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From SPUC: A Catholic prelate was today challenged by a member of a parliamentary committee over his advice to Catholic schools not to support fund-raising appeals with an anti-life ethos. Ms Fiona McTaggart MP raised the matter with Rt Rev Patrick O'Donoghue, Bishop of Lancaster, England, in the House of Commons children, schools and families committee. The bishop said it was not feasible to expect Catholics to support organisations if their leadership adopted policies contrary to basic Christian principles, even if those charities also did good work. The bishop emphasised that the values upheld by Catholic schools in his diocese were values shared by those of other faiths, such as Moslems, attending Catholic schools. The bishop recently issued guidance in a document called Fit for Mission? - Schools. [SPUC director's blog, 12 March] Mr Barry Sheerman MP, committee chairman, was previously quoted as saying: "Faith education works all right as long as people are not that serious about their faith." [Daily Mail, 11 March]
More from John Smeaton's blog: The Bishop was also criticised for saying in the document that schools in his diocese should see it as their prime duty to teach the Catholic faith and to evangelise. Committee members said they thought this meant non-Catholic pupils were to be proselytised. The Bishop denied this – pointing to the distinction between genuine evangelisation – proclaiming the truth to others – and proselytisation, which was characterised as coercive.
Barry Sheerman MP, the Committee Chairman, asked if Church leaders were not worried that it seemed that church schools had become adept at keeping out poor and needy children.
The Bishop said that Catholic schools [within the state ‘comprehensive school’ system] should not be selective, and said he would intervene if schools were found to have been selecting children on the basis of their social class. He maintained, however that admission quotas for different class or religious groups should not be imposed on schools.
On the question of interfaith schools, the committee chairman asked whether there had been a change in policy under Pope Benedict XVI (or, as Barry Sheerman impolitely put it: under the “present occupant of the