How, why, when, where
and by whom the catechetical ‘fort’
Will Your Grandchildren
On December 9th, 2005, The Catholic Herald celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the closure of Vatican II by publishing a discussion on the Council between the Editor and several well known Catholics. The reporter Christina Farrell took part and as her contributions are relevant to this issue I am including a few of them.
Unfortunately, Education was not included as a point for discussion. But when the group were evaluating Collegiality, Christina said:
"You talk about the importance of educating the laity, but people of my generation - I was born in 1965 - will tell you that one of the significant outcomes of Vatican Two was that proper religious instruction in schools, the teaching of the Faith, disappeared. It was just dire. My Mother’s generation know the ‘Penny Catechism,’ they were well versed in the teachings and tenets of the Faith - we weren’t. That was part of this movement for ‘modernisation.’ We’ve lost that history, that understanding."
Under the heading The Laity, she further commented:
"This is difficult for me as I don’t know what the Church was like before Vatican II - we grew up with the reforms. (This is true of the others as well but she was the only one honest enough to admit what is a very salient fact.) I come back to my original point that my generation was not educated in the Faith. Everyone is talking about this wonderful universal Church but frankly it’s very hit and miss. I’m sure Father Shaun [Middleton] has wonderful liturgies and lay participation in Notting Hill, but it isn’t the case everywhere. There are many people out there who turn up for Mass as good Catholics but who, through no fault of their own, haven’t got a clear idea of the significance of the Sacrifice they are participating in. Watch people coming back to their pews after receiving Holy Communion. Many of them seem to have no concept of Who they have just received."
When they were asked for suggestions for the future, Christina ‘s was - "A move away from the mindset that says Mass attendance once a month makes you a practising Catholic."
It is interesting that no-one responded in any way to Christina Farrell’s crucial and very relevant contributions. They preferred to plead for "a more flexible Church" and to criticise the Church which existed the 1,930 years before Vatican II, though none of them actually experienced it. Oremus!
Statistics show that, in this country, as in too many others, we are watching the disappearance of the Catholic Church, the one true Church, which has not only shaped our history and formed our many English and Welsh Saints, but has saved generations of souls for centuries. As I shall demonstrate, this tragedy has been brought about by the simple expedient of giving the children in Catholic schools false teaching while pretending it is the Truth. This is an evil practice which the Oratorian, Father Frederick William Faber described as "the sin of sins, the most loathsome thing which God looks down upon in this malignant world". He went on to say "How little do we understand its excessive hatefulness. It is the polluting of God’s Truth, which is the worst of all impurities."
Why do so many of us do nothing to stop this "loathsome thing"? We have all learnt that if we know children are being sexually abused or cruelly treated we must in no circumstances keep quiet and let it continue. It is our solemn duty to speak up and protect the child or children, even if this makes us very unpopular. I am sure most responsible adults would not condone such abuse nowadays, but surely it is just as bad to allow children to be spiritually abused. If we know, as many of us do, that children in Catholic schools are being taught such a travesty of the Faith they are permanently turned away from the Church and therefore from Christ, should we not in Charity do everything we can to expose this scandal and so protect the young victims?
As this fraud has continued for over thirty-five years, we now have not only youngsters who are ignorant of the basic doctrines Catholics subscribe to, but also most adults under the age of fifty who, unless they have studied privately, know next to nothing about the Truths and Morals of the Faith they profess. No wonder his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI remarked when, as Cardinal Ratzinger, he announced the creation of a commission to prepare a Compendium of The Catechism of the Catholic Church, "There exists now an enormous religious ignorance" [L’Osservatore Romano October 2003]. This concern was repeated many times at the 2005 Synod by bishops from various parts of the world and has also been reported in L’Osservatore Romano.
Now this ‘liberal takeover’ is reaching its logical conclusion in the combined Catholic and Anglican schools which are to give joint religious instruction! How the Church of Christ can hope to accommodate His teaching to the mere human ideas of Protestants committed to such different beliefs, morals and practices is beyond all understanding - especially when these lessons will often be given by women Anglican vicars.
Understandably, young people are now asking how this dreadful state of affairs came about when there was, for instance, no Communist occupation forcing Catholic teachers to stop teaching the Faith. This essay attempts to answer their question because I feel we owe our young people an explanation.
When the change took place, I had been teaching the Faith in Catholic primary schools for twenty years and, afterwards I went on to teach for a further twenty. My experience puts me in the position of being able to report first-hand what took place without having to guess or rely on hearsay. This short history is written in the hope that, by informing Catholics about the situation it will lead them to take action now to preserve the Church in this country for their children and grandchildren.
We hear a great deal about how dreadful religious instruction was prior to the 1960s - this is because every revolution must blacken the previous regime to justify the changes it intends to enforce. So I will begin by giving a few facts on the way the Faith was taught to the generations born before the 60s, which might help to put the record straight.
~ ‘THE GOOD OLD, BAD OLD DAYS’ ~
If the Church is to continue in this country we must follow Our Lord’s command to the letter and teach "everything He commanded" effectively, to each new generation. That is why, from the time Christianity arrived in this country, children were taught the Faith in monasteries and convents by religious orders. Wealthy families sent their children as boarders for a few years, while poorer children were given weekly lessons by religious Brothers and Sisters in the parish. This instruction stopped at the Reformation. Then wealthier Catholics sent their children abroad to study while the ‘little teachers’, Catholic laymen who travelled around the country staying in Catholic houses for several weeks at a time, taught the local Catholic children.
These brave men worked secretly so not many names are known but we do know the work was handed down from father to son and continued for generations. Any teacher apprehended was imprisoned where, as one of them wrote, they continued working by teaching their fellow prisoners. The historian Leslie James, may he rest in peace, discovered some names by examining old prison records and tried to give them the honour they undoubtedly deserve in the various articles he wrote.
