The Conundrum of Catholic Schools

The Conundrum of Catholic Schools

SCESlogoI’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? 

Comments (66)

  • Therese

    How can we doubt the efficacy of the Catholic schools when it is evident by the tremendous number of young people who swell out the pews in churches up and down the land, and by their faithful attempts to remain pure until they are married? While the majority of youth regularly “shack up” with various partners, our Catholic youth stand as shining beacons of sexual morality, and when they do marry they remain open to new life, hence the large families they have. This is a wonderful reflection of the groundwork in the Faith they have received during their schooling, with of course the reinforcement in that teaching which they have received from the pulpits across the land.

    January 28, 2016 at 10:28 pm
    • Margaret Mary


      LOL! You could add to that hilarious list of yours the number of young people in favour of gay marriage and transgenderism!

      I know young people who attend Catholic school and they don’t know the basic terminology of church like tabernacle, genuflect etc. I’ve even heard of young people who were seniors in Catholic school and didn’t know the Hail Mary.

      I wonder if they are now panicking a bit and trying to bring back the idea of passing on the faith because they’ve definitely not been doing it for years.

      January 28, 2016 at 10:35 pm
  • Christina

    Yes indeed, and what a pile of tripe that blurb is – utterly contentless and meaningless – conceived and written by idiots ‘full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing’. I am grateful that when I was a Catholic teacher I was spared such blurbs in any kind of education, religious or otherwise, and just had to get my head around detailed syllabi and teach and test all the topics on them until they were well known and understood. Words like ‘reflection’ (one of the Pope’s favourites, that), ‘challenge’, ‘facilitate’, ‘personal response’ are nothing but waffle cloaking complete lack of substance. If they are panicking and want to bring back any ideas, MM, they should look in the archives, just like they did a few years ago when they ‘discovered’ synthetic phonics (dropped in the ’50s) for the teaching of reading!

    January 28, 2016 at 11:25 pm
    • RCA Victor

      I agree with you, Christina. Since when is “living life in all its fullness” the “challenge which lies at the heart of religious education”? Talk about leaving the door open! In our local archdiocese, when open house/enrollment season arrives (i.e. now), one can view billboards all over town promoting a Catholic school education because of “values.” Further testimony to the strategy of the “Revolution,” which is to establish control over media and education among its first objectives.

      But this also reminded me of the “Mission Statement” mania which also infected the Church, and this classic Hollywood spoof of that:


      January 29, 2016 at 4:31 pm
      • Who alone can judge?

        I think John 10:10 gives the basis for “living life in all its fullness”. If we unpack what Jesus meant it is core to his teaching.

        January 29, 2016 at 4:43 pm
      • RCA Victor

        Our Lord is obviously talking about an abundance of spiritual life, not of earthly life. If you want to give the benefit of the doubt to the SCES, I’d say that’s very generous of you. So my next question would be: how is John 10:10 applied in this school system? From what I have read here, I’d say “ignored” is a much more accurate word than “applied.” Or “perhaps” ignored is too optimistic?

        January 29, 2016 at 4:51 pm
      • Who alone can judge?

        Life to the full surely means wholeness, and that would surely mean that all the needs of a person are met, and not just spiritual ones. Or are The Commandments, and The Beatitudes just off the cuff comments from God with no earthly importance. And Our Lord was surely not just having fun when he fed people physically, and raised the dead?

        January 29, 2016 at 5:47 pm
      • Therese

        Who Alone Can Judge

        The homosexual lobby will certainly agree with your interpretation of Our Lord’s teaching. That can’t be right, can it?

        January 29, 2016 at 6:28 pm
      • Who Alone Can Judge?


        I haven’t given any interpretation favourable to “the homosexual lobby”, I wrote “Civil Law is making it difficult to teachers, and others who work in civil bodies, to address certain issues primarily because of, for example, the recent law on extremism which some have interpreted to mean that we cannot talk about marriage being a lifelong union, between a man and a woman, and open to children.”

        January 29, 2016 at 6:43 pm
      • Therese


        You wrote: Life to the full surely means wholeness, and that would surely mean that all the needs of a person are met, and not just spiritual ones.

        This is exactly what the homosexual/transgender/trans-species lobbies mean. They say they have ‘needs’. They want them to be satisfied so that they can feel ‘whole’.

        You can’t argue that you living life to the full means that all needs of a person are met, with the proviso that those ‘needs’ meet your criteria.

        Not all ‘needs’ can be fulfilled; not all ‘needs’ should be.

        January 29, 2016 at 8:35 pm
      • Who alone can judge?


        There is a difference between needs and wants. If a person needs something it is surely important they get it. If they want something they might never, rightly, get it.

        I believe modern political leaders are legislating for previously non existent rights, and most of them would be a want on the part of some.

        However, if we follow your logic, we need not do anything for the poor, hungry, dying, unjustly condemned, or sick, for example, because as long as they get to heaven it doesn’t matter if their life on earth has been hell.

        We are told in Genesis God saw all that he made and it was good. We believe in the resurrection of body. Our earthly concerns matter to God.

        I would suggest people read Holy Scripture in the light of our Catholic Social Teaching, which is based on Holy Scripture and Tradition.

        January 30, 2016 at 6:27 am
      • editor


        You’ve set up a false dichotomy by separating care for the poor, hungry, sick etc. and the salvation of souls.

        The Church has always done both. However, Catholic Social Teaching is not just about feeding the hungry etc. Catholic Social Teaching centres on the belief that Christ must be the head of every nation under Heaven. Thus, we cannot speak today of catering for everyone’s “needs” – as Therese says these may be immoral acts. The demands, and they are demands, of groups such as the LGBT people for marriage etc. is one example of false needs. So, it is wrong for Catholic mission statements to carry such propaganda dressed up as Christian concern.

