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February 18 2011 £1.20 (Republic of Ireland €1.70)
Gove: Catholic schools can escape ‘meddling’
BY MARK GREAVES
CATHOLIC schools can avoid “unsympathetic meddling” by secularists if they take up the Government’s offer of academy status, the Education Secretary has said. Writing in The Catholic Herald this week, Michael Gove said that opting out of local authority control would ensure a Catholic school could “remain true to its Catholic traditions”.
He urged parents who favoured academy reform to “make their voices heard” as bishops and governors consider whether to take up the offer.
Mr Gove’s plea comes after the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales (CESEW) signalled for the first time that Catholic schools could become academies if they and their bishops wanted to.
About 150 “outstanding” schools have become academies under Mr Gove’s model but none of them, until last month, were Catholic. In light of the CESEW statement, Mr Gove said he hoped to see “many Catholic schools coming forward to become academies during the next year”.
He said the academy model gave Catholic schools a chance to extend “hard-won freedoms” over admissions, staff appointments, the teaching of religion and the way they are governed.
He said Catholic schools had “a deserved reputation for being well-run” and had provided “some of the most conspicuously inspiring leaders in the field”. He cited Michael Gormally, former headmaster at Cardinal Vaughan Memorial school, west London, and John McIntosh, former head at the London Oratory.
Mr Gove said: “Of course, what really makes Catholic schools stand out is their Catholicity ... A key element of [Cardinal Manning’s] vision was that Catholic schools must be allowed sufficient autonomy to integrate the Catholic faith into every aspect of school life. A Catholic ethos is not something confined to RE lessons, but a pervasive set of values that find expression throughout the school day.”
The Education Secretary said that people who opposed academies and free schools on ideological grounds were also likely to be hostile to faith schools.
He said: “Active in the teachers’ unions and in other parts of the education establishment, they often misrepresent the Catholic school ethos as a mechanism of religious indoctrination and wrongly portray the admissions criteria used by Catholic schools as selection on the sly...
“But by becoming an academy, a
Catholic school can place can itself permanently out of range of any such unsympathetic meddling and so ensure it can remain true to its Catholic traditions.”
Schools that become academies have more independence over what they teach and can exert greater power over unions. They also gain extra funding that would otherwise be handed to the local authority.
Catholic academies will be funded entirely by the state. The Church will stop paying 10 per cent of its capital costs, as it does under the voluntary-aided system.
Eric Hester, retired Catholic headteacher, said there were “big advantages” to becoming an academy, but that Mr Gove had failed to mention them.
He said: “The biggest advantage is that an academy school does not have to follow the national curriculum, so Catholic governors will have regained control of this most important area.”
But Mr Hester said it was a “big blow” that academy reforms required the permission of the local bishop.
“We are not talking about a benign figure in a mitre,” he said. “We are talking about diocesan bureaucrats, many of whom are as thick as thieves with the local authorities.”
Earlier this month St Joseph’s College in Trent Vale, Stoke, became the first Catholic school to acquire academy status under the Coalition’s reforms.
Headteacher Roisin Maguire said the change allowed the school to set its own priorities without outside influence and “be master of its own destiny”.
She said it secured the school’s future “from a financial point of view” but was not a response to “meddling” over its Catholic identity. “We’ve never really suffered from that,” she said. The school is in the trusteeship of the Christian Brothers and so is independent from the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
Andy Burnham, Shadow Education Secretary, said Catholic schools were an “important” part of the education system, and had been “early adopters” of the Labour academy model, “turning around schools in some of the most deprived parts of the country”. He said Mr Gove “risks diverting resources and attention from raising standards for all children, by focusing obsessively on structural changes such as free schools – which at best will be meaningless for the majority of parents, and at worst could see standards fall and inequality rise as has happened in Sweden”.
Michael Gove: Page 12 Editorial comment: Page 13
Caravaggio painting of pope goes on display
BY ANNA ARCO
A PORTRAIT of Pope Paul V by the acclaimed artist Caravaggio is to go on public display for the first time in almost a century.
The Roman church Santa’Ivo alla Sapienza will host an exhibition of the artist’s work. It will combine the rarely exhibited painting of Paul V and archival material including documents of lawsuits and court cases which involved the famously irascible painter. The exhibition also includes artwork by artists mentioned by Caravaggio. The exhibition also contains a drawing by a judge of a sword and dagger which were seized from the painter.
Caravaggio is best known for pioneering chiaroscuro, a technique which uses strong contrasts between light and dark. Among his most wellknown paintings are a beheading of St John the Baptist and depictions of St Jerome.
He fled to Malta after killing a man in a brawl.
From left: Angels Mercy by Federico Zuccari, St Catherine by Annibale Caracchi and the portrait of Pope Paul V by Caravaggio are on display in an exhibition called Caravaggio in Rome AP
Volume Two of the International Bestseller
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Perfect reading for Lent and Easter
Available from 10 March 2011
Pakistani Christian leader defies death threats to condemn law
BY ED WEST
PAKISTAN’S leading Catholic politician has said he will refuse to stop speaking against his country’s blasphemy laws despite numerous death threats.
Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Minorities and the first Christian to hold a cabinet post in Pakistan, said: “I have been told by pro-Taliban religious extremists that if I will continue to speak against the blasphemy law, I will be beheaded.” But he said his faith gave him strength.
“As a Christian, I believe Jesus is my strength,” he said. “He has given me a power and wisdom and motivation to serve suffering humanity. I follow the principles of my conscience, and I am ready to die and sacrifice my life for the principles I believe.”
Mr Bhatti spoke in Canada while on a trip to raise awareness for his campaign to reform the country’s notoriously strict blasphemy laws, which most recently were used against Asia Bibi, the Christian woman sentenced to death for “insulting” Islam. Miss Bibi says the allegation was invented by a neighbour to settle a score, a common complaint about the blasphemy law, and she is now in hiding. Although no one has ever been executed under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, as many as 10 people are thought to have been murdered while on trial.
Public figures have been afraid to criticise the blasphemy laws since the assassination of the governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, by one of his bodyguards last month. Mr Taseer had protested against the death sentence given to Asia Bibi and supported reform of the law.
On Monday it was announced that Mr Bhatti would retain his position in the cabinet following a reshuffle, despite calls by Islamists for him to be removed.
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Herald nominated for readers’ award
Spanish team cancels audience with Pope
BY STAFF REPORTER
THE CATHOLIC HERALD has been selected as one of the five best Catholic newspapers in the world, according to readers of the About.com website.
The Herald has been nominated alongside four American publications: the National Catholic Register, the National Catholic Reporter, Our Sunday Visitor and The Wanderer. The About.com awards also offer the chance to vote for the best Catholic book, blog, website, podcast, magazine, iPhone app and iPad app.
Readers can vote at http://catholicism.about.com
BY ANNA ARCO
THE SPANISH football team has postponed an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.
The Pope invited the footballers to an audience in Rome this week after they dedicated their World Cup victory in South Africa to the Holy Father last year.
According to the Royal Spanish Football Federation, the players had
“irrevocable commitments” on the date proposed, as nine of the team were due to play in the Barcelona versus Arsenal Champions League match two days afterwards. Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola (pictured)
said the audience’s timing might hurt the team’s chances of winning.
They hope to reschedule the audience for August.
DON’T MISS: THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY OF A ‘TEEN WITCH’ PAGE 8