Sunday, January 17, 2010

Catholic Education - a nail in the coffin?

One reason I was all but silent on the blog from early December to early January was that I was very concerned about our Catholic Education. I wanted to write, but not rant. Allow to explain some of my worries.

This weekend's issue of the Tablet (Bishop pledges not to pry into teachers’ private lives) reports that Bishop Malcolm McMahon, the Chairman of the Catholic Education Service, "has promised that the Church will not investigate the private lives of applicants for the headships of Catholic schools." The promise has been made in the light of the increasing difficulty encountered in the recruitment of candidates for headships whose lives fully correspond to the Church's teaching, particularly as regards marriage.
But Bishop Malcolm McMahon told The Tablet that the backgrounds of potential school leaders were not the concern of the Church and it should be up to applicants themselves to decide whether they were able to live according to church teaching. “Their family life isn’t scrutinised,” said the bishop. “I’d be rather ashamed if the Church was doing that to people. But we do expect people in leadership in the Church to live out their Christian commitment as best they can.”

I feel this is yet another 'nail in the coffin' of Catholic Education in our country.

The backgrounds of potential school leaders, indeed of every living soul, is of immense concern to the Church since She is concerned about the salvation, not only of those who lead our schools, but of those whom they are charged to lead and teach. There needs to be some way of ensuring that our teachers are exemplary in their lives. Only in that way can they give example to the pupils and teach coherently what the Church teaches.

The Code of Canon Law reminds both teachers and Ordinaries of their responsibilities in this regard:
Can. 803 #2: The instruction and education in a Catholic school must be grounded in the principles of Catholic doctrine; teachers are to be outstanding in correct doctrine and integrity of life.
Can. 804 #2: The local Ordinary is to be concerned that those who are designated teachers of religious instruction in schools ... are outstanding in correct doctrine, the witness of a Christian life, and teaching skill.
Can. 805: For his own diocese, the local Ordinary has the right to appoint or approve teachers of religion and even to remove them or demand that they be removed if a reason of religion or morals requires it.

So, it is evident that there needs to be some manner of establishing whether a teacher - and therefore a head teacher - is outstanding in correct doctrine and the witness of a Christian life and that there is no reason of morals why they should not be appointed. How is this to be done if not by enquiring (notice the less loaded language I choose as an alternative to "investigate") into these matters. Surely we have a right to ask, in this day and age when marriage in particular is undermined, whether a candidate's life in this regard is in keeping with the Church's teaching, in particular:
- if married, have they been married in accordance with the laws of the Church?
- if unmarried, are they 'living together' with anyone?
- have they entered into a civil partnership?
and to insist that they enter into a contract to always live by the Church's teaching this regard.

But Bishop McMahon does not see that being in a civil partnership is a problem. The Tablet reports:

He also said that the Church was not opposed to civil partnerships. “Civil partnerships are precisely what they say they are. They’re not gay marriages or lesbian marriages. They’re simply a legal arrangement between two people so that they can pass on property and other rights in which they were discriminated against before,” he said. “We have many gay people in education and a large number of gay people in the Church, at least the same as the national average. I think a person who is leading a church school should live according to the Church’s teaching whether they are in a civil partnership or not. A civil partnership is not a marriage, it’s not a conjugal relationship.”
Firstly, I think it is regrettable that Bishop McMahon adopts the descriptive 'gay' to people. I prefer to follow the Catechism of the Catholic Church in thinking of so-called 'gay' people as those 'who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction towards persons of the same sex', acknowledging that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered' as is the inclination itself. (CCC 2357,2358) Hopefully, Catholics who experience this struggle have recourse to the help of God's grace to control this inclination and even overcome it, to live chaste lives and friendships.(CCC 2358,2359)

Secondly, if by "the Church" we mean Pope Benedict and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the authentic Magisterium of the Church, we would have to point out Bishop McMahon's error in this regard. The Tablet does have the fairness to refer to the campaign of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales against civil partnerships and to say that Bishop McMahon takes a softer line on these issues - all the more reason that we should be worried that he is now Chairman of the CES.

We should respectfully refer Bishop McMahon to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's June 2003 document Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons in which arguments from reason are given against the legal recognition of homosexual unions and then the position of Catholic politicians faced with the question of such legal recognition.

