I was seriously irritated by the short item
on Damian Thompson's blog highlighting how the Catholic Education Service is, yet again, bending over backwards to accommodate the latest educational edicts of the British government!
At first glance, it all seems pretty straightforward, and oh-so-reasonable. After all, doesn't the Catholic Church encourage us to recognise and respect what is holy and true in other faiths?
That is not what annoyed me. Indeed, I have a Muslim colleague who, when we're both working late in the faculty office, often asks if I mind her staying in the room to pray, and I have absolutely no problem with that.
What I do have a problem with is the liberal Catholic establishment proclaiming love, peace, harmony and tolerance toward everyone other than fellow Catholics.
Let's examine the proposals a little more closely... There's a link to the article by Graeme Paton (Daily Telegraph Education Editor) HERE
The guidance said schools should consider putting aside a prayer room "if reasonably practicable" for use by staff and pupils from other faiths.
Damian's point about providing opportunities for worship where children can practise a faith explicitly denying the divinity of Jesus is a telling one; if Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus etc. are all to have their own prayer rooms, then what about a child whose parents are satanists? Sounds unlikely? One child I taught in a Catholic school claimed he was a satanist. I was rather disbelieving at the time, but who can tell? And there is also the problem of where these rooms are to be found. At many schools, huts have had to be installed in order to provide sufficient accommodation for teaching, and chapel rooms often have to double up as classrooms.
The document said schools should ensure "pupils' health is attended to in times of fasting" - and canteens should take children's religious dietary requirements into account.
And yet, in Catholic school canteens around the country, there is often no provision of fish or other vegetarian options on Fridays (some people do maintain the idea of Friday abstinance) and meat is served on Ash Wednesday (when abstinance is still required by Church Law.)
But the real irritant is this last point: the guidance said "respectful understanding" should be shown to pupils of other faiths who are withdrawn from or remain silent during Christian worship."
At the same time, children whose parents wish to withdraw them from sex education classes are often subject to ridicule from both staff and students, and parents who choose not to allow their children to watch television for hours on end are pilloried for their unrealistic views in snide comments at teacher training sessions.
Methinks that a little more true tolerance, instead of mere lip-service, is what we need.