Some Thoughts on Catholic Schools and Education in Scotland

There has been an ongoing discussion in the comments here about Catholic education, and issues arising from faith schools. I thought that it would be useful to write a few thoughts about this myself for two reasons. Firstly I can state my case clearly. Secondly this will provide a forum for readers and commenters on this issue, if of course anyone still has something to add to the debate!


Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Welcome Mass for first year pupils at my children’s High School. The hall was full; the children and the adults sang out, although thankfully more in tune than I was; and Father O’Brien spoke to the children about how wonderful they were and what possibilities awaited them as they moved through the school.

Many teachers turned out, whether to participate in the service, to lead the singing, play piano, or to organise the tea and biscuits afterwards. Many pupils from sixth year in the school came out on a Thursday evening in full uniform to help and to be there as an example for the new pupils. Other pupils came along, where they had siblings amongst the first year pupils. The commitment of teachers and pupils to the spirit of Catholic education is vital.

After the Mass, during which the first year pupils prayed the “Our Father” in sign language, we heard from the head teacher, telling the children about the adventure which awaits them as they move through the school. We had also heard from the head of the lower school, who talked about having a diverse group of children, coming from eleven different primary schools, joining together to make one unified first year group.

Finally, we gathered for the aforementioned tea and biscuits; new first years spent time with friends they had not met until three weeks ago when term started; older pupils chatted with each other and with the youngsters. Parents got to meet parents with whom they will share their children’s passage through secondary education over the next six years.

Being the celebration of the Mass, not all of the non-Catholic children attended, although some did. However this week has seen all of the first year pupils “on retreat” learning about initiatives like Mary’s Meals, feeding the hungry round the world.

Last night was a fine example of what Catholic education brings.

That is not to say, of course, that such an atmosphere might not exist at non-denominational schools; I am sure there are many where it does. However it is clear that there is an ethos within the Catholic education system in Scotland which is about much more than even the vital task of training children for exams.

Over the years I have attended many events at the schools, both secondary and primary, where, for example, the pupils have marked the Holocaust in drama, poetry and song, much of which created by the pupils themselves; where Diwali has been celebrated in dance as part of a project teaching the children about India; where other faiths have been discussed and praised for the good they have done. There is a breadth of education, especially regarding religion and other cultures, which belies the attacks by the critics, who use what are offensive terms like “apartheid” redolent of South Africa, and “segregation” as if we were back in the Seep South of the United States in the years up to the 1960’s.

As the Scottish Catholic Education Service puts it, rather more formally than I did:-

Catholic schools are encouraged to show excellence in their work in ways which demonstrate a distinctive Gospel understanding of “excellence”.  This is based on a Christian anthropology which regards each person as being uniquely gifted with talents and capacities which should be developed to their full potential.  Success is not measured merely in terms of academic attainment but in signs of personal development and actions which show a commitment to meeting the needs of others.

The Charter for Catholic Schools has been developed to define the key characteristics of excellence which should be found in every Catholic school in Scotland. 

The Scottish Government too recognises the importance of Catholic schools, saying:-

The curriculum in Roman Catholic schools will build on the openness of Catholic schools to other young people regardless of denominations and faiths.


This statement goes a long way towards answering the critics who condemn the “segregation” and even “Apartheid” of the Catholic system. The history of the separate system of education for Catholic children makes clear why it exists even now. It was never about taking Catholic children away from their peers; instead it arose because the state made little or no proper provision, so the Church took up the task. Indeed, at the time Catholic education commenced, there was not much of as state to do the job instead!

Catholic education has been provided in Scotland for many centuries.  Its foundations were in the monasteries which first provided education in the middle ages and which heralded the foundation by Papal authority of three of the ancient Scottish universities at St. Andrews in 1413, Glasgow in 1451, and Aberdeen in 1495.

Catholic schools have existed in Scotland for as long as Catholic communities have been established in various parts of the country. Most Catholic schools were founded as Parish schools, funded by the local parish and often housed in the local parish premises.  A number of religious congregations founded schools to provide the benefits of Catholic education, often for the poorest communities.

Today Catholic schools in Scotland are public schools – designated as “denominational schools” because they were, from the 1920s onwards, gradually transferred from Church ownership to State ownership. The 1918 Education Act in Scotland guaranteed the following rights to the Catholic community:

  • Catholic schools were to be funded by the State and open to inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectors;
  • as public schools, Catholic schools were to be open to all, but were expected to retain their own ethos and identity in order to serve the needs of the Catholic community;
  • any teacher appointed to any post was required to be approved by the Church with respect to their “religious belief and character”;
  • the local education authority was to appoint, with the approval of the Church, a Supervisor for Religious Education in Catholic schools.

Catholic schools today do not exist as an accident of history, the result of a concordat between Church and State in 1918.  They exist – indeed they thrive – because so many parents actively choose Catholic education for their children – approximately 120,000 of them.

The Catholic school is supported in its mission by the active partnership of the home, the school and the parish. Together, they provide support for the faith community, helping to form and develop in all a mature Christian conscience, in addressing the increasingly secular influences of popular culture.

Today, Catholic schools at primary and secondary level continue this fine tradition of Catholic education as a service not just to the Catholic community but to the wider Scottish society.

Catholic schools generally have significant numbers of non-Catholic pupils there, and this is not because of children being forced there because of catchment areas, but rather because parents recognise that there are advantages in the Catholic system. Indeed I have heard it cogently argued, though at too great length even for this piece, that what should be abolished, in the interests of higher standards of education and morality are not Catholic schools, but non-Catholic!

Catholic schools, much to the surprise of those who see them as a breeding ground for antagonism towards others, are actually arenas of great tolerance to all, respecting the fact that not everyone professes the Catholic faith. However the principles outlined in the Charter above will generally meet the requirements of parents of children of other faiths, and indeed of none.


Maeve McCormack is the policy and briefing manager for the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales. Last year she wrote the following in the Guardian regarding Catholic schools, primarily in England and Wales:-

It is a key part of the church’s mission to offer good quality education as part of our contribution to society as a whole. Catholic schools are always happy to welcome children from all backgrounds whose parents seek a Catholic education for them.

The Catholic church was the original provider of education in this country. From the Middle Ages onwards, the church took responsibility for teaching children. Central to this work has always been our dedication to providing education for the poorest in society. Following Catholic emancipation in the 19th century, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales prioritised the building of schools before the building of churches. Then, as now, the church’s commitment to education was strong.

We consider education to be crucially important as a means of forming the whole person intellectually, morally and socially and we want to help to give children as good a start in life as we can. Catholic schools strive to offer children a well-rounded education, providing them with a moral basis from which they are free to make their own decisions. The immeasurable benefit of a Catholic education is that students are encouraged to engage with the wider community and to make a positive contribution to society as a whole.

The current government, like previous governments, recognises the value that a Catholic education offers young people.

Catholic schools are inclusive. Our schools are more ethnically diverse than schools nationally (26% of students in Catholic secondary schools come from ethnic groups other than the “White British” category, compared to only 21% of students in secondary schools nationally). Recently published data also showed that Catholic schools have a higher proportion of students from the most deprived areas compared to schools nationally.

Central to this is the Catholic ethos and distinctive nature of our schools. Interestingly, in England around a quarter of pupils in Catholic schools are not Catholics and in Wales the figure is a third. As Baroness Warsi recognised in a recent speech, the provision of education is a major part of the Catholic church’s contribution to British society, part of a centuries-old tradition. We are proud to offer a well-rounded, high-quality education to almost 800,000 pupils and students in England and Wales: Catholics, members of other faiths and none.

Much the same can be said of the system in Scotland.


Does the system of Catholic schools promote sectarianism and bigotry, as is charged by critics? I do not believe so. There are always disputes between pupils of different schools – but this can be between schools and pupils of the same denomination, just a different blazer colour.

Do pupils from Catholic and non-denominational schools clash because of deep theological disputes about transubstantiation? Do pupils from the Catholic school taunt their non-denominational brethren over belief in pre-destination?


Instead the vast majority of religious bigotry in Scotland, and predominantly in the West of Scotland, is connected with the “religion” of football. The two temples of Celtic Park and Ibrox attract their congregation every two weeks, where the traditional “hymns” are sung.

It is of interest that the perception amongst some Rangers fans seems to be that all Celtic supporters are Catholics, and amongst some Celtic fans that all Rangers followers are Protestants. Whilst that historical backcloth can be draped over both teams, time moves on.

