An extrordinary (to me anyway) headline report in this week's Catholic Herald seems to undermine the bishops' previously laudable (again to me anyway) stance and concerns about the new Equalities Bill. The Bishops' concerns about the Equalities Bill many catholics share. Essentially the concerns are that a consequence of the Bill should it become law is that some matters of Catholic religious practice and belief will be in conflict with the state's approach. As the state's approach can be enforced through Employment Tribunals and the courts, with sometimes unlimited compensation and damages awards, the continuation of some catholic traditions and practices, will become, potentially, very expensive and difficult.
For example a disappointed non-catholic candidate for the headship of a catholic school could claim compensation including damages for 'injured feelings'. The matter would be exacerbated by the reverse burden of proof being applied by the Judge, which virtually means the catholic school would be treated as guilty unless it could prove its innocence. The bishops' arguments previously appeared to be that this is tantamount to a transgression by Caesar's lawmakers into areas which should be reserved for the laws of God. Such arguments seem in my humble opinion, to be sound.
So why then does the Cardinal Vaughan catholic school in London whose Catholic head's appointment was presumably supported by the bishops and most of whose governors are appointed and may be removed by the catholic diocese, have to be reported by the catholic church authorites to the secular "Schools Adjudicator"?
The Cardinal Vaughan school is one of the best Catholic comprehensive schools in London so the anxiety of the bishops to ensure that as many poorer families as possible benefit and that the School's excellence does not predominately benefit white middle classes, is understandable. However if the Diocese believes that its school's head and governors are not having sufficient regard for 'the option for the poor', it should surely have used catholic mediators or even catholic lawyers to try to resolve the issues internally rather than go off to the secular authorities? After all if the Church internal mediation attempts failed, the bishops could then have not reappointed the recalitrant governors and instead appointed as governors men and women whose viewpoints were more in line with its own - governors' appointments are generally for fixed terms of 3 years.. The head could then if he was really acting against the interests of the Church have been subjected to disciplinary procedures by such governors and either brought into the bishops' line or disciplined depending on the circumstances.
This action of the Catholic Church reporting a Catholic school to the State authorities, if accurately reported in the Catholic Herald, risks undermining the previous very creditable actions of the Church in seeking to dissuade the secular state from interfering in matters religious and I feel is a sad and retrograde step. The laudable ends to not justify such unhappy means.