        There’s nothing in Scripture, Tradition or Catholic Social Teaching to allow such a loose interpretation of charity. True charity does, indeed, feed the hungry, care for the poor and needy – needs being shelter, clothes and similar essentials – but does not forget the spiritual works of mercy. Nobody ever went to Hell for being hungry or cold. So, the spiritual works of mercy are of supreme importance, but note the crucial point: nobody who realises that will neglect the corporal works of mercy. However, there are plenty of people focused on the corporal works of mercy who neglect the work of doing what they can to save souls.
        Conundrums all over the place!

        January 30, 2016 at 9:44 am
      • Who alone can judge?


        I was not setting out to pose a false dichotomy.

        The point I was trying to make is that life on earth is meant to be hell, for anyone, even if our true home is in Heaven.

        To live life to the full, is surely to receive blessings, be mindful of those blessings and their source, and to live in love of God and neighbour with no one taking more than they needed. Jesus fed over 5000, from a small quantity of food, and no one took more than they needed and 12 baskets of food were collected afterwards.

        January 30, 2016 at 5:02 pm
      • Who alone can judge?


        A further observation, St John tells us we are liars, and talking nonsense, if we claim to love The God we cannot see, and do not love those we can see. ( 1 John 4:20) and see also Matthew 25: 31 -46.

        And to quote St Teresa of Avila:

        “Christ has no body but yours,
        No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
        Yours are the eyes with which he looks
        Compassion on this world,
        Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
        Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
        Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
        Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
        Christ has no body now but yours,
        No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
        Yours are the eyes with which he looks
        compassion on this world.
        Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

        And God restored the earthly fortunes of Job, and not just the material ones. Job 42: 12- 16

        January 30, 2016 at 5:14 pm
      • editor


        Your two posts above suggest that I am against helping people in their basic needs, food, shelter etc. in this world, focusing only on the next. This is not the case. I stated clearly that the Church has always done both. So let me repeat, we have a duty to help those in need of food, shelter, clothes etc. “I was hungry, thirsty” etc is an exhortation that came straight from Our Lord.

        There can be no denying, however, that the emphasis in Catholic schools (and parishes) today is on the former – the corporal works of mercy rather than the spiritual works of mercy. The pupils are given the clear impression (if not taught explicitly) that the Church’s work is to care for the poor and “marginalised” in this world, with nothing said about saving souls. Quite the reverse. Attend any funeral you care to name these days in any Catholic church across the lands of the UK, and you will hear that the dearly departed is already happily ensconced in Heaven – no question about it.

        I hope I’ve made myself crystal clear this time – although I’m saying exactly the same as I’ve said before and, indeed, many times on this blog, if not this particular thread.

        January 30, 2016 at 9:12 pm
      • Therese

        However, if we follow your logic, we need not do anything for the poor, hungry, dying, unjustly condemned, or sick, for example..

        Only if you consider that those are needs that shouldn’t be fulfilled. That you interpret what I wrote in such a way makes me doubt your common sense.

        What Genesis has to do with the price of fish in this context, I don’t know – God did make everything good – but you’re forgetting the serpent, aren’t you? Everything wasn’t good after he did his work, was it?. Perhaps you should read your bible to refresh your memory.

        You are quite correct that there is a difference between needs and wants, but unfortunately the modern world, with the encouragement of the media, does not recognise the difference, hence the homosexual lobby clamouring loudly for their ‘needs’ to be met, which has had a great effect on too many of our hierarchy who appear to agree that these ‘needs’ should be fulfilled.

        February 1, 2016 at 11:36 am
      • Who Alone Can Judge?


        Genesis has a bearing because all that God created was good. Yes sin has entered the world. However, we are not at war with the world, but “worldly” values and as with needs and wants, there is a difference between the two.

        For example we can use metal to make an eating utensil, or a weapon. One is a good use of earthly resources, and the other is not.

        Heaven is our gaol, but earth, when people live as God wishes, is, and should be, a place of blessing.

        The Bishops enjoy full canonical status within the Church, and are the successors of The Apostles, and, few, if any, are in awe of any lobby.

        February 1, 2016 at 12:26 pm
      • Christina

        WACJ, yours is a novel understanding of John ch.10 v.10, and for that matter of the Beatitudes. It is erroneous, and pernicious. RCA Victor’s undertanding corresponds to that of the teaching Church, following the Fathers, in all the years before the Second Vatican Council. St. John Chrysostom, to give one example, says: ’…But came, He said, for the salvation of the sheep; That they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly, in the kingdom of heaven. This is the third mark of difference between Himself, and the false prophets’.

        Christ’s mission, He said, was not of this world. All that He did in His public ministry, He did to teach His followers this truth. God issued His Commandments not to create a worldly Utopia for fallen man, but to lead fallen man to eternal life. Not until Francis did a Pope seem, in his preoccupations and teaching, to doubt this truth, and the sheep are led astray – big time.

        January 29, 2016 at 9:55 pm
      • Christina

        Hilarious! It reminds me of a piece my son wrote called ‘The Waffler’s Conference’, where ‘things begin to cohere in terms of a meaningful whole’, etc., etc. If Ed finds any more waffle for us to comment on I just might find it and put it on here 😁

        January 29, 2016 at 10:31 pm
      • Christina

        And that was an answer to RCA Victor apropos the ‘Mission Statement’ video. 😀 😀 😀

        January 29, 2016 at 10:34 pm
      • editor


        I’m sure we’d all love to read your son’s essay/article “The Waffler’s Conference” – the title is a draw in itself !

        So, let’s have it !

        January 30, 2016 at 9:15 pm
      • editor

        RCA Victor,

        Your video reminded me of this one –


        January 29, 2016 at 11:23 pm
      • Christiana2

        Haven’t seen that before. It would be hilarious if it was not just a bit too close to what passes for RE these days!