I would suggest though that most of the so-called inter-Christian violence and strife in Scotland is actually trouble between the two parts of what used to be called the “Old Firm”.

How many of those who attend each ground “religiously” also attend church or chapel? I suspect that most, on either side, of the ones who sing the loudest about the “enemy” are not sitting in their pew on a Sunday morning!

And whilst I do not claim to have carried out a detailed scientific survey, from reading contributions on the internet, those who frequent Rangers websites seem far more inclined to raise the issue of religion in a negative, disparaging and often insulting way about their perceived opponents, than other teams in reverse. I am sure that the percentage of non-Catholic Celtic supporters is much higher than that of Catholic Rangers fans.

This, when coupled with the overwhelming preponderance of Orange marches in the West of Scotland, over marches of any other type, suggests that the issues of sectarianism and bigotry, far from being fuelled by the education system, are in fact simply a function of people claiming labels for themselves and, as one vigorous Rangers supporting website states “Defending Our Traditions”.

Is this a blanket condemnation of the Orange Order and everyone in it? Of course not.

The Order in Scotland states:-

The purpose of the Orange Order can be summarised as:

To Maintain intact the Protestant Constitution and Christian heritage of the United Kingdom.

To cultivate Christian character, promote brotherly love and fellowship.

To expose and resist by all lawful means every system opposed to the mental, political and spiritual freedom of the individual.

The Protestant ethic is one of tolerance of other faiths and ideals. It is this tolerance and liberty that the Orange Order promotes and defends.

I suspect that these attributes and aims might not be at the forefront of the minds of all of those who profess to follow Orangeism, which is not to say that there are no members of the Order who do loyally follow the tenets of Orangeism.

Am I blaming all bigotry and sectarianism in Scotland on Rangers Football Club? Of course not.

Am I blaming all bigotry and sectarianism in Scotland on the various Protestant churches in the country? That would be wrong, and an insult.

Am I attributing the responsibility for bigotry and sectarianism directed from nominal Christians to other nominal Christians in Scotland on football? Let’s say that the people responsible have attached themselves to football as the most suitable and convenient way for them to give vent to their “traditional” frustrations.


To recap therefore.

Catholic Education in Scotland has a long and proud history. Catholic education, of course, is a joint effort, coming first from the parents in the home, and supported by the Church and the school.

The Catholic school system in Scotland is not an exclusive Catholic-only club, and the ethos attracts people of all faiths and none.

Generally the Catholic schools do a great job in educating the moral, as well as the intellectual, part of the child. Helping others and acts of charity form a large part of the personality of a Catholic school. The role of them is to send out people to spread the good news, both by word and especially by action.

Does this make Catholic education perfect? No. No system of education is perfect, but I have been happy and indeed proud to entrust my children to the Catholic education system.

Would I object if there were proposals to create the homogenised education system which critics of educational “apartheid” want to see? Of course.

Maybe some of the critics could attend events at Catholic schools, and meet the children and teachers and see in the flesh what goes on. Witness the culture. Observe the good emanating from the schools.

Then come back and try to argue that these schools are hotbeds of sectarianism and bigotry. I think it would be very hard to do so convincingly.

Posted by Paul McConville


Filed under Catholic Education

249 responses to “Some Thoughts on Catholic Schools and Education in Scotland

  1. charliedon

    @ecojon at 11.27am

    I did indeed reply to you (and RayCharles) at the end of an earlier blog. I don’t think you’ve read that post yet. I think you’ll find that previous post deals with what you’ve said here if you care to go back a bit and read it.
    I think I was at pains to stress that I don’t actually have much personal experience of bigotry and I agree there is no substitute for practical experience. I’m always preaching that to my kids. You’ll also see that I was expanding on my earlier post to clarify that I absolutely do not think faith schools or organised religion are the root cause of bigotry. I think we are largely in agreement about this. I’ve been a bit late in getting my posts on because I’ve been trying to do it on my iphone whilst on the hoof, one sentence at a time through the course of the day. The end result has sometimes appeared a bit disjointed even to me when re-reading later and by that time everyone has moved on to the next blog anyway.
    Re you other post, as I’ve said before, I have no affiliation to any organised religion but if I was forced to choose one, it would probably be buddhism!

  2. JimBhoy

    @Mick You know what I loved about my RC primary , the holidays of obligation you got, generally a saint or holy day and you got a day off school…. Fantastico
    Showing my age again..

  3. JimBhoy

    @Mick Didn’t enjoy it much when the priest came round close to lunchtime and you missed school dinner time, for some reason carmel cake and thick custard popped into my head just then..! 🙂

    • mick

      @jim carmal cake and custard lovely

    • mick

      @jimdo you remember the red coated fish jim at school the only place in glasgow seveing it is the starbar at eglington toll at the bus depot 350 for a 3 course lunch throw the day on afriday its cheap and smells like the dinny lol

      • JimBhoy

        I hated being a free dinner 😦 The dinner ladies then actually cooked, no turkey swizzlers then… 2 courses from them and you needed a lie down..

      • Andy

        Just noticed you are posting on here… I dropped you a link on the previous blog for lottery funding for your football team. Hope you got it.

        Broadfoot leaving has been one saving grace of Rangers situation….truly the worst player I have seen in my time.

        Scotland have a chance, best squad in years, though defense is still a little shaky….just have little faith in levein and would prefer a more expierenced manager. Couple of early wins would defintely get the confidence and feel good factor up anyway!!

  4. TheBlackKnight

    there are some right ‘fudds’ on here today!

    Intolerance of, particularly of the religiously intolerant ….. Is A good thINg! 😉

  5. mick

    Scotland should set goals and targets for world faith tolerance and bench mark it to the rest of the world also this would make us more universial and and more viable for professional migrants to want to come here and add to our nation due to the web intolerance is outed and being delt with its time to move on and creat a new image for all our faiths

  6. mick

    The United Nations upholds the right to free expression of religious belief in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights while article 2 forbids discrimination on the basis of religion. Article 18 also allows for the freedom to change religion. The Declaration is not legally binding, however the United States chose in 1998 to pass the International Religious Freedom Act, creating the Commission on International Religious Freedom, and mandating that the United States government take action against any country found to violate the religious freedoms outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[4] The European Convention on Human Rights, which is legally binding on all European Union states (following the passage of the Human Rights Act 1998 in the United Kingdom), makes restricting the rights of an individual to practice or change their religion illegal in article 9, and discrimination on the basis of religion illegal in article 14.

    In its 2000 annual report on international religious freedom, the U.S. State Department cited China, Myanmar, Iran, Iraq and Sudan for persecuting people for their religious faith and practices. The report, which covers July 1999 through June 2000, details U.S. policy toward countries where religious freedom is violated in the view of the U.S. State Department.[5]

    The advocacy group Freedom House produced a report entitled “Religious Freedom in the World” in 2000 which ranked countries according to their religious freedom. The countries receiving a score of 7, indicating those where religious freedom was least respected, were Turkmenistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Myanmar and North Korea. China was given a score of 6 overall, however Tibet was listed separately in the 7 category. Those countries receiving a score of 1, indicating the highest level of religious freedom, were Estonia, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and the United States.

    Within those countries that openly advocate religious tolerance there remain debates as to the limits of tolerance. Some individuals and religious groups, for example, retain beliefs or practices which involve acts contrary to established law, such as the use of cannabis by members of the Rastafari movement, the religious use of eagle feathers by non-Native Americans (contrary to the eagle feather law, 50 CFR 22), or the practice of polygamy amongst Mormons in the 19th century.[6]

    The precise definition of “religion”, and to which groups it applies, can also cause controversy, for example the case of Scientologists who have all rights of religious freedom but complain that the highest court decided not to grant the status of a Non-profit organization in several states. Attempts to legislate against acts of religious intolerance amongst citizens frequently come up against issues regarding the freedom of speech; whilst in France being convicted of incitement to religious hatred can carry a maximum of 18 months in prison. An attempt to pass a similar law by Tony Blair’s Labour government in the United Kingdom had to be dropped in April, 2006 after criticism that it restricted free speech. In Victoria, Australia the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 makes illegal “conduct that incites hatred against, serious contempt for, or revulsion or severe ridicule of, that other person or class of persons” on the grounds of religious belief.

