Sunday, December 30, 2007

Parliament’s inquisition on Roman Catholic education

As Gordon Brown issues his New Year message warning of global turbulence and ‘measurable changes in public services’ (i.e., higher taxes), Cranmer is disturbed to note that Roman Catholic bishops are being summoned to appear in front of a powerful committee of MPs for ‘pushing a fundamentalist brand of their religion in schools’.

They stand accused of ‘promoting a hard line on “immoral” teaching in schools’, after the Roman Catholic Bishop of Lancaster, Patrick O'Donoghue, issued an edict instructing Catholic schools across much of north-west England to stop 'safe-sex' education and place crucifixes in all classrooms. He also wrote: 'Schools and colleges must not support charities or groups that promote or fund anti-life policies, such as Red Nose Day and Amnesty International, which now advocates abortion.'

Confronting the Government head-on, he exhorted Catholic schools to use science to teach about the 'truths of the faith'; that sex should only be mentioned in the context of the 'sacrament of marriage'; and to insist that ‘contraception was wrong’, preferring ‘natural family planning’.

In a parallel development, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds, Arthur Roche, also sent a letter to parishes warning them that ‘Catholic education was under threat following attempts by the local council to set up an inter-faith academy’.

Well, Cranmer agrees with this man, for the establishment of an ‘inter-faith’ anything quite obviously imperils the orthodoxy of any one faith. Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, has written to Secretary of State Ed Balls MP accusing the schools of trying to 'indoctrinate' pupils. Yes, Mr Porteous Wood, to induct children into a moral framework is indeed the role of education, and the assertion that your ‘secular’ one is neutral is a manifest falsehood. And Cranmer notes once again that it is church schools which are being persecuted for their ‘fundamentalism’: how many Muslim, Sikh or Jewish schools take similar lines on ‘immoral’ teaching, yet are left completely alone for fear of the inevitable accusations of ‘racism’?

The Inquisitor General is one Barry Sheerman MP, who chairs the parliamentary cross-party committee on children, schools and families. He detects 'intense turmoil' about the future of Catholic education, and revealingly asserts: 'It seems to me that faith education works all right as long as people are not that serious about their faith. But as soon as there is a more doctrinaire attitude questions have to be asked. It does become worrying when you get a new push from more fundamentalist bishops. This is taxpayers' money after all.'

Well, Mr Sheerman, Cranmer has news for you. People who are 'not serious about their faith' do not possess a faith. And faith schools which are 'not serious about their faith' are not faith schools. Does Parliament 'work all right' if politicians are not that serious about politics? This is taxpayers’ money being used to confront the secular view on sex outside of marriage, sexually transmitted disease including HIV and Aids, and abortion, and the inference that the state presents neutrality on these matters is false. The perpetual intoning of ‘safe sex’ at taxpayers’ expense is clearly not working, with the UK now producing more than 50,000 pregnant teenagers each year, who will either abort or raise their children, once again, at taxpayers’ expense. And the National Union of Teachers has waded in, asserting that ‘the bishop's instructions could damage the health of teenagers who chose to become sexually active despite the church's teaching’. Can these people not see that the present policy is failing miserably?

It seems to Cranmer that these bishops should boldly proclaim to Torquemada Sheerman in the High Court of Parliament that their heresy does not make them enemies of society, and that no torture, mental or legislative, will force them to recant. It is the right of parents under United Nations charter to educate their children in accordance with the principles of their faith and morals, and there are far more pressing questions to be asked of other faith schools in regard to their ‘citizenship’ provision.

What is a very great pity is that the Roman Catholic bishops also called for ‘any books containing polemics against the Catholic faith to be removed from school libraries’.

A faith, any faith, and especially one which is built on a rock, should have no fear of polemics against it. To demand censorship and effectively reinstitute book-burning in educational establishments is indeed unwelcome. They are taxpayers’ books after all.


Blogger botogol said...

He who pays the piper calls the tune, Cramner. If the churches are running govt schools, they have to fall in with govt teaching. If they don't like it, they are free to start their own schools.

Of course there should be no such thing as a govt, church school.

30 December 2007 at 12:02  
Blogger Snuffleupagus said...

Your Grace
Parents may very well have the right to educate their children in accordance with their faith, but this does not in itself make it 'right'.

Present policy may indeed be failing, but are you seriously suggesting that crucifixes in classrooms would make any difference? And what do you mean by 'the secular view on sex outside of marriage, sexually transmitted disease including HIV and Aids, and abortion'. There are many different secular positions on all of these things. And your phrase implies that secularists believe in, or promote sexually transmitted disease, which is simply preposterous.

