Thursday 5 January 2012

Bishop of Lancaster on things Catholic in name only

Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster has issued a Pastoral Letter which has attracted some attention. It is principally about evangelisation and how the Church is to go about it in changing circumstances. He challenges his people to think about evangelising their lapsed family, friends and neighbours.
All of us know someone - a friend, family member, classmate, work colleague or neighbour - who used to be a practising Catholic, but isn't any more. For some who initially heard the incredible proclamation of Christ alive in the Church, the message has become stale. The promises of the Gospel seem empty or unconnected to their busy lives today. So, what is our response? Surely our love and concern for them means that they should be the primary object of our missionary or evangelising efforts, our energy and resources. The Church only exists to evangelise that means buildings, churches, parishes, schools and colleges are only valuable insofar as they help the Church in that mission of salvation!!
Evangelisation out in the world is surely one of the tasks that the Second Vatican Council reminded us was among the pre-eminent works that the laity are called to (as opposed to taking over the priest's sacramental jobs on the sanctuary!) The Bishop also questions the way our Catholic schools have, for the most part, developed:
Is it right or sustainable to expect our Mass-going population of 21,000 to support our schools and colleges in which often the majority of pupils, and sometimes teachers, are not practising Catholics? Is it time for us to admit that we can no longer maintain schools that are Catholic in name only?
"Schools that are Catholic in name only." Finally, a bishop who has had the courage to say it. What is the point of us maintaining schools that have the name "Catholic" on the sign outside (or more likely the reduced epithet "R.C.") while inside few of the teachers are Catholic and ninety per cent plus of the children and their families do not practice the Faith in any meaningful way. This situation could be seen as an opportunity to evangelise and call these lapsed children and their families back to the Faith but anyone who attempts to use our school system for this purpose immediately has the rug pulled out from under their feet.
1. Catholic Schools have been forced or have bought into the prevailing secular culture and management of schools and so there is no time and no ability to push a truly Catholic agenda (we cannot decide to only employ practising Catholics as teachers, for example, and the health and safety implications of allowing children to cross the road to serve Mass are momentous, not to mention that it clashes with the numeracy or literacy hour).

2. Most diocesan education structures do not envisage this or they even work against it. I've been told in the past that it is simply not acceptable to ask children in school if they were at Mass with their families on Sunday. I've been told that the school has an equal opportunities policy and therefore I may not recruit altar servers and only ask for boys - even though this contravenes the teaching of the Church on this matter (I wonder how I can, therefore, talk about vocation to the Priesthood in school, as only boys could apply - or nuns for Religious Life, as only girls could apply!) All this apart from the actual religious education programes that are for the most part not fit for purpose.
Whatever has happened to our Catholic Schools in recent decades, the fact is they are no longer doing what they are meant to do - teach the Catholic Faith along with giving an all-round education. Watered down elements of the Christian faith may be taught in our schools but the fullness of the Catholic Faith is not lived in our schools. How could it be and why should it be by people who may not be Catholics at all? How could it be by teachers who are lapsed? A truly Catholic ethos must surely mean so much more than vaguely "helping others" by CAFOD events in Lent and joining in Red Nose Day.

To the rest of the world - and no doubt to Rome on ad limina visits - the paper fact of so many Catholic schools with so many children in them looks fantastic. The reality, as Bishop Campbell points out, is rather different. Perhaps the time has come to abandon the pretense and start again by spending the money we now spend on schools on far fewer schools for those who actually are Catholic who practise their Faith and on catechetical programmes in parishes for children. In a sense, going back to how many of our schools started - for example in my own parish here when nuns bought a large house and started classes in it back in the 1940's.

You can read further excellent comment at:

Outside In


Protect the Pope


David O'Neill said...

Dear Fr Simon
A Happy, Peaceful & Healthy 2012 to you.
Please read my letter to be published this weekend in 'Catholic Herald' where I make a similar point re 'Catholic' education being taught by teachers who themselves were badly formed in knowledge of their Faith

John Thomas Seed said...

Dear Father

Best wishes to you.

If you want to see the results of bad Catholic Teaching in the Catholic Schools - then I suggest that you look at your archdiocese in Liverpool, who must be the prime example of a very low standard of Catholic religious education. It is appalling what has been allowed to come out of the archdiocesan education department.

We have sent our children to public Catholic schools. I would not allow them to go to any Catholic Secondary or High school in the Liverpool archdiocese.

John Thomas Seed

The Bones said...

Did a Bishop just mention Salvation?


Parate Viam Domini said...

Mr Seed,

Please allow me to be tad controversial.

I would say that you are in a very lucky position if you can afford to send your children to a public Catholic school.

That being said I have seen much of the same fruit borne from private Catholic education. In fact one only need look at some of the prominent figures from the so called Catholic 'establishment'. Many of whom attended such places as Ampleforth. Seeing people like Ed Stourton of the BBC, alumni of Ampleforth, makes me believe that even if I had the means I would not subscribe to such places.

I, myself am the product of a Catholic Secondary Modern (1980s vintage) and ironically one with an Ampleforthian Benedictine charism. The RE teaching was not great.

I am also quite well acquainted with the current modern system of teaching RE which I believe is even more woefully inadequate.

The point I make is just WHAT does consitute a 'proper Catholic education'? It surely cannot be the pre-Vat II model as that was the very system which bred the generation that wanted to change things so dramatically (and did).