  7. mick

    In the 16th century, the Scottish Reformation resulted in Scotland’s conversion to Presbyterianism through the Church of Scotland. The revolution resulted in a powerful hatred of the Roman Church. High Anglicism also came under intense persecution also after Charles I attempted to reform the Church of Scotland. The attempted reforms caused chaos, however, because they were seen as being overly Catholic in form in being based heavily on sacraments and ritual.

    Over the course of later mediæval and early modern history violence against Catholics has broken out, often resulting in deaths, such as the torture and execution of Saint John Ogilvie and the execution of a Jesuit priest.

    In the last 150 years, Irish immigration to Scotland increased dramatically. As time has gone on Scotland has become much more open to other religions and Catholics have seen the nationalisation of their schools and the restoration of the Church hierarchy. Even in the area of politics, there are changes. The Orange Order has also grown in numbers in recent times. This growth is, however, attributed by some to the rivalry between Rangers and Celtic football clubs as opposed to actual hatred of Catholics.[12]

    Although there is a popular perception in Scotland that Anti-Catholicism is football related (specifically directed against fans of Celtic F.C.), statistics released in 2004 by the Scottish Executive showed that 85% of sectarian attacks were not football related.[13] Sixty-three percent of the victims of sectarian attacks are Catholics, but when adjusted for population size this makes Catholics between five and eight times more likely to be a victim of a sectarian attack than a Protestant.[13][14]

    Due to the fact that many Catholics in Scotland today have Irish ancestry, there is a lot of overlap between anti-Irish racism and Anti-Catholicism.[13] For example the word “Fenian” is regarded by authorities as a sectarian related word in reference to Catholics.[14]

    In 2003 the Scottish Parliament passed the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 which included provisions to make an assault motivated by the perceived religion of the victim an aggravating factor

    • Bluesnaw

      “but when adjusted for population size this makes Catholics between five and eight times more likely to be a victim of a sectarian attack than a Protestant”

      Repeat a lie often enough… The stats show that more Catholics are victims of sectarian behaviour, which is true, but you have to understand that there are three or four times the numbers of Protestants to Catholics
      When you normalise the data for population size you see that the numbers of people engaging in sectarian behaviour for both communities is about the same – if, of course, you make the reasonable assumption that Catholics attack Protestants and vice versa.
      Stop telling lies, or we’ll never move on from this.
      By the way, every single word of that piece could be said about non-denominational schools… Catholic schools are nothing special in that regard. Stop trying to make out they are in order to justify segregated schooling.

      • I have no data on who perpetrates attacks only on the victims. The assumption that all attacks on one group are perpertrated by the other is unsubstantiated (ie only Catholics perpetrate crimes on Protestants and vice versa) – after all we have seen how worked up atheists can seem to get on the subject!

        If ANYONE has data on who perpetrates these crimes, I’m all ears.

  8. Aitch

    I believe that if we are ever to get an enlightened society regarding sectarianism in Scotland, we should ensure that all schools funded within the state system only teach religion in broad terms. My personal view is that religion should be a matter for the home and the rote teaching of specific religions should be a matter for the churches. I was brought up in the Catholic Church but gave up on fairytales and myths when able to form opinions of my own. Considering Catholicisms history of violence and violations, including the recent history of child abuse and cover up by its religious hierarchy, the teaching of ‘the faith’, particularly in Catholic schools, could be a very dynamic subject for RE, history and Modern Studies!

    • Andy

      I would like to buy you a beer! 100% the ideaology I have tried to promote on here today, but have been shot down as apparently I am either ‘protesant’ which Im not or a bigot which Im not, just because I am known to be a Rangers fan.

      Great to hear it from someone from a catholic background that cannot be labelled in this manner. I too gave up the fairytales and myths as soon as I could think for myself.

      • John Pollock

        Ok Andy lets get rid of RC schools to appease the liberal minded such as yourself. Then what, get rid of the churches because you are an atheist? Why stop there, lets just get rid of Catholics altogether! There are many organisations, institutions & beliefs I don’t agree with but I accept them as part of an inclusive and democratic society. No matter how you try to disguise it, you want rid of RC schools because are a bigot Andy. “Labelled in this manner” do you care to elaborate on that? Are people who see the value in diversity to be labeled? Or do you believe that everyone who sends their children to such schools is a subservient to the teachings of the bible, incapable of rational thought? That’s what i meant when I said your opinions are too simplistic. You neither like or understand RC schools therefore you want rid of them. Could you imagine the bile that would be on here if this debate was raised on rangers forum for instance? Maybe the contrast should give you a insight into the questions you pose!

        • Andy

          @John pollock
          Again, you have failed to answer any of the questions I posed of you earlier. I have said numerous times all are welcome to their faiths, just because I dont beleive, does not mean I have anything against those that do, however the full basis of this arguement is that I beleive faith for those that wish to beleive should be practiced and preached in those places built for that purpose, the churches, the chapels, mosques and so on…..Not in place of education of our children, where I firmly beleive that all should come together in a theatre of learning together with all faiths. What someone chooses to beleive away from school is their choice and they are welcome to it. I dont like the concept of any faith school, not just RC, and to label me a bigot whilst making no attempt to answer any of the questions I ask of you, is somewhat embarrassing for you and actually what I will accept as vindication of my point. How can you possibly brand someone that wants to see all faiths come together a bigot….To quote ‘are you just playing thick!!!’.

          • John Pollock

            “How can you possibly brand someone that wants to see all faiths come together a bigot” That’s exactly what RC schools do Andy. You don’t have points to answer you have A point which I have answered time and time again. The reason I called you a bigot is because if this subject was about any other faith you would not be commenting on it. And while we are on it there is no such thing as a non-denomination schools. They are protestant schools who teach a christian message are they not? So why focus on schools who are at least upfront about what they are as someone else has commented on. Did you have RE lessons at school? You don’t think religion should anything to do with the curriculum, I do. Nothing to see here move along.

          • John Pollock

            “faith for those that wish to beleive should be practiced and preached in those places built for that purpose” that’s actually a very good description of a Catholic school Andy!

    • John Pollock

      It is only taught in broad terms Aitch. I don’t know what age you are but even in the 80s it was only on broad terms. RE was a class for mucking about in is we are being honest. This notion that kids go to school and get brainwashed with religion is nonsense.

      • Aitch

        John, I was brought up in a time when we were asked the colour of the vestments worn on the Sunday if the teacher didn’t see us at the children’s mass and we got the belt for not knowing catechism answers by rote. My daughter went to public school from a Catholic school when we moved to EK and my two grandchildren currently go to a great public school. We’re all Celtic supporters with ancestors coming from Ireland and we have a wedding in St Micks Parkhead in 1886. Our family has lived in Glasgow’s East End ever since. I grew up in the midst of hypocrisy passing itself of as the Catholic way of life, never mind the unquestioning dogma and creed. Because I object to Catholic schools doesn’t mean I sympathise with any other particular religious viewpoint. And a wee aside, if I had my way I’d ban the marches today, Orange and Hibs; why are street parades of this sort necessary to celebrate our history and traditions, Bigots are all around us and I’ve even been known to express my dislike of the moronic Orange Order whose apparent sole purpose is to hate Catholics, purely because of a historical time and place that has little relevance today in any democratic sense of equality of rights of Catholics and Protestants, here or in Ireland.

  9. mick

    What is a secret society?

    Webster’s dictionary defines: “any of various oath-bound societies often devoted to brotherhood, moral discipline, and mutual assistance”.

    American Heritage Dictionary describes it as “An organization, such as a lodge, that requires its members to conceal certain activities, such as its rites of initiation, from outsiders.”

    The same dictionary defines an Orangeman as:

    “A member of a secret society founded in Northern Ireland in 1795 to maintain the political and religious ascendancy of Protestantism.

    The Free Methodist Church explains: “Those voluntary associations which demand an oath, affirmation, promise of secrecy or a secret password as conditions of membership are to be considered secret societies.”

    Does the Orange Order come under this banner?

    I believe the Orange Order fulfils this as does its senior orders the Royal Arch Purple and Royal Black Institution.

    Encyclopædia Britannica says of the Orange Order: “After a major confrontation in 1795, known as the Battle of the Diamond, the Orange Society was formed as a secret society, with lodges spreading throughout Ireland and ultimately into Great Britain and various British dominions. In 1835, with the Orange Society in mind, the House of Commons petitioned the king to abolish societies that were secret and that excluded persons on the ground of religion.”

