At least he was smart enough to test the waters on foreign soil before introducing this particular facet of his agenda in the United States.
Speaking in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the location of this year’s G8 summit, President Barack Obama flatly told a crowd of about 2,000 that parochial schools are, essentially, part of the problem. Naturally, the listening crowd had more than a few Irish Catholics in attendance.
“If towns remain divided — if Catholics have their schools and buildings and Protestants have theirs, if we can’t see ourselves in one another and fear or resentment are allowed to harden — that too encourages division and discourages cooperation,” said the President.
Catholic World News described Obama’s shocking statement as an argument “that parochial schools are an impediment to the establishment of a lasting peace in Northern Ireland.”
The Scottish Catholic Observer went further, saying the President’s rhetoric “has made an alarming call for an end to Catholic education in Northern Ireland in spite of the fact that Archbishop Gerhard Muller told Scots that Catholic education was a ‘critical component of the Church.’”
Indeed, the Vatican had recently praised the value of Catholic education over the weekend, when Muller — a direct appointee of Pope Benedict XVI to the Prefecture of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — told a Scottish audience that Catholic schools offer a convergence of “intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment” that serves students well in all walks of life.
Perhaps because of the setting for Obama’s remarks, most of the distress over their sinister implications has come from Catholics. But the part-Irish President equally condescended to Protestants in his statement, even though an Internet search two days after the speech turns up little in the way of alarm from non-Catholic Christians.
American Catholic priest Fr. John Zuhlsdorf spoke for many Christians of all faiths when he assessed the President’s intentions on his blog:
Another example of what this man wants: total isolation of any religious values in the private sphere alone.
…Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a foreign visit to a Islamic nation where he told people on his arrival that they shouldn’t have madrasas. Can you?
Did he when visiting, say, Israel, say “You Jews shouldn’t have synagogue schools and you muslims shouldn’t have mosque schools.” I can’t remember. Did he?