        January 30, 2016 at 10:56 am
      • Theresa Rose


        I remember seeing that link before on a previous thread sometime ago. I agree it would be hilarious if it were not a bit too close for what passes for RE these days.

        I discovered this link from Michael Matt at the Remnant Newspaper. What is happening over in the USA public school system might be worse off than this side of the pond. That is if it is not happening already.

        January 30, 2016 at 11:21 am
      • RCA Victor


        That was both hilarious and scary – that sniveling, sanctimonious weasel is a perfect characterization of the insanity and hypocrisy of political correctness, which is the mortal enemy of Christianity.

        January 30, 2016 at 3:54 pm
      • editor

        Here’s another one, folks. I think the Stanford Nutting videos are great, brilliantly taking the mickey out of the modernist “theologians”!


        January 30, 2016 at 3:56 pm
  • Who Alone Can Judge?

    Catholic Schools can only add to the tripartite relationship of Family (primarily parents), Parish and The School. The primary one is The Domestic Church, the home. They cannot make up for what is lacking elsewhere, and negatives outside will impact on even the best Catholic School.

    Civil Law is making it difficult to teachers, and others who work in civil bodies, to address certain issues primarily because of, for example, the recent law on extremism which some have interpreted to mean that we cannot talk about marriage being a lifelong union, between a man and a woman, and open to children. However, The Archbishop, who leads for education in England and Wales didn’t make life easier when he , even before that law was passed, said a number of our schools are staffed by a number of good Catholic gay Head Teachers. (One further negative sign was when schools, following what was going on in secular society, started writing Mission Statements as if we were not already the custodians, and preachers, of The Gospels.)

    We have to recognise too that provision of faith based schools is under attack, and that position is gaining strength in political circles. We need to find the balance between contributing to society, and hearing societal needs, and concerns, That I think is what the documents cited seek to say.

    However, on the plus side, a welcoming Catholic School can be an agent for change, and evangelisation, if it gets the balance right, and embraces people who are not of any faith, or of other faiths. That is, we should welcome the stranger in our midst, if they respect the ethos of the institution.

    However, true discourse and engagement, in any sphere, should mean contrary views should be heard, and published, and a reasoned response, not censorship should be given and any body or institution that says it seeks to guide, and educate, should not merely publish a polemic on any topic.

    January 29, 2016 at 8:20 am
    • editor


      Even the “liberal” Cardinal Winning admitted publicly, at, I believe, a Head Teacher’s conference, that since the Catholic schools have not been teaching the Faith for several generations now, parents themselves do not know enough to teach their children. So, the theory of Catholic Education, that home, school and parish will unite to pass on the Faith to the next generation, no longer works and hasn’t worked for quite a while now. Priests ordained after Vatican II, haven’t been properly taught the Faith either. Simple fact. Thankfully, many have realised that and sought to educate themselves, which is why we hear of more and more young priests, for example, learning the Traditional Latin Mass and turning to devotions such as the rosary, scapulars etc.

      We’ve had the debate before, too, on the laws of the land trumping Catholic teaching, but the whole point of Catholic schools is to pass on the Catholic Faith and when I taught in England, for example, Ofsted documentation stated clearly that Catholic schools would not be inspected on sex education since they accepted that there was a different approach to that subject. In reality, those running the Catholic Education service were only too glad to be able to use the excuse that the law required sex-education so Catholic schools, in fact, went along with it, embraced it, claiming necessity since the law required it. I believe the same is true of Scotland. Yet, if Catholics, and Catholic educators in particular, don’t challenge the ridiculous notion that the (man-made) laws of any land trump God’s law, then who will?

      Catholic schools were set up for one purpose only: to pass on the Catholic religion to the next generation. There was no mention of meeting society’s needs, concerns or anything else. Having taken their eye off the ball and tried to be all things to all non-believers, they are now having to justify afresh their very existence. “Society” is not quite as tolerant of Catholic education as Catholic educators are tolerant (and desperate to be seen to be so) of “society”. There can be no “balance” between truth and falsehood. Either we stand up for what we say we believe – that Catholic schools are essential to pass on the Faith (in which case we need to see an end to the crisis in the Church, to ensure it is THE Faith that we are passing on and not a mish mash of liberal and neo-conservative opinions from those who think they know better than the Apostles) OR we admit defeat and close the Catholic school gates.

      I don’t really understand what you mean by your last paragraph but good educators ensure that students understand why certain views/beliefs are not true – all of that stems from correct teaching about the nature and purpose of Christ’s Church. Only an idiot would teach that the Church is essential for salvation, outside the Church no salvation (with that clearly explained) and add but we must respect all beliefs because they all lead to God. Since God cannot contradict Himself, that cannot be true. He cannot say one minute: “I am the way, the life and the truth, no-one comes to the Father except through Me” and then the next say “O but choose your own religion, no problem.” Doesn’t make theological sense.

      January 29, 2016 at 10:32 am
    • Christina

      No, not ‘in any sphere’. When truth is to be taught (and I refer to teaching the faith in a Catholic school) then it makes no sense whatsoever to allow contrary untruth to be heard – to sow uncertainty and confusion in immature minds. There was a lot to be said for the assertion that ‘error has no rights’, certainly it doesn’t in catechetical instruction.

      January 29, 2016 at 10:15 pm
      • Who alone can judge?

        My last paragraph, commented on by Christina and Editor, refers to self proclaimed, or publicly recognised, promoters of education, and discourse, and dialogue, and not just Schools.

