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Fryea’s Advice: Will the PNM even countenance the discord dumping the Concordat will cause?

A release from the Communications Department advertises the Ministry of Education’s National Consultation on Education. The release, dated 15 February, 2016, identifies the amendment of the Concordat as one of the items on the agenda.

What!?!? Amend the Concordat? Absurd! Preposterous!! Why? Because concordats, once signed, cannot be amended without the permission of the Vatican.

The Vatican, remember, is not simply a religious power but a state within a state. In other words, once we sign a concordat, we are not just guaranteeing continuing freeness to the country’s Catholics but we have also given another country the right to dictate to us, to tell us what to do.

Photo: President Anthony Carmona (left) shares a laugh with Pope Francis.
(Copyright AFP 2016/Gabriel Bouys)

Talk about eating your cake and having it!

Concordats are a fascinating area of study, fascinating and disturbing. You would do well to spend some time reading up on them. I guarantee that you will not regret any effort made to do so. I would say that the fact that concordats even exist is absurd; that there are at least 200 of them in existence worldwide is nothing short of preposterous.

What, then, is a concordat? It is an agreement between a governing nation and the Roman Catholic Church, guaranteeing the latter certain privileges such as state funding and the freedom to practise its religious beliefs with impunity, even if it means protecting criminals who have confessed their crimes in the confessionals.

In our case, the Concordat was signed on the issue of education, an area—as his Master’s Voice has been at pains to point out in recent months here on this site—in which we have long left ourselves at the mercy of former colonial masters and lived to regret it.

The original document was signed by then Minister of Education and Culture John S. Donaldson on behalf of the Government and by Pedro Valdez, a priest of the missionary Vincentians who was then the principal of St Mary’s College and the head of the denominational delegation. Significantly, this happened before Trinidad and Tobago gained independence from Britain in August 1962; reliable reports say that the Concordat was published quietly on Christmas Day of 1960.

Photo: Education Minister Anthony Garcia.
(Courtesy News.Gov.TT)

Quietly, I think, because somebody was playing dead to ketch cobo alive. And it might not have been the government.

The depths to which religious power has dug its tentacles into the state really amazes me. How could this be? Is the Protest over?

One denomination has spread itself like a bad rash—and it should really be no more welcome—working perhaps under cover of darkness, certainly working in the background to make itself into a formidable political giant throughout the world.

If we claim to be Christians, it is imperative that we follow Christ’s method. Christ stood aloof from the politics of His day. He stood so aloof that it confused even His disciples who spent time arguing over who would sit on His right or His left.

Jesus himself had to tell Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor, that His kingdom is in heaven and that if His kingdom were on earth, then His servants would not be fighting among themselves. In other words, fighting for rulership of the earth was not on His agenda and neither should it be for His professed followers.

Photo: Then US President Barack Obama (right) Obama talks with Pope Francis during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, September 23, 2015.
More than 15,000 people packed the South Lawn for a full ceremonial welcome on Pope Francis’ historic maiden visit to the United States.
(Copyright AFP 2015/Mandel Ngan)

Would someone, therefore, please explain to me why the Church has been fighting so hard for centuries to secure earthly power and continues to do so even today? Why are religious entities constantly seeking to secure religious unity and political power?

Such initiatives clearly run counter to the desire for freedom of conscience. Such behaviour, moreover, is, it seems to me, patently un-Christlike.

Besides, the Good Book says, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”

How is it that the ubiquitous Church, whose tentacles are everywhere, has yet to usher in the second coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? Might it be because its heaven is right here on earth?

Certainly, the Church has worked hard to infiltrate—I don’t think the word is too hard—governments and ensure that their bidding gets done or, at least, that its influence is felt before what has to be done is done. There are at least 20 strategies that have been known to be used by the Church to get governments to sign on the dotted line, at least one of which is directly relevant to the Trinidad and Tobago Concordat situation.

Photo: Pope Francis (left), a former Jesuit priest, poses for a selfie in Martinique.
(Copyright Getty)

Let’s call it the “Offer to share the cake” strategy because Trinbagonians are quite unable to resist cake, especially if it’s of the black variety. In PriceSmart last Christmas, the baker could barely roll out the cake-filled trolley before the stampede began and they all disappeared in a free-for-all.

Central to the above-named strategy is allowing other denominations to get a slice of the cake. The consistently used trick, however, is that one denomination—no marks for guessing which one—consistently gets the biggest slice.

It should surprise no one, therefore, to discover that the Church, as per the Vatican II Council, has been actively fostering ecumenism and more Church/State agreements, more concordats.

Which may or may not explain the February 2016 media release.

Perhaps it is already too late, though; February 2016 is already more than a year and a half in the past and a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then. But for what it is still worth, I want to urge vigilance. I say we have to watch that talk about amending the Concordat like a hawk. Left to me, we would get rid of it. I am quite convinced that anything which has the potential to adversely affect religious liberty and the freedom of conscience in a sovereign nation has no place in state affairs.

But do you think we can convince the Protestants and other various religious bodies who are getting a slice of the cake of that?