A similar situation occurred in France after the 1789 Revolution. One servant woman walked to a monastery to ask advice, as she was so concerned about the future of the Church in France. She was told to pray and to teach the Faith to any children she knew. Back home she invited her nieces and nephews to come with their friends while she taught them the Faith she had been taught as a child. Her work was richly rewarded because one of those poor children grew up to become St John Vianney, the holy Curé of Ars.
Another good French woman taught the children in her village in Brittany and her teaching helped to form St Jeanne Jugan, foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor.
This is the example we should be following in England today. We must pray, we must take every opportunity to teach ourselves and we must do all we can to ensure our Catholic schools teach the Faith to the next generation fully and effectively.
After Catholic Emancipation in 1829, Catholic schools were permitted again around the country. When the Hierarchy was re-established in England and Wales in 1850, the Bishops of England and Wales, in their first joint Pastoral Letter, exhorted Catholics to build schools where the children could be taught both academic subjects and the Faith. The bishops decided that, as money was very restricted, we should build schools even before churches because passing on the Faith was essential and school buildings could be used for Mass on Sundays. H.E. Cardinal Manning even postponed building a Cathedral at Westminster because he realised priority must be given to schools where the Truths of the Faith would be taught to the next generation. So, at much personal sacrifice, Catholic schools were built again.
Staffing these schools was another problem because they were not recognised by the Government and the teachers could receive no wages. This meant Catholic teachers had to be prepared to work all day, five days a week, teaching very large classes for almost nothing. Men who had to support their families were unable to help, but fortunately there was no shortage of heroic women who volunteered to spend their lives passing the Faith on to Catholic children. I was privileged to meet one of this noble band at the start of my career.
I left College and began teaching at Pitman Street School, Camberwell in South East London in September 1948, when I was just twenty. I took over from a Miss Evans who was retiring at the age of seventy. She had started teaching at Pitman Street in September 1898 when she was twenty, with a class of eighty infants. Having spent most of her working life in my classroom she felt at home there so she used to visit quite a lot. I was happy to let her hear some of my readers, as I had fifty to get round, and in the breaks she would tell me about her early days teaching.
Miss Evans told me that she was qualified and "I could have been earning ninety pounds a year, dear," but here all she got was the little that could be spared from the Sunday collection. Every Monday at playtime the parish priest would come around and sometimes he would say that he was sorry as there was not much this week, but whatever there was, they shared the pennies out, according to need. Miss Evans lived with her parents and walked to school so she had few expenses. Other teachers were married women supported by their husbands and they managed to get by. But no-one got rich.
These schools must have taught the Faith fully, clearly, with no ambiguity and effectively because soon the Church began to grow by leaps and bounds and magnificent churches were built in all our cities. In 1904 Bishop Brown, assistant to Bishop Amigo in Southwark Diocese, negotiated an agreement with the Government in which they agreed to pay teachers wages and contribute to the building and maintenance of Catholic school buildings throughout England and Wales. From then until about the end of the 1960s Catholic teachers taught without interference, Catholic children enjoyed an excellent, free, Catholic education and the Church in this country continued to grow and thrive.
So how did we teach? Obviously not just by rote with beatings. as modern catechists’ propaganda would have us believe. I started school in September 1932 and retired in the summer of 1988 and never witnessed or heard tell of either from my contemporaries or from my parents’ contemporaries.
I can remember my first day at school when Sister told us to put everything away and taught us the first question and answer in the little red Catechism. This says, "Who made you?" "God made me", and after reading it to us she spent a little time telling us about Almighty God.
This is how teachers in this country used the excellent but now much-maligned ‘penny’ Catechism. We were trained to take one answer at a time and spend about thirty minutes ‘unpacking’ it according to the age and ability of our class. Then, if the children were old enough, the answer was written on the board, copied and committed to memory. Always understanding came first and was paramount. It is true that if older children didn’t learn catechism answers they had been asked to revise for homework they might get some sanction or even a slapped wrist, just as they would if they hadn’t learnt spellings or tables.
This was usual practice in most schools in the 1930s and it didn’t seem to do us any great harm.
Anyway, I was thrilled with my first religious lesson. No-one had told me that I would learn about God in school and I couldn’t wait to pass it all on to my brothers. In those days children were still ‘seen and not heard’ so I said nothing until we had been put to bed and my parents had gone downstairs. I was the only girl so I slept alone, but that night I got out of bed and went to my brothers’ room where I taught them what I had learnt about God. This is how religious lessons should affect children. Our Faith is so wonderful, so Messianic that, properly taught, we should want to pass on all we learn about it to anyone who will listen.
My brothers’ religious lessons went on every evening until one night our discussion got a bit noisy and my mother called up asking if we were asleep. My smallest brother Kevin, rather unwisely, called back, "Yes, mummy we’re all asleep." This led her to investigate and my trips were stopped.
I always enjoyed my religious lessons and I was fortunate to be blessed with a succession of excellent teachers, religious and lay, in both my Primary and Secondary School. However I don’t think this was unusual at that time. The Prospective Teachers Exam ensured that only well informed Catholics were allowed to train at Teachers’ Training Colleges and only those who later passed the Teacher’s Final Examination, which was quite demanding, were allowed to teach the Faith in Catholic schools.
Another important safeguard, protecting Catholic children from an incomplete or inaccurate version of the Faith was the system of annual Religious inspections carried out by priests of the Diocese.
Every year every classroom was visited and the children questioned on the parts of the Westminster Religious Syllabus which applied to their age group. Usually Father asked the teacher to begin the questioning and took over when he had the measure of the class. His main purpose was to check that the children had a clear understanding of the truths taught and that they could remember and explain the prayers listed in the Syllabus.
