Catholic Education Week Scotland – More Bluff, Bluster & Baloney…

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From 23rd February to the 1st March 2014 Scotland’s   Catholic schools and parishes will celebrate how they support children and young   people to ensure that they are “Shining the Light of Faith” in   their daily lives.  This theme has been inspired by the first Encyclical of Pope   Francis: ‘Lumen Fidei’ (The Light of Faith).

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia said: “During   Catholic Education Week, we can all do that little but more to “shine the  light of faith” in our lives. In doing so, not only do we respond  positively to our own vocation, we become lights for our young people, our hope  for the future”. 

To read Archbishop Tartaglia’s message for Education Sunday please click here.

The above report is taken from the website of the Archdiocese of Glasgow

36 responses

  1. In case anyone missed it, our current newsletter, page 15, contains a report on a Glasgow Catholic school, one of the many with Head Teachers who permitted the safer-sex message to be delivered to senior pupils – “in harmony” with Catholic teaching of course ❗ – following an outbreak of syphilis in the area, plus a letter from a courageous Scots RE teacher in the midst of the media coverage of the planned same-sex “marriage” legislation, affirming that he will not be promoting homosexual propaganda, and would sooner give up his job than do so. THAT is a Catholic teacher. February Newsletter [now found in the archives section – see February 2014 edition] here

    We also published the following piece from the newsletter of the SSPX (UK District):

    From the December 2013 newsletter of the SSPX (UK district)

    Within the last year, we were visited by a professional teacher, who was finishing her Masters degree in Education. Her research topic was “Religious Identity in Catholic Faith Schools”. She visited our humble school and a large Catholic school in the Midlands, interviewing teachers and observing classes and assemblies.

    In her dissertation she summarises the chasm (between the two schools) as follows:

    “School A (St Michael’s) teaches students how to be Catholics and School B (Catholic school in the Midlands) teaches students about Catholicism.”

    She says that “School A has a very strong ideology of Catholicism as absolute truth. Pupils in the school are taught this, being shown the way in which they need to live their lives to ‘gain eternal salvation’. In contrast, School B has followed the government’s advice when it comes to religious education.

    There was no sense of Catholicism as absolute truth. Therefore, there was a much weaker sense of Catholic identity in School B, as pupils were taught a variety of religions, with Catholicism not being placed above them but alongside them. Also, there was no mention made about eternal salvation, and what a person must do to ‘get to heaven’. These issues were not raised in any of the interviews or observations made in School B.” END OF EXTRACT FROM DISSERTATION

    Unfortunately, School B does not seem to be following Pope Pius XI’s instructions in his Encyclical of 1929 “Divini Illius Magistri”. He says: “It is clear that there can be no true education which is not wholly directed to man’s last end, and that in the present order of Providence, since God has revealed Himself to us in the Person of His Only Begotten Son, who alone is ‘the way, the truth and the life,’ there can be no ideally perfect education which is not Christian education.”

    Please continue to pray for our little Catholic school in its very large task of forming souls ready and willing to work out their salvation.

    In Maria, Reverend Father Patrick Summers. END.

    So, folks, which of the two schools featured here, represents true Catholic education – that is to say, which of the two schools is producing real, fully believing Catholics – the school “in good standing” with the local bishop, or the SSPX school? (Before you answer, call to mind the cry of St Athanasius: “they have the buildings, we have the Faith”….)

    Well?

  2. I have taught in secondary schools all my working life. Catholic state schools vary greatly as much depends upon the convictions of the Head Teacher and the management.

    I would say, though, that over the years there has been, on the whole, a serious deterioration, in that the schools may be Catholic in name, but too often that is all.

    Where they receive much praise from parents it may be due to good academic achievement, higher standards of discipline than the non denominational schools in the area, and often an ostensible Christian ethos in the charitable enterprises that take place. These are all well and good. As a parent I can understand other parents being attracted to such successes.

    But Catholic schools are supposed to impart the Catholic faith as well as do the other things. Otherwise what is the point of their existence? I taught in a non denominational school whose record in charitable giving was second to none. There was hardly a vestige of Christian witness in the school———- but then it was a non denominational school.

    The RE syllabus in the last Catholic school I was in was one of comparing world religions, particularly in the Senior school. At a time when seniors should have been exposed to the teaching of the Catholic Church, they knew more about Islam and Buddhism. These religions can be included, of course, but not when there is no input on the the faith that the school is supposed to represent.

