Page 6, 24th January 1947

24th January 1947
Page 6
Page 6, 24th January 1947 — Dr.O'RahillyAnswersDr.Simcox

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People: Sinicox, Coulton, Simcox
Locations: Paris


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now being assailed, is W make provision for their being brought up in the living denomination to which

their parents belong. Therefore I deprecate, as untrue to reality, the

designation of Protestant religious education merely as the teaching of "religious error." Surely it is far more than this; at its best it contains a tremendous amount of vital truth; of living religion at which we Catholics should rejoice. If we were to express the problem in such terms at all. we should speak of the teaching of religion in a living organised form, which in actual fact is the only available means of conveying much of natural and Christian truth, thongh, incidental's, containing an admixture of what we believe to be error. or at least inadequacy. Hence, I do not think that Dr. Simcox's presentation of the problem, even from the Catholic standpoint, is nowadays a fair statement of our position. It is as if he baldly asked : Has a surgeon ever the right to take the life

of an unborn child? It is only an ignoramus who would be ready with the glib answer of yes or no. Read the books on medical ethics or pastoral theology, particularly the section on

actually bound to do something for the mother which will, inevitably but unintentionally, cause the death of the child.


Dr. Sinicox says he suspected "dishonest propaganda in the education campaign of 1942 and 1943." " Our pretence," he says, " was that Catholicism was out for the right of all parents, non-Catholic as well as Catholic, to educate their children according to their conscience." Obviously, Dr. Simcox does more than suspect, he is quite convinced that it is sheer hypocrisy for Catholics to pretend that they are interested in upholding parental rights as such.

(1) In the first place, he is historically incorrect in stating or implying that this claim first emerged in the recent campaign of English Catholics. Here is a quotation from an article by Cardinal Manning in the Nineteenth Century. December, 1882:

" An education rate raised from the whole people ought to be returned to the whole people in a form or in forms of education of which all may partake. . Every association or body of men, having public and distinct existence already recognised by law, should be recognised also as a unit for the purpose of education. and being so recognised. therefore, admitted to the education rate: reserving always to the Government Rs full inspection and to the ratepayers their due control and audit of accounts."

Clearly this is a plea made proportionally on behalf of all parents, Catholic and non-Catholic. Moreover, in Low Week. 1929, the English Catholic Hierarchy issued a statement from which I give a few extracts: "it is no part of the normal function of the Slate to teach. . . To parents whose economic means are insufficient to pay for the education of their children, it is the duty of the State to furnish the necessary means, providing them from the common funds arising out of the taxation of the whole community. But in so doing the State must not interfere with parental responsibility, nor hamper the reasonable liberty of parents in their choice of a school for their children. Above all. where the people are not all of one creed, there must he no differentiation on the ground of religion. . . The teacher is always acting in loco parentis... Whatever authority he may possess to teach and control children and to claim their respect and obedience, comes to him from. and through. the parents and not through the State except in so far as the State is acting on behalf of the parents."

This statement, issued by the English Bishops eighteen years ago, is irrefutable proof that Dr. Simcox is mistaken in thinking that this claim, based on " parental rights all round," was dishonestly invented in 1942.

THE IRISH CONSTITUTION (2) I could adduce many similar statements made by the Hierarchy and Catholic educationalists in France, the United States and other countries. But I will content myself with quoting an official document from a country where Catholics are not in a minority but have a majority of nearly 95 per cent. I quote from Article 42 of our Constitution passed in December, 1937:

" The State acenowledges that the primary and natural educator of the child is the Fatally, and guarantees to respect the inalienable right and duty of parents to provide, according to their means, for the religious and moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children."

In this whole article on Education, the Catholic Church (nor any Church) is not so much as mentioned; education is based on parental rights irrespective of the parents' religion. Here at least no accusation of '' dishonest propaganda " can be made, for we had the matter in our own hands and had no need to play up to a majority. And the present position of our Protestant and Jewish schools shows that we meant business.