These inspections were not designed to test the children but the teachers. Each teacher received an individual report and each school a general report, which was read out to the whole Staff. The diocesan bishop also received a report and if any school or teacher consistently failed to reach the desired standard, steps would be taken. This may sound harsh but remember we were dealing with matters of eternal life or death and had to be prepared to go to some trouble to protect vulnerable children from being led astray by false or incomplete teaching.
Sadly, as we shall see, all this care was to be thrown away and the children’s eternal futures put in serious jeopardy. Truly, as St John Fisher remarked at the Reformation, "the fort was betrayed by those who should have protected it."
~ IS THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL TO BLAME? ~
The short answer is "no." The Council Fathers said nothing at all about changing either the content or the method of giving religious instruction in Catholic schools. Contrary to popular belief they decided to leave well alone as they were more than content with the way the Faith was currently being taught in Europe, America, Oceania, and the parts of Africa and Asia reached by the Church.
The Council actually did very little about religious instruction. The Schema on Catholic Education, presented to the Council Fathers during the third session was one of the shortest, as it consisted of only 106 pages and the debate on it took only the mornings of 17th,18th and 19th November 1964.
Subsequently, the final document on Christian Education, Gravissimum Educationis, was accepted by an overwhelming majority of 2290 in favour against 35, who, feeling more could have been said about Catholic Universities, abstained or voted against on 28th October 1965, during the fourth session of the Council.
During the debate most of the contributions, like the document itself, were concerned with administrative matters. H.E. Cardinal Spellman of New York Archdiocese who was a very influential voice at the Council, spoke first about the rights parents have to choose which schools they want their children to attend. He also said that never before had the Church had such a well instructed laity. Nobody demurred because they all knew how true this was - then. That explains why no changes were sought in the material taught in religious lessons or the manner of presenting it. After all, if something is working well, why change it ?
These details of the Vatican II debate on Catholic Education can be found on pages 225-226 in Father Ralph Wiltgen’s excellent book The Rhine flows into the Tiber which was published in 1966. The document from the Council on Catholic Education, Gravissimum Educationis, is to be found in Austin Flannery’s first volume on the Council documents, pages 725-737. It is quite short and worth reading if only to confirm that nothing is said there about modernising catechetics, while remembering that the Council Fathers adopted this document by an overwhelming majority.
Undoubtedly the Bishops attending the Second Vatican Council were betrayed on this crucially important issue. This betrayal has led ever since to the defrauding of Catholic children in many parts of the world of the education in the Faith, which their Baptism entitles them to and to cheating their parents who had assumed Catholic schools would teach the Catholic Faith.
Now I have demonstrated that the Second Vatican Council was not guilty, we will see who the perpetrators of this "loathsome thing" were - and are.
Here we are indebted to the research carried out by Msgr Michael Wrenn of the New York Archdiocese.
Msgr Wrenn was asked in the early 70s to compile a religious syllabus for the schools in his Archdiocese. Although, as parish priest of St John the Evangelist Church in New York, he was a busy man, he was delighted to comply as this was something very close to his heart. He wrote three chapters and sent each one as it was finished to Archbishop’s House. As he heard nothing in return, he finally rang up one of his friends who worked there and asked him if the chapters already sent were satisfactory, only to be told that there was a problem as "they were not ambiguous enough"!
Msgr Wrenn was shocked. Catholic teaching has never been ambiguous any more than Our Lord’s words as reported in the Gospels are ambiguous. He realised now that something was seriously wrong and he determined to investigate.
Monsignor discovered that when the Council ended and all the Bishops returned home (on 8th December 1965), Pope Paul VI created five post-Conciliar Commissions on January 3rd 1966. These Commissions, which included one on Christian Education, had no legislative authority whatsoever, they were merely empowered to implement the decisions already made by the Council Fathers. Indeed Pope Paul VI specifically told them that they were "to adhere closely to the tenor of the solemnly approved and promulgated documents" in their instructions.
Unfortunately, the Commission for Christian Education ignored this safeguard as the Chairman was Fr Johannes Hofinger S.J., who admired Fr Jungmann and shared his "open disdain for the orthodox interpretation of certain doctrines and proper teaching methods" [see Modern Catechetical Movement, pub. Marthala].
Fr Hofinger immediately invited like-minded representatives from all over the world to attend the six International Catechetical Study Weeks he set up in various locations. Countries behind the Iron Curtain and the poorer African and Asian countrties were unable to attend so they were protected from modern catechetics, at least for a time. Father Hubert Richards went from England.
Msgr. Wrenn has researched these study weeks, even reading the tedious papers which were read out. He was so outraged at what he discovered that he wrote a book about it called Catechisms and Controversies published by Ignatius Press. When I read Msgr Wrenn’s book I realised at last exactly what had thrown the catechetical world into such chaos. I wrote a leaflet, The Story of a Betrayal, explaining the situation to British Catholics and invited Msgr. Wrenn to come over here and speak about it. He came twice and we remain good friends today.
Briefly, Msgr Wrenn discovered that each Study Week dealt with a specific topic and spent the whole time re-evaluating (i.e. changing) the material to be covered in future religious instruction. There was no open discussion and no public questioning.
The first Study Week, which was held in Manilla in the Phillipines, poured scorn on the way the Faith had been taught until then. This may seem strange - as the results of this teaching were packed churches, crowded seminaries and noviciates, all of which attracted many converts - but it is always possible to criticise human endeavour and to promise even better results.
Other Study Weeks voiced corrosive criticism of the Church, promoted social justice before doctrine or morals and advocated irresponsible adaptation of the Faith to local customs. The most damaging Study Week was held at Medellia, Columbia, in 1968, when Revelation was re-defined.