Banning sex education is somehow going to encourage young people not to have sex? We want to return to the days where young girls commit suicide because they don't understand what their period means? Have we lost our minds?

My experience of teaching in a Catholic school was exactly as the bishops would have wanted. Crucifixes, no sex education, boys only, and prayer everyday. Let me assure you that many of these boys were having sex, some getting girls pregnant, and all had no education on the matter whatsoever. Two young teachers at the school also 'had a relationship' and when she fell pregnant, she was shipped off in silence and no one ever spoke of her again.

Who is claiming that secularism is neutral? It isn't neutral. But its way of dealing with some issues is preferable to the Catholic way. Crucifixes? Why don't we all hang garlic by our front doors and slaughter sheep in our back gardens while we are at it!

30 December 2007 at 12:08  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Ms Snuffy,

His Grace is not asserting that crucifixes (of which he is not in any case very fond) are as efficacious as garlic, but what on earth is wrong with teaching the virtues of abstinence and fidelity?

Notwithstanding the undeniable fact that some students in Roman Catholic schools are sexually active, it would be interesting to see statistics on the rate of teenage pregnancy within these schools compared with their 'secular' counterparts in comparable social contexts.

30 December 2007 at 12:17  
Anonymous Morus said...

Your Grace,

Sadly, whilst I falll on your side of this debate, this is a very troubling story for me from a Catholic perspective.

The Catholic Bishops are yet again showing their complete political naivity in turning what should not be a political fight into one, thus endangering their chances of stopping legislation (such as the Human Embryology Bill) that will require alliances with people who will now shy away from our friendship.

There is a way to conduct sex-education in a way that is not antithetical to the Church's teachings without being seen to eliminate education in certain areas, and making the Churhc seem irresponsible and naive. The call for a crucifix in every classroom is a fatuous demand that means nothing. The removal of books is practically begging for justified ridicule - as though the Church is incapable of defending itself from academic attack!

Personally, I suspect that Bishop O'Donohue is angling for the favour of the Vatican in preparation for the next round of promotions. Sadly, the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales are as collectively ambitious as they are politically inept. A Dominican or an outsider are needed at Westminster if the Church is not to rot at the hands of these second-rate clergymen.



30 December 2007 at 13:01  
Blogger Sean said...

"He who pays the piper calls the tune, Cramner. If the churches are running govt schools, they have to fall in with govt teaching. If they don't like it, they are free to start their own schools"

Aren't Catholic parents taxpayers? The "Piper" is the taxpayer, not the Man in Whitehall.

30 December 2007 at 14:29  
Blogger Man in a Shed said...

It is perhaps worth remembering that Catholics pay taxes also. Hence the argument that its the state that pays therefore the state should decide doesn't really hold.

Each side can cite examples of its case - such examples don't really make a convincing case.

30 December 2007 at 15:02  
Blogger Snuffleupagus said...

Your Grace
You assume that sex education does not teach abstinence and fidelity. In all of the sex education I have seen, these are said to be by far the best approach to avoid pregnancy and STDs. The Catholic church requires no sex education at all as if it teaches children how to have sex. But this simply isn't the case. It teaches about fallopian tubes, how babies are made, and what to do if you get your period etc. Some sex education has a young woman of about 19/20 who has a young child come into school and tell the children about the realities of getting pregnant young, and how it will change their lives. The impact on the children is life-altering. Other sex education has our 6th formers having to look after a baby for a week - a doll which cries and wets itself. They have to change it, feed it etc. And after a week of that, they realise just how much hard work having a baby is, and swear off sex for life.

I believe sex education encourages fidelity and abstinence. The Catholic church (and indeed other religions) is being too narrow minded about it.

Hmm yes, it would be interesting to see such stats. Where Catholic communities (or other religious ones) have an advantage, is that they understand the concept of shame. So while whisking that young woman out of school, so as to hide her pregnancy seemed archaic to me, it came out of a sense of shame, which is a good thing.

30 December 2007 at 15:04  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

Apologies and diatribes are all very good but the bigger questio is this: why are they doing this?

Allow me to communicate to you some extracts from "Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future" by Fr. Seraphim Rose:

"The goals of the New-Age include a "convergence of religions" in tandem with a "confluence" of political and economic forces toward World Government. The plan for a New World Order would include a universal credit system, a universal tax, a global police force, and an international authority that would control the worlds food supply and transportation systems."

