by Jack O'Sullivan CATHOLIC Schools have not "knuckled under" to pressure from London authorities to remove "sexist and racist" literature, said the bishop responsible for Catholic education in England and Wales this week.
'The angry denial came as a row continued to grow over suggestions in two national newspapers that the Inner London Education Authority had "ordered" a large west London Catholic school to "purge" offgnding books from its library.
"It is absolutely incorrect to suggest that ILEA exercises improper pressure on the school, or that Catholic schools knuckle under to such pressure", said Bishop David Konstant, Bishop in Central London and chairman of the Bishops' Conference Department for Christian Doctrine and Formation.
For the past few years ILEA has been involved in a controversial campaign to eradicate "classism, sexism, racism and ageism" from curricula and school books. Two articles — the first in last weekend's Sunday Telegraph and the second in the Daily Telegraph on the next day — suggest that John Cullinane, former headmaster of St Charles Primary School, North Kensington, was pressurised by ILEA into removing any objectionable books from the school library.
Bishop Konstant said that he had "no grounds for believing there is any substantial truth" in the claim. Mr Cullinane, reiterated the bishop's statement. "Tom Sawyer and Tin-Tin still survive and thrive in the school", said Mr Cullinane, who left St Charles in December to assist Bishop Konstant as Education Coordinator and Schools' Officer for the Central Area of the Westminster archdiocese.
Bishop Konstant fully backed Mr Cullinane this week. He said that Mr Cullinane was appointed to his new post because of, among other things, "the high personal regard in which I hold him".
Mr Cullinane claimed this week that the two articles contained factual inaccuracies about the school, the library, his own position and the reason why a number of books were in fact removed from the school last year.
He accepted that "a couple of hundred books" had been disposed of during the recent transfer of the library to another part of the school. This had been done owing to the old age of the books, not specifically because of their content", he said.
But Mr Cullinane's assertion was contradicted by St Charles' new headmaster, Michael Watson. He said that some books had been disposed of in accordance with ILEA advice, although the school had not been "dictated to".
Mr Watson pointed out that the Christian policy of the school was in harmony with the anti-sexist, anti-racist drive by ILEA. The school "has drawn up an anti-racist policy which has been seen by the Governors", he said.
This series of denials that ILEA pressurised St Charles has failed to satisfy the author of the original article. Catholic columnist, Mary Kenny. "I absolutely stand by the story", she told the Catholic Herald this week. Miss Kenny has written to Bishop Konstant asking that "it' the story is untrue he will explain the full picture as to what the Church's position on ILEA is and whether the Church is willing to defend its own values in education."
An ILEA spokeswoman this week denied the accusations made by Miss Kenny. She said the education authority was taking "a very serious view" of the two articles. "A very ordinary and natural process has been blow up by Mary Kenny presumably for polemical purposes" said the spokeswoman.