(3) I hesitate to refer a canonist to the relevant articles of the Code of Canon Law and to the authoritative commentaries thereon which I might quote. But there is a relevant passage in the Encyclical Divini Illius Magistri issued by Pius XI in 1929: " Let no one say that in a nation where there are different religious beliefs it is impossible to provide for public instruction otherwise than by neutral or mixed schools. In such a case it becomes the duty of the State—indeed. it is the easier and ntore reasonable method of procedure—to leave free scope to the initiative of the Church and the family, while giving them such assistance as justice demands. That this can be done to the full satisfaction of families and to the advantage of education and of public peace and tranquillity, is clear from the actual experience of some countries comprising different religious denomina

tions. There the school legislation respects the rights of the family, and Catholics are free to follow their own system of teaching in schools that are entirely Catholic. Nor is distributive justice lost sight of. as is evidenced by the financial aid granted by the State to the several schools demanded by the families."

—" The Christian Education of Youth," C.T.S. ttanc, p. 39. Previously the Pope had asserted that " the family holds directly from the Creator the mission and hence the right to educate the offspring, . . . inviolable on the part of any power on earth "--p. 14. That His Holiness was not thinking merely of Catholic parents is clear from his proceeding to quote from St. Thomas's article on the rights of Jewish parents, to which I will presently refer. In the longer passage cited the Pope applies this natural principle of parental right to the case of a mixed State. Referring to the Province of Quebec and Holland, he upholds the solution advocated sixtyfive years ago by Cardinal Manning, claimed several times more recently by the Catholic Hierarchy in England, known to the French Hierarchy as repatilion proportionelle scolaire, and actually embodied in our Irish constitution. Note the Pope's emphasis on the rights of the families and his strong declaration that this solution, for Catholics and nonCatholics, is due in " distributive justice."

(4) In view of this chain of authoritative declarations, I find it impossible to give credence to Dr. Simcox's contention that within the last few years his ecclesiastical superiors have invented this claim by way of " dishonest propaganda." I can see no reason whatever for Dr. Simcox being " doubtful of the Catholicity of the doctrine of Cardinal Hinsley, still less for his querying the Cardinal's " good faith." I can also see why the Cardinal did not take seriously Dr. Simcox's protestations of bland ignorance and interpreted his modest air of juvenile innocence as sin annoying pose. Perhaps the Cardinal should have conducted Dr. Simcox's researches for him. Well, greatly daring, I a layman have now done my best to quench his thirst for knowledge.

Ex ore infantiton

AN OLD DIFFICULTY (5) Perhaps Dr. Simcox will now admit " the Catholicity of the doctrine " taught in the nearly twentyyears-old Encyclical, but will reply that he cannot reconcile this " doctrine of parental rights all round" with other propositions of philosophy and theology. He has not said so; he has never urged this objection. But his constant harping upon " Catholic doctrine as to the rights of error seems to show that his difficulty is this: be cannot see how parents retain their natural rides once they fall (even guiltlessly) into supernatural error. I have already answered this point; and I might further retort that grace does not dispossess nature. But I will now show, by referring to St. Thomas, that this objection was met and solved long ago. Some of his pupils in Paris put it to him that Jewish parents should not be allowed to teach religious error (Judaism) to their children, that these latter should be taken away and forcibly made Christians. Such a policy of depriving error of its " rights " would be quite academic to-day; in the thirteenth century it could have been made largely effective. A precedent might even have been quoted from Jewish history: Hyrcanus marched against the Idurneans and gave them the choice between Judaism and exile. But St. Thomas decisively rejected this interference with parental right in the interests of religious orthodoxy. Apart, he says (Qrtode 2, ce 4, a 7), from the danger to faith in after life, it is repugnant to natural justice, for the child is naturally something of the father."

