ARECENT report in the CATHOLIC HERALD of a British Humanist Association document "containing a barely concealed attack on Catholic schools" should give every Catholic cause for concern.
The recent spate of Humanist-inspired legislation indicates the success this group is able to achieve when there is no organised Christian opposition. While the abolition of specifically Christian courses of Religious Education in State schools is probably their prime target at present, they make no secret of their opposition to what they term "state aid to denominational schools."
Humanists contend that this aid is tantamount to a state subsidy for the propagation of these beliefs. This reveals a far from democratic concept of the nature of the State. Those wishing to defend the right of religious communities to possess state-aided schools should concentrate on exposing this defective concept, rather than on trying to justify the type of teaching given in their schools.
A democratic state is simply a group of individuals who have been formed, or have formed themselves, into a cornmunity for racial, religious, geographical, or political reasons or a combination of all four.
Education in all the basic subjects is a service which we have decided shall be made available to every child in the community as a right. When we say that the "State" must provide this education we are simply directing that the administrators we have appointed provide a service we require which we will pay for with our money. There is no question of some entity called a "State" having money of its own which it can dispense or withhold at its whim. This is a totalitarian concept in which the rights of the individual are subordinated to those of the State; and by "State" is meant the faction that holds power and not the totality of individuals living within its geographical boundaries.
Most parents feel that as well as the basic academic subjects some form of moral education should be provided in our schools. The majority wish it to incorporate instruction in the basic tenets of the Christian 'religion but do not insist upon its conforming with the doctrines of their particular denomination. Those who do not approve of such teaching have the right to withdraw iheir children.
But a 'minority of many millions does wish for religious instruction in accordance with the doctrines of particular denominations.
The function of public servants is to provide the services that their employers require. It would clearly be the grossest impertinence on their part to tell their employers that they cannot have their own money spent on providing the type of schools they require.
There must obviously be certain limitations on the right to have denominational schools. There must be sufficient children of the denomination in question to flU the school.
The denomination must be able to provide sufficient teachers to staff its own schools and provide instruction in basic academic subjects up to a specified standard.
Children have a right to efficient instruction in • these basic subjects, which must clearly take priority, and it is right that the state should con
trol the professional qualifications of the teachers it employs to provide this instruction.
In the specifically religious instruction sphere the rights of parents take priority and teachers' qualifications are rightly fixed by the individual denomination.
If there is any injustice in the present system it lies in the fact parents of children attending denominational schools must pay very large sums towards their cost. They are being made to pay a second time for their children to have the education to which they are already automatically entitled in view of their contribution to the common fund in the form of rates and ;taxes.
This is not entirely renrehensible because it pro vides an additional and convincing criterion for assessing the genuineness of a demand for a denominational school.
But it is clear that this is very far from "Rome on the Rates." Catholic schools should not be termed "voluntary-aided" but "involuntary-aiding" since the Catholic community which contributes to their cost is being forced to subsidise the rest of the community by paying twice for a service which is already its automatic right.
Catholics have no need to be apologetic or defensive about their schools. All men of good will should give us their support in not only maintaining our basic democratic right to ensure that parents have the first say in the education of their children but in helping us to overcome the injustice whereby the education of the majority is being subsidised at our expense, particularly as most Catholics come from the poorer sections of the community.