WATCH: Happy Christmas to our schools!

Our schools have been preparing for Christmas with nativity plays, carol singing, prayers and foodbank donations.
Watch our video as pupils get into the Christmas spirit! Thanks to the choir of St Modan's in Stirling for providing the soundtrack.

VOTING RIGHTS: Message to councillors

This Thursday (31 August) councillors at Edinburgh City Council will vote on a Motion to remove the voting rights of Church Representatives on its Education, Children & Families Committee.

Archbishop Cushley will give a deputation to councillors on behalf of Catholics in the city, which is published below.

Thanks to everyone who has supported our campaign and contacted their councillor(s) asking them to vote against the motion.

Deputation - Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews & Edinburgh

Thank you for this opportunity to address the Council.

Let me start my remarks with a little history.

The Education Scotland Act of 1872 made elementary education for all children between the age of 5 and 13 mandatory in Scotland.

In those days, Scotland was predominantly Presbyterian and, put briefly, that meant Catholics faced the choice of either sending their children to effectively Protestant schools, or educating them in their own schools.

So, they set up their own schools and, poor as they were, collected money to build and staff them.

The pennies of the poor built and paid for those schools, and they did fairly well, but they couldn’t match the state’s resources.

Today, in the City of Edinburgh, there are 15 Catholic primary schools and three Catholic high schools. They are open to everyone who wishes to use them.

Catholic schools began to lag behind those of the state sector.

And since Catholics were paying taxes for schools they didn’t use, this started to look like an inconsistency, even an injustice.

In 1890, school fees were abolished in state schools, but the Catholics kept paying for their own schools.

The Education Scotland Act of 1918 changed all that, by inviting Catholic schools into the state system.

This was described at the time by the Secretary of State for Scotland, a Protestant, as an act of social justice.

Today, in the City of Edinburgh, there are 15 Catholic primary schools and three Catholic high schools.

They are open to everyone who wishes to use them.

If we are a diverse and inclusive society, that must mean space for faith schools, be they Episcopalian, Presbyterian or Catholic, to say nothing of other faiths.

They are appreciated and treasured for what they are, and for the way they look after and promote the good of young people, no matter their faith.

This may explain why 20% of the population in Scotland uses Catholic schools, while Catholics are about 15% of the population.

Common Good

Our schools continue to be a significant part of our identity, and of our contribution to the common good.

Why all the history?  Because, Councillors, Catholic schools in Scotland are a part of the heritage of the Catholic community here, and they were entrusted in 1918 to the state, presently represented by you.

Archbishop Cushley with some of the religious representatives who represent the Archdiocese across different local authoritues.

Having entrusted this estate to you, for us not to have an active voice in council in matters touching upon Catholic schools makes no sense to us, unless there is another agenda at hand, such as one that is inimical to faith, be it in schools or elsewhere in the public square.

If we are a diverse and inclusive society, that must mean space for faith schools, be they Episcopalian, Presbyterian or Catholic, to say nothing of other faiths.

That Church representatives have had the right to vote in council until now has remained unremarked and unremarkable for many years, because it is an expression of democracy.

It is only right and just that we retain, not a veto, not a special voice, not special treatment, but simply an active voice in council, over the governance of a part of our heritage that is presently in your care.

I would also ask, has everyone with a vote in government been elected? If we look to the House of Lords, we find 781 people all unelected, and all but one of the parties on this Council has members there.

If you wish to take away our vote today, perhaps your colleagues in the Lords should resign too.  Perhaps those sitting in Holyrood, thanks to the list system, would like to do the same.

My point is that our democracy has found various solutions in its search for participative government.

And I believe the Church reps’ vote is an example of that, and a good one.

Ultimately, however, for the people I represent, this is a question of trust placed in your hands by the Catholics of this city, and I don’t believe the presence or voting of Church representatives in council has given any motive for concern that I am aware of.

Our schools have been entrusted to you, by us, for the benefit of our portion of the community.

It is only right and just that we retain, not a veto, not a special voice, not special treatment, but simply an active voice in council, over the governance of a part of our heritage that is presently in your care.

