Saturday, 19 February 2011

Catholic (?) Schools - What would Our Lady say?

The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help

Continuing from my post about the Radio 4 "Today" programme on the Cardinal Vaughan School last week, one of the other things said by the "professional expert" Professor Grace is that "It is not their school [the parents] - the school belongs to the Diocese".

Ches at thesensiblebond comments very effectively that this is not really the case.

it is worth pointing out that they all share in the same fundamentally wrong assumption if the Catholic Church runs an education service, parents should come to it, cap in hand and very grateful for what it manages to dole out to them. Er, no, actually. The parents themselves have the duty of educating their children as Catholics by virtue of their covenantal promises made to God on the day of their marriage. So, even Catholic schools stand in loco parentis. The parents are NOT, therefore, clients of the school; the Catholic school is, in a sense, the subcontractor of Catholic parents. But could not the diocese defend its position on the grounds that it is arguing for the rights of children whose parents cannot or will not act in their defence? No! Because that is a different function from standing in the place of parents who actually, really, actively want a Catholic education for their children.
Even though the physical property of most schools belongs to the diocese, it is still the laity who gave the money that bought the property in the first place. It's interesting that as soon as the liberal agenda is threatened, certain people are suddenly no longer interested in "empowering those at a local level" or letting "the voice of the laity be heard" if it's not speaking from the approved "Catholic-lite" text. When those of us who are considered too "Traditional" or "conservative" quote the rules, the Catechism or the Code of Canon Law, sighs are let out, eyebrows are raised and we are treated as pariahs, hopelessly embroiled in a legalistic attitude to the Church, pastorally out of touch. Quotes from the Gospels about scribes and Pharisees come coughing up from the aghast lips of the modern, pastorally sensitive and (empty) church brigade. But suddenly, the "rules" and what property belongs to whom, becomes very important and those who usually look disapprovingly on such things become only to keen to quote them when it suits.

In the Archdiocese here in Liverpool, as the change in the timeline of the Sacraments of Initiation comes into force, a re-emphasis is being placed on the parents as the primary educators of their children in the Faith - recognising that relying on Catholic schools over the past forty years has been an utter failure. How we are to re-educate parents in order to pass on a Faith they barely posses themselves has yet to be explained. We are promised "resources" to help us accomplish this. My own attempts in the past when dealing with parents in their role of passing on the faith to their children have met with a frosty reception. I can only think it will have to begin at some very basic level as my experience is that many of these non-practising parents have a lamentable understanding of the Faith and what little they have is incoherent, contradictory and idiosyncratic.

Last year for the First Communion Preparation I gave no prepared input but asked parents to fill in a quiz/questionnaire about the Faith and their understanding of it. To call most of the responses "Modernist" would lend them a connection with the Faith that Pope Pius X would certainly not uphold. There were parents who boldly stated that they do not believe in de fide Dogmas of the Church, or the necessity of attending Holy Mass on Sundays. Apart from the few parents who actually attend Holy Mass regularly (whose answers showed a good grasp of the Faith), the rest expressed views which were riddled with relativism and individualism - one parent who admitted knowing that missing Mass on Sunday was a sin yet wrote “I don’t think you need to go to church to be a good Catholic”, another claimed that because he/she didn’t “like” certain things they shouldn’t happen! The comments revealed a very flawed understanding of Priesthood and ecclesiology; an attempt to remake the Faith in our own image - rather than to conform ourselves to the Faith.

So, it will have to start with the basics presented in a clear and non-fuzzy manner. But it is just the lack of such an approach that has landed us where we are. In the apparitions of Our Lady of Good Help in the Diocese of Green Bay, USA, (apparitions now recognised by the Church) the Blessed Virgin called for children to be educated in the Faith:

'Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation’
How should this be accomplished? According the Our Blessed Mother:

'Teach the children the Catechism and show them how to make the Sign of the Cross. Teach them how to approach the Sacraments.'

I can sympathise with the parents who want a properly Catholic education for their children at the Vaughan. I have personally experienced great resistance and a concerted effort at official and unofficial levels to prevent me when I ask for basic Church rules to apply in our Catholic school. No-one is interested in promoting the teachings of the Church because most of those involved - teachers, governors and parents - are either so far from the Faith that they are not interested in such things or they are positively resistant to any affirmation of what are considered traditional Church teaching. If only I had the hundreds of parents who were of like mind to those at the Vaughan!

To go back to the comments Ches has made:

Should the Catholic school be a safety-net for children whose parents have lapsed? No! The school is only indirectly a tool for evangelisation; its primary function is building up the faith of those who are already faithful. That is not elitist, anymore than the fact parents feed their own children before feeding anyone else means that they are inegalitarian! If the diocese wishes to evangelise the lapsed, then let the diocese create its own opportunities for doing so, and let it not piggy-back on the efforts of faithful parents to educate their children in an atmosphere of fidelity and love.


Anonymous said...

Thank you once again,Father,for raising the important subject of the Vaughan and Catholic education, especially as we approach Education Sunday. It's great to hear the arguments so well put. As a London Catholic parent, struggling to provide my children with a proper Catholic education, so much of what you say rings true. I find myself wondering why I sent my children to a 'Catholic' primary school, much of the time! My oldest son attends another London Catholic boys' secondary school and I think the The Vaughan's problem is one for all serious Catholic parents, who just want a proper Catholic education. If your readers care about this, they should look up the Vaughan Parents' Action Group Website for more information and consider donating, especially for Education Sunday. This will ultimately affect us all. Pray for education in this country and please be generous.

Fr Dickson said...

The nub of the problem is that the decades following the Council and prior to the publication of the Catechism were a real wilderness for Doctrine; everything seemed so fluid because, I think, of the absence of the ‘Anathema sit’ declarations at the end of the Vatican II documents. I too have experienced problems with the parents having little or no understanding of the Faith. Two of my parents were given ‘House Points’ at school for knowing that “Jesus only ever sinned once –when he lost his temper in the temple”... The points were awarded by the priest in one instance and the Head Teacher in another. Sadly, twenty years after the publication of the Catechism, we are only just beginning to recover some solid teaching and only in some places, being held back by those who have taken full hold of the fluidity they came to love from 1965 onwards.