Delegates were told Revelation does not come from Christ or his Church but from contemporary history and human aspirations. This opened the door to modern experiential catechesis, the R.E. books which tell children ‘Truth is God speaking to you in your heart’, and catechists like the Sister who told me when I protested her book was not true: "You mean not true for you, dear."
Once they had been thoroughly indoctrinated in the ‘new catechetics’ the delegates who had come mainly from the Americas, Western Europe and Oceania, returned home to implement them in their own country.
Fr Hubert Richards returned to England and, with H.E. Cardinal Heenan, established "Corpus Christi College of Religious Education" in London. Fr Richards chose priests, nuns and lay people for his staff who were ready to embrace the new religion which comprises modern catechetics. Bishops, at first quite innocently, sent teachers, priests and catechists from all over England and Wales to study the modern catechetics which from then on was to be mandatory in our Catholic schools.
We will now outline how Corpus Christi College and its new teaching affected our local parishes and schools.
~ CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE OF EDUCATION ~
(... and its fall-out)
Corpus Christi College of Religious Education [C.C.] was set up in Kensington, London, to run courses for priests, nuns and teachers of religion from every diocese in the country. In September 1968 my headmaster sent me along with two of my colleagues, both excellent Catholics who had also taught the Faith for about twenty years. I was happy to go as I was confident I would be shown even better ways of teaching the Faith.
At the time I had read very little about the Council and the document on Education was not available in English until 1972. But until then the Church had never let me down. I could not imagine a Catholic priest denying or even casting doubt on defined Church teaching and I assumed I never would. So imagine my profound shock when I heard priests and nuns subtly undermining belief in the Divinity of Christ, the authority of His Church to teach and even the reliability of Divine Revelation. I remember I was genuinely distressed, too upset even to eat any lunch, which is not like me.
However, I joined my two friends while they ate and kept repeating, "This is terrible, this is not Catholic teaching." I received no sympathy from them as they both felt perfectly happy with this new religion and told me I was "arrogant" and shouldn’t think of arguing with priests and nuns!
This is how modern catechetics was foisted on Catholic teachers and, through them, generations of Catholic children. Although most of us had been well instructed ourselves and carefully trained to pass on the Faith effectively, we had also been taught that we should never criticise a Catholic priest or bishop. To disagree with those ‘chosen by God to teach us’ was not only unnecessary but also tantamount to being disloyal to the Church, almost a kind of apostasy.
I know this sounds ridiculous now and even then we should have remembered Catholics owe allegiance only to bishops and priests who are in full communion with Rome and faithful to Church Tradition. After all, at the Reformation all the bishops, except the great St John Fisher, betrayed the Faith in this country and those who followed them then were led out of the Church.
Once again, however, this misunderstood sense of loyalty saw many Catholic teachers discard the Faith of their Fathers and change their teaching almost overnight. I am sure that these good men and women would have resisted to death pressure from a Nazi or Communist to deny their Faith. Yet when told to do so by a Catholic priest, appointed by the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, particularly when wearing a Roman collar as they all did in the early days, teachers surrendered the Faith without a murmur.
How did I escape? I think it was because I had spoken on the Faith for the Westminster Catholic Evidence Guild for seven years and I realised that what I was hearing at C.C. was very similar to what the hecklers in Hyde Park used to call out, which I had been trained to recognise as error and taught how to correct.
After that day, I never returned to C.C. preferring to go back to school and teach. I feel now I should have returned and challenged them. But I really believed that this was so bad that someone in authority would come and put it right. Tragically, no one ever did.
I went home still in a state of shock and could talk of nothing else all evening. At bedtime my husband said that I obviously would not sleep unless I did something about C.C. He suggested I write to Cardinal Heenan, who had established the College and installed Father Richards as Principal. My husband thought highly of the Cardinal and suggested he probably had no idea what was going on.
So, in fear and literally trembling, because I had never written to a member of the Hierarchy before, I wrote a letter by hand, explaining to the Cardinal how concerned I was and telling him what was being said in his College of Religious Education.
Ten days later I received a brief note from him saying that I obviously didn’t like modern methods (though it was the content not the methods which worried me) and that I must give it time and I would see that it produced more and better Catholics than before. That letter was written in September 1968 and we are still waiting for modern catechetics to produce all these excellent Catholics.
Corpus Christi College of Religious Education remained open for several years and ‘converted’ most Catholic teachers of religion in the country. Bishops stopped sending priests after a few years because they found they so often failed to return, having married nuns they met there. One of the ‘fruits’ of C.C was that many of the staff and students left the priesthood or religious life, others left the Church altogether.
In later years I met a couple of other teachers who had also written to Cardinal Heenan about the College and received similar replies to mine. But eventually action was taken.
First, Fr Hubert Richards was replaced as Principal because he was inviting people who were openly against Church teaching to address the students, which Cardinal Heenan could not sanction. Later, Fr Richards was laicised and married Sister Clare, one of the ex-students from his College. Mr Richards was instructed by the Cardinal that he should never teach in a Catholic school. And yet, like his wife, he ended up at Notre Dame Convent School in Norwich, where the couple, now retired, still reside.
His replacement made no significant improvement and the College was only closed when Michael Davies and John Finigan, a Catholic Headteacher, showed the Cardinal written evidence that Corpus Christi was denying the Divinity of Christ in a leaflet entitled Never say Jesus is God full stop - i.e. always qualify it! They warned him that they would go to Rome if nothing was done. Thus, finally, many years too late, the College closed its doors.