    The faith of the staff is of paramount importance. Obviously RE staff should practise their faith, but some do not and let’s face it, other people may practice but believe very little in the teachings of the church.Many Catholic staff are cultural Catholics only. Lastly, there are very many teachers who are not Catholic and are in Catholic schools. I know this seems like the stuff of total incredibility, but many of these same teachers are not well disposed towards Catholicism.

    How Mr McGrath can wax lyrical about Catholic schools is beyond me if he studies the lapsation rate among young people? He perhaps is focusing on the few Catholic schools that do a good job by virtue of a great management and staff and, maybe, a good chaplain.

    So, in all I am not very hopeful of what passes for Catholic education.

    • Spero,

      I agree with you that “much depends upon the convictions of the Head Teacher and the management.” These days, though, it also much depends on whether the Head/Senior Management take up the attitude of the teacher who wrote to us for publication in this latest edition of our newsletter (see p.15) that the Faith is more important than promotion or even keeping the job, or whether they toe the fine line between teaching and upholding the truths of the Faith and not annoying the (arch)diocesan powers-that-be. That is, the Bishop and his minions in the Catholic Education Service.

      I was once appointed to a Head of RE post where I was told minutes after accepting the appointment that the local Ordinary was determined that this institution would be restored to its former glory as a thoroughly orthodox Catholic college after several years in the hands of a “liberal” Head of Department. I was delighted. But I’d no sooner unpacked my Catechism of the Council of Trent, than he retired and a new Bishop replaced him. It was all downhill from there.

      Your analysis is absolutely spot on. I agree with every word. With great sadness.

  3. You just need to see a Catholic secondary school emptying at night and then have a wee keek into the churches on a Sunday and you will find the answer as to whether Mr McGrath or the clergy are telling the truth.

    They are living in a make-believe world and the sooner they admit (it’s not as if they don’t know) to that the better for all concerned.

    • Frankier,

      In the very first article he penned for the Scottish Catholic Observer after his appointment as Director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, Michael McGrath made a point of telling the nation that his view of Catholic schools was that they were there simply to provide a “spiritual” experience for pupils, NOT to “impose” any particular “tradition”. That there may still be parents who send their children to have Catholic Faith and morals “imposed” on them, seems to have passed him by, as does the fact that it is most unusual, to say the least, to speak of passing on the treasures of the Faith as “imposing” them. Ever heard anyone say: “I’m going to visit my family and friends over Christmas to impose some gifts…”?

      So, the fact that a majority of pupils lapse from the Faith despite (or rather because of ) their “Catholic education” won’t bother McGrath & Co. one little bit. If you were on his salary, and being patted on the back for your “success” would it bother you?

      Daft question: you have the Faith. It would, therefore, bother you a great deal.

      Get it ❓

  4. Catherine Pepinster who (I think I’m right in saying is the editor of the Tablet) wrote a Guardian article about Catholic schools being very popular. She said the private schools like Ampleforth are not so popular and then said something very surprising about Eton. She said “So keen is it on recruiting Catholic pupils it has its own Catholic chaplain and runs its own Catholic confirmation masses.” http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2010/sep/17/schools-catholic-success-story

    So, it’s maybe not all bad news.

    • Marie-Esther,

      Catherine Pepinster is, indeed, the editor of the Tablet.

      It’s laughable – and very much a sign that the Church is in crisis, if any more signs were required – that a private (the English say “public”) school like Eton is keen on recruiting Catholics, even providing a Catholic chaplain and Confirmation Masses to entice them.

      Do you imagine, for a second, that said chaplain will be a “traditional leaning” priest? No way. Of that you can be sure.

      I think it was GK Chesterton who said something along the lines of the world – almost by instinct – recognising its own. If Eton ever offers to provide thoroughly traditional Catholicism to entice Catholic pupils to enter therein, wake me up.

  5. For an insight into catholic education in England, Daphne Macleod is informed and very industrious, and very critical of it on the whole.
    The thing is, is a person is looking for a system that actually teaches the Catholic faith in its entirety, then there must be serious criticism of Catholic schools.
    If a kind of “spirituality” is what it is hoped will be conveyed ( alongside good results and a decent standard of discipline and turning out “nice” people ( nothing wrong with being nice for sure) then Mr McGrath and lots of others will be pleased with themselves.
    The truth is many Catholics in places of authority are not looking to impart an orthodox Catholic faith.
    It was not so long ago that Professor Groom ( I will check that name), a well known dissident was coming to Glasgow to address………… Scottish teachers! The ash cloud put paid to his visit, thank God.

