Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Year-Five Epiphany

This is the undeniable phenomenon to which The Times refers in its examination of the surge in late baptisms into the Roman Catholic Church. In 1958, non-infant baptisms accounted for just 5.4 per cent of total entry into the Church: in 2005 there were 20,141 ‘late’ baptisms, representing 30.3 per cent. The Church of England has also witnessed an increase in late baptisms (no doubt to the jubilation of the Baptists). Apparently, the mass Epiphany invariably occurs just at the moment when parents are seeking to acquire school places for their children. And the only way for the less-than-faithful to gain admission to the school of their choice is to play the system a little, in the hope that attending Mass, going to Confession, and the receiving of doctrinal instruction will be sufficient to get Chloe, Zach and Alice into these top-performing schools which, according to Ofsted’ ‘do better in terms of behaviour, social, moral and spiritual development and parental involvement’.

But the response of Graham Allen MP is to call for ‘a national debate about whether we really want to continue down the road of faith schools’. Essentially, he (and quite a few other Labour MPs) want faith schools abolished because they ‘undermine community cohesion and entrench disadvantage’. By this he means that middle-class parents move house in order to fall within a school catchment area, while the poor cannot. Yet people with the financial means have always used their wealth to better themselves, and that involves moving away from ‘undesirable’ areas. Is Mr Allen proposing state control of house moving?

It is typical of a Socialist to use such an important issue to propagate his desire for a bland Soviet uniformity, and conveniently ignore the fact that the principle of selection in education has been the greatest mechanism for social mobility the country has ever produced. And the hypocrisy has been evident time and again from those Labour MPs and ministers who preach the Comprehensive, multi-faith, multi-ethnic ideal, impose it on the masses, and then observe the warfare in classrooms, the irredeemably dysfunctional system, and the consequent poor results. And so they opt to send their own children to private, selective school, simply because they can afford to.

Mr Allen does, however, have a point when he observes: ‘Faith schools at the moment are mainly Protestant or Catholic. Other faiths quite rightly want similar provision. In an era when we are desperate for social cohesion, do we really want to sustain the current level of discrimination between people of different faiths, particularly when taxpayers are paying for it?’

This is an entirely rational debate, not least because of the implications for the National Curriculum and the 1944 and 1988 demands for an act of daily worship that is ‘broadly Christian’, and the provision of Religious Education, which has to prioritise Christianity. It is not inconceivable that there would develop different laws for different schools, with demands for co-religionist Ofsted inspectors to avoid accusations of ‘racism’. This would, of course, be unacceptable, but is indeed highly probable.

The Catholic Church defends its policy of defining Catholics by baptism and said that even where suspicions existed about parental motives, ‘it is not easy to remain a Catholic for long if you are not authentic’.

Hmm…

There would be quite a discussion between His Holiness and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster - not to mention between the editors of The Catholic Herald and The Tablet – of what constitutes an ‘authentic’ Roman Catholic. It would appear that it is entirely possible to be deluded for the entirety of one’s life either towards a BBC/Guardian/Vatican II/Tablet theology as opposed to the Extraordinary Rite/Telegraph/Catholic Herald theology. Indeed, it is sometimes difficult to believe they are both part of the same ‘authentic’ church.

However, that aside, Cranmer is pleased to note that the light is not (yet) extinguished, for the Government has declared that it will make it easier for more state-funded faith schools to be established. Unfortunately, this does not have the support of Labour ministers, Labour backbenchers, Labour supporters, or that oracle of wisdom and discernment the National Union of Teachers, which helpfully notes that ‘the selection criteria of many faith schools discriminates against pupils from non-religious backgrounds’.

You don’t say.

24 Comments:

Anonymous Oiznop said...

On the BBC's website:

"Oona Stannard, director of the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales, said it was reassuring that people sought baptism for their children, regardless of age. "

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7184540.stm

Regardless of age? Now the Catholic Church has officially abolished fear of babies going to 'Limbo', is it advocating believers' baptism?

12 January 2008 at 12:23  
Blogger AethelBald, King of Wessex said...

the Government has declared that it will make it easier for more state-funded faith schools to be established. Unfortunately, this does not have the support of Labour ministers, Labour backbenchers, Labour supporters, or that oracle of wisdom and discernment the National Union of Teachers.

Anything that squelches the NUT has to be worth having a look at. They are a bunch of self-serving toe-rags who continually, and seemingly unabashedly, wrap their self interest in sanctimony. I know them because I was one of them. But I was lucky and escaped.

Unfortunately, one look at tax-payer funding for faith-based education may be enough for some. It's a stupid idea on its face, unless of course one gets to start a religion and thereby stands to profit handsomely. Would any rational taxpayer want to fund an Opus Dei school? What about an Al Quaeda madrassas? All the options look bad. Is there any redeeming aspect of taxpayer-funded faith based schools?