Personally, I don't know the answer but the older I get and the more I see of the woeful state of Catholicism in general, the more inclined I am to believe that the Church should initially pull out of ALL current catholic & Catholic schools. Criteria should then be set to enable 'proper' Catholic schools to be established.

John Thomas Seed said...

My Friend:

I take your point about some of the ways that have not been too good or perhaps even disasterous in Catholic Public Schools.

I and my wife are able to afford to send our children to Public Catholic Schools. We both work hard and have spent many years to get to our status in our professions. That has all been attained through hard work and years of studies.

My children have very good friends who go to High Schools and Catholic Schools in Liverpool.

I have heard the stories from their friends about what is being taught, in RE, at supposidly Catholic Schools in Liverpool.

I am even more concerned about what is being missed out of the RE lessons.

Fundemental and most important things are not mentioned. One of the teenagers tells me that he has never been taught about The 10 Commandments. Another tells me that he was not taught that you should go to Holy Mass each Sunday and Holy Days.

Another boy, who is 16, tells me that he was never told that he should go to Confession. Rather he was taught that Confession was not in fashion in the Parish where his parents go to Mass.

It goes on and on.

I have listened to my children's friends. I have explained what both my wife and I were taught-----
The True Faith.

It is not difficult to understand why the attendance at Masses in Liverpool is so low, as published by the Archbishop recently.

Evidence shows that there are about 470,000 Catholics in the Liverpool Archdiocese. Further evidence shows that ONLY 54,000 attend weekly Mass on Sundays.

Hardly suprising - when the RE education in Liverpool Catholic Schools is so very poor.

So where are the priests going to come from in Liverpool???
When they have been fed this rubbish at teenage level!!

John Thomas Seed

Dominic MacCarthy said...

I also get the feeling that orthodox priests who actually hold to the teaching of the Church are kept out of secondary schools, and replaced by salaried laywomen who act more as counsellors and social workers. When many of the staff, and the RE staff too, regard church teaching as old hat, old-fashioned etc., they will not welcome or facilitate the visits of a priest who holds to Church teaching. So the problem gets worse and worse.

Bishops too sometimes do their bit, by all accounts not appointing orthodox priests to school chaplaincies.

GOR said...

I commend Bishop Campbell on his approach, much as I commended Bishop Patrick O’Donohue on his “Fit For Mission” books. My criticism of Bishop O’Donohue was that all this came as he neared retirement. While ‘better late than never’ his books also had the ring of: “Too soon old, too late wise”, giving the impression that he could only say this then as he was about to leave. I don’t know his history, so perhaps he always felt that way and acted accordingly.

But it left me with the impression of the ‘exit interview’ in the business world where people feel free to let fly with the truth as they will no longer have to deal with the problems of the company and their coworkers, or suffer the consequences.

At least Bishop Campbell is tackling the issue early in his ministry… More power to him!

georgem said...

A head teacher has countered the bishop's remarks by stating that it is not necessary for children to attend Mass on Sunday to be spiritually nourished.
Significantly, he appears to have been a RE teacher for many years. 'Nuff said.

Damask Rose said...

I have sworn to myself that I will neverrrrr everrrrr let a bunch of women calling themselves catechists teach any aspect of the Faith to my son ever again.

Erm, I think I need to re-phrase that somehow. Er, they didn't actually teach him the Faith.

I am so upset about my son's First Holy Communion it's taking me months to get over. The women did that. Catechists with deep cleavage on display right infront of the boys, same thing with the dresses worn at the Communion Breakfast being more suitable for an Evening-do on a cruise ship. Catechists chatting/laughing right up at the front pew at the Preparatory Masses. It's called "loss of the sense of the sacred". Sure is. But who's going to teach the catechists? The priest? It's debutantism. It's run by women, for women, for their daughters. Boys/men are being marginalised.

How people can imagine they get away with this I don't know. But they do, don't they. The women run the parishes. The priests let them do what they want. It's all about Father being popular, and how much (£) he gets at Christmas and Easter. Sorry, but priests need to man-up.

Women call themselves "Chaplains" in schools now. Did we get that from the Anglican's? Ecumenism, *sigh*.

The women see what the "Chaplains" get up to in the Catholic comprehensive schools during the Liturgy and so forth, and then they bring it back to the parishes. It's all women-led.

What was it that St Paul said about women? - I can really see where he was coming from - because if women go too far, services can start looking pagan.

I don't like seeing a woman sitting in Father's chair flanked by girls on the Sanctuary and a traditional devotion being changed so much (so as to be relevant to ALL the children (toddlers upwards) - because if they're not participating, someone's being left out) you can't even get the partial indulgence attached to it.

OK - at the end of the day your child is only going to be as Catholic as the person teaching them.

It's all peripheral. The people don't want the Catechism, the 10 Commandements.

They want to sin and every sin has to be accommodated now. It's all got to be pastoral solution-ised. I call it "internal ecumenism". The common ground is "no sin" and "you're in heaven already". And if your a hardened mortal sinner, you know, adulterer, fornicator, you're welcomed at the Lord's table and you can get your priestly blessing at Christams and Easter and First Holy Communion and every Sunday when the rest of us go up to Communion so you don't feel left out. So why should I bother going to Confession regularly?