    The Orange Order, the Royal Arch Purple Chapter and the Royal Black Institution hide their practices and teaching behind locked doors. The outsider is not welcome to hear their teaching or view their practices. Why is this? Why do these societies hide their procedures from the rest of us? Can they not bear scrutiny? Why do these societies hide behind secured doors, funny handshakes, door tylers, secret passwords, cryptic recognition methods and vows of secrecy? Why do the Arch Purple and Black threaten their members under pain of death to conceal the internal teaching?

    If these religious societies are just and biblical then why don’t they swing their doors open and let us witness their practices, teaching and rituals and let us judge for ourselves? Surely if you belong to a biblical society it can bare the scrutiny of Scripture?

    Yes, the Orange Order is a secret society, and yes there are reasons why it conceals its teaching and practices

    • Jackblack

      Is not the Vatican the the biggest secret enclave in the world the stench of corruption from that place is massive .

  10. Martin

    We start off on a discussion about freedom of speech. Conclude that is curtailed as a result of bigotry and move on to a debate as to whether or not bigotry is a result of the various types of school available in Scotland.

    Scotland has some problems but if we want to cure them, then we must firstly separate the symptoms from the malady.

    There are areas within our cities and towns in which poverty is a real issue.

    Poverty manifests itself in many disturbing ways. Health (life expectancy) and education are the most easily measured.

    School league tables are published annually and it’s not difficult to spot the schools located in the most impoverished areas.

    There are two key factors in producing good schools. The first is good teachers, the second is reasonably well off, well educated parents who take an active interest in the education of their children. Faith of whichever kind or no faith has nothing to do with it. The value of your faith if you have one is entirely separate.

    Something about poverty which is much more difficult to measure but is linked to poor education, is how susceptible poor people are to extreme political views.

    They want a way out, they are suffering and can be persuaded that people perceived as being in some way different from themselves are to blame for their predicament, that others are somehow taking their rightful place.

    If you are serious about removing bigotry from Scottish society lets start by removing poverty.

    • mick

      @martin we all no poverty hinders education that needs a post of its own what were on about is seperate schools and the issues related to people saying no to it not the cause of poor exam results

    • Martin

      @ Mick

      Truth is I’m not sure that you read or were responding to anything I said.
      Please don’t be offended as that is not my intent.

    • John Pollock

      Yes Martin, I agree, and its not difficult to conclude that a school in Giffnock for instance will probably have higher levels of attainment than one in say, Drumchaple. That, however, does not explain away relative comparisons in less affluent areas of the country.

  11. mick

    Several definitions for the term have been put forward. The term “secret society” is generally used to describe fraternal organizations that may have secret ceremonies and means of identification and communication, ranging from collegiate fraternities to organizations described in conspiracy theories as immensely powerful, with self-serving financial or political agendas.[citation needed]

    A purported “family tree of secret societies” has been proposed, although it may not be comprehensive.[2]

    Application of the term is often hotly disputed, as it can be seen as pejorative.[citation needed]

    Therefore, the criteria that can be adopted as a definition for the term are important for which organizations any one definition would include or exclude.[citation needed]

    The Thuggee were a secret cult of assassins who worshipped the Hindu goddess Kali.
    Alan Axelrod, author of the International Encyclopedia of Secret Societies and Fraternal Orders, defines a secret society as an organization that:
    Is exclusive
    Claims to own special secrets
    Shows a strong inclination to favor its own

    David V. Barrett, author of Secret Societies: From the Ancient and Arcane to the Modern and Clandestine, uses slightly different terms to define what does and does not qualify as a secret society. He defines it as any group that possesses the following characteristics:
    It has “carefully graded and progressed teachings”
    Teachings are “available only to selected individuals”
    Teachings lead to “hidden (and ‘unique’) truths”
    Truths bring “personal benefits beyond the reach and even the understanding of the uninitiated

  12. Tam Makondi

    I always have to laugh at the example given when people wish to condemn Catholic schools. The joke normally goes along these lines; wee Billy and wee Paddy are the best of friends at nursery school but get separated when they both go to primary school. Billy goes to one and Paddy goes to a different (Catholic) one. According to the experts (intolerant ones at that), it is this parting to go to the “different” school that causes sectarianism and hatred in Scotland, caused obviously by the Catholic Church. The fact that
    99 children out of a 100 would probably meet a new friend on their first day at school gets swept under the carpet.
    I have still to get an answer though from these so-called experts as to how
    wee Billy, wee Paddy and wee Sandy can all get on well at nursery, then leave to go to three different primary schools but wee Billy and Sandy can remain friends while wee Paddy is the enemy because he went to a “different” different school? The talk is always of Catholics sending their children to a Catholic school but there is the conveniently overlooked fact that there must be at least 90% of children in Catholic schools in Scotland with at least one non-Catholic parent. We have the same situation at Celtic Park where around 7,000 + from the protestant persuasion are in the Celtic end at every home game and very, very welcome they are too. This statistic is always well hidden also.
    Having said that though, I have always been an avid supporter of Catholic schools but despite all the fancy rhetoric we see being spouted here and in publications like the SCO I feel that they are now a waste of time. The faith teachings of the Catholic Church don’t get taught now in schools. Most of the pupils never ever see the inside of a church, with all the services being conducted in the school itself and the churches have virtually no young people attending on a Sunday except on special occasions. The average age of a churchgoer on a Sunday in the various churches I attend would be around 55 years of age and the majority of the teachers themselves never ever go, simply because they have no belief in God. It has now become a joke. Nobody without the benefit of a pair of rosy spectacles can deny this, and the Church itself has to shoulder most, if not all, of the blame.

    • ecojon

      @Tam Makondi

      Couple of points.

      I don’t think the church needs to shoulder the ‘blame’ for the massive changes which have taken place in society. Every church faces this problem

      As to average age of churchgoers I’m not sure it’s that different from what is has been for the last 20-30 years. As you start to get close to the death zone you return to your church no matter the religion.

  13. Having been out and about for the day, it was slightly worrying to see 128 comments posted since I put this piece up! However, even though I still have a lot of them to read through, I must say a whole hearted thank you to everyone contributing to the discussion for their contributions.

    Clearly you all went to Catholic schools! 🙂

    I think this discussion is a fine example of what the Internet can do – people who might not be debating important issues like this in any other forum getting together to exchange views with civility and respect.

    That becomes especially gratifying for the blog host who knows that, having set the ball rolling for the discussion, can leave it to progress without fear of what is there when I return!

    Once more thank you all!

    • John Mac

      Paul, this brilliant blog certainly highlights that there is room for sensible, well meaning debate on these kind of topics. It also highlights the fact that, had they been more innovative in their thinking, the MSM could have led the way in offering online platforms for debates of this nature.
      There are many people in this country who would love to take part in this type of activity, they just don’t realise it yet as their faces are still stuck in ink and paper.
      If I was in charge of, say, the Daily Record, I would have developed a website with many and varied discussion areas. Like your own site, I would have journalists, topic experts and guest posters discuss the events of the day across a wide range of topics and invite posts back from the public.
      Crucially, I would use the pages of the paper to advertise that this community was here and encourage people to join in the debate. Every day the papers have unpaid advertising space, this could be put to good use encouraging people to take part.
      Your newspaper website eventually becomes a big and important part of people’s daily browsing habits. So now you have an audience of people who don’t just read a few stories and then go on to the next site in their favourites list, they love to take part, love to put their points across and get other’s viewpoint on them.
      I used to work for one of the big Scottish papers and left because of their clueless management. If they had spent the last decade building their online version of the paper into a vibrant community focussed product which really paid attention to how their audience thought and acted, what they really seen as being important across a huge range of issues and tried to engage them in this way, things might have turned out a bit different.
      Sooner or later the newspapers are going to have to start charging for their online content, do you see any Scottish titles that you would pay money to access their content? No, neither do I…

    • John Pollock

      Thanks for the forum to discuss this topic Paul as it is a very important one in my opinion.

