 per cent of Catholic parents make use of Catholic schools where they are available.
In addition, 80 per cent of Catholic parents believe the provision of Catholic schools to be an important issue and over half of all Scots believe that it is important Catholic schools are available for those who want them.
Leader, page 22