We read:
In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection. (n.5)

Laws in favour of homosexual unions are contrary to right reason because they confer legal guarantees, analogous to those granted to marriage, to unions between persons of the same sex. Given the values at stake in this question, the State could not grant legal standing to such unions without failing in its duty to promote and defend marriage as an institution essential to the common good.(n.6)

The normalisation of these forms of union also affect the perception of young people's perception of marriage:
Lifestyles and the underlying presuppositions these express not only externally shape the life of society, but also tend to modify the younger generation's perception and evaluation of forms of behaviour. Legal recognition of homosexual unions would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage.(n.6)
On the question of rights and discrimination:
Because married couples ensure the succession of generations and are therefore eminently within the public interest, civil law grants them institutional recognition. Homosexual unions, on the other hand, do not need specific attention from the legal standpoint since they do not exercise this function for the common good.

Nor is the argument valid according to which legal recognition of homosexual unions is necessary to avoid situations in which cohabiting homosexual persons, simply because they live together, might be deprived of real recognition of their rights as persons and citizens. In reality, they can always make use of the provisions of law – like all citizens from the standpoint of their private autonomy – to protect their rights in matters of common interest. It would be gravely unjust to sacrifice the common good and just laws on the family in order to protect personal goods that can and must be guaranteed in ways that do not harm the body of society.(n.9)

On the responsibility of Catholic politicians, the CDF advise (my emphasis):
If it is true that all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are obliged to do so in a particular way, in keeping with their responsibility as politicians.

About rights and discrmination, The Tablet reports Bishop McMahon as saying:
(Civil partnerships are) simply a legal arrangement between two people so that they can pass on property and other rights in which they were discriminated against before.
The point is, however, that this was not a form of unjust discrimination. It was a recognition that marriage is a unique form of partnerhip in which a family is formed, and that the goods of the partners become the goods of the family and, rightly, pass to surviving members of the family on the death of one or other spouse. This ensures not only the good of the family but the good of society too. Marriage uniquely concerns the common good.

It is now those who are unable to enter into civil partnerships who are discriminated against: unmarried siblings who spend a lifetime together, perhaps caring for one another; priests who have been served lovingly by selfless housekeepers; etc. These cannot make use of these civil partnerships precisely because the assumption is that the relationship is sexual. Therefore the notion that civil partnerships have nothing to do with homosexuality is quite naive. The fact that Bishop McMahon refers to "the many gay people (we have) in education" shows that it is homosexual people he has in mind when talking about prospective headteachers and others being in civil partnerships. Tony Blair, that celebrated "convert" to the Catholic Faith and architect of this legislation, wrote in The Independent on 21st December 2005:
It (the new legislation) gives gay and lesbian couples who register their relationship the same safeguards over inheritance, insurance and employment and pension benefits as married couples.
And at a Stonewall dinner in March, reported by UK Gay News, Blair spoke of his real pride and joy about this legislation and the rights it has given to homosexual people.

I think we are within our rights to presume that people who have entered into a civil partnership are in a same sex relationship. Even if they are not, this common presumption will naturally give rise to scandal amongst those who uphold the natural institution of marriage. It will particularly scandalise those Catholic parents who care about this matter if their children's school's head teacher or other teacher is in such a partnership.

There is another very important matter and that is the question of discrimination within the Church that this statement implies. The reason why the CES is getting soft on recruitment is because of the pressures of equality legislation. Yet all Catholics, and our Catholic Schools, are subject to Divine Law and Ecclesiastical Law. If Catholic headteachers will not have their 'family life' scrutinised, why should Catholic priests not have the same right to privacy? Perhaps I might, after all, support the Government's move to have priests recognised not as office holders but as employees, just to illustrate the consequences for the Church of applying double standards - one for its laity and another for its clergy.

Clergy are now less able to defend orthodox teaching in our schools. We are becoming more and more sidelined as we seek to uphold the Church's teaching by our teaching and, more importantly, by our example. Catholic headteachers and, indeed, all teachers in our Catholic schools, should have the same obligation. And if we cannot recruit satisfactory candidates, we need to reassess the provision of Catholic education, considering a redeployment of funds and resources into educational projects that will be more effective at passing on the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth, to future generations.


