As he did in April of ’08 in the U.S., Pope Benedict XVI praised the contribution of Catholic schools in Scotland while addressing the Scottish Bishops’ Conference.

I think its fair to say that we have a strong Catholic school advocate in Benedict XVI.

If you have not seen the text of his Address to Catholic Educators in the United States, I recommend it.  It is, among other things, the inspiration for this blog’s title.

Notably – and counter-intuitive to some – the Pope praised Catholic schools for overcoming sectarianism.

You can be proud of the contribution made by Scotland’s Catholic schools in overcoming sectarianism and building good relations between communities.  Faith schools are a powerful force for social cohesion…

Secularists are confounded by such a comment.  As far as they are concerned, Catholic schools ARE sectarian.  But the data, at least in the U.S., supports the Pope’s remarks.

  • Catholic schools tend to produce graduates who are more civically engaged, more tolerant of diverse views, and more committed to service as adults (Campbell, 2001; Greeley & Rossi, 1966; Greene, 1998; Wolf, Greene, Kleitz, & Thalhammer, 2001).
  • Graduates of Catholic high schools are more likely to vote than public school graduates (Dee, 2005).

A second point of special emphasis, the Pope urged strong religious education:

As you encourage Catholic teachers in their work, place special emphasis on the quality and depth of religious education, so as to prepare an articulate and well-informed Catholic laity, able and willing to carry out its mission  “by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God” (Christifideles Laici, 15).  A strong Catholic presence in the media, local and national politics, the judiciary, the professions and the universities can only serve to enrich Scotland’s national life, as people of faith bear witness to the truth, especially when that truth is called into question.

Some, again, see contradiction in these words.  But the point is an important one.  The formation of authentically Catholic men and women will be leaven for the world and bring a vitality to civic life born of the wisdom, hope and love of Christian tradition.  Aware of this gap between perception and meaning, the Pope offers these rather beautiful words:

The Church offers the world a positive and inspiring vision of human life…  It is rooted in God’s infinite, transforming and ennobling love for all of us, which opens our eyes to recognize and love his image in our neighbour (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 10-11 et passim).  Be sure to present this teaching in such a way that it is recognized for the message of hope that it is.  All too often the Church’s doctrine is perceived as a series of prohibitions and retrograde positions, whereas the reality, as we know, is that it is creative and life-giving, and it is directed towards the fullest possible realization of the great potential for good and for happiness that God has implanted within every one of us.

For a full-text of the speech, see here: Address by Pope Benedict XVI to the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland