Catholic Schools Excel in All Things But Catholicism

Pope Benedict XVI meets the future Saints of the Church? 
"I hope that among those of you listening to me today there are some of the future saints of the twenty-first century. What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy." ~ Pope Benedict XVI to schoolchildren at St Mary's, Twickenham

We expect Popes to say such things. We expect Popes to be holy and to be a living example to others to seek Christ. As Fr Blake today highlights, however, we no longer expect Catholic schools to say such things. Nor do we expect Catholic schools to lead their children to holiness.

As he says, following the release of two reports by the Catholic Education Service itself, that praise Catholic schools for their excellence and from which we glean that everything is going according to 'plan'...

"The problem is not whether our Catholic Schools fulfill the criteria set by the Government but whether they produce disciples of Christ: men and women who value prayer, the sacraments, attendance at Mass and the Word of God, who are capable of building effective families, of nurturing their own children in the faith, of building the Kingdom of God."

How right he is. Governments are all too keen to present sex education as something that schools must provide, according to the Government's own vision of sex education, because, it asserts, of a lack of education in this area of 'learning' from parents. "What parents fail to do, we must do! We must help these poor, ignorant children to wear condoms!" says the Government, certainly the previous Government, and no doubt this one too, in response to those ever rising 'unwanted teenage pregnancies', abortions and STIs among the young.

The Government, however, is not going to come to the Church's aid in teaching children the Faith of Christ, which is both a tool in the battle against unwanted teenage pregnancies and evil in general. Unfortunarely, the Government is not saying, "What parents fail to do, we must do! We must help these poor, ignorant children to wear the breastplate of salvation!" Neither, unfortunately, is the Catholic Education Service or the Bishops of England and Wales. While Oona Stannard, in her preface to the report, says, "We can confidently confirm that Catholic schools are part of the solution, not the problem," you just know that the 'problem' that she is talking about is not the problem of the near collapse of Catholic identity, nor the problem of alarming rates of pregnancy and STIs among the young (Connexions's presence in Catholic schools is a give-away sign that Catholic schoolchildren are not exempt from this trend), but the problem of how to facilitate social cohesion in multi-cultural, modern Britain. Even Bishop Malcolm McMahon, the Bishop whose very remit is Catholic education, wishes to discuss only that, "These two publications make it very clear that Catholic education continues to make a very important contribution to the future of our society." My Lord, if you do not mind me asking, what about the future of the Catholic Faith?!

Bishop Malcolm McMahon visits Our Lady's Convent School
Stannard is all too keen to discuss Catholic schools' 'contribution to the community', 'co-operation with community neighbours', 'objective measures of attainment' and the 'value added by the schools', but of what value is the education of these children to our Lord if they know nothing of Him?

You can just imagine Oona, grinning like a Cheshire cat, over the CES report, because Catholic schools are 'successful', places of 'academic excellence' that foster 'harmonious community' relations, while not even considering the vaguely sinister lack of Catholic formation, catechesis and general Catholic education taking place in Catholic schools, leaving Catholic children unaware of the very Faith with which Catholic schools have a moral duty to provide, especially in the absence of parents who pass the Faith down to their children. The catholicity of Catholic children, or lack thereof, does not seem to bother Oona Stannard for a moment and it doesn't even seem to bother the Bishops of England and Wales.

In the previous post, I discussed the alarming rate at which Catholic parents, since the 1960s, decided to have smaller families and to buy into the secular vision of the family, one which is inherently materialistic and devoid of the Church's teaching on the sanctity of human and family life - how this culture will be passed down to children and their children will grow up lacking either a strong Catholic identity or loyalty and faithfulness to Christ and His Church. That is, as we can guess, how a religion dies. Catholic schools really are 'part of the solution, not part of the problem', or, at least, they would be if they were not feeling so very complacent and so seemingly at ease with being 'part of the problem'.