  1. Bravo, Fr. John. Now what to do about rogue bishops who not only don't teach the faith by their silence (i.e. fear of speaking up re: the church's teaching on humanae vitae and a whole host of other issues, particularly the "gays have the same rights too" issues.) but who openly refute the church's teaching by preaching contrary to it.

    [BTW, I bet the bishop in question would have NO PROBLEM checking up on a report that a would be headmaster had a record of embezzelment, rape, murder, robbery....]
    The 70s were bad enough with priests and nuns leaving left and right to marry, etc. But at least they had the grace to leave teaching in the Catholic schools. [In my own high school days in the 70s 2 priests left to get married, one to a nun who'd also taught at the school.]

    But at least, THEY LEFT the school, and didn't brazen things out.

    I know of one young boy, currently, who has been misleading her 12 year old son that "civil partnerships are okay, because they couldn't get married any other way." [And that's from a mother in a Catholic marriage.] You can try and explain to the boy 'love the sinner, hate the sin' but if parents and school authorities undermind this teaching of the church -- lots of luck.

    And not to forget what Jesus said about those who would poison a young mind "better a millstone around the neck."

    Leading one's own soul to hell is bad enough, but teaching the young to ignore the solid teaching of the church is one of the worst sins imaginable.

    And what's it going to take to get the Vatican's attention on these matters?

    People who want to apply for positions in the Catholic schools ought to be upfront about how they are living, not that one can expect anyone to lead a sinfree life, but the least one SHOULD expect is that the person making best effort. "Best effort" should include not living in sin. It a FARCE that this "civil partnership" doesn't also have a sexual component. [I have some nice oceanfront property in Arizona to sell too, along with the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Tower of London.]

    Petitions to Rome? How many hundreds of thousands of petitions would have to be signed to get the pope's attention? Demonstrations for him to start REMOVING bishops who openly teach contrary to the faith?

    Practising Catholics shouldn't have to pray for God to call rogue bishops from their office. The pope should be doing this! We should pray for Pope Benedict to do HIS job!

  2. Good post Father. I have had the impression for some time that the CES is not really interested in Catholic education at all. The statements about sex ed are hardly pro-Catholic and the appallingly ignorant statements about home education were downright anti-family.
    I notice that in this weekend's Catholic Herald that the Bishops are supporting the Tory idea of Free Schools. I am watching all this with extreme caution but the bishops seem to think the idea could help put Catholic schools back where they were a hundred years ago; Catholic and independent.
    I home educate because I want my children to get a proper education - authentic Catholic one. They aren't going to get it in school are they?

  3. Father, you are right to find this depressing. It would be so good to be able to assume nothing worse than massive naivete on the part of the bishop. There is a grave internal crisis within the English Catholic Church - centrally to do with education and catechesis. This issue regarding the practice and fidelity of Catholic teachers is just one part. Thank you for this saddening but deeply informative post.

  4. Well said, Father! If only our Bishops would speak with courage, especially in public, and stand up for the true values of the Catholic church and stop waffling around with modernisms that do nothing but spread the wrong message and confuse the laity even more.
    Let's hope the Pope makes some considerable and positive changes to the heirarchy of the church in England/UK by the time he visits.

  5. Excellent post Father. Your concerns are shared

  6. What an excellent post, Father!

    I'm sure you're right to maintain that civil partnerships intrinsically imply that the people concerned are in a same sex relationship. But rather than abolishing them, which I think is unrealistic, I would like to see the 'right' extended, so that anyone who has been living with another person - siblings, friends, parent/child, etc., etc. - for at least a certain number of years could obtain similar inheritance rights for that person. The issue of a sexual relationship would then be taken right out of the equation.

  7. Well put, Father.

    This Government seems determined to make it impossible for Catholic schools to be Catholic and, it seems, many of our bishops cave in to their demands with only a whimper of protest, the merest wriggle of resistance, just to keep the schools open.