"All forms of Discrimination would cease, and peoples' allegiance to tribe or nation will be replaced by a planetary conciousness"

"Alice Bailey [a UN ideologue] in the 1940s wrote: "the expressed aims and efforts of the United Nations will be eventually brought to fruition, and a new church of God, gathered out of all religions and spiritual groups, will unitedly bring to an end the great heresy of separateness"

On Denatured Christianity: "Although not all globalists share the specifically religious goals, they are certainly united in their view of what kind of religion will not fit into the one-world system they are working to create. Conservative, traditional adherents of a religion, who believe that their religion is a unique fulfilment of the fullness of the truth, will not be welcome in the "global village". As Paul Chaffe, board member of the United religions Initiative, said in 1997: "We can't afford fundamentalists in a world this small." The same view was expressed at the 1998 State of the World Forum, Jim Garrison announced: "If my theology is an impediment, than I have to get rid of my theology."

30 December 2007 at 15:06  
Blogger AethelBald, King of Wessex said...

Finally, under Ratzinger, the RC church completes the reaction against Vatican 2. The pendulum swings. In the ultra-competitive world of attracting souls, the evangelical prods have been giving the RC'ers a hiding all over the world, and particularly in South America. Los Angeles' most successful export is not Hollywood but Pentecostalism. Consequently, Ratzinger needs to remake the brand, a bit like Cameron and the Tories, before launching a massive counter attack.

And the taxpayer (or more importantly me) is going to fund this? Well I never.

People who are 'not serious about their faith' do not possess a faith

One's anger sometimes gets the better of one, Your Grace. One can only be not serious about one's faith if one has a faith about which not to be serious. And it would appear that you have both quoted and misquoted Sheerman, on the same utterance, in the same post.

'any books containing polemics against the Catholic faith to be removed from school libraries’

His Dark Materials must be a better read than I thought to have suddenly touched that nerve. Could it be anything else? Maybe the Left Behind series? Are there any other religious polemics out there that have young head-space? Are there any popular children's books on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum? I see Patrick O'Brien is on it, along with Copernicus, but neither is an author of childrens' books. It is remarkable that the full Index does not appear to be on the web. Yet.

30 December 2007 at 17:04  
Blogger Dr.D said...

'It seems to me that faith education works all right as long as people are not that serious about their faith. But as soon as there is a more doctrinaire attitude questions have to be asked. It does become worrying when you get a new push from more fundamentalist bishops. This is taxpayers' money after all.'

This is the most beautiful argument for the separation of the Church and State. What he is saying is that public concerns require that the Church be acceptable to all people, even those who are outside the Church. The Church cannot do this and remain true to itself and this is the fundamental reason why the C of E is in such terrible decline.

30 December 2007 at 21:54  
Anonymous Nathan Hale said...

Your humble servant thanks His Grace for this post and the wonderful discussion it has loosed.

There are few Churches that have the spine of the Roman Catholic Church. We must be thankful for two very strong, very righteous Popes. I am very grateful for the Church's stances on abortion and chastity. I must unequivocally denounce, however, the evil and dark practice of Priest celibacy. This celebration of abstinence from marriage is a most heinous and disgusting thing, a perverted holdover from Greek philosophy.

I am also worried by the RC Church's historical sympathy with fascism and "Christian" socialism. In other words, there are plenty of reasons why the Nuns and Jesuits should not have carte blanche.

30 December 2007 at 22:05  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

"He who pays the piper calls the tune, Cramner. If the churches are running govt schools, they have to fall in with govt teaching. If they don't like it, they are free to start their own schools"
The State was a latecomer to education in this country, and the attempt to turn an excessive takeover into full scale nationalization should be firmly resisted. Good for the RCs.

30 December 2007 at 22:45  
Anonymous The recusant said...

Miss Snuffleupagus,

I could not disagree more; you make from His Graces blog a small army of straw men which you subsequently demolish with argument from your own imagination and perspective.

For example His Grace did not ‘suggest’ seriously or otherwise ‘crucifixes in classrooms would make any difference’, he reported the actions of the Bishop of Lancaster, Patrick O'Donoghue (affectionately known as POD). “From now on”, says the bishop, “all primary and secondary schools must base RE lessons on the Catechism; schools that do not have a chapel should build one; there must be a crucifix in every classroom – and the Church’s teaching on sex outside marriage and abortion must be upheld.”

So you see the Bishops have no intention “Banning sex education” and “The Catholic church requires no sex education at all” to use your words is clearly not true. From here your argument tends to fly off in flights of fancy, what pray has garlic or slaughtered sheep got to do with anything, no don’t answer, I’ll only regret it.