    • ecojon


      Oh dear you obviously haven’t reached my posts yet 🙂

  14. mick

    Tam Makondi ave to to disagree with you there as its the mum and dads job to take them consumerisim is to blame and imagery people are treating faith as a service “weddings funerals etc” the decline started when the drug culture kicked in people that dont go are lost souls people pray for them and nonbelivers if faith was took from school then there would be no services for kids hows perants dont take them would not get at all so the more the decilne in atendaence the more faith should be in school so we dont end up a nation of lost souls

  15. JimBhoy

    It’s Friday and nobody has even mentioned catholic steak… Something a bit fishy about that.. 🙂

    • ecojon

      @Jim Bhoy

      Always remember grafitti on a toilet wall that amused me greatly: ‘Kull Kafllicks Kos they eat more fish than seals’.

  16. mick

    thats roman catholic steak jim its the 2 words just saying the one word is like saying prod instead of protestent

  17. Paul G

    I was brought up a catholic, went to a RC school but now have very little time for the religion, as in this day in age I think it is out dated in many of its views, like many other religions i.e. gay marriage and contraception etc. I now have a little girl of two that will start school in a few years and I will most likely send her to RC school. Why you might ask as I am not really religious in anyway, it’s because the school, church and my parents gave me a very good moral grounding that I do not believe (I could be wrong) I would have got in any other Circumstance. I remember the main things that where taught in RE in primary schools were all based around morals and treating your fellow man as you would like to be treated. I believe this is one of the most important things a child can learn from school, parents and religion.
    Oh and Paul your Blog is awesome.
    Spread the love.

    • mick

      @Paul G “I was brought up a catholic, went to a RC school but now have very little time for the religion”that makes you a lost soul jesus is still there for you when you need him, and every day people pray for you as long as you do what you think is right then you will devo get to heaven ,your faith is in you the holt spirit weather you think that or not you will always be a son of jesus no thought or action by others can change this

  18. mick

    Scotland has 377 state-funded faith schools – 373 Catholic, one Jewish and three Episcopalian. These schools play an important part in education in Scotland. We believe it’s important for parents and pupils to have the choice to attend a faith school, if they want to ,these figures are shocking and prove faith schools are underfunded and small groups of faith have no choice thats something the scottish goverment have to try to solve for migrant workers and scots that are other religons

  19. Martin

    When I was at high school ( a long long time ago) I seem to remember that in the first two years every available subject was studied and that students picked their subjects after that.

    In history class ( a subject I dropped) the French and the Russian revolutions were part of the curriculum. The thing that made these revolutions similar ( the outcomes and the modern countries we know today are quite different) was the way in which political activists were able to motivate to poor.

    As I said I did not go on to study History but this curriculum applied across all types of schools in Scotland. I’m sure I’m not alone in remembering this lesson.

    • ecojon


      I haven’t a clue what point you are trying to make here but as I have a long-term interest in the French Revolution and the various Russian ‘revolutions’ I would like to actually understand your point and possibly respond.

      • Martin

        The point relates to an earlier post on education.

        I hope this long term interest in the French revolution does not mean you advocate bringing ‘the terror’ to Scottish football.

        Heads will roll in our own in our own quiet way 🙂

  20. Stuart

    Correct me if I am wrong, and I am sure that someone will, but I think that the points have been established.

    1. Bigotry in Scotland is in the main characterised by anti-catholicism.
    2. Bigotry is taught at home, not in the classroom.
    3. Catholic schools do not promote bigotry.
    4. Faith schools are inclusive of children of different cultures and religions.
    5. Despite the objections of those who have genuine concerns about issues such as common syllabi, separation of the children at a young age, etc., faith schools are not going to go away.

    What seems to have been overlooked so far is that catholic children do not need to be integrated with children of other faiths. That is already happening. It is the children of the bigots who somehow need to be introduced to catholic children so that they can make friends amongst them while they are still too young to have become infected by their parents’ prejudices.

    That is the problem that I would like to see an answer to, but it is compounded by the fact that these parents also have a right to choose where to educate their children.

    • John Pollock

      Fine summery lad!

    • You’re wrong!
      I’m sadly going to have to politely point out the irony of complaining about parents prejudices being foisted on their children, whilst at the same time promoting the “right” of parents to foist their religious beliefs on their children.
      Hoist by your own petard?

      • Stuart

        @ NeilyBoy

        No. Prejudice is a lifestyle choice. The right to choose where to educate their children (which is what I wrote) is, within practical limits, a legal right.

    • Robert D Bruce


      This is obviously written from an RC standpoint with no thought given to the other side of the coin. I can forgive you if you have never come across real bigotry, segregation, incarceration or torture for one’s religious or political beliefs.

      Point 1. Not established. I have seen and heard very well educated people of all religions in Scotland refer to others in terms I’d rather refrain from in print. Suffice to say people will call into question peoples religious beliefs, ethnic origin and right of residence in the foulest and most hostile of language.

      Point 2. Not established. I have experience of members of the teaching profession both within and out with school referring to minority groups and major religious groups by colloquially abhorrent terms.

      Point 3. Not established. I should hope they don’t though, especially by your definition of the word. “Bigotry in Scotland is in the main characterised by anti-catholicism.”

      Point 4. Not established. Maeve McCormack is the policy and briefing manager for the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales. Last year she wrote the following in the Guardian regarding Catholic schools, primarily in England and Wales:-

      It is a key part of the church’s mission to offer good quality education as part of our contribution to society as a whole. Catholic schools are always happy to welcome children from all backgrounds whose parents seek a Catholic education for them. Lifted straight from Paul’s blog.
      It would seem all are welcome as long as you want to be educated as a Catholic.

      Point 5. Not established. While some would shun making the decision I would certainly advocate the abolition of faith schools in favour of an all encompassing school where all religions are taught in the context of our history and society as a whole, to the benefit of all.

      your last paragraph almost shows of your halo. Are you so pure and are your children so pious that they have no prejudices. If so you must live in a community akin to the Amish where they neither speak to or mix with anyone other than their own kind.

      I must conclude by saying that had an article such as this been written on a so called “darkside” forum espousing the virtues of protestant schools and protestant education and declaring all who are educated therein to be anointed, this forum would go into meltdown discussing it.

      Me? I’d treat at it the same way as I’ve treated this and argue wholeheartedly for universalism and no to elitism and bigotry.

      • Stuart

        @ Robert

        You are right, I haven’t come across “real bigotry, segregation, incarceration or torture for one’s religious or political beliefs” to the extent that many posters here have described. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t come across it at all or that I haven’t been sickened by what I have come across. Living most of my life on London has also shown me that there is a lifestyle that doesn’t include these things.

        As for the rest.

        Point 1, I was using the Scottish usage of the word bigotry,not the French one (whatever that may be).

        Points 2, 3, & 4, I took from many of the posts on here. If you disagree then you are disagreeing with them.

        Point 5, OK, it is an assumption, but if you are waiting for faith schools to be abolished then I don’t recommend the holding of any breath.

        I don’t claim to be pure, but perhaps my last paragraph shows the diplomatic habits that a lifetime of working in the multi-racial and multi-cultural world of higher education has inculcated in my phraseology.

    • ecojon


      I am sure, having just come in from the pub, that I agree with most of what you have written but we must always remember that there are Catholic bigots as well. I know many find that hard to accept but it is a fact of life.

      • Stuart

        @ ecojon

        As I mentioned in my reply to Robert, I have spent almost my entire working life in a multi-racial and multi-cultural environment. I am well aware that every culture and religion includes some bigots somewhere in it’s numbers, some more than others. But despite the dictionary definitions, everyone has their own idea of what bigotry actually consists of. And of course it’s never their own behavior.

  21. John Pollock

    As in a fine sunny day:)

  22. paul g

    Complete rubbish, the snp would not dat rid of catholic schools as they are some of the best in Scotland and they know this. Also a lot of people like yourself (and me)would be very upset, also very unlikely to get through parliament unlike the same sex marriage bill.

  23. tiltic

    I admit to not reading all of the above posts, so apologies if points already made. Firstly I was educated in the Catholic school system and decided to send my kids to a non-denominational school in the West of Scotland. The reason being , that at best I am now an agnostic if not actually an atheist . However after my sons first year it was obvious that he was attending a Church of Scotland School as the local minister spoke at all open events and these followed the Christian calendar . So at least the Catholic schools are being honest about what they are.
    I feel far more divisive than religion are private schools and placement requests. Parents should send their kids to the school that they are in the catchment for. End of.

  24. JimBhoy

    @mick awesome mate cuppa tea father..!!!