        January 30, 2016 at 6:31 am
      • editor


        Certainly, there should be no sowing of uncertainty and confusion in immature minds, but underlining of the truths of the Faith – this can be done (as it was done in my own pre-Vatican II school days) by highlighting (as politely as possible) the nonsense of other beliefs.

        However, even the “liberal” religious educator, Gabriel Moran, said that young people should not be introduced to other religions until sixth form, when they are (or should be) well-educated and formed in the beliefs of their own religion.

        Moran is presuming a thorough Catholic education, systematic and taught with conviction, of course. Whatever, it’s better to highlight the problems with non-Catholic beliefs during a sound Catholic education than leave young people open to having doubts and confusion sown when they go to university or the world of work, with no-one on hand to answer their doubts, as happened many times in the past. In fact, in this day and age, it is impossible to converse about the Faith without having to answer questions from young people about other religions, since they are all around us and on the TV and radio news day and daily. Such conversations should only serve to reinforce the truth of Catholicism. In my own experience, both as a pupil and as a teacher, that is what happens, as long as the teacher is a fully believing Catholic. The “liberals” shouldn’t be allowed to teach anything except, “the Catholic church is on Smith Street and the Protestant church is on Jones Street.” 😀

        January 30, 2016 at 9:35 am
  • Frankier

    I have never been a believer in the Mass being said in schools rather than in the church. Some children must leave school not actually knowing where their parish church is, never mind attending it.

    A few months ago, on one of the rare occasions when a class of the local primary school attends a weedkday morning Mass, one little boy went up to the altar after Mass with his teacher. She (the teacher) later explained that he wished to know about the crucifix above the altar. It`s as if he hadn`t seen one before.

    On Friday morning, the same wee class was back again and the same wee boy seemed to be intrigued with the stations of the cross this time, even looking round to have a look at the ones behind him.

    His teacher soon gave him a nudge to “behave” himself.

    I know for a fact that this little boy`s grandfather never missed saying the rosary virtually every day of his life and encouraged others to say it. However, most of his family left the Church.

    I think that it`s sad that this child who seemed interested in what was going on around him had no one who seemed to notice his curiosity. To me, an occasion like this would be the ideal time to get the Faith instilled in children outwith the school environment and away from the spying eyes of the Local Authorities. An extra half hour in the church after Mass would have done them no harm.

    January 30, 2016 at 2:44 pm
    • editor


      I wonder if that little boy went up to receive Holy Communion?

      Usually, whole classes go up en masse, whether or not they’ve been to Mass since the last classroom Mass. Clueless teachers and priests think that’s fine and dandy – makes a good show, irrespective of the reality. .

      January 30, 2016 at 3:59 pm
  • Frankier


    Yes, they all (six) went to communion. I’m not sure if the teachers themselves are regular churchgoers.

    January 30, 2016 at 7:03 pm
    • editor


      “I’m not sure if the teachers themselves are regular churchgoers.”

      Sadly, possibly, if not probably, not.

      January 30, 2016 at 9:16 pm
  • Constantine

    Archbishop Leo Cushley may make a keynote speech on the matter, or perhaps a tweet.

    January 30, 2016 at 10:25 pm
    • editor


      You be sure to report back whatever he tweets. Some of us, myself included, refuse to be drawn into the world of tweets. Whatever faults I may plead guilty to inflicting on the wider world, I will NEVER admit to being a twit. I refuse!

      January 30, 2016 at 11:42 pm
      • christiana

        Good for you! Could be that the technology would defeat me but I have no desire to be a tweeter. I went to an excellent conference last year and when I looked around so many people were scrabbling away tweeting on their phones instead of really listening. Or maybe they were just multi tasking…

        January 31, 2016 at 7:32 am
  • Spero

    Archbishop Tartaglia’s letter today appealed to a Catholic teachers to ” come home” to Catholic schools, as well as to ask seniors in schools to consider teaching as a career, in Catholic schools of course.
    There is a severe crisis in Catholic schools, with applicants for head teacher and management posts in short supply.
    Presumably this situation is partly due to “approval” still being required for those in management in Catholic schools.
    Many Catholic teachers do not go to Mass. They are culturally Catholic, but that is all. Others don’t believe what the Church teaches and their lifestyles demonstrate this for all to see. Why work in a Catholic school that does not positively endorse your lifestyle when you can be go to the top in another school where the only focus is exam results and being a reliable staff member?
    You readers of the blog may say that the very raison d’être of the Catholic schools’ existence has already been sold short. That is all too true. But a vestige of Catholicism is still to be found, in some teachers, in some schools.
    My fears are twofold. In order to encourage the disenchanted to return to the Catholic sector, the hierarchy may feel in the name of mercy ( it’s in vogue, don’t you know!) to waive the approval requirement ( yes I know there’s been a nudge, nudge, wink, wink, thing been going on for a while) but dropping the pretence altogether is a different ball game.
    The other fear is that Catholic schools will merge, converge, diverge, whatever; bite the dust.
    If I were sure they weren’t Catholic in essence anymore, their demise would pain me less.
    Maybe that’s for the future!

    January 31, 2016 at 6:07 pm
    • editor


      There is a crisis in recruiting Head Teachers in all schools – not just Catholic schools. It’s a result of the constant monitoring, with nobody, from the Head down, allowed to just get on with their work without constantly having to explain to somebody (usually somebody who jumped out of the classroom and into senior management at the first opportunity – reflect…) so I don’t think it has anything to do with the “approval” system – which doesn’t work anyway.

      Priests who have conscientiously refused to give a reference to someone they know is lapsed and/or living in an immoral partnership of some kind, have told me that the candidate just goes along the road to the next parish and voila! reference provided. Hence, for years, the lapsed staff living a counter-witness lifestyle, to whom you refer, have had the run of Catholic schools, and the very idea that a genuine Catholic education can be provided in these situations, is laughable.

