Sunday, 13 February 2011

Catholic (?) Schools

...despite being a practising a Catholic?

On Radio 4 this morning the completely un-biased and Catholic-friendly "Sunday" programme aired a piece about the Cardinal Vaughan Schooll in London. (Linen on the Hedgerow has a post about it as well.) I can't understand the strangeness of what was said. The school is recognised by the government's inspection body (OFSTED) as a "highly motivated and highly achieving Catholic School". The Archdiocese of Westminster seems to think that its entrance criteria are too demanding but as one of the parents pointed out, what the school asks for is nothing more than what any and every Catholic is supposed to be doing anyway. It seems that practising the Faith is now, in the eyes of the Archdiocese, a bar to attending a Catholic school, or at the very least something not to be encouraged. Surely, this is the inversion of what should be desirable?

Bishop Stack, defending the Archdiocesan position, says that the criteria imposed by the school might prevent ethnic minorities and immigrants from attending. However, the school has forty - yes forty - different ethnic groups represented among its pupils.

Bishop Stack also says that adding such conditions (the normal ones the Church imposes on every Catholic at Baptism) "makes things less clear". To my mind it couldn't make things any clearer. The school says "we ask of you what the Church asks of you". Seems clear to me.

Professor Gerald Grace, Director of the Centre for Research in Catholic Education and of the Institute of Education at the University of London says that a modern Catholic school is about being "open and hospitable to the lapsed". But my dear Professor, what about being open and hospitable to the practising Catholics - the forgotten minority? Those who are lapsed are in sin, in an irregular relationship with the Church and its teaching. Those who are practising are also sinners but they are, by the Church's own legal, pastoral and moral standards also in a regular relationship with the Church (ie sinners who go to Confession).

Perhaps the real reason for the uncomfortable shifting and tenuous argument is that if ALL Catholic schools began asking families to do what the Church asks of every baptised Catholic the vast majority of our schools would not be full, like the Vaughan, but empty. At least in the short term but in the end perhaps we would have many fewer Catholic schools but much better Catholic schools.

In other words, they would be what is says they are on the sign at the gate - CATHOLIC.


Anonymous said...

I may be mistaken but does not the state pay about 80% of funding for Catholic schools and the Church pays the other 20%. And who provides the 20%? Is it not the dwindling congregations of faithful who still pay towards the weekly collections, raffle tickets, parish bazaars, and such like? If so, then why should these practising Catholics be shunted aside so that non-practising (lapsed) Catholics, who are paying nothing towards the upkeep of the Church, can enjoy the fruits of any Catholic school when they have no interest in supporting the very fabric of the schools to which they are so desperate to send their children.
Why should anyone, who is not an active member of a club expect to gain admission to that club, especially when they are not prepared to pay the dues? I have reached the stage where I think he best thing that could happen for the health of the Church in this country is for all the bishops to resign en masse and we start again with a new team of bishops who were not ordained in the 1960s or 70s.


Richard Collins said...

Spot on Father and thank you for your kind mention (s).

Simon Platt said...

"It seems that practising the Faith is now, in the eyes of the Archdiocese, a bar to attending a Catholic school, or at the very least something not to be encouraged. Surely, this is the inversion of what should be desirable?"

That's half the reason I keep my children out of "catholic" secondary schools in the diocese of Lancaster.

JARay said...

For the best expose of this situation I recommend the post made by "Ches" on his blog:-
He points out that the primary educators of children are their parents and the school stands in loco parentis. The school exists to continue what the parents are responsible for.
Do read Ches's blog

PP said...

We have had a similar catholic-lite admissions policy imposed on our primary school by the diocesan education know-alls.

This year we are particularly oversubscribed, though the baptism register yields no clue as to why, and it looks as if many of the practising catholics and the siblings of practising catholics already in the school won't get in - the lapsed who live on the doorstep will have free reign.

I feel a resignation from the governing body coming on as the malodorous stench of lapsation assaults my olfactory faculty.

pattif said...

It is also the faithful in the pews who pay the salaries of diocesan education officers. Instead of persecuting a school to which hundreds of parents apply every year for their children, it is surely incumbent on diocesan education officers to respect the wishes of those who pay their salaries by providing more schools like Cardinal Vaughan.

Anonymous said...

Very well put! I am not a Vaughan parent but another Catholic London parent. I would encourage anyone who wishes to find out more and to support these parents by visiting the Vaughan Action Parents Group website. Do watch the video and consider donating.