  25. JimBhoy

    @Robert and Stuart, I like both your arguments… perspective and context is king… Then again I think Mick the fish pie man is a God…

  26. Robert D Bruce

    @ Stuart

    bigot [ˈbɪgət]
    a person who is intolerant of any ideas other than his or her own, esp on religion, politics, or race.

    I am surprised that living in London you have never come across bigotry as defined by this dictionary definition. I too have lived and worked in London and surrounding areas for years and have come to accept ghettos where bigotry towards ethnic minorities and religious groups of a different hew to the particular one you are in is rife.

    The Scottish version is almost always associated with religion particularly between Catholics and Protestants as played out every week of the year in football stadiums and in pubs and clubs across the country. It is however not limited to Catholic and Protestants as many corner shop and restaurants will testify. Many migrant workers who have come into the country in recent years are also subjected to bigotry. Bigotry in all it’s forms must be eradicated before our society can move on.

    Trust me I won’t be holding my breath waiting for the faith schools to be abolished, there are many more pressing causes to be addressed before we will ever be ready for that.

    Take care in the big smoke. Nice to hear your opinions;

  27. mick

    a bigot suffers from a dilutional disorder that takes years to treat its a regonised illness of the mind

    • Martin

      Of all the things I have found here tonight, this is the one that makes me feel most sad.

      • mick

        why you sad martin

      • Martin

        @ mick

        your comment on what a bigot suffers from, is frightening. It lacks understanding of humanity.

      • John Pollock

        Martin i get the impression you were confused by my Giffnock/Drumchaple comparison. Your point was that poverty was at the root of poor attainment and that money and committed parents were the reason for high grades and nothing to do with faith. The point I put back to you was that this did not adequately explain why more Catholic schools in disadvantaged areas do better then non Catholic schools. Socialist or not surely you got what I meant?

      • Martin

        @ John Pollock,

        I stand by my view as to the factors that determine a successful school. I’d be glad to hear if you have an explanation as to why the Catholic schools do better in disadvantaged areas if that is the case.

  28. mick

    the thing a think the commenters have outed tonight is the lack of islamic schools in scotland islam is as big as our religion and should have faith schools in diverse areas of the country

    • lawheid

      I can’t believe it – Campbell Ogilvie is STILL President of the SFA?!!

      I hope the Tartan Army make their voices heard tomorrow and demand Ogilve to **** off.

      Yet again, a clear cut example of the SFA being the laughing stock of WORLD football.

      Cheers for the link, Mick!

  29. Gavetron

    Hi guys,
    Sorry I posted and ran, I posted a big Hilaire Belloc passage.
    Curiously enough I was heading to the opening of a new Catholic school.
    There was a mass said by Cardinal O’Brien.
    It was a heart warming occasion; there was no voodoo, no sectarian jibes and only slight indoctrination (or teaching as it used to be called).
    I sat and spoke with Cardinal O’Brien, I was apprehensive, especially after all that has been said and written on the man, I don’t know why, as I had never met the man. He was warm, down to earth, amusing, upbeat and a gentleman. The whole occasion was upbeat in fact. This got me thinking! (perhaps the first time) how many people who have an opinion of this man have actually met him, how many detractors on the schools debate have experienced occasions like this.
    This has to go hand in hand with the likes of the Bellocian arguments. Too many people are too far removed with the academic arguments.
    I myself have been to seven different schools (not for being naughty) throughout Scotland; two of which were catholic. My mother was Protestant and my father catholic, I’m, what in Harry Potter terms, you could call a muggle.
    This was used as a derogatory term in the films, I never thought of myself in that way, I felt lucky to have lived in both realms. I never lived in the bubble of one at the expense of the other, this is now common place. What isn’t common place however is that both factions of my family were active in their faith, believe it or not, this was helpful. Nether my mother or my father forced me into my faith (though I do consider myself catholic….sins of the father I suppose) yet I made up my own mind, I wasn’t ‘indoctrinated’, I was merely presented with a choice.
    My own feelings, and the point of the Belloc passage, is that secularism shouldn’t mean taking away choices. I cannot argue for the other denominations, yet the fact these don’t exist shouldn’t dilute the right to educate your children as you wish, this shouldn’t frighten or alarm people, It should also start from the family and work it’s way out to government.
    In my first year of a philosophy degree, I wrote an Email to Prof John Haldane, for those who don’t know him, he is a Catholic-Thomist philosopher at st Andrews University.
    The email was as confused and long winded as this post, I pointed out my disgruntlement and bemusement with contemporary philosophy. I was half hoping and half expecting him to tell me to forget about it and run to the nearest chapel. Instead he quoted something that I think applies these type of arguments.
    “Test everything and hold fast to that which is true”. This can only happen with choice in my opinion.
    I’m sure most of this has been covered, and sorry I haven’t read all posts to perhaps save everyone the pain.
    (sorry about the length, subjective and self indulgent tone of the post, got carried away. Just thought I should put a personality to the Belloc passage)

  30. John Pollock

    @Martin. I think given your earlier assertions the burden of proof lies with you mo chara.

    • Martin


      I could list the school league tables and point out that the top schools are from fairly affluent areas in which parents are themselves educated and have aspirations for their children. I’ve worked with a lot of these schools and others less well off. If you read my post the point of it was to give some explanation to the traction that bigotry has in some of our communities and to show the link between bigotry, poverty and poor eduction.

  31. mick

    Delusional disorder is an uncommon psychiatric condition in which patients present with circumscribed symptoms of non-bizarre delusions, but with the absence of prominent hallucinations and no thought disorder, mood disorder, or significant flattening of affect.[1] For the diagnosis to be made, auditory and visual hallucinations cannot be prominent, though olfactory or tactile hallucinations related to the content of the delusion may be present.[2]

    To be diagnosed with delusional disorder, the delusion or delusions cannot be due to the effects of a drug, medication, or general medical condition, and delusional disorder cannot be diagnosed in an individual previously diagnosed with schizophrenia. A person with delusional disorder may be high functioning in daily life as this disorder bears no relation to one’s IQ[3], and may not exhibit odd or bizarre behavior aside from these delusions. According to German psychiatrist, Emil Kraepelin, patients with Delusional Disorder, remain coherent, sensible and reasonable[4]. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) defines six subtypes of the disorder characterized as erotomanic (believes that someone is in love with him/her), grandiose (believes that he/she is the greatest, strongest, fastest, richest, and/or most intelligent person ever), jealous (believes that the love partner is cheating on him/her), persecutory (believes that someone is following him/her to do some harm in some way), somatic (believes that he/she has a disease or medical condition), and mixed, i.e., having features of more than one subtype.[2] Delusions also occur as symptoms of many other mental disorders, especially the other psychotic disorders.

    The DSM-IV, and psychologists, generally agree that personal beliefs should be evaluated with great respect to complexity of cultural and religious differences since some cultures have widely accepted beliefs that may be considered delusional in other cultures
    the oo msm and sevco followers have this disorder martin your letting the msm creat your mind set rather than face the truth

  32. mick

    @martin the handshake has lead to a cronic impoverished cult run country child poverty scotlands shame always has been the same capitialism sucks unless your rich

  33. JimBhoy

    @Mick you the one guy dude???? all the very best fish-pie man…. Mick for the Celik midfield?

  34. mick

    Treatment of delusional disorders includes a combination of drug therapy and psychotherapy although it is a challenging disorder to treat for many reasons such as the patient’s denial that they have a problem of a psychological nature

  35. mick

    mick the mestro mick the henrick larrson of the clatters lol

  36. Martin

    @ Mick

    Disagree with people…that’s fine.

    Think their arguments ridiculous…that’s fine.

    Prove their arguments wrong…even better

    Consider everything they say to be wrong, having proved them wrong…that’s fine.

    Paint them and their views, mentally deficient …not so good.

    • mick

      @martin ave spoke to medics about it its a factual disorder lots of sevco fans have it

    • ecojon


      Actually I think Mick might have been over-generous to bigots.

      The question is that if they don’t have a mental illness what is it that motivates them? At least with an illness you could accept that it was beyond their ability to control.

      I am not being anti-Rangers here but posing a general question as to what creates a bigot – separate schooling will not be accepted as the answer btw.