      You are correct to say that a vestige of Catholicism is still to be found in some teachers in some schools, but the problem is, for the most part, these are persecuted.

      It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the bishops announced that anybody and their granny can get into Catholic schools, with or without the hitherto required reference, because, after all, if anybody and their granny can get into Heaven, no matter what they believe or do, then why not Catholic schools? Gerragrip wummin – it’s obvious, init? 😀

      January 31, 2016 at 11:18 pm
  • gabriel syme

    It is a source of great anguish to me, how the Church in Scotland to a large extent squanders the benefits of a Catholic School System.

    I went through the System (1982-1995) and I received a great education but learned next to nothing about Catholicism and indeed had lapsed (aged 16) before I had even left the Secondary School.

    As a new parent myself, this is a source of concern to me – as every Catholic parent would want good Catholic schools, but it has been obvious for years now that the Schools have not been cutting the mustard.

    In recent years, my former Secondary has moved a short distance into a new building. I looked over pictures of the new building online. I was pleasantly shocked to see Christian symbology etc placed around the school – in my day, bar a small oratory of modernist design, there was little or nothing in our school to betray its Catholic identity. Yet this new building has a cross at the front door (not a crucifix, right enough, but beggars cant be choosers), and statue of the Virgin Mary in a corridor. And there were obvious efforts to tie in Christianity to everyday learning – such as the Lords Prayers in Spanish being on the wall of the modern languages department. Shut my mouth.

    Of course, lets not be fooled, attitudes and behaviours (among teachers and pupils) in the school will still be not dissimilar to the local non-denom school, and what passes for RE will largely be the praise of false religions and cherry-picked aspects of secular values which tie-in vaguely with Christian morality*.

    (*For example, an RE exercise we had one year was writing a mock letter to an imaginary “gay” friend, to assure them of our continued friendship and generally apologise for being a Christian. This will obviously play well with secular opinion. Yet, treating “gay” persons with respect is only part of the Church teaching regarding homosexuality, which was not broached in its fullness or given any special weight. Indeed, the basis for the exercise seemed to be that Church teaching was irrelevant and that the class (to the last pupil) would naturally be cruel towards those who are different or wrong)

    A close relative of mine was a Catholic head teacher – yet good luck in finding a single aspect of Catholic doctrine which she will happily accept off the bat. But then, why would she accept it? She went through the same hopeless system as did I. She is as ignorant as the rest of us are/were and we should take nothing for granted just because someone is a senior figure in a Catholic school. They are good schools academically, and well run generally, but for the most part Catholic in name only.

    I have come to realise this and so have been viewing the Schools as the “least poor” option for my child(ren). I realise that “its up to me” how my child(ren) will perceive the Catholic faith (this is a part of why I attend the traditional mass etc). Yet I have concerns about what they might learn or experience in a “Catholic” school (religious indifference and the new mass for starters).

    And I am interested in what Olaf says that his children have kept their faith after being removed from Catholic school. I can see the logic in that, but then I have concerns too – are not the latest secular fads (currently homosexuality) pushed at every opportunity in ordinary state schools?

    I love my daughter and I want to do right by her, in terms of her faith education and experience. Then, if (God forbid) she rejects it, at least we will have given it our best. But I don’t think people reject the faith, if its “done right”.

    I feel my own faith education was severely lacking – not by fault of any one individual, but because everyone (clergy and lay people) seemingly had their head up their own backside in those days, and people were intoxicated and disorientated with the vainglorious idea of being trailblazing reformers. People didn’t have their eye on the ball.

    On Saturday, I knelt by my daughters “baby gym” said my daily rosary. Often, she would watch me intently, as if she recognised that this was something important. But other times, she would be distracted and return to trying to slap the toy birds which hang from her “baby gym”. I wasn’t cross – sometimes I get distracted too and I don’t have the excuse of not knowing whats going on! An encouraging start anyway!

    February 1, 2016 at 12:17 am
    • editor

      Gabriel Syme,

      What an interesting comment about your own school days. Very interesting.

      And what a beautiful account of your baby daughter watching you intently as you pray your rosary. Absolutely beautiful. It’s both terrifying and wonderful to have such a central role in forming a child, preparing her to live for Heaven. Her little distractions are comical – thank you again for that beautiful insight into the joys of being a truly Catholic parent!

      February 1, 2016 at 10:48 am
  • Spero

    I do think the “approval” system has something to do with the crisis in catholic schools. I know other factors prevail, monitoring as you say, indiscipline, form filling, and so on.
    I know of one prospective head teacher in an irregular marriage, who fairly recently, was refused a position in the Catholic school, and then was immediately appointed as head in the non denominational sector.
    I personally know of a number of teachers, primary and secondary, who, feeling their chances of promotion are compromised in the Catholic sector and looking to the future, have voluntarily left Catholic schools to work in the non denominational sector.
    I also know teachers, who have “walked” in annoyance, believing their lifestyle was OK and not being prepared to be where some, or the party line, did not welcome it.
    Yes, it may happen in the future that anyone can be in management regardless.
    But that doesn’t happen now.
    The priests you speak of know of cases where Catholics have gone to another parish to be accepted. Well the examples I personally know of are equally valid.
    When/if the day comes, that anyone can be the head, or in management of a Catholic school, even the hierarchy would have to drop the case for maintaining these schools.
    Despite all I would criticise in the catholic school system, all it takes if for the appointment of a really committed Catholic head teacher to change the ethos to a truly Catholic one.

    February 1, 2016 at 9:37 am
    • editor


      Unless I’m misunderstanding your meaning, what you describe is that the approval system actually works! That those who are not suitable to hold key posts in Catholic schools or teach certain subjects, have realised that they were not going to be promoted and have “walked”. Good riddance.