Oona Stannard, with Ed Balls and Archbishop Nichols
If the Catholic faith is not being taught to Catholic schoolchildren, or the Catholic faith is being presented in a manner that makes it look indistinguishable from secular humanism, or even from 'other faiths', then from whence exactly are the Saints of the 21st century going to emerge? If these children don't live the Catholic Faith, if they don't have large families, if they don't become priests, nuns, or brothers - if they don't strive to live the Gospel, then who, exactly, in the future, will?

What is the good of producing an entire classroom of Catholic schoolchildren who are able to interact harmoniously in a multi-cultural society, benefit society at large and even achieve academic excellence, if they all go on to procure or help to procure abortions, have many and varied sexual partners, never pray, never go to Mass, never go to Confession, use contraception for their whole adult lives, commit adultery, get divorced, become depressives and alcoholics, commit suicide, abandon the Church, die unrepentant and go to Hell for all eternity? That is hardly a recipe for Catholic excellence. It's just a recipe for another generation of Catholics that the Church will lose forever.

No, these schools will have done these children no favours at all if that is what the future holds for them. How do we teach the Catholic Faith to these children, even if we are to urge them not to make the same mistakes as we have made? The Government are not going to come to their aid, for the Government cannot. The Catholic Education Service is not going to come to their aid, since there is clearly not much Catholicism in the CES. The Bishops of England and Wales cannot come to these children's aid, because, well, they're busy. The only answer that I can see is that we send Michael Voris of Vortex fame, or clone him, and then send him, to give his presentations at assemblies, in every Catholic school in the land! "Welcome to the Cortex, where lies and falsehoods are trapped and exposed!" I'll happily wear the toupee....


Richard Collins said…
Most Catholic schools either teach the faith in the mindset of a 7 to 8 year old or in a spirit of relativism.
Both are worse than no faith teaching whatsoever. ++ Fulton Sheen advocated sending one's children to Non Catholic schools "That way they will have to fight for their faith".
He may well have been right.
I'm sorry but your post does not echoe my experience as a Catholic teacher & mother of ten Catholic children all who have been or are still being educated in exemplary Catholic schools. All my children practice their faith & have been taught at school..
Jackie, that's wonderful, but it does echo the experience of others.
Also, what if the school doesn't teach the Faith and neither does the parent?
georgem said…
Having tried in vain to find out Oona Stannard's educational/theological credentials, I'd like to know where she came from and how she got to where she is today.
Is she an educationalist or simply a bureaucratic CEO? Is she leading the charge to dismantle the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School or is she the mouthpiece for the apparatchiks at the CES?
By the way, the more photos I see of Archbishop Nichols the more concerned I become about his blood pressure.
Lou-Lou said…
I agree that Catholic schools are lacking in their teaching of the real catholic faith. It is far too basic and covers mainly just St Mark's gospel and the sacraments. If we are to truly educate these children into understanding the true faith and hope there is in the Church, then the sylabbus really needs looking at, and much more meaningful themes such as suffering, sacrifice, motherhood / fatherhood / the families mission to love etc should be being taught. It really is a vacuous process and the lessons are so basic, it's laughable. I know because I'm a teacher!
Anonymous said…
The link provides an overview of Catholic education within the Diocese of Menevia.

My grandchildren attend one of the primary schools in Pembrokeshire. The oldest will attend the local comprehensive school because the closest Catholic secondary school is miles away. As stated by the Diocese:

“As a consequence of the rural nature of the Diocese, with many scattered and small communities, together with the problems of distances involved, many Catholic children are unable to attend our Catholic schools. Where this is the case, each parish is responsible for providing religious instruction for these children. Lay catechists assist the priests in the provision of religious programmes in each parish.”

St Mary’s in Haverfordwest is approx 10-20 miles from Milford Haven, Pembroke Dock, Tenby and Fishguard. The Diocese could easily establish a Catholic secondary school in Haverfordwest but, the sad fact is, their obligation towards further Catholic education of our young people ends when they reach the age of 11. It is expected thereafter that parents ensure that children attend catechism classes at their local parish church. But, how many children attend these?

Sorry my spelling gets worse! is. I find my teenagers are constantly flicking through the Cathechism & asking me questions that with a degree in Divinity I find challenging. I had a txt from school today from my 17 year old..what do we think of IVF? I find my children challenge their teachers but theology & RE is a huge part of their curriculum..which we continue at home. My youngest son asked me yesterday why do we "eat" Jesus? & why didn't the Jews know who Jesus was since He was a Jew too? They keep us on our toes..Richard not all Catholic teaching is at the 7 or 8 year old level..believe me!
Auricularis said…
Again Jackie - you fail to observe that your (fortunate) experience is not shared by all, in fact, not by many.
Mummymayhem said…
Jackie, your experience is pretty much unique. Good catholic schools are rare. In fact, Catholic school is almost an oxymoron. Pretty much nobody I went to Catholic school with now practices their faith, and the few who turn up periodically at Mass, rarely have any idea of Church teachings. I started a blog recording my efforts to pray the Rosary outside my former catholic school.
We are talking an entire generation here, and now their children too. Sad.
epsilon said…
Sr Hyacinthe has come to the rescue:

check out the Anchor programme from The Dominican Sisters at Sway

I went to hear them on Friday and it is brilliant. Their whole approach is totally true to the Faith. They are using it with teenagers as well as adults. A must have for every home!
forcefullsoul said…
I have taken my time to respond to this post as I wanted to ensure I had my answer clear in my own mind.

I am both a full time RE teacher in a Catholic Boys Secondary School and Part Time Lay Chaplain to the school.

There is an undeniable conflict between education and faith in Catholic Schools. The content of what is taught and the proportion of that teaching is set out by the Bishop's Conference. RE Teachers are answerable in delivering that content to the Diocese by Section 48 OFSTED inspections and the parents in terms of examination results.

Increasingly in Catholic Schools the trend is to treat RE as an academic discipline - therefore subject teachers are also accountable to the school and their results are often compared to other humanity subjects not just at GCSE or A Level but in Years 7, 8 and 9 too.

This being the case the majority of the teacher's time is spent delivering that content. Often to pupils whose own knowledge of the faith is embarrassingly poor. Most have a notion of the existence of the Ten Commandments prior to coming to the school but most think they are from Jesus, little or none of them have any knowledge of the Sermon on the Mount.

This therefore reflects a poor standard of home and parish education which the school therefore has to overcome. Furthermore the nature and breadth of the content prescribed by the Bishops Conference lends itself more to an academic approach then an enquiring faith discovery approach.

Therefore what has evolved within the school I teach is almost a dual delivery of a child's faith education. It is implicitly delivered with their Religious Education lessons, but then reinforced through the pastoral system. We have a range of discussion and enquirer groups, a online discussion forum, frequent inspirational talks and assemblies to year groups, and a wide range of daily and weekly faith activities.

Through this it gives the opportunity to those young people who wish to deepen their faith the opportunity to do so, and gives a foundation education in their faith to those that don't.

In my opinion to merely blame Catholic Schools for this problem is far too narrow sighted, what we have here are symptoms of a problem, a problem which can only be fixed with changes from the Bishops Conference, Parishes, Parents and Schools. Unless all of those groups understand their own responsibility for this the problem will continue.

Sorry for the length of my comment, but like I said I felt the need to spell it out.
What about Evangelium for Catholic schools?
Wake Up England said…
When I was at school we learned the Catechism by heart: it was in the form of simple questions and answers Q Who made you? A God made me; Q Why did God make you? God made me to know him, to love him and to serve him in this world; and to be happy with him forever in the next. Now, when one was young it was a bore (so was learning multiplication tables) but more than 50 years later I can still remember the Catechism; and having had many years to ponder it and think about what it teaches I have a very good (if simple) grounding in the Catholic faith. Learning by rote is now disapproved of which is perhaps why no child seems to know the 10 Commandments or the Hail Holy Queen, or the mysteries of the Rosary. Next time you meet a Catholic under 50 ask them to list the seven sacraments and say the Apostles' Creed. Our Catholic Schools are very much to blame for the lack of faith since 1970.