  37. charliedon

    As this debate over faith schools has evolved many contrasting, but almost always interesting, views have been expressed from both sides of the fence and every point in between. The debate at various points has touched upon the question of what factor is the main source of bigotry and sectarianism.
    In connection with this, a very interesting post was made quite early on by geddy Lee at 10.58am on the subject of the Obligation taken by those wishing to join the orange order.
    I waited with bated breath for posters to come forward with denials or arguments in support of the orange order but to my surprise, there has been only a resounding silence. Nothing.
    This, to me, is curious. The content of geddy Lee’s post seemed to me shocking and controversial. Here, perhaps, lay a true source and cause of bigotry if those joining the orange order are indeed taking such an oath, which I think is blatantly and undeniably anti-catholic.
    I am assuming some members of the orange order must read this blog. So, I am appealing to these people to come forward and let us hear, out in the open, their views on geddy Lee’s post. Is it correct? If so, how do you support the Obligation? Do you think it is relevant to the modern world and it is a fair and reasonable attitude to adhere to? Or are you going to remain silent because you are required to do so by your oath to what appears to be a secret society?

    • ecojon


      I certainly would have no interest in anyone trying to defend the indefensible and I haven’t the slightest interest in their viewpoint when I know that the person, by definition, has a closed-mind and will consider any other debating position as an attack on their faith or history.

      Of course @charliedon I’ve had plenty of personal experience of this over the years so I don’t need to hear their arguments or defences as they are still exactly the same as they have always been – that’s what happens when you live your life in a time-warp – as society moves on and ignores you as no more than pests that disrupt the traffic.

      • charliedon


        You may have heard arguments produced by orange order members to defend their stance, but I haven’t. Again, my lack of experience of these things. But I would like at least one of them to come forward so I can hear what they have to say, if only because I can’t imagine what their defence would be. As you say, trying to defend the indefensible!
        Alas, I think the continuing silence from that direction speaks volumes and tells me all I need to know.
        A few posts on here touched on the subject of bias being encountered in various situations e.g. job interviews. It was suggested, I think I remember, that it was paranoia and this kind of bias had largely died out.
        However the orange order still exists, although I don’t know the numbers still currently involved in the movement. But can you imagine a catholic person getting a fair crack of the whip in, say a job application, from someone who has taken the “obligation”?

  38. faithdeniesproof

    Paul, where are the “random thoughts about Scots Law” in this?
    My upbringing, which was secular, encouraged me to look beyond what you were told, to who was telling you and why.
    That was why I became interested in Law.
    Why have you become so defensive?
    I am saddened that your latest post had drawn the reaction that it has, but I suspect that was its purpose.
    As your impression is that everyone here must be catholic, I will take my leave from you.
    As someone who has worked in Law for over 25 years, I have found that faith gets you so far but proof is always best.

    • Mr faithdeniesproof,

      I did not see myself as becoming defensive, nor was I encouraging any particular reaction. I felt that the combination of the school event I attended last night, and the fact that the topic of Catholic education had been running on the blog over the last few days meant that it was the perfect time to voice my own opinion.

      I would also say that I am sure that I do not have a 100% Catholic audience, as can be seen specifically from some of the commenters. I cracked a joke about that, as signified by the smiley face!

      Maybe there is little or no law in this post, but what I am writing about somethinh which is vitally important to me.

      Feel free to ignore it if you wish. That is of course your prerogative.

      I am grateful to you that you have read the blog till now, and hope that you will continue, as the “pedantic legal nitpicking” will be along again shortly!

      • Robert D Bruce


        Like faithdeniestruth, I was intrigued that you made this post but can understand it in the context of some of what has been said here and on some other blogs in reference to the Phil McGB fiasco with the Sun.
        You will see that I have commented on this subject, in what I perceive to be a reasonable manner, although not in this case sailing with the wind.
        For the last week or two on this site and in particularly yesterday with regard to the subject of Catholic schools, I have witnessed a circling of the wagons in defence of all things Catholic and all things Celtic.
        As a solicitor I am sure you have often used the tactic of throwing a comment out there to get the genuine opinion of either a client or indeed of an adversary in court. It is a useful ploy and often delivers that which was intended. I think in this instance, whether it was intentional or not, you have managed to identify who your core readership are. It is also obvious that many people who will normally debate in a reasoned fashion seem to become very defensive and / or aggressive when their core beliefs are questioned to any degree.
        Remember what the dictionary say regarding people who are intolerant of the views of others, especially on the grounds of religion, race or politics.

        This blog and your comments have always seemed to me to be reasoned and very informative and I have enjoyed participating in debate on occasion but I genuinely feel that there is a danger of the standard being dragged into the mire, such as exists on other forums, to whom I will not give the oxygen of publicity.

        I sincerely hope I have call this wrong but will await the reaction.

        • TheBlackKnight TBK

          Strange that in this age, wagons still need to be circled.

          Begs the question why there are constant attacks and what reason there is behind Rose attacks.

          History would have us believe many of the protagonists are just ‘dissenting Catholics’ after all.

        • John Pollock

          “I think in this instance, whether it was intentional or not, you have managed to identify who your core readership are” Surely you are not suggesting that the vast majority of solicitors in Scotland are Catholics Robert? As for your comparison between this and other cites you clearly have not done your homework on that one. So the guys is passionate about his faith, get over it.

        • ecojon

          @Robert D Bruce

          I started life as a Catholic and basically exercise my right long before adulthood to not practice any religion.

          I fully understand the historical context which brought about separate educational systems and that didn’t just apply to Catholics as some attempt to declare.

          I have also attended Catholic and Proddy schools when that is what they were and was never subjected to bigoted teaching in either but was taught many moral values which sat on the foundation stones already put in place by my Catholic (practising) mother and Protestant (non-practising) father.

          I don’t specifically support separate Catholic Schools – I support the right of parents to make a choice about their children’s education. How anyone can actually transform that into a pro-Catholic and anti-Protestant position would leave me dumbfounded if I had been born and raised anywhere except Scotland.

          But because of my origins I know full well the workings of the paranoid bigoted mind whether it be green, blue or indeed orange.

    • John Pollock

      “I am saddened that your latest post had drawn the reaction that it has, but I suspect that was its purpose” Its a pity you feel this way as the topic in hand has clearly been very popular and to my mind has at times been passionate, but never aggressive? Had this topic been raised on any other forum it would have descended in to vile exchanges within minutes. I agree with you that its probably better to stick to facts & proof when you are in court;)

  39. JimBhoy

    my best pal is a mason but he says not an orangeman! i need mick to tell me what’s what???

  40. mick

    does he do tango ads on telly if not hes not a orangeman

  41. Don

    Paul McConville is an exceptional talent; kind, generous, humorous, erudite, and a formidable exponent in the practice of Scottish Criminal Law. To all who follow his blogs many of these talents are self-evident. Nevertheless, it is this particular follower and admirer’s respectful view that, the greatest of these is: his wonderful legal mind which, with consummate ease, can, it seems, effortlessly strip away the legalese and other jargon from the most unwieldy, complex arguments that form or comprise an integral part of the subject matter of many of his blogs. With Paul, this invariably results in a clear and concise picture being served up and in a language more readily understood, by those of us (I would suggest most of us) who neither possess the necessary skill and mental fortitude nor, for that matter, the sheer physical endurance required to make sense of such issues.

    This finely honed inquisitorial mind however seems to have been, to some extent, subordinated by what, to me at least, appears very much a blissful view of the Catholic Church’s approach to and administration of its education policies throughout the centuries. Paul, while extoling the Catholic Church’s contribution to education, asserts that the church, from mediaeval times onward, took up the mantle of responsibility for educating children and, seemingly set us on the road to the present day system of education. Well, despite stating the obvious, those limited literate few, around at that time, were the monks living in abbeys which, in turn, were extremely thin on the ground. As a consequence, the extent of this early children’s education was, in essence afforded, almost exclusively, to royalty and the nobility. A smattering of the hoi palloi (perhaps the great unwashed is more appropriate for these times) would make up the numbers of those being educated as recruits for the priesthood and monasteries. Again the majority of these fell into the previously mentioned categories of royalty and nobility. Paul, as a Solicitor you will probably regard the expressions which I am about to employ, as hackneyed and, in a setting familiar to you, often the intro to an elaborate attempt at bending the truth, nevertheless, the absolute truth of the matter is: that there was no formal structured right or access to education in this country till after the reformation and John Knox. You can of course argue that he had been a Catholic priest and doubtless benefitted from that education.