      Surely you are not suggesting that those who are living in a counter-witness to the Faith should be given promotion in a Catholic school, including a Headship?

      The crisis, therefore, is that the apostasy, the numbers of Catholics who have lost the Faith, is affecting the Catholic school system.

      The sad fact is that, however, there have been instances of people in immoral lifestyles being promoted and I recall one report in our newsletter some years ago (so goodness knows how many more there have been since) of a Head in a Catholic school in England who was openly homosexual and in a civil partnership.

      I agree, in part, with your conclusion – that a good, fully committed Catholic Head could make a huge difference, but I can’t see it being a “truly Catholic school” until we have the Faith itself fully restored – and a good Pope at the top.

      February 1, 2016 at 10:45 am
      • Who Alone Can Judge?

        In 2010, The Tablet, reported the views of Bishop, now Archbishop, Malcolm McMahon who leads on Education in England and Wales.. He 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.”

        February 1, 2016 at 11:00 am
      • editor


        You’ve just reminded me of our own (now disgraced) Cardinal O’Brien who said that if teachers in (Scottish) Catholic schools were “gay” and living with a partner, that was their business, he had no problem with it.

        Worse, if that is possible, he actually made this comment in response to Bishop Joseph Devine, then of Motherwell Diocese, who had repeated Catholic teaching on homosexuality, and, in his capacity as President of the Scottish Catholic Education Commission, had said that partnered homosexuals could NOT teach in Catholic schools.

        Truly, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

        February 1, 2016 at 11:06 am
      • Who Alone Can Judge?

        The Archbishop is seen as an ardent supporter of those who want Traditional Liturgy, and so he is given a lot of leeway in some “Traditional” quarters, but then so would female Anglican Clergy, some of whom travelled to Lourdes with his, then, Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes. It does point up the fact that support for some aspects of liturgy cannot be a litmus test for orthodoxy

        February 1, 2016 at 11:18 am
      • editor

        You are absolutely right about the “litmus test” for orthodoxy not being “support” for the traditional Mass alone.

        We have always said that. That’s why so many Catholics are turning to the Society of St Pius X even though they can now attend traditional Masses in some parishes (though, in Scotland, not on Sundays except for the Diocesan permitted former “indult” Mass).

        More and more Catholics want the whole package – the traditional Catholic Faith without any dilution, whether in homilies, bulletins, announcements, events of an ecumenical and inter-faith nature, whatever. That’s why so many of us have opted for the SSPX chapels.

        So, there you go, WACJ, you’re right about something at last! 😀

        February 1, 2016 at 11:52 am
      • Who Alone Can Judge?


        I would beg to differ with your “solution”!

        February 1, 2016 at 12:01 pm
      • editor

        Naughty, WACJ – very naughty!

        I could say something that would take us down another fraught road, so I’ll say nothing for now!

        February 1, 2016 at 6:39 pm
  • Spero

    What I’m saying is that despite everything— scandals, priests who have lost the faith, if not the plot, uncatechised generations, a Pope gone a.w.o.l there are pockets of resistance; there are people trying to hold the line and even push it back a bit.

    What I am saying is that in some places, and in some cases, the “approval” system does work.

    More importantly, and this is the key point, is that it works in these places,and in these cases only to deny or put off Catholics who are in irregular relationships that are obvious.
    It does not weed out those who appear to be in good standing but don’t believe what the Church teaches yet can waffle about this or that, and still get the job. Now that is serious. That’s what does the damage in schools.

    No, Editor, I don’t think unbelieving Catholics should be promoted.
    But those who are true believing Catholics, by your standards, are thin on the ground in education nowadays. Sadly!

    February 1, 2016 at 5:47 pm
    • editor


      Well, I think you’re repeating what I basically said I thought you were saying (!) that the approval system does work up to a point. Since Catholic schools are all about teaching the Faith including true morals – not to MY standards, but the Faith as it has been handed down from the Apostles and which Church documents on the subject insist is taught carefully and in a systematic way, since undermining one doctrine, puts all the rest at risk, so to speak – then without fully believing Catholics and without the restoration of the Mass and everything else that has been all but destroyed by Modernist innovators, we really do have a conundrum on our hands. How DO you have Catholic schools without the true Faith to teach and without fully believing teachers to teach it?

      The answer is, of course, that we can’t have authentic Catholic schools. We can have and do have the buildings, but we don’t have the Faith, to paraphrase St Athanasius. Even those pockets of resistance of which you speak are mostly teachers who are going along with the liturgical revolution albeit clinging on to this or that piece of the Faith and / or morals.

      Better than nothing I suppose – or is it? Modernist poison, even a drop of it, is seriously detrimental to the spiritual, religious and moral health of pupils.

      February 1, 2016 at 6:45 pm
  • Spero

    Did my last post go into the ether? Bother!

    February 1, 2016 at 6:01 pm
    • editor


      Sorry – your posts went into moderation and I have no idea why. There must be a “banned” word in there, but I can’t see it.

      February 1, 2016 at 6:37 pm
  • christiana

    There is indeed a conundrum here and a very worrying one. If very few adult Catholics have been taught the traditional faith, and that would include most of those who teach in schools today, then it follows that few Catholic schools are more than Catholic in name only. My feeling is that primary schools are better and hang on to the true ethos, more or less, but secondary schools less so. At least if our local establishments are representative of the whole. So is it better to keep them going and hope and pray that things will improve, at the risk of children on,y receiving a modernist take on the faith, or close them down? Once gone they are unlikely to return.

    February 2, 2016 at 5:53 am
    • editor


      And once the pupils, in both primary and secondary, are gone, they are unlikely to return. That’s the key. That’s why more and more parents are home-educating, not that that is a cast iron guarantee that youngsters won’t leave the Church but at least if they do, they are leaving the Church and not a counterfeit version of it.