By the time C.C. was shut down it had achieved its objective of moving religious teachers throughout the country away from giving sound religious instruction and turning them into enthusiastic pedlars of modern catechetics. Unfortunately, Cardinal Heenan announced that he closed the College "for financial reasons". That may have been partly true, but if he had admitted even then that it had to be closed anyway because it was spreading error, there would have been some hope of correcting that error. As it is, the Catholic Church in this country has been hampered by these errors ever since. Graduates from C.C., or their students, immediately took charge of the religious instruction in the parishes and schools of England and Wales and, so far, no bishop has had the courage to dislodge them. Consequently, they are still in place; still insisting on their false teaching.
Buildings were acquired for the new Catechetical Centres, staffed by priests, nuns and lay ‘catechetical experts’ with a secretarial staff and set up in every diocese - at no small expense. We had managed to teach the Faith with great success without any such centres for well over a hundred years. But now it was necessary for these dedicated promoters of modern catechetics to maintain an active presence in every diocese to ensure no teacher slipped back into their ‘bad old ways.’ These new catechetical centres were run by a priest as Diocesan Co-ordinator, under the bishop of course, and they all worked together under the National Catechetical Director, a bishop appointed by the National Conference of Bishops.
They made many changes.
First, they changed the term ‘religious instruction,’ which means instructing children on the truths of the Catholic Faith, (the reason the schools were built,) into ‘religious education’ (R.E.). This is a much vaguer term which covers general education about religion. As Dr Eanna Johnson, the Irish theologian who has made a special study of modern catechetics, put it in the title of a recent article in The Brandsma Review, it was a case of "Hello Religious Education, Goodbye Catholic Faith!"
Then the ‘penny’ Catechism, which had proved such an excellent tool for generations of teachers and children, was banned from schools and every copy of the Westminster Syllabus, which teachers from all over the country had worked to, was collected up. Soon the annual religious inspections - which had protected Catholic children from error for so long - were stopped. Instead, the diocesan team visited schools merely to chat to teachers in the staff room - about modern catechetics, of course.
Lessons about sex were introduced for the first time in Catholic schools. Here, Westminster Archdiocese led the way under its diocesan coordinator, Father (now Bishop) David Konstant.
Father Konstant was the Westminster Religious Education Co-ordinator, appropriately known as W.R.E.C. His book on sex instruction was so explicit parents were up in arms and, when they received no support from the Cardinal, went to Rome. Cardinal Heenan was instructed to withdraw his Imprimatur and remove it from his schools.
In spite of this Fr Konstant was made Bishop of Leeds and given authority over the teaching of religion and sex in Catholic schools and parishes throughout the country for the next few decades. He has only recently retired from both posts and Archbishop Vincent Nichols is now in overall charge of Catholic Education throughout England and Wales. Thus far, however, the teams of diocesan catechetical advisor/inspectors installed by Bishop Konstant remain - their power still unchecked; their books still mandatory.
Writing the pricey religious textbooks, which must be used in Catholic schools; organising in-service training for teachers of R.E.; appointing and promoting teachers who agree with them; insisting on the teaching of their brand of religion and, of course, sex instruction, in Catholic schools throughout the country - all this keeps the diocesan teams busy.
Let us take a closer look at what is happening today.
~ THE CURRENT SITUATION ~
Since the arrival of modern catechetics and the setting up of teams of diocesan catechetical advisors in every diocese in England and Wales to ensure it is implemented, the numbers attending Mass have plummeted all over the country and the number of priestly vocations is at an all time low.
In spite of this clear evidence that the modern catechetical experiment has failed dismally, however, the sad charade goes on relentlessly without a hint of whole Truth being allowed to break through.
Some of us had hoped that the arrival of The Catechism of the Catholic Church, (CCC), the response by the Bishops of the Church to a call from the 1985 Synod for a ‘Universal Catechism,’ would see an improvement. Yet when it became available in English in 1994, it was instantly discredited by our catechetical ‘experts’ because it gives genuine Catholic teaching on doctrine and morals which contradicts the modern catechetics they have embraced. Diocesan catechetical directors did all they could to ensure that the teachers for whom they were responsible ignored the CCC, even though it was compiled precisely so Catholic teachers could understand the doctrines they should be teaching.
Discrediting the CCC happened in many ways throughout the country. One director dismissed it as "only a nine days wonder." Another, a Sister, said she would like to see it carried round the cathedral in procession, taken outside and buried in the grounds. Others said it was too difficult for lay people and only intended for bishops. And so the poison was spread. The diocesan bishops, to their eternal shame, did nothing to ensure the CCC was implemented even though Pope John Paul II had told them at its launch that it must now be seen as "the norm for R.E."
The CCC was dead on arrival in this country as it was in many others, just as Msgr Wrenn had forecast it would be in his book D.O.A. The ceaseless flow of expensive R.E. schemes either ignored it completely or paid mere lipservice to it, sometimes going so far as to quote carefully selected extracts while, on the same page, omitting, distorting or contradicting its teaching.
Occasionally, religious textbooks like Weaving the Web, which Parents’ Concern under the courageous Kay McDonald [RIP] campaigned against, were so hopelessly inadequate Rome intervened and demanded their replacement. Also, Clare Richards’ Roman Catholic Christianity, which Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice took to Rome, had its Imprimatur withdrawn, rather reluctantly, by Bishop Peter Smith.
This has not helped very much, however, because the replacements schemes have been written either by the same or like-minded people and are no better.
Our diocesan advisors not only run a ‘closed shop’ on R.E. books, they now really have a stranglehold on the teaching of religion because, since they started their despotic rule, the OFSTED inspections have been introduced by the Government.
OFSTED inspects schools on secular subjects but in Catholic schools the teaching of religion is inspected by - you’ve guessed it - our diocesan advisors. This means the people who write and promote the textbooks are in a position to fail schools which don’t use them. This is illegal in secular subjects because it means inspectors could more or less ‘blackmail’ schools into buying and using their books. However, our bishops allow it in Catholic schools and of course some of our advisor/inspectors exploit it to the full.