    • Spero,

      There would have to be criticism of a lot more than just Catholic schools. The whole state of the Church, priesthood, Mass etc. would have to be addressed.

      Professor Groome did come to Scotland at a later date – I read about his visit in the CT newsletter because it stuck in my mind that some woman who was slim and glamorous sat at the front and gave him a hard time!

  6. With regard to ‘Catholic’ education in Scotland, here’s an interesting snippet from the February 2011 edition of Christian Order….

    A few years ago, a CO reader wrote to describe a visit to his hometown in Scotland:

    Once again I was dumbfounded by what I was hearing from people — cradle Catholics — who really ought to know better: people who see nothing wrong with cohabiting, having children out of wedlock, not having the children baptised or brought up in the Catholic faith, people who regard Sunday/Holy Day Mass attendance, receiving the Sacraments etc. as ‘optional extras.’ One opined thus:

    “The Catholic Church does not have exclusive rights to God and Heaven. I believe it is what is in people’s hearts that is important, not how they worship. When you think of the vast populations of the world it’s unreasonable to accept that the only valid religion and the only valid viewpoint is the Catholic one. I believe people do need to follow a spiritual path in life to find happiness both in this and the next world and also that we can all benefit from listening to people more spiritually enlightened than ourselves.

    “We were brought up in the Catholic faith and the Penny Catechism was indoctrinated into us at school when we did not even know the meaning of half the words in it. Does that have to mean we are now so constrained that we refuse to explore or learn from other faiths and beliefs?

    “Regarding popes telling us right from wrong — I don’t buy the infallibility bit and deem this to be a convenient con hatched in the past to keep the masses in check. Certainly latter day popes have been saintly men but if you’ve read your history you will know that there were quite a few in the past who were anything but.”

    Something surely is fundamentally amiss with ‘religious education’ in my homeland. I got the usual old guff about how… “it doesn’t matter which religion you follow — one is ‘equivalent’ to another”… I argued that Jews and Muslims ‘do not worship the same God as Christians.’ They may believe in God the Creator, but the Christian God is the Holy Trinity, which comprises the Father (our Creator), the Son (our Redeemer) and the Holy Spirit, who blesses and sanctifies us. When the Jews, Hindus etc. reject the Holy Trinity, they have only one third of the true picture and this is what makes their ‘religions’ invalid. This had a few people spluttering in astonishment. ….

    See the complete article at

    http://www.christianorder.com/editorials/editorials_2011/editorials_feb11.html

    • Graeme Taylor,

      I agree with you about the bishops having responsibility for school appointments. The whole issue of priests giving references to people applying for teaching posts when they know they are lapsed should be addressed without delay, but won’t be. The few good priests who have a conscience and refuse to sign off on a reference for a lapsed person are undermined by their brother priests on this.

      I know this blog is about Scottish schools but I thought this article on Ireland would be of interest since the bishops there are co-operating to make pupils in Irish schools study other religions.
      http://www.dici.org/en/news/ireland-catholics-obliged-to-study-other-religions/

      At one time, the only references to other denominations and religions in Catholic school was to show the differences in belief. Now it seems to be to make pupils respect other religions as equal to ours. That is surely not right.

  7. Catholic schools are so poor now, one wonders what is the point. I never thought I would say that, but Cardinal O’Briens influence over so many years has made them a non-sense to the present time.

  8. Graeme, I an intrigued to know why you “never thought you would say that” with reference to the time in which Cardinal O’Brien was to the fore in Scotland.

  9. I never thought I would say what is the point of Catholic education anymore, as I see how poor it is. Cardinal O’Brien led it into the miserable state it is in now.

    • The argument now is, should they be closed down, or should we work to keep them in preparation for better times? THAT is the 64,000 dollar question ❗

  10. For the man in the street in Scotland, who is not Catholic, Catholic schools are still seen as a distinct Catholic presence and that is important. To those who are Catholic, unfortunately the schools are supplying all that is wanted for most parents for their children. Only a very few parents and/or children are dissatisfied with the the Catholic formation that is offered in schools. Catholic schools were longed for and fought for by Catholics in the past. There would have to be no hope at all for me to say that catholic schools should cease to exist in Scotland. That time has not come because there are individual lay people and priests who work hard to teach the Catholic faith to young people in schools.

    • Spero,

      I think that’s a fair and balanced way to look at this issue.