Voting rights for Church Reps in city

Parishioners and parents in Edinburgh are being asked to contact their councillors to prevent the removal of voting rights for Church Representatives.

Councillors at the City of Edinburgh Council will vote on a motion (addendum) which proposes the removal of voting rights of Church Representatives on its Education, Children and Families Committee later this month.

If this motion is carried it will pose a serious threat to the capacity of the Church to influence decisions regarding Catholic education and Catholic schools in Edinburgh. 

Positive contribution

Angela Campbell, the Church Rep for the Catholic Church in Edinburgh (third from right front row in below pic), said: "In my role I'm supporting and representing the parents who choose to send their children to the 18 schools in the city.

Archbishop Cushley (centre) with education reps for the Archdiocese.

"Having the vote on matters which impact young people in the Catholic schools in Edinburgh is very important as it allows me to make a democratic and positive contribution to the decision making process on educational matters."

We believe that the current setup is fair and reasonable and gives us a voice.

Archbishop Leo Cushley said: "Angela's role ensures that the faith community has a say in decisions which affect our schools.

"It's an important job, so to remove her right to vote means she can't do that job effectively.

"We believe that the current setup is fair and reasonable and gives us a voice.

"Our request to councillors is not to remove the voice of faith communities so that we can continue to work with Edinburgh City Council in a spirit of openness and transparency and friendship."

What to do


Here is the postcard that will be available at all parishes in Edinburgh this weekend.

Watch the video on this issue above or on YouTube.

GALLERY: Leavers' Mass for primary pupils

Pupils from across the city of Edinburgh gathered at St Mary's Cathedral for Mass celebrated by Archbishop Cushley.

The annual Mass is for primary seven pupils preparing for their journey to Secondary school. Priests including Canon Jock Dalrymple, Canon Kenneth Owens and Fr Robert Taylor were also present.

The event was organised by the Head Teachers in the City of Edinburgh and Melissa Gavan and Margaret Barton, the education team for the Archdiocese.

Melissa, religious education advisor for primary schools, said: "It was a wonderful occasion. The children were a credit to their schools."

WATCH: School Christmas Gallery

Schools across the Archdiocese have put on nativity plays to retell the birth of Jesus as part of the celebration of our Catholic Faith.
We thank them for keeping Christ in Christmas, and for their festive charity initiatives to help those in need. We wish pupils, teachers, support staff & volunteers a happy, holy Christmas! Watch the video below or on YouTube.

GALLERY: 'Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit'

Archbishop Cushley has been visiting parishes all over the Archdiocese to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation.

In the Sacrament "the Christian’s relationship with God is made stronger. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are strengthened: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. In this way the Christian is equipped to become a better witness to Christ in the world".

"A bishop is the usual celebrant of the Sacrament of Confirmation. During the celebration he extends his hands over those to be confirmed and calls upon God to “send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their helper and guide.”

"Then each person to be confirmed is anointed with chrism on the forehead as the bishop says: 'Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.' (More here).

Archbishop calls on parents to support new Catholic schools

Archbishop Cushley joined parishioners in Winchburgh on Sunday to support the building of two new Catholic schools in the town.

The Archbishop celebrated Mass with Fr Jeremy Bath and Fr John Agnew at St Philomena's before cutting a cake to mark the event.

He said: "Having visited the site last year, I am certain that it will be a fine building, so the next thing is to make it into a very fine Catholic school!

"That will depend to a large extend on its being used by Catholic mums and dads and young people, and its support by you, as well as the Catholics of Broxburn and Linlithgow, to ensure it gets off to the best start possible."


He added: "We have been very fortunate in having the support of the leader of West Lothian, Lawrence Fitzpatrick, and James Cameron, Head of Education: they have seen the need in our Catholic community, and I’m confident I speak for all of us when I say that I am very happy with this outcome."

The schools are part of West Lothian’s largest ever investment in education, a £60.7 million multi-schools project that will deliver Holy Family primary, Sinclair Academy, and the non-denominational Winchburgh Academy.

The primary school is due to open later this year, while the two high schools are scheduled to open in August 2023.


