Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Just another day at the Children Schools and Families Select Committee ...

Where the lovable old Bishop of Lancaster, Patrick O'Donohue, Pod as he is known, flanked by Anglican bishop Stephen Venner and Peter Venner of the CES, was being grilled by members of the committee about Catholic schools and the admirable Fit For Mission document he issued about schools in his diocese. Committee chair, Barry Sheerman MP had infuriated Catholics with a spectacularly stupid statement about faith schools back in December, declaring "'It seems to me that faith education works all right as long as people are not that serious about their faith." But today he was all geniality and concerned to stress his own Christian credentials. He's the parliamentary churchwarden of St Margaret's apparently.
Fiona McTaggart MP expressed surprise that Catholic schools don't fundraise for Red Nose Day and Amnesty. No, Fiona, they don't fundraise for organisations whose activities are in contradiction with key church teachings, it shouldn't be that difficult for you to work out.
Then it was over to Paul Holmes MP, an honorary associate of the National Secular Society which describes him as "a committed and outspoken secularist". Sleeves rolled up and jaw jutting forward, his mouth pulled into a tight line of disapproval, Holmes was a picture of hostility as he snapped questions at the witnesses and argued them. Actually the man was so damn rude that I wondered how any believer in his constituency could have confidence in his ability to represent them. At one point, Venner made a joke and everyone laughed, everyone that is, apart from the charmless Holmes who just glared grimly ahead.
But Pod is sweet-natured man and he took it all in good temper, afterwards telling this aquatic creature that he'd enjoyed the whole experience. It had its moments. A whey-faced man in a dark raincoat demanded to know who I was writing for. "The Tablet," I replied. As soon as the words were out of my mouth I knew I'd said the wrong thing. "I'm not talking to you. I'll have nothing to do with The Tablet, The Tablet should be phased out," he barked. Oh well, you can't please everyone.


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