By MAURICE QUINLAN For the second time in recent weeks your report of an education debate in the Commons has indicated that the Catholic case has been left in the hands of non-Catholics. Have our Catholic M.P.s abandoned their duty or lost heart in the battle?
NO, no. Catholic M.P.s are still at their posts and are always ready to speak up for the Catholic schools. However. the final decision as to whether or not they shall speak in a debate rests not with them but with Mr. Speaker.
They can he in the Chamber throughout a debate and stand up hopefully after every speech. But if they fail to catch the Speaker's eye they will have to remain silent: Hansard will have nothing to say about them: to all appearances in print, they will have failed to turn up.
But they will agree that it is all to the good that the Speaker should choose a non-Catholic who turns out to he an upholder of definite religious instruction in the schools; and we ought to he happy, and grateful, when the non-Catholic M.P. adds a special word in favour of the Catholic schools, as so many have done, including more than one member of the Jewish faith and at least one professed atheist.
When a non-Catholic Member speaks up for justice for the Catholic schools, the Government spokesman sits up, for two reasons.
First, because he realises that yet another M.P. is proving that he has been convinced by a study of the matter that Catholics have a right to more than the Government (and, it should be added, the leaders of the Opposition) are at present prepared to give, and this in spite of the hest arguments the Government has been able to muster on the other side, The Government spokesman—the Minister or his deputy---will probably be wondering how many of the M.P.'s non-Catholic constituents are of the same mind; and how they will vote at the next election.
The second reason for extra attention by the Government to such a speech is that the M.P. will be speaking from personal conviction. and with no solid proof that he has anything to gain by speaking in favour of the Catholic case, and certainly nothing to lose if he merely remains one of those many M.P.s who during the election gave some sort of undertaking to he sympathetic towards Catholic schools if and when the matter came up in the Commons, but who have yet to declare themselves in the Chamber.
These M.P.s--let us face it—won't suffer much at the next election from their silence, for the leaders of both the main parties are at present openly agreed in opposing any major changes in the 1944 Act; therefore, on the hustings in any constituency neither candidate will be able to gain an advantage over the other or lose on this account.
On the other hand. the growing number of non-Catholic M.P.s who are standing up to speak for us in the Commons may cause these leaders to begin to change their minds about a major change, for they have to look far ahead; and if they do not worry about the coining election, they may well wonder what will he in store at the one after the next.
Thus it will be a good thing if non-Catholics continue to catch the Speaker's eye, even at the expense of the Catholic M.P.s who will appear— but only appear—to be otherwise and less conscientiously engaged.
We ought to remember, also, that the Chamber is not the only scene of Catholic M.P.s.' zeal for our schools.
Every speech by a non-Catholic M.P. seeking justice for the denominational schools is, moreover, further evidence of the effectiveness of the Catholic campaign during the General Election.
May one also remark that nonCatholic help to us should not be one-way traffic? Should not the interest of non-Catholic M.P.s in our particular affairs draw a response from us in efforts in favour of the welfare of our non-Catholic fellow citizens, not only in regard to education but in all their affairs?
Fr. Paul Crane, Si.,. has been speaking this week about the numerous Catholics who in these days that call so desperately for Catholic Action "seek refuge in their own ranks" and who, if they do go into action, "rally within the safe enclave of the parish hall."