    I think Catholic schools have been the devil's own playground for too long now. Our children who go to the High Schools are so often ignorant of the Faith and for one reason or another lapse fairly early on in their secondary education, yet the ones whose parents decide against a 'Catholic' education are the ones who seem to stay. It would be interesting to see how many priests ordained in the past 25 years went to Catholic High Schools. I, for one, didn't.

    Our schools are beacons of excellence: their headed stationery is crowded with logos for being investors in people, healthy eating schools, specialist colleges in science/language/sports/performing arts, leading edge schools, achievement award holders etc. etc. - excellence in everything but Catholicity.

    Close 'em down and restore to parents and priests the duty of educating their children in the faith.

  8. I find Bishop McMahon's position to be indefensible and share your concern. If nothing else, our Church has a responsibility to examine the lives of those she places in positions of authority after the sexual abuse scandals of recent years. Masures must be taken to protect our children and to restore the reputation of our Church.

  9. This is not the first time that Bishop McMahon has behaved in a dubious way about homosexuality. He supports the 'gay' Masses at Leicester Holy Cross Priory, even though it was pointed out to him that they are run by members of the dissenting homosexual group Quest. In fact, in the Quest bulletin No 45, the following is written:- "The “Mass for lesbian, gay,bisexual and transgendered
    people, our families and
    friends”, as we called it, was
    advertised in the parish bulletin
    and on the Diocesan website
    well in advance so that anyone
    who might feel uneasy with
    such idea would have time to
    express it. We sent leaflets and
    letters to all Catholic priests in
    local parishes asking them to
    announce the Mass in their
    communities; from three priests
    we received words of interest
    and support. Also, we informed
    the Bishop of the Nottingham
    Diocese and he sent a short letter
    of gratitude to all participants
    of the Mass for keeping
    the Catholic faith alive." Later the article stated:- "We made every
    effort to be open about our
    intentions – no one, even the
    Bishop could have been surprised
    or uncomfortable on
    the day of our gathering or
    afterwards. We were pleased
    with the result. Now is the
    time to reflect what we are
    going to do with that." Very worrying indeed.

  10. The CES has been acting as government poodle, shamefully, for a long time. The argument is always that political expediency forces Catholic schools to make concessions, to embrace a wider perspective, to jump through hoops in order to continue to exist.

    But there is no wider perspective than the Truth; and Truth does not jump through hoops. I wonder also how many orthodox Catholic members of the teaching profession have been pushed out of schools or sidelined within them. Would you, Father, act as a postbox: it might be useful to know how many frustrated orthodox Catholics with QTS there are out there...

  11. Delia: where would it all stop? You can't have everyone just living together and entering into civil partnerships to secure inheritance rights. Whether or not the government repeals the legislation is neither here nor there. Being an unjust law, the Church MUST OPPOSE IT AND NOT OBEY IT!

    Tempus: yes, I'd be happy for this. How to go about it? Send comments here?

  12. Thank you, Father, for this important, though depressing, post.

    One wonders what one should do about it. I feel that an approach to the authorities in Rome would be in order but, how to go about it effectively, I've no idea.

    Unfortunately, many lay people, like me, would presume that more knowledgeable people know how to properly bring these things to the attention of the appropriate authorities. With the approaching ad limina, that seems even more important, but how to do it effectively - that's the problem many of us wrestle with.

  13. We do not need comments from bishops like this. If he cannot uphold Catholic teaching then he should be honest and offer his resignation.

  14. Excellent post, Father!

    Is there any initiative or will in Britain to emulate our situation here in the US and forego government funding for Catholic schools - thus preventing unwarranted secular intrusion? I’m sure the expense on the Church and Catholic families would be great, as it is here.

    Admittedly it is unfair to have to support public education which is not availed of, while paying again for Catholic education – but at least here it obviates government interference in Catholic schools. Of course it is not a panacea and not all ‘Catholic’ schools here are as Catholic as they should be. But that is a different issue.

    Would such a system not be feasible in the UK?

  15. Fr: I couldn't agree more. What we want are schools that are centres of excellence in the transmission of the Catholic Faith.

    Monica: I can assure you that clergy also wonder about what influence have. As a lay person your voice is important. You are always free to write to the Apostolic Nuncio.