We do have good religious teachers but they are, understandably, reluctant to risk their school getting a bad OFSTED report. So, if they use sound books, they do it discreetly and cover the mandatory textbooks officially approved by the bishops as well.
Although there are no sound Catholic religious textbooks printed in England and Wales there are, thank God, excellent books produced in Australia and America, which are on sale here. I think the best is probably the new Faith and Life Series. I know this is used in some parishes and schools but teachers have to be very careful because if they are discovered using it they will be hounded out of their school. There are no tyrants like liberals once they assume power!
I have received many proofs of this over the years.
One extremely poignant story was told to me by a convert.
As a Sister, she had taught religion in her Anglican convent before becoming a Catholic, which in itself was a heroic step. She told me she was so looking forward to teaching the true Faith in Catholic senior schools, only to find herself successively thrown out of three schools before she gave up and moved into the State sector to teach. To her great credit she was not scandalised or angry but just got on with the job because, as she said, "These children have souls to save too." We have lost many excellent teachers like this to State schools.
Others have no option but to stay and compromise even though they are not happy about the pretence.
One head of R.E. in a senior school rang me one evening in great distress. He had been using his own syllabus with his pupils and it was based on the CCC, but when the diocesan advisor, (incidentally an ex-priest,) found the officially approved text wasn’t being used, he complained to the headmaster. The Head told this teacher he had to conform or go at the end of that term. As it was summer and teachers are usually now on yearly contracts this was no idle threat. The poor man told me he had a wife, a new baby and a mortgage and he just could not afford to lose his job, particularly as he knew he would now be classed as a ‘troublemaker’ who it would be best not to employ. I could only advise him to comply and move schools when he could.
Sadly, there is no one to help the many teachers caught up in this desperate situation. Diocesan bishops have shown that, right or wrong, they are on the side of the catechetical advisor/inspectors and their dreadful textbooks.
It may help to understand how serious this predicament is if you see for yourself just how bad the religious textbooks are that the bishops of England and Wales have not only officially approved, but even made mandatory in Catholic schools.
Currently, Catholic primary schools are to use Here I Am. Senior schools use ICONS and Birmingham Archdiocese has produced its own scheme which, though better, is still lacking in essentials as it is based on the bishops R.E. Curriculum instead of the CCC. I suggest you borrow copies and have a look at them or write to me for a review of these schemes [4 Fife Way, Great Bookham, Surrey KT23 3PH], enclosing a stamped addressed envelope.
The explicit lessons on sex, now obligatory even in our primary schools, also undermine the children’s faith and concern the parents. As one angry mother wrote to me, "They don’t teach them the Faith any more, they talk dirty to them instead." Anxiety to protect their children from this kind of sex-ed accounts for much of the recent growth in home-schooling.
One cannot help wondering why Catholic bishops allow catechetical teams, over whom they have full authority, to wreak such havoc among their flocks, especially now when they can see the terrible harm they are doing?
The answer is that not all bishops do. There are bishops in America and Australia who have effectively stopped the rot by re-deploying the self-styled catechetical ‘experts,’ where they can do less harm, by insisting that only sound Catholic textbooks will be used in their dioceses and that only practising Catholics who know, believe and love the Faith in its entirety will be allowed to teach it. These bishops have been rewarded by rising Mass attendances and a steady growth in priestly vocations.
Pope John Paul II was aware of this trend and he told the Australian bishops at their last Ad Limina with him not to complain about a shortage of vocations when the remedy was in their own hands, as some Australian dioceses have already shown.
Sadly none of this is happening here - yet. The Bishops of England and Wales have been told to ‘delegate’ Catholic education to their so-called ‘experts’, and delegate they do, to the point of completely abdicating their responsibilities in this area. Our Shepherds have in effect left their flocks to the mercy of ravening wolves, as I discovered when I asked H.E. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who was then bishop of my diocese, about Here I Am.
At the time HIA was newly published and filling the Letter pages of the Catholic papers with complaints from lay Catholics concerned about its errors and deficiencies. In spite of this he told me not to talk about Here I Am as, although he had made it mandatory in all the primary schools of his diocese, he hadn’t even glanced at it!
One of the most serious problems with this new catechetics is the way our God-given Catholic faith is treated on the same footing as other, man-made faiths, even including pagan religions. R.E. books list Jesus Christ on the same line as Mohammed, Ghandi and Bhudda as religious leaders.
A friend, visiting a Catholic primary school saw a picture of the Hindu goddess Vishnu the Destroyer next to a picture of Our Blessed Lady; Martin Luther King is listed with Catholic saints as a role model; and pagan feasts are rigorously kept. This inevitably leads Catholic youngsters to believe all religions are equally valid and it is just a matter of their choice.
I was not surprised, therefore, when one evening a very distressed father rang me to say his fourteen year old daughter, who was at a Catholic school, had decided to become a Bhuddist. There was nothing either of us could say to persuade her to change her mind.
Confusion and ignorance are the devil’s favourite weapons in his fight against the true Church. Modern catechetics has provided both in plenty. I cannot imagine that before this drastic change a fourteen year old boy in my Confirmation group, after ten years in Catholic schools, would tell me there were several gods - ‘the Muslim god, the Bhuddist god and our God, who is the nicest of course!’
Sometimes the depth of the almost universal religious ignorance is really astonishing, as when a few years ago I received a request from a lecturer in a Catholic seminary who wanted copies of What Every Catholic Child should know about the Faith - a booklet I had written for parents of young children. When I explained that it was intended for children of primary school age, he said that was why he wanted it as his students were at that stage!
