The Conundrum of Catholic Schoolseditor
I’m always very surprised to learn of allegedly informed Catholics who continue to believe that Catholic schools are doing a great job. It’s as if there were no crisis in the Church, as if everyone involved had the same objective of passing on the Faith. Having led a number of RE Departments in Catholic schools in England, I know differently. At the time of this writing I know of several RE teachers in various Scottish Catholic schools who are having a hard time of it when they uphold the Church’s teaching on sexual morality; in some cases, the same pupils who mischievously (in my view) ask a question about, say, homosexuality, will then lodge a complaint that the teacher is “homophobic ” for doing nothing more than repeating what the Church teaches, based on the natural moral law. In some cases, parents, and colleagues also complain. Teachers who uphold the Faith are bullied. That’s a fact. So, I decided to check out the Scottish Catholic Education Service website, to see how they’re selling Catholic schools these days. There was one surprise, showing that they’re paying some attention to the valid criticisms made by informed Catholics for years now, but there was also the usual blurb. More on the surprise in a moment, but first…
Here’s the usual blurb…
Central to Catholic Christian faith is the person of Jesus Christ whose invitation to all people to live life in all its fullness presents the challenge which lies at the heart of religious education. Ways of responding to this challenge are facilitated through regular reflection upon the impact of the message of Catholic Christian faith on learners’ understanding of life and on their personal response to their life circumstances. Such reflective consideration leads to the growth of knowledge and understanding and provides opportunities for the development of beliefs, values and practices which result in the making of religious and moral decisions and commitments in life. Contexts for such opportunities may include:
- appropriate experiences and celebration of prayer, reflection, meditation and liturgy
- consideration of relevant life situations which present moral challenges
- experience of engaging with the community of faith in home, school and parish
- participation in acts of charity and in service for communities, locally and globally.
Here’s the surprise…
While it is appropriate to include learning about other denominations and other faiths, the aim in Catholic religious education classes will always be to form young people who follow Jesus and to assist them to know, love and serve God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Hence, Catholic religious education is ‘confessional’ in nature. In particular, teachers should avoid taking a phenomenological approach, thus presenting all denominations or faiths as equally true. While respecting pupils’ opinions and faith backgrounds, teachers must propose Catholic beliefs and values as objectively true and eminently relevant. In this way, in the teaching of religious education, Catholic beliefs, traditions and practices must be seen as central: “. . . relativism must be avoided”. Source
WOW! Was THAT a surprise. When I did my teacher-training in Glasgow, it was the phenomenological approach all the way. The very word “confessional” was expunged from the blurb, and we were forbidden to teach the Catholic religion as if it were true. We had to think about those from lapsed home, from Protestant homes, from non-Christian homes, from the cat & dog home – in fact we had to think about anything and everything except the reason for having Catholic schools in the first place which is, of course, to pass on the Catholic Faith – with conviction.
Here’s the conundrum…
For starters, the rest of the website is designed, more or less, to ensure that the “surprise” paragraph remains in the category of “The Theory of Catholic Education”.
The fact is, too, that staff are often living in “relationships” which are a counter-witness to the famous Catholic “ethos”. They are not, therefore, ipso facto in a position to uphold Catholic teaching on key moral issues such as marriage. Hence the hostility facing those teachers who do live in conformity with Catholic doctrine and morality, and who seek to pass it on to pupils – as is their duty, and for which they will be called to account before God. It’s a scandal of monumental proportions, therefore, when Catholic teachers are forced to approach their professional associations/unions for help and support, or take sickness leave, or consider moving into the non-denominational sector or, in one case that I know of, decide to leave teaching altogether, and for what? For doing nothing more than their duty as Catholic educators.
The idea, too, that Catholic education requires not only the active support of teachers and parents, but priests in the parishes, brings problems. I’m losing count of the number of parishioners telling me the most shocking things that they hear from their priests and the liturgical abuses which are now endemic in the new Mass. How can pupils learn true Catholic doctrine on the Real Presence for example, when they are encouraged to receive Communion in the hand and even from a lay person, or true doctrine on the priesthood if they see lay people distributing ashes, and giving blessings to those not receiving the Blessed Sacrament.
Conundrum? Catholic schools? What do you think?