  16. GOR: the almost total state funding of our schools has come at a great price - the control of our schools. I would be amongst a not-insignificant-number of people who would advocate telling the Government: we've had enough and are pulling out. If the Government says 'fine' well, we know where we stand. I'm sure that with the generosity of good Catholics no poor Catholic would be deprived of a Catholic education in a properly Catholic School.

  17. I have taught in two Catholic state schools in the UK; both struggle to teach the Faith in an authentic way, especially in the area of sexual morality. This is because of a lack of Catholic staff but also, quite frankly, a lack of nerve in the face of an increasingly aggressive and intolerant secularism that has taken hold of our country. Secular approaches to sexual morality are based on wholly contrary and different anthropological assumptions to those of the Faith. It is tragic to see our bishops unable to uphold teaching in this area and to simply adopt the secular line out of convenience.

    Shades of St Thomas More...

  18. Dear Fr. John

    Thank you for this calm and well-written article. We came across your blog via John Smeaton of SPUC's blog. We are greatly encouraged and will visit again!

    In the meantime this issue is very distressing indeed.

    The word discrimination is used a lot in regard to this matter. However those who are really being discriminated against are those Catholics wishing to teach the Faith according to the mind and heart of the Catholic Church. And that is not on!

    It doesn't just mean that their religious sentiments get ruffled. It thwarts the living out of their Baptised vocation (which also has real family-threatening consequences for the paying of bills etc!)

    I would dearly love to be a Catholic teacher; teaching and catechising young people in the great gift of the Faith. By God's Grace I have a love of Our Lord and the Church, a tested gift for teaching and public speaking, an understanding of young people, and an MA in orthodox Catholic Theology.

    Over the years I have grappled with completing a PGCE in order to become a teacher. However I have become convinced that this would be very hard to accomplish in good conscience due to the requirements of the national curriculum. These already include a very relativistic approach to religion/religions and moral issues; in addition to explicit 'sex education' which is set to get worse with legal developments this year.

    It is also most unfortunate that we do not have an orthodox teacher training college. Some teacher training colleges actually state on their websites that applicants 'must have no prior preconceptions about truth or faith'. Imagine that being asked of a Mathematics or Physics teacher! It is true that Maryvale offer a PGCE course. However one still has to find a placement school and will then clash with the curriculum in any case... Then there is the demonstrable fact that much of the Catholic school system itself has become rotten through and lost sight of its authentic purpose.

    Pope Pius XI said that the 'proper and immediate end of Christian Education is to co-operate with divine grace in forming the true and perfect Christian, that is, to form Christ Himself in those regenerated by Baptism.'

    Unfortunately, many in contemporary Catholic education do not comprehend this supernatural end. Indeed theirs is a paradigm in which Charles Dicken's character Mr. Gradgrind from Hard Times would feel quite at home. ('All these children need is facts, facts, facts').

    About 8 years ago I gave some 100 pro-life talks in schools across the country. In these talks I promoted the teaching of the Church on marriage and the family and the pro-life message. They were received well by hundreds of young people. However, at times I was contradicted and mocked by dissenting 'Catholic' teachers - even on matters such as the abortifacient 'Morning-After-Pill'.

    Some Catholic educators opposed me and claimed that education was all about giving people information to make an informed choice. I should rather have thought that - as Catholics - it was about bringing souls to Christ and forming their consciences to discern between good and evil.

    In the end my wife and I decided to go private and go around parishes and dioceses teaching the Faith to youth groups/marriage preparation classes/RCIA groups. Once we get in to talk to folks we often meet with similar success amongst our hearers. The problem is first getting past those who should be defending and spreading the Faith but would prefer to commit to environmentalism mixed with a diluted, generic Christianity.

    Thanks for all you have articulated Father. At least we all know that our hope is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth!

    Yours in the love of Jesus Christ!
    Alan and Angeline Houghton

  19. Thank you for your excellent post, Father. I must admit that I also found it rather depressing; to think of the direction in which some of our Catholic schools seem to heading.

  20. Start at the top . . . when you have allegedly Catholic teacher training colleges which will not allow students who are Religious to wear their habits, and clerics to wear their collars, what hope can there be ?

  21. The Manhattan Declaration

    Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.

