As a grateful product of 12 years of Catholic education, I would be bothered if President Obama heaped abuse on Roman Catholic schools. According to some critics, that is exactly what he did in some recent remarks to teenagers in Northern Ireland. One blogger linked the president’s comments about separate Protestant and Catholic schools there to his admistration’s requirement that Catholic colleges and hospitals offer contraceptive services as part of their employee health insurance programs.
Here’s what Obama said in remarks to a Belfast town hall meeting with Protestant and Catholic youngsters:
“Because issues like segregated schools and housing, lack of jobs and opportunity -- symbols of history that are a source of pride for some and pain for others -- these are not tangential to peace; they’re essential to it. If towns remain divided -- if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs -- if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation.”
On the TownHall.com website, Carol Platt Liebau complained that Obama “chose to analogize education by Catholics and Protestants to segregation” in his remarks at a Belfast meeting with youngsters.
Liebau continued: “Of course, it's ironic that the most divisive president in American history should go to Ireland and condemn division. But it also raises questions: Does this signal hostility to Catholic education in America -- or hostility to religious education in general? It's clear -- from his Obamacare abortifacient/contraceptive mandate to his efforts to cut charitable deductions -- that the president sees government as the only really legitimate actor in civil society. But his willingness to characterize education by religious orders as enabling division and discord is an unpleasant reminder of his hostility to any social force with potential to check the power of Big Government.”