    I feel Paul, in this particular blog you have, in seeking to celebrate the Catholic Church’s contribution to education been guilty of hijacking mission statements that most certainly do not wrest solely within the ownership of that church. Come on Paul! “We consider education to be crucially important as a means of forming the whole person intellectually, morally and socially and we want to help to give children as good a start in life as we can.” What major religion does not embrace or consider ownership of the extremely generic sentiments expressed here? In fact, I am
    almost sure Dr Joe Goebbels (we know what his upbringing was) ascribed something similar to the Hitler Youth.

    And, another thing, your offhanded reference to secularism is unworthy of you dear friend. I would respectfully suggest that atheists, humanists, secularists, call them what you may, comprise a large and growing majority of our society and, generally speaking, whereas the view held by this group is not necessarily that Catholic Schools encourage bigotry; their very existence does nothing to assist the aim of seeking to achieve a truly integrated society. Young children, after all, are not in reality: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Muslim or Jewish, these are but mere labels, abstract concepts unilaterally imposed often forced upon them (usually) by their parents simply because they in turn had been subjected to the same imposition.
    I readily concede that all the major religions have made huge positive contributions to the advancement of mankind but, it would be to deny well documented history to suggest their roles throughout the ages have been wholly benign. Indeed, sometimes those leaders of a given religious belief have been known to rush headlong into adopting a murderous approach in their endeavours to ensure both the faithful and those of alternative beliefs are properly educated.

    It may appear that I am merely nit-picking due perhaps to your overall general point in this blog having sailed high over my head. I think putting a blog out there on this subject is stimulating and healthy and so to summarise: all of the warmth and wonderful ambience you described and experienced in your children’s Catholic school setting could quite easily obtain in any number of non-religious schools. Like John Lennon suggests the notion of no Heaven or Hell can be extremely liberating and also facilitating in terms of achieving a closer and more harmonious society.

    • Gavetron

      Hi Don,
      I agree with a lot of what you say.
      All I would is that in my opinion the Catholic church, for all it’s ills, provided a fertile ground of which the likes of education were allowed to flourish. There is an argument for this in terms of art, education and science, which although existed in many other cultures, never really had the same traction.
      Daniel Dennett considered this and thought of it as a sheath to protect crops, he thinks that like the crops, that we have outgrown this in our current climate, it is now time to leave it behind. (I’m paraphrasing..and most likely rambling)
      I may or may not dispute his conclusion, but the point stands.
      In my opinion it can be used for good or bad. I would add to that though, has it been worth having?
      Some say yes, some no.

  42. garry

    Couldn’t agree more, Don. Many commentators of this blog, and others, have (rightly) censured Rangers fans for having a go at Phil Mac’s book without having read it. I challenge those who support faith schools to read Dawkin’s God Delusion – you never know, it might make sense 🙂

    • Gavetron

      I have read God delusion (along with Harris, Hitchens, Krauss, Stenger..etc)it was initially quite thought provoking in my own journey.
      It’s simply not academic or accurate, in fact, it purposefully polemical, as is the whole ‘new atheist’ movement. In my opinion It’s an appeal to the undergraduate who has just begun his/her intelectual life in asking the big questions and who have no real access to literature, or far that matter interest, of opposing views. It has a sneering, pompous tone that is unbecoming of, what I would consider the more balanced atheist look at the philosophical arguments.
      Dawkins tries to answer the big philosophical questions in a very un-philosophical manner.
      There are far more intellectually sound arguments by others.
      I think it was Atheist Philosopher of science Michael Ruse who said of the Go Delusion wirds of the effect “If I was to mark this a paper it would be a straight F”.
      I could be wrong, but I also think it was Ruse who said ” everyone knew Dawkins had a book like this in him, we just never knew it would be this bad”
      My humble advice is to go for a modern day Atheists like Thomas Nagel , John Searle or Michael Ruse. If you want to go back further Bertrand Russel or Anthony Flew, all much more stimulating after you wade your way through the rhetoric and childish name calling of the likes of Dawkins.
      If you want to go back further ther are many, many more charismatic and challenging writers who make the very same arguments and much more worthy of consideration.

  43. Cynical

    I suppose I am one of the group who are fundamentally opposed to catholic schools or indeed schools defined by any religion. Not because I believe they are somehow breeding grounds for sectarianism but because I think sending two kids who play together in the street till age 5 to different schools based on religion is simply wrong. My argument is emotional rather than statistical but I’m sure the many parents who have had a conversation with their child to try and explain why they are being separated from their best friend would testify that it feels wrong.

    This said regardless of how wrong it may be while the country is in recession now is not the time to tear up our education system and start again.

  44. carson mccullers

    I am saddened by the fact that someone has obviously taken so much time in writing this piece of work. What is so funny about peace, love and understanding, instead of all these fundamentalist opinions and tribalism, and on and on it goes……………..


    it’s a very simple question really which gets lost deep within the long winded-ness of your piece. Would it not be better if ALL children from appropriate geographic areas were educated TOGETHER?

    Seems like a simple yes to me. You can still practice your faith, whichever that may be, at home or on days of worship etc. But let the children BE TOGETHER. A simple solution to a tolerant society. Simples really.

  46. Peter

    Seems to me we live in a country full of idiots who are forever telling Catholics like me what is right for me and my children.

    Catholic schools are a credit to Scotland. Statistics prove that.

    And before anyone wants to go down the “sectarian” route, as though Catholic schools are in some way responsible, you might want to take a look at the statistics for sectarian crime. Oh wait, they were destroyed.

    As for people who bleat about “oh how terrible it is that children are separated at 5 …. ” – nothing but emotional claptrap. My kids go to a Catholic school and their friends next door go to a non-denom school.
    They go to school, they come back from school, they play. There is no issue. Why? Because the PARENTS make sure of it.

    Let’s call a spade a spade – the biggest reason for sectarianism in Scotland is through the Orange Order and the hate it promotes.

    Please don’t tell me that if all kids did go to the same school, as soon as the marching season starts (seems to be earlier every year) that this would not cause friction between Catholic & non-Catholic kids in the same class? Because if you are going to suggest the Orange Order doesn’t promote hatred towards Catholics – then you are a liar.

    Catholic schools do not promote hatred – in fact the school is open to non-Catholic children too.

    We have private schools, public schools, boys schools, girls schools, art schools, drama schools, Protestant schools, non-denominational schools & Roman Catholic schools – yet only the last one is ever up for debate.

    Perhaps the reason for that lies within those doing the shouting.

    Take a step back and look at the reality of what our Catholic schools bring to the country and ask why some non-Catholic parents actually choose Catholic schools for their children.

    Look at the statistics – be proud of our Scottish Catholic schools

    I certainly am.

  47. What a wonderful article Paul; and so true. We were unfailingly taught to love, to forgive, and to be honest in all our affairs. My first confession resulted in a trembling effort to repay our local greengrocer for the carrot I stole (for a dare). No bigotry lessons where I was nurtured. Can you imagine any Catholic pupil being taught that Protestant Moderators were demons and that Protestantism was “The Scarlet Lady” of the Apocalypse? But non-RCs of my generation were rigorously force fed that very slander by their ministers of religion. That, and nothing else, is at the root of Scots bigotry. A rooted complex of fear has been propagated within that section of our people for centuries to secure the political ends of an “ascendancy” which stole its privileges from the common man and from his Church.As religious fervour wanes so the real sources of the big lie about Rome become obscured; but the roots I refer to which were set by earlier Protestant leaders are deep and easily available to those who find advantage in division and fear. Hey, like Murray the Rangers owner whose tentacles enveloped Scottish financial affairs and caused immense damage … under the eyes of the press which was scared to stir the Protestant spectre. An added difficulty is that the anti- RC prejudices are set emotionally and underneath the radar of right reason.
    Scotland’s shame is a John Knox thing. It will only succumb to honesty and fair-mindedness, not revenge, and certainly not sociology as our friend MacGublighan of Downfall fame seems to imagine, much as I appreciate his honest researches.

  48. Wexford dave

    The 1918 education act offered funding to Catholic schools to allow them to catch up with State schools which in educational terms were way ahead. As Catholic schools are as good as or better than non-denominational schools I think the case for state funding is now at an end. If you wish a specific religious education for your child whatever the Religion you should pay for it yourself.

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