    We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:
    the sanctity of human life
    the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
    the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

    Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

    1.Read the Manhattan Declaration
    2. Sign the Manhattan Declaration

  22. Interesting but mainly misguided comments. Parents always have been and will be the 'primary educators in the faith', if there is a lapse in the practice of our young people then perhaps that's the first place to look. I would also be interested in how many of your commenters have actually engaged with the RE dept in their local catholic schools. In 10 years of RE teaching I've had less than a handful of parents talk about the catholic nature of the curriculum. I certainly don't agree that priests are sidelined in our schools, it would actually be quite nice to find priests who are willing to come and engage with our young people in school. In my experience, they are few and far between.

  23. Comment from a Catholic Parent who does not have the means to post comments directly to the blog:

    Let's suppose Stonewall has a means of coercing bishops to say whacky things, because of their own personal history or someone close to them.

    One priest suggested that we acknowledge that we are a Church of sinners, and public exposure would have less impact if there was not an automatic need for heads to roll. It would at least mean that those who in their hearts and minds want to speak the Truth, would no longer be shackled by the mistakes of the past.

    The abuse cases have done so much harm, but perhaps burying all the 'bad news' is causing more harm than good.

    Catholic Parent

  24. Thanks for articulating so clearly these concerns which should be shared by all Catholics.
    Catholic Education has been in decline for some years now-as one Catholic parent said- it's not turning out practising Catholics anymore, let alone committed Catholics.That is, I know, only one way of assessing the effectiveness of a Catholic school, but it is an important indicator.
    You cannot give what you do not possess.
    Catholic parents who would once have asked the question "Is there a good Catholic school available where I live?", might now be asking " Is there a point in sending my child to a Catholic school?".

  25. Great post Fr John. The CES is no friend of the parents who see Catholic education decaying into a morass of relativism while the Bishops seemingly are 'out to lunch'.

    We the troops on the ground are tired of fighting this lonely battle. With the experience of twenty five years of Catholic schools hindsight tells us we should have home schooled!

    If it isn't the sex education, it's something else, poor Catechism, disobedience to the Magisterium, cafeteria Catholicism, liturgical abuse, teaching islam and other world views without pointing out why Catholics believe differently etc... etc...

    The kids are confused and hence lapse into indifference, so unless we get Bishops with some BACKBONE who can rattle some cages and get things done without worrying about their popularity and celebrity status we will continue to drift here in E & W.

    We need another brick in the wall not another nail in the coffin!

  26. Right. That's it. I'm off. I've had enough of this nonsense. It'll be compulsory, next !!! Where's the ferry timetable for the sailings to Orkney ? Papa Stronsay, here I come. (Bishop McMahon doesn't have any jurisdiction over the Transalpine Redemptorists, does he ?)

  27. "If it isn't the sex education, it's something else, poor Catechism, disobedience to the Magisterium, cafeteria Catholicism, liturgical abuse, teaching islam and other world views without pointing out why Catholics believe differently etc... etc..."

    George, I teach RE in a Catholic school and recognise nothing in your accusations. Its an easy bandwagon to jump on. What's your evidence otherwise its just a diatribe!

  28. Dear Mr Bayne

    It's great that you don't recognise any of the issues that I and most of the commenters on this post seem to have experienced. It's no good simply dismissing us as 'misguided'. The evidence is pretty obvious: our schools turn out mostly lapsed people.

    You are, I daresay, a very dedicated Catholic teacher, and most of the Catholic teachers I know are similarly dedicated. But they are being stifled in the effective teaching of their faith by syllabuses that are very lightweight in terms of catholic content, or by policies that speak of teaching morality 'in a catholic context'. What on earth does that mean? What it should mean is: 'we teach the truth that some things are right and others are wrong, that there is heaven and there is hell.'

    None of us lightly want to 'knock' Catholic education or discourage those who, like you, try to pass on the true faith (for I presume that is what you try to do). Much expense and sacrifice went into establish Catholic schools in this country.

    But I know many parents who have complained at a very lightweight presentation of the faith, or who have voiced objections to sex-ed policies being implemented in their schools or to the involvement in our Catholic schools of 'connexions' which puts children two mouse clicks away from explicit contraception and abortion advice, promising secrecy from their parents, but they are not listened to.