From your experience of teaching in a catholic school you show little restraint in regaling us once again (bordering frankly on Schadenfreude) as in previous posts with tales of failure, incompetence and practices below your own evident unequalled talents, if only every teacher had your insight and professionalism. What you omit from your tale of wow is that many catholic schools have either been sold off or are in 'special measures' mode; ensuring their imminent closure or take over by the DCSF, as they like to be known these days. Those that are successful are more often than not leaders in the school league tables and gain excellent Ofsted reports (two more telling indicators our teaching professionals complain about at every opportunity)

What I do notice from your discourse is a lack of any personal of responsibility or acceptance on your part for the attitudes and sexual proclivities of your charges, perhaps you would do well to read Bishop O’Donoghue’s 60-page instruction to his diocesan schools, entitled “Fit for Mission?” in full.

In it he specifically addresses what you seem to have difficulty accepting. Fit for Mission informs parents that teacher must abandon an attitude that “limits our children’s faith to what they personally consider ‘relevant’ ”. He writes: “The tragic consequence of selection based on ‘relevance’ is that great truths are ignored or treated superficially”.

You see in short the Bishop is saying that the Catholic faith is to be taught in full according to Church teaching, not what ‘teachers’ think is relevant. This position is not just roman dogmatism; it is backed by the available facts on teenage pregnancy and abortion figures. Every year they go up, every year we are reproved by some so called education experts (usually courtesy of the BBC and the Guardian) calling for more tax payers money to be spent on more sex education, and now Britain is the leader in Europe. We have been following the expert advice for so long we can now boast the highest figures in Europe, the second in the World of developed nations for underage sex, transmission of STDs, pregnancies and abortions. At the same time we are falling in the more conventional subjects compared to our European counterparts, makes you proud to be British!

So Miss Snuffleupagus, no matter how much you complain of the Catholic position on sex education, how much you profess the secularists do it better (you say “The Catholic Church (and indeed other religions) is being too narrowed minded about it.” and “But its [the secular] way of dealing with some issues is preferable to the Catholic way”) the facts and figures argue against you, almost 50,000 girls under 18 fall pregnant each year, according to the telegraph.

Catholic parents have had enough of so called education experts asserting they know best in matters moral and spiritual, they have had it for the past 4-5 decades and are convinced the failure is not with what the Church teaches, it is with what our educators fail to teach.

On a final note, one has to wonder at the motives of anyone having such a, shall we say ‘progressive’ outlook, taking a teaching position in a catholic school in the first place.

31 December 2007 at 00:05  
Anonymous the recusant said...

Just to show I wasn't throwing in spurious comments about the more conventional product of out teaching establishment:

The Times 4 Dec 2007

British pupils falling in world rankings
Nicola Woolcock and Alex Frean

British teenagers have plummeted in world rankings for reading, maths and science in international figures that are a devastating blow to the Government.
Fifteen-year-olds have fallen from 8th to 24th place in maths attainment in the past six years. In reading their ranking has dropped from 7th to 17th and in science from 4th to 14th.
The slump raises fears that Britain is losing its reputation for providing a world-class education, despite the millions of pounds the Government has pumped into schools. Since 1997, when Tony Blair came to power promising to make “education, education, education” a priority, government spending on the sector has risen from £29 billion to £77.4 billion.
Britain was eclipsed by Korea, Finland, Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan and the Netherlands in reading, maths and science. Britain also scored fewer points than it did in 2000, according to the report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

£77.4 billion, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

31 December 2007 at 00:20  
Anonymous Atlas shrugged said...

There is a very good logical reason why our educational standards are low and getting relatively lower.


Governments don't want or need properly educated people for the same reason the Roman Catholics did not want their flocks to read the Bible.

Smart educated free minded populations are dangerous to their respective establishments.

Nothing repeat nothing government does is an accident or a cock-up. Whatever the BBC, your school teachers or your Bishops tell you.

31 December 2007 at 04:40  
Anonymous Andrew Lilico said...

It seems to me that there are some complexities here, and that different strands of the discussion should not be entangled.

So, first, is there a problem if privately-funded Catholic schools want to avoid libertine sex education and the promotion of abortion? Perhaps an argument could be made that these are core education matters that the state should insist are taught in all schools, whether publicly or privately funded, but no-one seems to be making that case here. So let's let that pass.

Next, should there be state-funded faith schools. It appears that the government's position is that there should be. It is a position I happen to agree with, and there is little dispute about it here, so let's let that pass for a moment, though we'll come back to it.

