BY CHRISTINA FARRELL
ASCOTTISH bishop has said there is no place for openly homosexual teachers in Catholic schools.
Bishop Joseph Devine of Motherwell said an “openly gay teacher” would not be compatible with the Charter for Catholic Schools that was released last year.
In an interview with the Sunday Herald, Bishop Devine, president of the Scottish Catholic Education Committee, argued that a gay lifestyle would “cut across the whole moral vision enshrined in the charter and would be offering a lifestyle incompatible with Catholic social teaching”.
And he said he understood the fears of parents who did not want their children taught by homosexuals, adding, “being openly gay could well affect promotions”.
“In practice, I would think that it is possible that some may have been hired, but [the schools] may not have known until it was too late,” the bishop said. “That’s our fault for not making the proper checks and references. The Charter tightens it up.” The gay lobby in Scotland attacked the bishop’s remarks as “scandalous” and an “attempt to enshrine bigotry into education”. There was also condemnation from educationalists across the political spectrum.
The Rev Ewan Aitken, a spokesman for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), an executive government body, said councils would not agree to “discriminating against a teacher because of his or her sexual orientation”.
His comments were echoed by Peter Duncan, shadow Scottish secretary, who said he saw no reason for discrimination on “race, sexual orientation or gender”.
Judith Gillespie, of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said the bishop’s words reflected badly on the Church. “His comments are worse than unfair and it reflects on the Church that it wants to reject a group of people who are not choosing their lifestyle,” she said. “I thought Christianity was about inclusion and brotherhood.” Bishop Devine launched the schools’ charter in June 2004. It does not explicitly ban the employment of homosexuals but calls for staff to “support and promote the aims, missions, values and ethos of the schools”.
Speaking at the launch, Bishop Devine said the guidelines embodied the essential elements of the Church’s philosophy of education, based on its understanding that every human person is created in the image of God, is uniquely gifted for life and worthy of the utmost respect and nurturing.
“The charter stresses the Catholic school’s role as a community of faith and learning with a responsibility to provide an integrated approach to learning and formation, based on explicit values which are shared and celebrated, and promoting the importance of service to the common good,” he said.
The Catholic Church has had extensive discussions with Cosla over the remit of the charter, which remains unclear despite the bishop’s unequivocal line. The charter has not, as yet, been implemented. Cosla this week stressed the need to “hire the best staff available” and said a ban on homosexuals would contravene existing legislation outlawing anti-gay discrimination and would, therefore, be illegal.
Michael McGrath, director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, attempted to clarify the terms of the charter. He said its chief function was to uphold the moral teaching, faith tradition and sacramental life of a school which should be “a community of faith and learning... based on explicit values which are shared and celebrated”.
He said: “The charter demonstrates that any school which exhibits these features is providing a valuable approach to learning and formation which is based on an explicit values framework, and on an inclusive ethos which honours all people.
“The Charter for Catholic Schools aims to explicitly set out the aims and mission of the Catholic school. It is a Church document and is not subject to the approval or authorisation of any other organisation.”