    Rather than dismiss the comments made in and on this post, perhaps you would care to comment on the topic of the post itself i.e. the remarks of Bishop McMahon as quoted in the Tablet article referred to?

    May God bless you and grant abundant fruit as a result of your labours.

  29. I do not expect Catholic Schools to produce practising Catholics - that would depend on the family - but I do expect them to produce people who, at the very least, know what the Catholic Church believes and teaches. Maybe it is time to find a Catholic School to which we could send Bishop McMahon to complete his Catholic education.

  30. 'I do not expect Catholic Schools to produce practising Catholics - that would depend on the family - but I do expect them to produce people who, at the very least, know what the Catholic Church believes and teaches. Maybe it is time to find a Catholic School to which we could send Bishop McMahon to complete his Catholic education'.

    What a brilliant comment. What more can anyone say.

    All I want from a Catholic School,for my children, is that they learn the faith according to the Magisterium of the Church. What I am finding is that my children are coming home with misinformed teachings which, by the Grace of God, my husband and I are able to correct.

    Just one example, the RE teacher told the children in Year 9 thay they do not have to accept the teachings of the Church on contraception especially in relation to problems in Africa?????

  31. I wish you were right Mr Bayne, but my experience of Catholic schools with my six children has been everything but plain sailing.

    My wife and I together with other like minded Catholic parents have fought the sex-ed issues, the poor catechesis, the cafeteria Catholicism, compulsory government pushing for homosex education, etc...etc... for some 25 years now.

    You know what - it's getting worse not better. As I say I just wish it were different. The lack of support from the Catholic hierarchy is the worst thing (this latest Bishop McMahon thing just reinforces my views on that) - we parents fight a lonely battle on too many fronts and you feel sometimes like you just want to chuck it all in. With hindsight home-schooling would have been my choice.

    You obviously come from a school where things are apparently very un-typical of a mainstream Catholic school. That's great, a glimmer of light in the darkness.

    What do you do when the RE teachers are not Catholics, and islam is taught for several weeks as a 'module' within the RE programme, the year before that it was hinduism. No mention as to where and why Catholic belief differs from islam - it's just presented as an alternative world view. And hence the kids perceive it as just that - an alternative and here's the danger 'equally valid world/faith view' to Catholicism!

    So no Mr Bayne it is not diatribe - merely personal experience over a very long time. As for bandwagons - they hold no interest for me.

  32. EF Pastor Emeritus writes;
    "I do not expect Catholic Schools to produce practising Catholics - that would depend on the family - but I do expect them to produce people who, at the very least, know what the Catholic Church believes and teaches"

    I agree to an extent - but, so many of our parents are unable to "produce practising Catholics" precisely because of their own bad schooling. I have been a priest for 34 years and in that time I have seen young people who do not know their faith - and who especially do not have any real grasp of Catholic moral teaching - get married and have kids. If they have pracised the faith they have been unable to pass on something which they do not have themselves, and so we now have more young people who are not bothering to get married, who have no idea about the Sunday obligation and come and go to Holy Communion as and when they like - who have NO understanding of the Catholic view of contraception (and some even reject the Church's teaching on abortion).
    Not only that, but - and this is not a minor point - lying is endemic in our society, and in our Church communities. I once suggested that some marriages are invalid because some young people simply lie during the ceremony. Why not? Who tells them not to?

    The crisis is VERY deep indeed, and apart from much prayer and fasting, we have only one way of putting it right, and that is through the only place where we have a "captive audience" - our Catholic schools. We need a complete revision of Catholic education, recognising what is good (and there is much that is excellent) but also reforming them as centres of catechesis. The theory that they are there simply to educate people about the faith is fine as a theory, but it has not produced any discernable fruit. I remember two young people who told me that they wanted to teach R.E. Neither of them came to Sunday Mass! I have a Catholic school down the road from me which is supposed to be one of the best in the diocese. I once asked the chaplain (he was a layman) how often confessions were heard there. His reply was, we have hardly had any confessions here, not even during Lent.

