The Hierarchy of England and Wales on Wednesday issued a point-by-point answer to the Minister of Education's Memorandum on the Bishops' recent schools offer.
This detailed answer of 2,200 words, reported in the adjoining column, represents the views and feelings of the whole Catholic community, faced by what the Bishops call the "staggering " expense in maintaining schools which conform with the material rights of parents in the education of their children.
While every Catholic gives the fullest support to the Bishops, who speak "on behalf of Catholic parents," and shares the Bishops' "confidence" in the final outcome, the rejection by both the Labour and Conservative Parties of the recent offer has caused much heart-searching among prominent Catholic layfolk about the circumstances, nature and timeliness of the Hierarchy's initiative.
At a public meeting in Dagenham, with Mgr. Beck, chairman of the Catholic Education Committee, in the chair, R. J. Mellish, Catholic docker M.P. for Ratherhithe, asked for the withdrawal of the Bishops' Memorandum at once because, in his view, the method and timing of its publication had been faulty.
A CATHOLIC HERALD Reporter, disedssing the matter with other Catholic M.P.s and other responsible Catholic lay leaders discovered that they too had serious misgivings about recent events.
"I beg all those who are responsible for this memorandum to withdraw it now," Bob Mellish, Catholic docker M.P. for Rother hithe, said when speaking on the Hierarchy's proposals on the education question at an A.C.T.U. meeting at the Leys Hall, Dagenham, Essex, on Monday last.
Mr. Mellish had declared that, although he was in sympathy with the majority of the Hierarchy's proposals, he considered that this was not the time to have issued them. There were two reasons, he said :
One was the fact of the present economic crisis, which made it impossible to grant the financial demands; and secondly, Catholic lay action was not sufficiently organised to propagate and influence our fellow citizens as to the justice of our case.
Mr. Mellish declared that both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party had come out with a decisive " No " to the Catholic proposals. And he ventured to suggest that the strong tendency towards nonconformity in the Liberal Party would make them also say " No."
" In the light of all this, what is a Catholic to do?" asked Mr. Mellish. " In every party there will be prospective candidates at the General Election, who will be promising people the moon: and no doubt the Catholic school proposals will be supported to win votes." Mr. Mellish declared that he himself was in favour of a settlement on the lines of the Scottish system. He
did not agree with the argument of the Ministry of Education that, if the system were adopted in England, it would revive the old religious strife.
To a C.H. reporter Mr. Mellish explained his attitude further: "It is regrettable that there was no previous conssltation with M.P.s and with responsible members of the laity.
A POLITICAL ISSUE
" The schools' problem is definitely a political issue, and as such Catholic politicians were entitled to know in advance what the. Hierarchy in tended to do about it. It is also a matter which concerns first and fore
most the Catholic parents. Is it unreasonable to suggest that they too should have been made aware beforehand of the intentions of the Bishops?
" Quite obviously, the schools' problem from the start was a question demanding delicate and careful negotiation. The method of approach seemed to invite the refusal. In fact, both Conservatives and Socialists have refused."
Mr. Mellish believes that the