Sunday Mass at St Philomena's in Winchburgh, with Archbishop Cushley, Fr Jeremy Bath and Fr John Agnew.
Children preparing for their First Holy Communion were brought forward to recite the 'Our Father'.
Parishioners shared a cup of tea with Archbishop Cushley in the church hall after Mass (pic: John Muir).
Archbishop Cushley chats with a parishioner.
A cake marking the building of two new Catholic schools in Winchburgh.
Children help Archbishop Cushley cut the cake.
Parish priest Fr Jeremy Bath and Archbishop Cushley.

WATCH: Support on the Sacraments for teachers

We've been helping teachers in the Archdiocese prepare children for the Sacraments of First Holy Communion, Reconciliation and Confirmation...with help from our priests.

Our Education team delivered three Zoom presentations recently, featuring video presentations from Fr Jamie McMorrin Fr Kevin Douglas, and Fr Tony Lappin (below).

The presentations gave teachers a step-by-step walk-through of delivering sacramental preparation. It coincides with booklets recently published by the Archdiocese for schools.

The three sessions were delivered by Eileen Rafferty, RE advisor to primary schools, supported by Margaret Barton (secondary schools).

Eileen said, "We've had positive feedback and it was brilliant to bring teachers together on Zoom to show how we can support them so they in turn can assist pupils and parents. We are grateful to Frs Jamie, Kevin and Tony for providing brilliant video reflections."

GALLERY: Happy Christmas to our Catholic schools!

Happy Christmas to the Catholic school community in our Archdiocese from our Education Team. Thanks for keeping Christ in Christmas!

Silent Night performed by Anna and Maddy from the Schola Cantorum at St Mary's Cathedral. Accompanied by Michael Ferguson. CD album With Angels & Archangels is available to buy here.

A staggeringly intolerant attitude to our flourishing Catholic schools

The former deputy chief constable of Lothian and Borders police has suggested that closing Catholic schools is the best way to tackle bigotry in Scotland. Peter Kearney, director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, responds.

Although Catholics account for around 16% of Scotland’s population, Catholic schools educate over 20% of our school children.

Why do so many parents who aren’t Catholic vote with their feet and choose a Catholic school for their child?

As the existence of Catholic schools hits the headlines again, it is for those who would deny this choice to explain why they are so keen to destroy one of Scotland’s educational successes and perhaps elaborate how in so doing they will create a more harmonious or tolerant society.

Scotland’s peculiar obsession with religious intolerance has been in the spotlight again recently following the offensive and ill-informed comments of a former police chief, who claimed that the existence of denominational schools are at the root of the problem and suggested that sectarianism and bigotry can best be tackled by closing Catholic schools.

There is not a shred of empirical evidence to back up such claims and conspicuously, none was offered.

This staggeringly intolerant attitude is symptomatic of a simplistic belief that educating children in a faith-based environment is wrong and will inevitably lead to conflict and strife in society.

Crucially, the right of parents to educate their children in accordance with their religious beliefs is a universal human right, which many seem happy to crush with impunity.

To suggest that children who aren’t schooled together can never interact or relate harmoniously to one another in adult life is clearly absurd.

Taken to its extreme this would suggest that children from different parts of the country or from different countries or with different languages are doomed to perpetual strife as adults, since they didn't share a playground.

Sectarian, like racial, discrimination is not taught in schools but bred, through ignorance, in homes and spread through society at large.

Around Europe and across the world, Catholic schools exist and prosper in societies bereft of the bigotry and intolerance found here.

In reality, the historical religious divisions that still leave us tainted with sectarian bigotry, pre-date the existence of Catholic schools, so cannot have been created by them.

Ultimately, Scotland should be very wary of the self-indulgent delusion that sectarianism is a west of Scotland problem.

It exists across the country, as Crown Office hate crime statistics show, in almost exact proportion to the Catholic population of different areas.

The reason there are so few sectarian crimes committed in Aberdeenshire or Shetland is because there are so few Catholics against whom they might be perpetrated and not because these places are oases of tolerance.

Like racism, anti-Catholicism tends to be found where its targets are most numerous. Its absence elsewhere should not be conflated with geographically distinct virtue.

An edited version of this article was published in The Times on 18th September, 2019 (subscription required).

Read the Tom Wood article here.