Photo: Then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (second from left) poses with (from left) Pastor Winston Cuffie, his daughter Winsie-Ann Cuffie and US evangelist Benny Hinn.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

Or either Pope Francis or the Archbishop of Port-of-Spain?

Or a quarter of the countless Catholics, say, who constitute the city Cathedral’s consistent congregation?

Or even simply the current Education Minister?

Let us all take heed…

About Afryea Charles

Afryea Charles is an inspired missionary who has renounced the pleasures of everyday living because she wants to save the world. As time passes, she is less and less certain that yes, she can. But she is not yet ready to concede that she may have bitten off more than she can chew.

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57 comments

  1. I had to reread the article as I am not sure why the comments started taking a spin on performance. The author raised the issue of the existence of concordats in a context greater than the area of education alone. She sought to highlight concerns over the ‘interference’ of a religious body in the affairs of a state and then identified her concerns wrt the existence of the concordat within our education sector here in T&T. At no point did I see her even suggest that the quality or standard of education was affected in terms of the current measurement of performance. Aside from her personal take on it from an Christian view, which I cannot comment on, she did seem to focus on the idea of having religious influence in schools period. She also tried to suggest that this may have an effect on education itself as there are obvious conflicts within religious dogma and what is referred to as ‘secular education’. The real issue lies in if we are willing to accept compromising the breadth of real world education for the sake of studies/beliefs that are purely in the spiritual realm. If we are, then what is education? Where does this place the secular subjects? Are they now only to be understood in the light of religion? And if you are religious, then what exactly is belief and religion?

  2. Some additional information for you to do your own personal research: http://www.concordatwatch.eu/showsite.php?org_id=843

  3. There are schools that perform better than others and there are varying modes of ownership and Management…

  4. ours is to give some the best and give others little, and if you cannot see that you probably went to an elite school. which helps program away compassion and logic.

  5. the intent is to give all, universal education.

  6. Can’t speak for Japan but first hand Nordic countries have a great level of diversity in their education sysytems

  7. Again. our peublic education system is not working. there are not even places for all the students that do SEA. for decades.

    • According to your argument because our public education systems is not working it’s the church’s fault?
      BTW because a school’s management system is better organized that one which results in higher than average results. We should dismantle the system?
      Also on a little side note these so-call prestigious schools are a result of the middle class people pushing for them to be so. Since all church based schools were developed to ensure everyone got a proper education. They were designed for the lower class people of society to ensure they also had the best education.

  8. japan , all the nordic countries, for a start.

    • Can’t use these countries, since their culture is totally different. It’s like saying we should be like Singapore. Which is a dictatorship and extremism exist. Japanese culture is a very discipline culture due to centuries of training and development. The Nordic countries are similar centuries of breeding and disciplining. Which we are lacking

    • Singapore is a dictatorship now? The fact that you Marcus Alexander Clarke could not see the hypocrisy in your statement “Japanese culture is a very discipline culture due to centuries of training and development.” to justify us not changing our education system means we really need to change this school system yes. How are we supposed to build discipline and ethics if not in schools? How do you think the these societies build a culture of caring and respect for others? by listening to beenie man and alkaline?

    • Schools are poor because we have a social problem of parents taking no interest in raising their kids and giving them a proper foundation. No school can replace that. Useless to talk about changing a school system without understanding the true problem.

      And there are many government schools that perform very well. To suggest that they are all poor is not only wrong but disingenuous.

    • Spencer Crouch I know you didn’t understand my point. The Singaporean model of development mean certain freedoms we take for granted are not allowed. Further to that the development of Singapore was that of one man’s dream. Sir do you understand how eastern cultures are organized and developed ? In order to do what you achieve what we will need a force of will and removal of certain culture indulgence. To unTrinbahian us.

  9. Every public institution is failing. Let’s be real. Attacking the institution that work because there are institutions that don’t is silly policy.

  10. Can u think of an education system that doesn’t have better or worse schools?

  11. if the education system does not educate ALL the children equally it is a failure.

  12. Our sick public service is the cause. Catholic, muslim, Hindu and other schools work. Show me a failing concordat school. Just one. The difference is management

  13. it is broken Gerard Llanos . has been broken for decades. A couple high performing schools does not make up for the rest of illiterates. our education system encourages elitism and entrenches the economic inequality that is one of the major causes of our high crime rate. Religons need to come out of schools and government.

  14. Regardless of the history our top performing schools operate under the mbit of the concordat. it literally sets the tone for the education system. now is not the time for uncertainty. Swing back in five years. if it not broke dont fiddle

  15. well researched albeit obviously biased article.

  16. Earl Best

    I was going to jump to your defence but you clearly don’t need some sinner to intercede for you.
    Go, girl!

  17. This is a general response to the questions and comments on the article.

    Concordats have been in existence for several hundred years. It has always been between the Vatican and any country of their choice. Trinidad and Tobago included. It has been introduced into different countries around the world in a variety of ways. As I stated in the article it was introduced in our country through education and other denominations were associated with it. Regardless of the way it enters into a country or the signatories attached to it please understand this is an agreement between a Country and arguably one of the most powerful States/Religious bodies in the World.