Such carefully instilled ignorance makes our youngsters very vulnerable, not only to false religions but to the current pagan trends of our society. They genuinely cannot see why they should not live promiscuous lives, practise contraception/abortion and generally behave as their non-Catholic friends do.
It is no exaggeration to say modern catechetics is destroying the Catholic Church in this country. At present the vast majority of Catholic school leavers turn their backs on the Church, never to return. They marry, if they do marry, outside the Church and most neither baptise their children nor bring them up as Catholic. Some who want to get a child into a Catholic school with a good academic reputation go through the motions but drop any pretence of practice once they have achieved their objective. Those who do stay in the Church are hampered by their almost total ignorance of Church teaching. This is borne out by surveys like that in Perth, Western Australia, which recently revealed catastrophic levels of dissent and lapsation among ‘Catholic’ students. But it could have been made in any other English-speaking country or any part of Western Europe.
We must ask ourselves, do we want this situation to continue? Do we want to go on losing so many of our young people every year? Can we remain a viable local Church if we continue to do nothing? Let us finally look at various courses of action, which combined with prayer, could enable us to break out of this terrible downward spiral.
~ THE WAY AHEAD ~
Getting our schools to give Catholic children effective instruction in the Faith will be an uphill struggle and, as we don’t have much time, it is important we concentrate on the real problems.
For example, individual R.E. teachers who have not enjoyed proper instruction themselves, need help not blame. Although the instigators of this new regime knew what they were doing, many young catechists and teachers who have inherited their legacy thirty-five years later, could be following the directives of their diocesan advisors in innocent good faith.
There are a great many changes which must be made.
First, we must reinstate the desirable nature of Knowing and Understanding the Faith.
In the last few decades ‘Knowledge’ has become almost a dirty word. KNOW is perhaps the only four letter word never to be used when talking to catechists and teachers. The new subjective religion is based only on feelings and experience. Love, of a kind, is stressed, though not the love Jesus asked for which involves keeping the Commandments. But knowledge is definitely considered a bad thing.
We often hear ‘it is better to love the Faith than to know it.’ Why do we have to choose? Isn’t it better to use both the faculties of our souls, Intelligence as well as Free Will? Understanding the Faith does not mean you fail to love it, quite the contrary.
After all, didn’t Our Lord tell us we must love God with our minds as well as with our hearts? He knew that a faith built only on feelings and experience is a house built on sand which will collapse at the first breath of wind, while faith and love built on sound knowledge and understanding is a house built on rock and should survive anything.
The opposite to knowledge is ignorance and as the Holy Father has said, "there exists now an enormous religious ignorance" because "in the times after the Council it is evident we have not succeeded in transmitting, in a concrete way, the content of the Catholic Faith." The Bishops at the October 2005 Synod, echoed Pope Benedict XVI’s sad words again and again. This contrasts sadly with Cardinal Spellman’s declaration in 1964, only forty years ago, that "Never before in the history of the Church, have we had such well informed laity."
Religious ignorance doesn’t just make practice of the Faith difficult, it can make it impossible. Saints like St John Fisher and St Pius X recognised the appalling damage religious ignorance did to the Church of their times and did all they could to remedy it [cf. Acerbo nimis 1905]. We must do all we can to make other Catholics, especially those in authority, aware of the corrosive effect of religious ignorance on the practice of the Faith in this country. It is all the more deadly because people can only too easily be unaware that they suffer from it.
Catholic parents need to be warned about Catholic schools. As they have never been officially informed that our schools no longer teach the Faith, many parents still assume they do. They need to know that the modern catechetics now taught not only fails to inform youngsters about the Faith but, but as one American bishop discovered, it actually turns them away from the Church.
This is why Archbishop Ward, when Archbishop of Cardiff, reported what most of us have noticed: that Catholic children who attend non-Catholic schools are more likely to stay in the Church than those at Catholic schools. So, unless they are fortunate enough to live close to one of our few sound Catholic schools, parents who are serious about the Faith would be wise to choose State schools or to home-school their children and so protect them from modern catechetics.
This is not an easy decision because Catholic schools are quite rightly often rated as better than state schools academically. They do get glowing headlines in the Catholic press. Yet when you read the report it becomes clear that the academic teaching is being praised, not the religious instruction.
Then our bishops need to be woken up to their responsibilities.
Each diocesan bishop is himself responsible for the teaching of the Faith to the children God has entrusted to him, using his teachers in his schools. His brother bishops cannot take that responsibility from him and they will not speak for him when he stands alone before Christ to explain why, in spite of the promise he made at his ordination, he failed to teach the Faith to his flock. He can no longer pretend he has to ‘toe the party line’ or that "unity is more important than Truth," as Archbishop Vincent Nichols once tried to persuade me.
We now have diocesan bishops in other countries who do insist that only the Faith, as expounded in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, is taught in their dioceses. So far, no-one has chopped their heads off. So what are our bishops so frightened of? All that would happen would be that they would win the gratitude and respect of all the faithful Catholics in their dioceses as well as of the good bishops around the world. Even if some of their brother bishops were displeased with them there is nothing they can do to them and surely a little unpopularity is a small price to pay for the immense privilege of standing up for Christ and His Truth.
Some bishops have concocted reasons to explain away their evident failure and these need to be shown up as the empty excuses they are.
For instance, we are told: "It’s not our fault, it’s society." I agree that the pagan society we live in doesn’t help, but if the Faith can be taught effectively in dioceses in America and Australia where society is just as bad, it can be taught here. After all, the early Church made wonderful progress in the most immoral, pagan society imaginable. Young Catholics in ancient Rome not only practiced Catholic faith and morals, many of them willingly died for them: because they had been properly taught and understood how wonderful they are, they loved them.
