Monday, December 31, 2007
Yesterday’s British press contained an article entitled “MPs challenge ‘doctrinaire’ bishops”—it was subtitled “Catholic church under fire for promoting a hard line on ‘immoral’ teaching in schools.” [HERE] Over the past several years, a number of MOJ contributors have addressed public policy developments in primary and secondary education in public schools as well as private schools that must comply with certain educational standards established by the state. Of course, the state’s efforts to regulate moral education that private Catholic schools provide raise fundamental questions about libertas ecclesiae. In the United States, legislative and judicial challenges have arisen over the last couple of years which have pressured Catholic schools or threatened pressure if compliance with programs that conflict with Catholic moral teachings is not adopted to the satisfaction of the state—and those interests to which the state is willing to advance. This attached article from the British press indicates that similar issues are surfacing in England.
It appears from this report that a number of Catholic bishops are supportive of rights guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights regarding the rights of parents and families concerning the education of their children about moral and religious matters. However, these important guarantees seem to have little effect on some officials in England.
Two points found in the article merit attention today. The first is the statement attributed to the MP who chairs a cross-party committee on children, schools, and families. He was quoted by the press as saying, “It seems to me that faith education works all right as long as people are not that serious about their faith. But as soon as there is a more doctrinaire attitude questions have to be asked. It does become worrying when you get a new push from more fundamentalist bishops. This is taxpayers’ money after all.” I think the bishops aren’t “indoctrinating,” but they are “teaching” and this is a major responsibility that they shoulder. Moreover, the bishops’ actions seem to be quite compatible with juridical protection of religious liberty, but some MPs object to this; after all, according to them, people should not be “that serious about their faith.”
The second point I’ll raise today on this matter involves the symbiotic relation between some secularists and Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC). It comes as no surprise that the National Secularist Society’s protest on the bishops’ stand in this matter is “supported” by “research” collected from a CFFC “poll.” But of course, what the CFFC does to advance its most curious agendae is not viewed as indoctrination, and I am sure there are those who consider their work splendidly moral. RJA sj