    In this crisis, it seems to me there is now only one way to go - full-blooded, completely Catholic schools, with regular sacraments, the use of the Catechism, the complete rewriting of RE syllabuses and a recognition from all parents what the school is about. THEN we can have cooperation from the Parish because we will have something to work with. I am not suggesting no non-Catholics (we must always be open to genuine seekers into the faith and Catholic culture) but we need to have a much clearer vision of what we are about and we must - as you say, Fr. Boyle, teach the Truth because it IS the Truth.

  33. I am afraid that things are very bad indeed in our Catholic schools. I am an RE teacher in the Salford diocese in a secondary school. Recently, the staff were told that the school is unable to stop young girls from being referred to a doctor for an abortion through the school nurse. Some staff made their opposition clear. Every Catholic secondary school that has a school nurse is in the same position. Why are our priests and bishops not facing up to this issue?

  34. Chris, you might like to know that many priests are deeply concerned about such things, but not all the priests in any given deanery will be similarly disposed. One or two will bring up such matters at meetings, but there may be little response. Some priests simply see the situation as hopeless because the bishops refuse to act. Sadly the bishops simply go along and congratulate everybody and this amounts - sorry to say it - to a kind of "cover up". Priests who stick their necks out may also fall foul of local headteachers who are concerned about the reputation of their schools. Comments and complaints will go to the bishop and -well, you can see the problem. My own feeling is that we need a very strong, solid (however small) vociferous laity who will DEMAND their rights according to Vatican 11 and insist on a proper Catholic education for their children. Priests, I'm afraid are in a no-win situation except with regard to one-to-one teaching and small groups.

  35. Thanks Father. I don't want to scapegoat but the sheer dishonesty of the situation angers me. Diocesan inspections will claim that this is an excellent catholic school when its allowing people to come in and encourage our youth to go to the clinic for the morning-after pill without parental knowledge. No doubt bishops will say that the governing body should be sorting this out, but they are not. (I speak as a former Head of RE in two Catholic schools).

  36. Dear Fr John Abberton you obviously have a 'grass roots' grasp of the real problems. You have written absolutely brilliantly on this subject. Thank the Lord!

    'In this crisis, it seems to me there is now only one way to go - full-blooded, completely Catholic schools, with regular sacraments, the use of the Catechism, the complete rewriting of RE syllabuses and a recognition from all parents what the school is about'.

    Yes, Yes, YES!!!!! This is music to my ears. Shout this from the rooftops!!

    The Catholic RE syllabuses have been written by liberal imbecilliums who on the face of it seem to me to have only a superficial understanding of the Catholic Faith and are too preoccupied not wishing to upset anyone and being so PC that they water down the Truth until we are left with an RE programme which teaches no Faith at all!

    Fr Abberton may I respectfully suggest that you apply for the TOP job (in whatever department that might be) as Director of Catholic Education in England & Wales!!! First thing is to give the CES a serious wake-up call and pull their 'collective head' out of the sand!


    Well the Holy Father has thoroughly recommended modern means of communication!

  37. Chris, as a Foundation Governor in our local Catholic Comprehensive I know exactly how you must feel and what you say rings so true in my experience.

    Everybody pats each other on the back 'oh yes well done yada yada, model school yada yada, so many A*-C RE passes blah blah....' then carry on business as usual. Meanwhile the rot continues and our children continue to lose their Faith completely - what little they have or not in the first place should be supported, polished and lovingly nurtured by the schools. Sadly the opposite is true.

    Diocesan inspections can only amount to a 'whitewash' and 'don't rock the boat' must be their mantra. Bishops more interested in their lunch dates than the salvation of souls. Hard statement I know, but what else can you say, what can parents who care, do about all this??!!

    Does anyone know of any diocesan report in E&W that actual brought anyone to book for poor Catholic Teaching and Formation?

  38. Well, here's the job for Fr John Abberton that George was hoping for...
    Deputy Director of the Catholic Education Service, England and Wales. Yes, it's only a deputy director post, which is why the salary is a measly £60K-65K I suppose. But he would be reporting directly to Oona, so would be perfectly placed to nudge her in the right direction. But better hurry: closing day is today, which is, so aptly, 'Education Sunday' (a Churches Together initiative).


Please avoid being 'anonymous' if at all possible.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...