      I came on here to post this link about the HPV vaccine because we had a thread on it at the time when it was being permitted in Catholic schools in Scotland. Shame on those “Catholic educators” who took the decision to allow this dangerous vaccine to be given to Catholic girls in what is now (and then, according to warnings) admitted to be a very dangerous experiment. Shocking.

      February 4, 2016 at 9:41 am
  • Andrew Paterson

    A few days ago the Herald printed an article regarding the appeal by Archbishop Tartaglia for Catholice teachers to each in Catholic schools. Link :-
    I commented to the effect that the Scottish Bishops had betrayed Scottish Catholics by failing to support Catholic schools. I said that there were now many muslims at Catholic schools and that girls at Notre Dame now wore the hijab. I asked how many Catholic teachers would want to teach in such an environment.
    My comment lasted about three minutes before being deleted by moderators.
    The Scottish Bishops have been supportive of the Scottish Government on education and have reached the present position by sliding easily along without standing up for what is traditional and right. I have written to Cardinal O’Brien in the past, receiving the brush-off, and to the Bishops’ Conference via the media office, receiving no replies.
    Our Bishops have failed us at every turn and accept no responsibility for these failures. I can think of nothing that they have moved in the right direction, where they have shepherded us towards Heaven, in the last thirty years. Can anyone correct me, please?

    February 11, 2016 at 8:57 am
    • editor


      No. You cannot be corrected because you are spot on. I can think of nothing, whatsoever, that the Scots Bishops have done that has been beneficial to the Faith since the onset of the current crisis in the Church. Nothing.

      Your experience in writing to the bishops (undoubtedly politely and with due deference) mirrors the experience of those of us who did the same thing for, between us, many many years, before, as a last resort, launching the Catholic Truth newsletter.

      So, you are to be commended for persevering but I think we’re way past the stage of writing to the bishops. Our main task now is to alert what is left of the faithful so that they can protect their own souls and the souls of their children, from the enemies within.

      February 11, 2016 at 9:33 am
  • John Dowden

    Scholars have long struggled with the concept of the difference between a man with a problem and an elephant sitting on a bun. If one has a conundrum, however, the solution may lie with the fact that 2015 saw a sea change in Scottish politics, potentially fatal for the 1918 denominational regime.

    Labour Glasgow had happily bought votes by allowing unlawful job discrimination. Even the EIS trade union was frightened to stand up (as in the McNab case) to discrimination against its own members for fear of upsetting denominational members who stood to gain personally from unlawful appointment policies – and (from what has been said here) corruptly obtaining “approval” certificates. The issue is less conundrum than anachronism.

    Opinion polling suggests that barely one Scot in five wants denominational schools to continue. Sir Tom Devine argues – based on observing actual congregations – that the denominational schools are simply failing to produce church-going youngsters. In recent research, Bishop Devine has commented that, for many, sending children to denominational schools is now simply something “tribal”, done because grandparents did it. The “tribe” he had in mind is, presumably, the Irish.

    In these circumstances, there is less reason with every passing day why the Scottish taxpayer should continue to fund an expensive duplication of (now malfunctioning) denominational schools alongside non-denominational provision. Its Labour godfathers are gone but the SNP will likely bide its time, recover independence first, and leave an independent parliament to sort out the anomalies of Westminster’s 1918 Act.

    The bishops, for no very obviously good reason, still defend ancient tribal privilege. It costs them little or nothing to retain and still gives some cost-free patronage they are unwilling to surrender. The recent “atheist schools” noises are intellectually dishonest, of course (they could never qualify as a legal denomination), but anyone who has read about the cynical way the hierarchy played its political hand to achieve its purpose between 1872 and 1918, at the expense of whole generations of teachers, pupil-teachers and pupils, will see the hand has not actually forgotten its cunning.

    But perhaps the most damming fact is that Scottish Government figures suggest that children in denominational schools (largely the descendants of foreign immigrants) are more than 50% more likely than children in non-denominational schools, to be in receipt of free school meals (the usual measure of social deprivation). Schools may achieve better results than the average for Scottish comprehensive schools (which is not exactly saying a lot) but they are still failing to achieve social mobility. After well-nigh 100 years of denominational schools, it may be in the best interests of youngsters from the old and new immigrant communities (as well as the pockets of the indigenous taxpayer) to call it a day. If it is failing to achieve either social equality or putting denominational bottoms on denominational pews, the denominational system really has failed. Getting the 1918 Act out of the Westminster meant sacrificing generations of children’s interests and, now, keeping it is doing the same. Plus ça change.

    Time to wind up the whole expensive tribal anachronism?

    February 11, 2016 at 10:59 pm
    • Margaret Mary

      John Dowden,

      With respect, and I hope you don’t mind me asking, but why do you blog here? I sense a serious hatred of Catholicism in your writings. I never think of blogging on a Protestant blog so I do wonder genuinely why you are persistent in commenting on this Catholic blog. Before the editor aims her rolling pin at me, I’m not meaning to say that you are not welcome, but I am just puzzled because your hatred, unless I’m misunderstanding you, is palpable, IMHO.

      I don’t often reply to your comments because I never have time to go through them line by line but I notice in your last comment that you can’t even bring yourself to write about “Catholic schools” and keep on saying “denominational” which speaks to me of pure hatred.

      The main reason why I won’t take the time to answer most of your statements is because I notice all the time that you just ignore facts given to you by the others here and keep repeating your own point of view.

      The way your speak about the Catholic Church, our popes of the past (Dead Popes Society) and the Irish as a “tribe” and “foreign immigrants” makes me very sad. You clearly hate us, IMHO so why do you blog here?

