In the spirit of charity

22nd April 2005 at 01:00
Jennifer Baker's velvet-gloved diatribe against Catholic beliefs (TESS, last week) expresses some admiration for Pope John Paul II but accuses him of creating "an exodus of the faithful from the churches" because of his views on certain moral issues.

I don't propose to spend time teaching basic doctrine in this letter, but I would like to discuss in a spirit of charity the general picture she draws of contemporary Catholicism and its expression in Catholic schools.

Firstly, I would express my disappointment that the faith of all Catholic people is described as "outdated and dangerous proclamations". More seriously, however, is the use of strong, intolerant and intemperate language.

Would Ms Baker use such vocabulary to attack Islam or Judaism? Indeed, would you publish an article with such vitriolic language if the target had been Islam or Judaism?

Secondly, I'm delighted that some of the students who were taught in her "enlightened" RE department gave shelter to homeless people over the Christmas period. However, is the inference here that pupils who are taught in less "enlightened" circumstances would be less inclined to help the poor and marginalised? Is she saying that being true to tradition in areas of sexual morality and having a concern for the poor are mutually exclusive?

I'm sure I was not the only reader to identify the lack of inner logic in her piece. Perhaps one example will suffice: we are told that her RE department taught students to "think for themselves while at the same time stressing rigorous morality". What this actually means in a Catholic school context is not stated. A careful study of Pope John Paul's document Veritatis Splendor would remind all Catholic RE departments of the true relationship between freedom and truth.

One final point: some Catholics were offended by the booing of Hearts fans during a minute's silence for the Pope, but I find Ms Baker's position far more insidious and insulting than any booing from a football fan. The TES Scotland is the poorer for having published it.

Leonard Franchi



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