      For a time – mostly when I was (trying to) teach the Faith in them – I thought “close them down so we can start again in due course” but I take the points you make and another important point made by others in the past (e.g. Daphne McLeod) that it would likely be very difficult to re-open them again.

      Still, it’s a dilemma. Michael McGrath & Co. haven’t a clue about the nature and purpose of Catholic education. They are doing the Government’s bidding in religious, moral and sex education and doing immense damage to individual pupils in the process.

      Given that their parents have been through the same impoverished curriculum, there can be little to no expectation that the Faith will survive in many families in Scotland today or tomorrow.

      But maybe this is a time to turn around that famous statement of St Athanasius, excommunicated twice: “they have the buildings, we have the Faith”. Maybe we DO need to keep “the buildings”, even though those within them don’t have “the Faith” (generally speaking – I know there are exceptions, as revealed in our current edition.) And later, when the Faith is restored, those same buildings can be utilised for their original purpose: to teach, by word and example, the Catholic religion. Roll on!

  11. My grandmother marched in Edinburgh in 1943 and 1944 for the Education Act and was part of the faithful who following the bishops lead – demanded Catholic education in Scotland. I was just saying why do we have them now as they are not Catholic as our bishops do little in demanding the Catholic faith is taught in them.
    I agree that to close them would be difficult as the anti – Catholic bigots would have a field day if we tried to open them in the future.
    What we need are men who fight the good fight and demand excellence in Catholic education – unfortunately that isn’t our crop of bishops.

  12. Speaking as a teacher for thirty years and having taught RE every year of my career it must be said that there has been a massive change in young people`s faith. It has undoubtedly gotten worse.

    All school masses such as Easter and Christmas are well attended and behaviour is to be commended but outwith those masses there is only penny numbers attending the one lunchtime mass we have in school.

    Children`s awareness of the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle is non-existent.. Holy communion in the hand during such masses is a stressful spectacle.

    I dont blame the children: it is simply that they have not been taught the faith in their own homes.
    There has been a collapse in the faith in homes.

    Basic tenants of the faith are unknown by the young people, I am not saying all the children are like that, there are some good catholic children but those are very far and few between.

    Teachers in my school have to look at themselves as well. Often prayers are not said during the morning, afternoon and end of school day. Daily reinforcement of the saint`s days, a useful tool to impart the faith through real people`s lives is rare.

    The largest damage done in Catholic schools perhaps comes from the profession itself. The constant drumbeat of needing success out shouts the need to help those children towards the tools they need for salvation: namely prayer and the sacraments.
    Homework is given for Sundays and Even Christmas by some teachers.

    The church abuse and Cardinal crises have not helped.

    How can catholic schools improve? A starting point could be that the bishops of Scotland could produce a plan along the lines of “Fit for Mission? Schools” a document from the Bishop of Lancaster.

    This document is brilliant. It is a blueprint for the kind of catholic school I want to teach in.
    In that document you will find the remedies to make our catholic schools a place of prayer, a place where the morality of our faith is instilled, a place where the Sacraments are well taught and received and finally where our profession of faith is grasped and lived.

    There should be a guild of catholic teachers formed to give teachers a community of help and support. There should be retreats for parents and teachers.

    But above all, it is time for parishes to pray earnestly to the Blessed Mother of God and Mother of the Church to pray for headteachers, teachers and parents to help lead these young souls to the salvation of Jesus Christ.

    • Columba,

      It is both dispiriting and heartening to read your comment. Dispiriting to be reminded of how bad things are (that “collapse of Faith in the home” is a direct result of the collapse of everything else – the Mass, the (lack of) formation of Catholic teachers etc. “Heartening” to know there are still some teachers like your good self out there, passing on the Faith as best you can.

      Some years ago, some of us had the idea of some kind of group being formed for Catholic teachers but we quickly realised that the very fact of the crisis in the Church, with teachers all believing their own thing, cohabiting etc. it just wouldn’t work now. Of course, small support groups for like minded teachers would work – but the idea of a kind of “professional guild” is a different kettle of belief.

      There has to be a headlong restoration of the Faith launched before Catholic schools can begin, again, to do what they were set up to do – and I think we’ll see it at the start of 2018. Unlikely to be before, more’s the pity.

    • The main problem, which will be difficult to overcome, is mixed marriages and co-habitation. I can’t envisage much of the faith being taught in these households..

      I find it difficult to understand why so many people send their children to Catholic schools when they themselves are only nominal Catholics and many who profess to be atheists even. And I include the teachers amongst them.

