Bishops Strike Back; MSPs Targeted as Catholic Church Defends Its Schools
Barnes, Eddie, Daily Mail (London)
Byline: EDDIE BARNES
THE Catholic Church is to launch an offensive at May's elections, advising worshippers to vote against candidates opposed to denominational education.
Bishops are preparing a letter to be given to churchgoers that will urge them to be 'guided by your conscience' when casting a vote.
The letter, which will be sent out in April, will be signed by the seven members of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland.
Church officials said yesterday that practising Catholics had a duty to support Catholic education.
The Catholic bishops' conference issues a letter before every election, but the latest comes at a time when the Church is launching a high-profile counterattack against opponents of its schools.
Those opponents claim that Catholic schools are widening Scotland's sectarian divide by separating pupils at an early age.
Angered by such claims, Church leaders have decided to mount a vigorous defence, stressing the schools' continuing popularity among parents.
Last week, t h e Church announced it would appoint an education supremo to state the case for its schools to ministers.
Now Catholics will be urged to take up the battle at the polls.
Catholic Church spokesman Peter Kearney said Catholics would be urged to withhold their support for candidates opposed to faith schools.
'Bishops would usually say, "get out and vote as a civil duty and be guided by your conscience",' Mr Kearney said. 'For a Catholic voter who is in support of Catholic schools, there is a duty to vote for that.' He insisted that the Church would not be telling worshippers to boycott any particular party.
He said: 'This is not to direct people to one party, it's much more about individuals. It's more about saying to people, "take part, but go out and choose your candidate carefully".' Later this month, Catholic churchgoers will be asked to contribute to a special collection asking them to fund the new education supremo post.
At the same time, 250,000 leaflets will be issued, stating the case for Catholic schools.
The determined new stance over education comes after Church leaders lost patience with several high-profile figures expressing their opposition to separate schooling. …