" No one," he says elsewhere (3, q 68, a 10, ad I). " may violate the order of natural law, whereby the child is under the father's care, in order to free him from the danger of eternal death." So even in those days when baptism was taken more seriously than in the modern nonCatholic world, St. Thomas resisted the temptation to justify forcible proselytism. He declared that the ordo juris naturalis could not be infringed even for the purpose of effecting a certain and undeniable good. And be would have remained adamant, even if some medieval Dr. SinIcox had urged upon him that Jewish parents had no right to teach religious error to their children. Aquinas would have replied (as he did) that we cannot do evil that good may come, we may not violate The doctrine of parental tights all round " is therefore not a recent creation of British bishops. We arc justified in appealing to this ancient doctrine which is particularly tetevant to-day. The medieval Church could, on a superficial view of the

status of religious error, have claimed that it could have made a much better job of educating Jewish children than their parents. But it refused to invade the natural rights

of the family. To-day the State in

most countries claims that, through its civil servants, it can educate children much better than their

parents can even through an ecclesiastical association; and to effect

this the State does not hesitate to

trample on the conscientious objections of parents, at least if they are

poor. Against this Statism, whose logical outcome is totalitarianism, the Catholics in Great Britain have

rightly upheld the priority and inviolability of parental rights and have appealed to non-Catholics to make a similar claim.

(6) But we Catholics believe that our Church is not a mere natural

natural authoritative society founded by Christ. How then can we urge our claims pari passu with those of

outsiders who are infected by " religious error " or have no religion

at all? Now just as we have ad

mitted that Jews do not lose their natural rights just because they do not acknowledge this supernatural

society—and this applies to all nonCatholics to-day—so also we do not lose our natural family rights be

cause we attribute for ourselves a certain authority to the Catholic Church. Regarded from the inside, i.e., as regards us who are members, the Church has supernatural

authority. But this is our affair, we

do not enforce our view on others. Membership is voluntary in the sense that it may never be forcibly imposed, and relinquishment carries no juridical consequences in the as regards outsiders, the Church is merely claiming the natural rights of

an association of citizens who arc parents. Says the Professor of Education in Notre Dame University: "In its practical application this doctrine means that the supernatural

right of the Church is made effective through the exercise of the natural rights of parents under the guidance

of the church." — Rev. W. F. Cunningham, " The Pivotal Problems of Education," 1940, p. 521.

The Church wields no physical power; it claims no rights from the mixed State except the natural rights of the family and of the association. It stands for spiritual liberty, for

pluralism and variety against the in ercesing menace of the monolithic totalitarian State. The anti-clerical ism of Dr. Coulton. to whom the

Church has been a lifelong bogey, is a stupid anachronism. The enemy

of liberty to-day is not the cleric but the bureaucrat and the servile scientist.


I now reach the third and final point which I have extracted from Dr. Simcox's pamphlet for comment: " I had never disputed the moral right of a Catholic State to allow non-Catholics to bring up their children in their faith. A Catholic might allow this on grounds of expediency and to avoid greater evil. What I had disputed was that it is Catholic doctrine that nonCatholics have a moral fight to bring up their children in religious error."

(1) Let us first consider the last sentence. Certainly T think that in its plain meaning the assertion is quite orthodox. It is Catholic doctrine. because it is a principle of natural ethics. that non-Catholics have a moral right—I go further and say that they have a duty—to bring up their children in religious error, provided (as is usually the case) this error is invincible. This is elementary teaching concerning the obligation of a genuinely erroneous conscience. Can you imagine St. Thomas doubting for a moment that Jewish parents have the right and the duty of educating their children in the Jewish religion? Of course he held that on many points this religion was wrong: but, unlike the modern State, he refused to allow the Church to abduct the children and to mould them to her own " ideology." What then—were the Jews bound to train up little neutrals (Continued in column 6) natural. right in order to enforce the supernatural. The Jews retain their natural rights (including education) over their children, even though in exercising these rights they mingle what we hold to be " religious error." Their rights are not thereby annulled.


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