    Please see attached links for consideration. The second link contains more information on Concordat allover the world and how they affect us even today

    http://www.trinidadexpress.com/commentaries/Points_to_ponder-135218203.html

    http://www.concordatwatch.eu/showsite.php?org_id=843

    This is the third article I have done on Wired868 speaking out against religious bodies trying to wield their power in the political world.

  18. This is just some poorly informed person’s stupid opinion. Come on Lasana…do we need to insist that some reviews articles before publishing?

  19. I don’t know much about this aspect of Catholicism. It was very informative. I thought the Concordat simply guided board schools. I have never looked into it but I will. I have always disagreed with religious influence in secular education. So I will be keen to follow on any developments. Thanks to the author for a great piece.

  20. What rubbish is this? Our Concordat deals with multiple religions. Steups.

  21. When you remove the agreement what are you replacing it with?

  22. Mr Baptiste I am happy for your enlightenment,because the Concordat is an agreement between Hindus,Anglican,Catholics and recently Baptists .The basis was the a of Eric Williams to provide free education.In fact it continues as the government continues to pay for school places.

  23. All religions in this country manage schools under the terms of the Concordat. Nowhere in the two page document is the Roman Catholic church mentioned.

  24. Has the writer ever read the Concordat?

  25. before reading the article the Concordat is a serious issue

  26. i think this is one of the best articles i have read on here. Excellent read.

    • Read again facts still wrong, but it what we get from it. I have been telling the Anglican Church start turning reducing the amount of schools keep the few that make sense turn the others into profitable ventures to run the other schools and keep the teachers needed for the schools you keep. Also we would not have to worry about what other people say how we teach RI and all these poorly researched articles will stop since the state will not be paying for these schools.

    • 1) you can’t say that without stating which facts were wrong in the article.

    • Firstly the article indicates or leans to point it’s only the Roman Catholic Church is the main author of the concordats was first set up as way to assist government to meet the required schools for the rest of the population. Secondly when it came to secondary school again the government does not have enough. The interfaith organizations meaning all faiths built schools for their faith not others. It also only hired their own people. Therefore the government decided to pay a 2/3 for the maintenance and teaching staff. However over the years the maintenance has gone up and the repayments started to come later and later therefore they took over the hold cost. Yet the day running of the schools is done by the church it falls under including repairs. So if you have five schools your congregation is only 500 people you are responsible for the repairs of all schools ensuring that all principals have the items needed for them to operate. So will at the surface to the uninformed it’s seems like a sweetheart deal but to smaller congregation that school is a serious burden. Since they pay all the taxes, insurances electrical water and other taxes for these schools. The government only pays for the use of the building and space. Therefore if they tenants damage the building they repair it.
      As I am at the point the development of these prestige schools it has nothing to do with the religious community but the community on the whole. Since historically the schools such as CIC where run by priests who received no real pay for these extra duties. It’s when secular teachers where brought into the system the cost of operations increased.
      So if the writer had done their full research they will understand what is happening and how it happened.
      For the Anglican Church if they need to only to go Haynes Court and have a real discussion

    • Marcus Alexander Clarke to me your issue is the operations and finances of the schools. The original post was more concerned about the unseen influence of the church in the curriculum and therefore nation building. From the article ” I am quite convinced that anything which has the potential to adversely affect religious liberty and the freedom of conscience in a sovereign nation has no place in state affairs.” And i agree that no church should be involved in education now or in the future.

    • Spencer Crouch what I am saying also that if the church pulls out it includes all it buildings and property and they revert back their official use. Further to that all the church based schools where built to meet a need for all persons so understand it clearly. Once we start down that road you also may see a decline in schools football. The lost of jobs and lost of schools places. Since church schools will be only taking their own faith. I have a question to ask you what school did you go to?

    • a prayers for breakfast school. which is why i do not think religions should be allowed to program children anymore.

    • Spencer Crouch I would continue our civil discussion however working on a paper. So we will talk again. But you understand why I have issues with the article. It shows a bias as if the religious bodies want to keep the concordats, since it’s also not a ideal situation on the other foot

    • Turn schools into profitable ventures? Did I read that correctly?

    • Keston K. Perry it’s been the talk by many that the church should not be in education because they have our lived their usefulness. Further to that the concordat should be scrapped. If you are they think so many of the faith based schools will not survive. So if that in orders to have some schools operating we then have look at what we can maintain and how. If read the gentleman’s train of thought he is one. In order to ensure we have a say in how our schools are run we then have to break the mold.

  27. This is a very biased headline. But then again the Catholic Church will always have stones thrown at it. what a or Patrick and the pastor woman who get millions of taxpayers money… 9 day syndrome ent? Smfh

  28. ls the concordaat only between the catholics and the Govt of T & T?

  29. Half bake story no real research done. If they did proper research they would of discover that the concordat was signed with all religious groups and that it was with the Anglican Church and the RC church.
    Proper research would of educate them who owns most of the primary school and worse secondary schools in the country.