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When bishops collide...

his week saw the "two Michaels" roadshow as Messrs McGrath, director of the Catholic Education Service in Scotland, and O'Neill, director of education in North Lanarkshire, toured broadcasting studios to explain their differences over shared school campuses. The toughening of the Church's stance since The TES Scotland last week revealed the schisms, both within the hierarchy and between the council and the bishops, has been remarkable.

It has to be said that the Church has not covered itself in glory. There seems little doubt that there are differences between the dioceses of Motherwell, where the seven proposed campuses are sited, and of Glasgow, which holds sway in the Cumbernauld area of North Lanarkshire - and that Mr McGrath has been handed the hapless task of fronting a more uncompromising Church stance. Given Mr McGrath's national position, this had the effect of elevating the dispute from a little local difficulty to one of considerably larger prominence.

Combined with the media obsession about the joint campuses involving St David's High and Dalkeith High (where we have yet to see evidence that last week's troubles had any sectarian character), the North Lanarkshire imbroglio has suddenly taken us into a debate about the principle and purpose of Catholic schools.

The trouble is that the Church's position often appears to boil down to whether shared campuses should have separate entrances and staffrooms. This is surely a reductio ad absurdum, particularly if it is argued that a shared front entrance represents some kind of back door to integration.

Perhaps it is time for the bishops to have a little more faith.

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