      February 12, 2016 at 12:07 am
      • John Dowden

        Margaret Mary,

        This is slightly delayed but no discourtesy is intended by that.

        Since you ask, an answer. And that (as the editor already suspects without skimming another word) is likely to be indirect and obscure.
        You ask about purpose. I once upon a time arrived to join what I had unthinkingly assumed was an Anglican gathering, only to discover a room full of holy Romans. They quickly spotted my confusion. A highly amused (and by then rather convivial) Redemptorist asked me after dinner if I had spotted the purpose the Good Lord might have had in sending me among them for six more whole days. I could only say, yes it had occurred to me, but a week was hardly enough to convert so many. In much the same way, I arrived here by accident, thinking in my innocence the site was for those interested in Scottish liturgical tradition – and Anglo-Catholics are not going to head for protestant blogs on that, or follow Hunwicke now the old boy has finally flipped. I got over homesickness long ago, having endured an English college, followed by work abroad, but I still have the odd touch of nostalgia for Scotland. To be honest, work (and eventually think) in foreign languages all day and every day, and it is actually nice to be able write in English occasionally. And, since I had never actually heard of Marcel Lefebvre, it took me an age with this blog to work out that there was, shall we say, some slight differences, between Rome and Écône. But, since you asked, I landed here by a chapter of accidents. That’s the how – I don’t honestly know why.

        But, with respect, you are being too sensitive. The 1918 Act could not possibly have given public money to a church and the lawyers had to write it to cover the Jews as well, so the whole law is written in terms of “denominational” schools (not Church schools) and the educational provision is, in legal theory, public, just as the money for it is public. So not “Church children” but “denominational teachers and managers”. This is why, incidentally, inner-city denominational schools can now try to survive by making up their numbers with new generations of immigrant pupils (to the annoyance of some of this parish – above – who clearly thought the schools were only for catholics). England does have Church schools – direct grant, aided or controlled – but there the Churches have to pay a fair bit towards the additional costs they impose: the Scottish denominational schools, free, gratis and for nothing, are unique – nothing like them anywhere in the world. Amazing they survive, especially now that they no longer actually work. That, I thought, was worth discussing and the law – still with us – says “denominational”, nothing to do writing forbidden words or betraying hatred just a word to cover Westminster’s political deal.

        And “tribal” not hatred, it is the bishop’s own comment – and I did say I was quoting him. It cannot be much fun managing a system in headlong decline but Bishop Devine was well aware that the extraordinary business of building “separate” denominational and state schools on either side of a joint football pitch now often caters to what he called a tribal loyalty – he guessed that a third of parents had lapsed into a merely “cultural” connection (and that was 2005) while another third didn’t particularly believe in any of it themselves but still wanted hatches, matches and dispatches done properly. And nobody but nobody was procreating at a rate to keep the numbers up. What now exists is a moribund tribal relic, St Dodo’s, Coatbridge.

        But don’t be too quick to assume any comment you disagree with is malicious – it might be a bishop’s. A lot of what I said came from Patrick O’Connor’s two autobiographical novels (broadcast on BBC World and well worth a read) of what growing up in “Fenian Row” in the 1920s was like – pretty well none of the myths trotted out here about the good old days actually stands up: whole generations have been denied their chances and Scotland is the poorer for it.

        And is there no room for some mild humour at the irony of our days? Did you say something along the lines that [I] “just ignore facts given … and keep repeating [my] own point of view”? Have you noticed the grim old beardie about the place, insisting his mistranslations are kosher and repeating historical errors from the Old Sourpuss Book of Proddie Bashing (Baltimore, simply yonks ago). Knows he is wrong but blethers on regardless. The Dead Popes’ Society , well dug in here, is busily running down both the living popes and four and sometime five of their departed, sainted and blessed predecessors . But then the “society” (as distinct from “diocesan” ) faithful paste in enormous great reams of undigested stuff from much more dead popes , way past its sell-by. Oxford’s Ronnie Knox once did a nice line in parodying the living pope’s encyclical “Tedium Interminablum” but now here is a bunch of anti-papist papists (far more rude than even Dr Paisley ever was) and using dead popes to do it. And then some daft ’piskie tries to stick up for the pope and his ex- Couldn’t make it up

        Sorry the reply is so short. And I see you have said something else. So I can write and you can get a reply to that later. And will see in a moment if these funny faces actually work.

        February 12, 2016 at 1:03 pm
    • Athanasius


      Those words could only be written by a man who has absolutely no religious convictions whatsoever. I don’t think the atheists themselves have advocated the abolition of denominational schools quite as fiercely.

      February 12, 2016 at 12:35 am
      • editor


        “… a man who has absolutely no religious convictions whatsoever…”

        Imagine my surprise the other day when I was introduced to a gentleman who said he sometimes reads this blog, although he’s not a Catholic. When I asked him if he had ANY religious convictions, he replied: “Only six months for robbing the church’s poor box!”

        February 12, 2016 at 1:13 am
      • Athanasius


        Yes, I like that one!

        February 12, 2016 at 1:55 am
  • John Dowden

    Well when one of those Majors and Captains, who used to take it in turn turns at being Prime Ministers of Ulster, died at a fine old age recently, the obituary noted that despite living amid so much fierce Christianity, the gallant old gentleman had never had any religious convictions – he was a faithful and life-long member of the Church of Ireland.

    February 12, 2016 at 1:05 pm
    • Athanasius


      No religious conviction is exactly the same as religious indifference, and the religiously indifferent do more harm to religion than outright atheists. As Our Lord says in Apocalypse: “I wish you were either hot or cold. But because you are neither hot nor cold, I am ready to vomit you out of my mouth.” That is a divine warning against religious indifference, or no religious convictions.

      February 12, 2016 at 1:17 pm

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