Another excuse frequently trotted out by bishops and modern catechists is: "It’s not our fault it’s the home/parents." No, it is not. It’s the schools who are to blame and those who decide what will be taught in them. Parents have always been responsible for teaching the practice of the Faith - Sunday Mass, daily prayers, etc. - which the school used to confirm with structured doctrinal teaching so that Catholics grew up understanding why the practice of their Faith was so important. It is because the schools let parents down by failing to teach doctrine that the practice went and now most young Catholic parents, through no fault of their own, have neither practice nor doctrine to pass on to their children.
It is sad that bishops so casually blame parents, who are already heart-broken at the lapsation of their children/grandchildren when the bishops themselves are to blame. Parents cannot choose the textbooks or correct the diocesan advisors. The bishops can.
At present bishops are knowingly allowing religious advisors to force their non-Catholic books and beliefs on children sent in good faith to Catholic schools. It is also obvious that if an intelligent youngster leaves Catholic school after twelve or fourteen years attendance, without a proper understanding of the Faith, the school has failed him/her.
After all, if a school claimed to teach French and Chemistry and its pupils left knowing almost nothing about either, we would all agree the school was to blame, not the parents.
If this problem is to be solved in this country and the Church’s present tragic free-fall into oblivion is to be arrested, the bishops, who are the only ones with the necessary authority, will have to intervene. So far they have shown themselves blind to the serious nature of this crisis and impervious to parental requests.
So, as we have to work through the bishops, we will have to turn the pressure up until we make their comfortable lives unbearable. The consolation is that they will thank us eventually, even if it is in eternity, for forcing them to do the work they were ordained to do and so save their souls.
To be effective this pressure must come from above and below. Each diocesan bishop must be inundated with letters, e-mails and questions at meetings all asking him why he allows the children and the adults in his care to be misinformed about the Faith and so led astray. Examples, which abound, can be cited. At the same time, all the Sacred Congregations in Rome must be inundated by protests about the failures of our bishops to teach the Faith, always supported with examples and our frightening statistics. This can be done by letter, e-mail and visits but the important thing is they must be allowed no peace until they take action.
At the time of writing there is a new threat to our children’s souls. The Catholic senior schools in England and Wales are going to combine with Anglican/Protestant/non-Catholic schools to teach all the pupils together. The first such school, St Francis of Assissi College in Liverpool, has already opened and others are in the pipeline. This is financially necessary because Catholic parents have fewer children nowadays, making it impossible for us to fill the schools we built in the sixties. We may have to accept joint schools but what is totally unacceptable is that our bishops plan to have all the children taught religion together by either Catholic or Anglican teachers. This means they will hear only a vague, minimal version of Catholic faith and morals which, as it is not believed or understood by their non-Catholic teachers, is bound to lead our children into the heresy of Indifferentism.
You may think that our schools are doing more harm than good anyway so why worry about this. But we now have good young priests so one day we will get good bishops who will want to teach the Faith and if we let this happen they will be unable to do it as we will have lost our hard-won schools built for this purpose.
Fortunately there is a solution but we will need concerted action to get it adopted. We can learn from the Jews. Their school, King David’s High School, one of the most successful schools in Liverpool, accepts Gentile pupils. But the Jews care enough about their children’s faith to arrange that their Jewish pupils are taught the Jewish faith, by a practising, believing Jew. Our Catholic bishops could also arrange for Catholic pupils to be taught religion by Catholics, separately from the non-Catholic pupils at their joint schools. So far they have refused to do so. Again, they need letters, etc., as does Rome, who could put this right.
The task before us is forbidding but if we all work at it without ceasing it is not impossible. Fortunately, we now have The Catechism of the Catholic Church which must be rescued from its dusty shelf and implemented as it should be. We also have the Compendium to the Catechism which might be an even better teaching resource. In other words, every parish priest and every teacher has access to all the Truths of the Faith they should be teaching. We also have good sound religious textbooks like The Faith and Life Series available in English, which are ‘teacher friendly,’ clearly written, without ambiguity and comprehensive.
This last point is important for, as Pope Benedict XVI recently remarked, "Unless the faith is taught in its entirety it fails to make sense, contradicting itself and inviting contempt." Our Faith is one, beautiful, harmonic whole, so partial teaching of it is bound to fail. This is why Our Lord commissioned His Apostles to teach "everything" He had commanded.
In our righteous concern about children’s religious teaching,we mustn’t forget that many adults also need sound structured instruction in the Faith. I feel the Compendium to the Catechism is the perfect tool for Courses in Catholic parishes, infinitely better than "ALPHA," "CaFE," "AT YOUR WORD, LORD", etc., which are all examples of the ‘partial’ instruction the Pope warns us about. The Compendium, being clear, concise and comprehensive would also make an excellent basis for RCIA classes for converts. We must thank Almighty God we have such a useful tool and pray that we make the best use of it.
Prayer is the essential part of this Apostolate. Pray constantly, especially when you send a letter to a bishop or to Rome, or when you are going to ‘witness’ at a meeting. Of course, the Mass our greatest prayer, and then the powerful, daily, Rosary. Pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance and remember the prayer of St Richard of Chichester: "Lord, may we know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly and follow Thee more nearly." Let’s follow St Ignatius’ advice and ‘work as if everything depended on us,’ which in a way it does, and ‘pray as if everything depended on Almighty God,’ which, of course, it ultimately does.
Even if our efforts are not appreciated, let us be confident that we are at one with the Holy Father who is exhorting his bishops to "Foster the Catholic education of youth and organise effective adult catechesis." And Pope Benedict also insists that:
"Such catechesis must be based on Scripture and the Magisterium. In carrying it out The Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church and the recently published Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church will prove helpful."