Heed the warning

10th September 2004 at 01:00
It was only to be expected that Cardinal Keith O'Brien's recent comments on sex and moral education would be the subject of unfavourable criticism. The nub of the problem is the dichotomy between traditional Christian values and the secular mindset which appears to underpin the direction in which the Scottish Executive wishes to lead this country.

Your editorial last week is confident that the professionalism of teachers would prevent inappropriate material being presented to pupils. I would like to think so too. However, you singularly omit to define what you, or other teachers, would define as inappropriate. There is no doubt, for example, that non-Catholic schools do teach what Catholics would call inappropriate, or rather, immoral material to children.

To put it bluntly, Catholics believe that a marriage between a man and a woman is the only appropriate locus for sexual activity. In addition, all forms of artificial contraception are illicit and work against the unitive and procreative aspects of a marriage.

While we accept that some people may find it difficult to live by these precepts (Christianity isn't a feel-good lifestyle, based as it is on the cross), the key point is that we sincerely believe that adherence to such teaching would be conducive to the common good of society as a whole. It is not to be regarded simply as a set of private rules for adherents of Catholicism.

That is why the Cardinal, like Cardinal Thomas Winning before him in the debate over section 2a, is determined to point out to the Scottish people what is happening at governmental level, even though Catholic schools would be shielded from the worst of this material.

This, therefore, is one of the great fault lines in contemporary Scotland: the dichotomy over state-run Catholic schools being at odds with the state's defined agenda. I am convinced that many Scottish politicians, with a few exceptions, would be happy to see the end of separate Catholic schools.

The problems over shared campuses is an indication of what is to come; the idea of community schools is the next step towards the marginalisation of what should be the distinctive ethos of Catholic schools.

The reason why so many politicians desire the end of separate Catholic state schools appears clear now: are they not one of the few remaining bastions of traditional Judaeo-Christian morality in Scotland?

One final point: Cardinal O'Brien's comments were welcomed by a Muslim leader. We await with hope the support of our fellow Christians in other denominations.

Leonard Franchi

Burnbrae, Alexandria

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