  13. Columba, I agree.
    The bishops are do not take care of the sheep, the governance from them is pitiful.

  14. Today there was a lurid headline on one of the tabloid front pages about Michelle Mone the Catholic woman who owns her own business dealing in underwear. I remember being shocked when it was reported in the Catholic papers in Scotland that she had been given some involvement in Catholic schools, as a role model for Catholic girls.

    It struck me then that Catholic schools should not be going along with the career woman PC way of thinking, but teaching about chastity, purity and motherhood.

    Now that Michelle Mone is shown up in a very scandalous light, I wonder what the schoolgirls who were introduced to her as a heroine figure will be thinking – that it’s OK to be scantily dressed (as front page of the newspaper today) and to behave in such an immoral way?

    I am wondering how often unsuitable guests are invited into Catholic schools to influence pupils. It is very disappointing that the staff in Catholic education are so insensitive about things like this, not realising that they should be judging everything by the Catholic standard, not lowering the Catholic standard to fit in with society’s standard.

    • Margaret Mary,

      I very well remember that scandal of Michelle Mone being allowed to influence girls in Catholic schools. The reporting of her ” ladies underwear business” was distasteful in the extreme. I’m pretty certain that we reported it in the newsletter at the time.

      Just Googled and found the lurid headline and front page to which you refer – far too lurid to publish here so thanks to you for sparing us that ugly front page. To think she was held up to young Catholic girls as an example of a model (excuse the pun) Catholic woman. Anything but.

      In my own experience, it’s not unusual for unsuitable speakers to be invited into Catholic schools. I was present on one occasion when a female vicar addressed a Year 8 (2nd year) Assembly during which she said that she just couldn’t belong to a Church like the Catholic Church which discriminated against women – did the pupils realise that the girls present couldn’t be a priest like her, because the Pope doesn’t allow it? Brass neck.

      And all the while, the Deputy Head stood just behind her, grinning like the cat that caught the cream.

      Disgraceful.

      • Frankier,

        Mone was packaged to Catholic girls as a model of what a former pupil from a Catholic school could achieve. That was the whole point of her being invited to speak to Catholic girls in a Catholic school. Here she is again using her alleged Catholicity, support another alleged Catholic organisation – click here.

        I think you’ll find that she definitely thinks of herself as a Catholic. It’s called Delusion on a Grand Scale…

        • Editor

          I stand corrected.

          I remember reading, maybe in The Beano, that her husband was a nephew of Bishop Mone and she had converted to the Catholic faith but no longer practices.

          I suppose though that that makes one a good Catholic nowadays

          • Frankier,

            Her husband left her and their three children and started a relationship with someone else. It’s interesting that he was the nephew of Bishop Mone.

            They don’t exactly sound like the kind of Catholics who should be put forward to Catholic pupils as role models.

            She’s all over the internet posing in skimpy lingerie. It’s just incredible that any staff member in a Catholic school would invite her to talk to Catholic girls. I presume it would have been to signed off by the Head Teacher which makes it all the more incredible.

            I wonder if parents are asked for permission before people are invited into the school to speak to pupils, if not, perhaps they should be.

  15. I would identify with everything Columba 2006 has said. I would add to it that some of the priests coming into the school in which I was teaching at one point were the worst possible influence upon the pupils there. This too was a disgrace.

  16. I think it’s generally understood that Catholic schools are a cut above other schools both educationally and behaviourally. I know a few trainee non-Catholic teachers who opt to do their placements in Catholic schools for those very reasons. However, from a Catholic point of view i.e. handing on the Faith, they are a dead loss. In a way they are a danger to the Faith as godd Catholic parents just assume (wrongly) that their children are being taught the faith. Also, many of the teachers give scandal by their lifestyles.

    Our children went to non Catholic schools and we taught them the faith at home. So, they never heard Catholicism denigrated as that would have been to un- pc in a state school.

    • Crofterlady,

      It used to be true that Catholic schools were better disciplined and more academic than other schools but I’m not sure that this is still the case. I’ve been unimpressed with the behaviour on the street of pupils from a local Catholic school, and have heard boys using bad language on the bus who were from a private Catholic school. Girls from Catholic schools that I’ve seen wear the most immodest mini skirts and it’s obviously tolerated by the staff, as they won’t be changing en masse before leaving the school grounds.

      All in all, Catholic schools are a big disappointment, IMHO.

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