Finally, should faith schools be able to have school culture and teaching that accords with their faith? That seems to me to be the point at issue. There seems to be some political opinion that says that using faith groups to deliver public services is fine just so long as the "faith" bit doesn't have any effect upon the public service delivery. We saw that in the case of the Catholic adoption agencies, and here we seem to see it in respect of the Catholic schools. But faith not taken seriously is not faith at all, and faith-based public service delivery upon which the faith has no impact is, likewise, not really faith-based delivery.

What do we think is the point of faith-based public service delivery? Is it not that those with a faith framework and with an impetus to public service provided by that faith are often more energetic and effective in delivering results? If we forbid their faith to be involved - whether that be Anglican, Roman, Baptist, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, whatever - then we are negating the very point of faith-based delivery in the first place.

So this issue really comes back to: Do we want faith-based public service delivery at all? For there is no faith-based-service-delivery-without-the-faith or not-very-serious-faith-based-service-delivery.

One last comment: I find it remarkable how ill-thinking many secular people are in getting what religion is about. They condemn "religious fanaticism" as if there were some other way to be religious than to be fanatical! Do they imagine themselves saying to their friends - "You know, last weekend God told me that I should immediately advise my brother to stop sleeping with his mate's wife. I guess I might get around to it eventually, but Match of the Day 2 was on, and then of course I had to come out for beer with you guys. But I guess there's no hurry - I wouldn't want to seem like some religious fanatic or something!"

31 December 2007 at 09:35  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, bogotol, but the State has a duty to support the Church, moreso even than the Church should support the State. The problem with government schools is that most of them are implicitly atheistic.

snuffleupagus, sex education in schools encourages children to have sex. (Duh!) Getting rid of it would be the first step in reducing the ever-increasing number of children getting pregnant and contracting sexually transmitted diseases. (I'd love to know how your boys were managing to have sex with "no education on the matter whatsoever".)

Actually Morus, classroon sex-ed is completely antithetical to Catholic teaching. It was condemned by Pope Pius XI in Divini Illius Magistri.

As for the "Catholics are taxpayers too" argument, it's a total red herring: Catholics pay just as little tax in real terms as most people in this country, and get just as much more back from the Government as well. It would not be a violation of natural justice if the Government scrapped Catholic education tomorrow, but then in natural justice there would no state education whatsoever anyway.

1 January 2008 at 13:20  
Blogger botogol said...

If a state (any state) should choose to teach religion in its schools, then it immediately faces the problem: which religion(s)? And, as there are tax-payers of all faiths the govt gets sucked into repressing some... or supporting them all... and... oh-dear. It's best, isn't it?, for the state to steer well clear of religion.

As to anon - your idea of 'atheistic' state schools made me laugh out loud! Would that they were! But I've certainly never come across one. Indeed I suspect an atheistic state school might be illegal.

1 January 2008 at 16:35  
Blogger Snuffleupagus said...

The Recusant
Come now, has the New Year robbed you of your sense of humour?

As for your argument, I'm not sure I am able to follow it. You seem to repeat His Grace's claim that the figures are the result of secularist teaching. I was trying to argue otherwise by showing what sex education can teach. You do not address my points - or perhaps I have not understood you.

I would have thought that one way of arguing against me would be to show how the specific sex education that I describe is harmful to children and specify what great truths are being omitted. But you do not do this. Instead, you repeat His Grace's initial claim.

Yes of course there are excellent Catholic schools. Have I suggested otherwise?

As for me teaching in a Catholic school, I didn't give their lack of sex education much thought. Sex education isn't the most important thing in education. I took the job for a variety of reasons, learnt the required hymns and prayers and did my job well. You will be pleased to know that I myself have never taught sex education, either at my Catholic or current school.

Am I responsible for my students' sexual activity? You seem certain that I am. Again, I invite you to let me know how this is so.

2 January 2008 at 04:01  
Anonymous Guy Fawkes said...

Esteemed heretics:
It is time for a Catholic to succeed in blowing up Parliament.

3 January 2008 at 21:15  
Blogger David-Barfield said...

I usually share the sae views as "Man in the Shed" and so i am surprised to disagree with his assertion that, as Roman Catholics are also taxpayers, they are entitled to autonomy in the schools they pay for.
The immediate objection is that the right is not universal. If it were, groups of taxpayers could form their own schools and demand full state funding. Most private schools could offer free entry, retaining the right to to give places to their chosen population as in Roman Catholic schools.
Unless the rule is made applicable to all citizens, church autonomy in state schools is a discriminatory and unfair privilege.
To some, separate school autonomy might represent freedom but to most of us, it offers an anarchy of values and even greater social breakdown.

4 January 2008 at 02:10  

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