Correspondence: The Heretic teacher letters - editorís reply
12 December 2006
We carried Heretic Teacherís letter, and your reply, because we currently have a policy of leaving our letters page open to all who see themselves in some way as supporting socialism. That said, we have no particular disagreement with Heretic Teacherís letter and we do have very substantial disagreement with yours.
We support secular, integrated and comprehensive education as part of the ABC of socialism. It would appear to be so self-evident as to be part of common sense, rather than politics, that it is harmful to segregate children on sectarian lines in a sectarian society. It is a non sequitur to argue that anything that unionists oppose we should support. In reality very few loyalist bigots oppose catholic education and they do not support integrated education.
We would have a different reading from yourself of the point about ethos. The Heretic Teacherís letter says that the church proclaims an idealist ethos but that this is based on a materialist reality where they control the power to hire, fire and promote, discriminating against protestant teachers and the many catholics who might be less than enthusiastic about bending the knee at the altar rails. It is no accident that it was when church power in the community waned and they were unable to staff each school with religious that the British set up the new inquisition of the CCMS to allow the catholic hierarchy to retain control through a central authority.
You appear to see the unionist bigot as the only factor in British control in Ireland. We see a sectarian state in the North and a confessional state in the South, with the British always able to rely on the church as a force to suppress rebellion. Within the North the establishment of the catholic school system ensured church hostility to attempts to overthrow the state. Very recently archbishop Sean Brady met Paisley to reinforce their claim for control of schools.
The very phrase ĎCatholic Irelandí conjures up the church witchhunts against communism and even against modernity and their savage persecution of artists, writers, women and anyone who sought independent thought.
It is a common mistake to see socialism as some sort of secular Christianity or Christianity as some sort religious socialism. This is not the case. For socialists the infinite lies in human potential. Churches proclaim pie in the sky all the better to shackle workers to the chains of class society in the here and now.
We have no difficulty with your claim that a Catholic education has produced many intelligent people, although the ones you mention may well have been critical of the institutions they came from. We have no difficulty in ascribing the same success to other religious sects. That does not balance for a moment the role of these institutions in maintaining class society or the specific role of the catholic church in Ireland in helping maintain sectarian division and buttress British rule.