Maybe. The government can threaten them with defunding. In that way, the behavior of a school is always a political negotiable issue. We can fire a government that funds a school that turns out well-trained sociopaths.

So, to me, it looks as if there is a substantial discussion to be had.

12 January 2008 at 12:55  
Blogger paul ilc said...

‘Faith schools at the moment are mainly Protestant or Catholic. Other faiths quite rightly want similar provision. In an era when we are desperate for social cohesion, do we really want to sustain the current level of discrimination between people of different faiths, particularly when taxpayers are paying for it?’ Graham Allen MP

Your Grace, I beg to differ (or I missed your irony): Mr Allen does not "have a point" - he is entirely wrong, because:

1. "Other faiths" (ie Muslims?) cannot "quite rightly" expect to have their own faith schools. Fundamentally, ours is still a Christian-orientated society. The existence of RC and CoE faith schools ultimately derives from the Elizabethan Settlement on matters of religion, and we unpick that at our peril. Furthermore, unlike the Jews, "other religions" simply have not been here long enough or integrated so well. So Jewish faith schools - Yes; other, non-Christian faith schools - No. [Spare us --please -- your anti-semitic rants, Mrnedsherry! Thank you.]

2. Faith schools do not diminish "cultural cohesion" - but NuLab-promoted welfare dependency, increasing secularisation, and mass (non-Christian) immigration do! Nor are faith schools discriminatory, unless you have a secularist agenda.

3. Taxpayers are not funding faith schools, but rather receiving a subsidy (17.5% of running costs???) from the churches involved -- to help provide school places that would still have to be provided by the state.

4. Of course, Mr Allen should not be allowed to set the terms of the debate by assuming that education (and health!) should continue to be a nationalised 'industry', unduly influenced by leftist 'producer' unions. State education is NOT the only option. The state could withdraw from educational provision, assuming a regulatory and/or full/partial funding role.

[I may not be able to respond to queries/comments, as I leave for Egypt tomorrow.)

12 January 2008 at 14:07  
Blogger Unsworth said...

Your Grace,

I would hold that this is very little to do with education per se. It is much more likely to be connected to the esteem of so many of the populace for the former Prime Minister and his principles.

Here is a man of real conviction. A true leader who has finally and after many years rumination has decided to enter the Church of Rome. Such is the admiration of some that they have decided to emulate the example set by the illustrious Mr Blair.

Of course the small matter of their children's entrance to apparently 'better' local schools is entirely unconnected.

12 January 2008 at 16:22  
Blogger AethelBald, King of Wessex said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12 January 2008 at 16:44  
Blogger AethelBald, King of Wessex said...

Paul Ilc,

I think agree with your general drift but you do say

Faith schools do not diminish "cultural cohesion"

which is somewhat counter-intuitive. Do you have a citation?

Then you suggest that faith schools diminish

NuLab-promoted welfare dependency, increasing secularisation, and mass (non-Christian) immigration

at which we should all marvel. And then you add

Nor are faith schools discriminatory, unless you have a secularist agenda.

If wishing a mild but debilitating plague on all organised religion means that I have a secular agenda then I am to be discriminated against. Is that your intention? And if so, why?

I appreciate that no response does not mean that you are stunned into silence. Bon voyage.

12 January 2008 at 16:51  
Anonymous The Recusant said...

Mr Oiznop, FYI

Limbo always was an idea, never an article of faith. It was an honest attempt to understand what happened to infants who die before baptism; this question arose because the bible teaches us we need baptism for salvation. So what’s your answer? Its surely as good as anybodies, the RCC in about the 13 century just tried to discuss the mater and came up with the idea of Limbo.

A report by the Vatican's Theological Commission (started before Joseph Alois Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI), which was compiled following a three-year study and said the concept (concept) was an "unduly restrictive view of salvation".

It goes on to say “There is greater theological awareness today that God is merciful and wants all human beings to be saved. Grace has priority over sin, and the exclusion of innocent babies from heaven does not seem to reflect Christ's special love for the little ones,".
"Our conclusion is that the many factors that we have considered... give serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptised infants who die will be saved and enjoy the beatific vision. We emphasise that these are reasons for prayerful hope, rather than grounds for sure knowledge."

So there you have it, a theory, an idea, a concept, an understanding, take your pick but never dogmatic truth.

12 January 2008 at 16:59  
Blogger AethelBald, King of Wessex said...

And another thing. I knew I had an axe to grind but I only just remembered what it was:

The selection-by-mortgage issue that appears to bother Graham Allen MP is quite possibly unsolvable. Thwarted urban dwellers will simply move into rural satellites where there are few schools and a fat mortgage ensures selection to the best. These areas are already Tory. Adding a few more Tories won't make any electoral difference, but the corresponding dilution of urban Tories may be attractive to Labour strategists.

The big question in my mind that nobody seems to be asking is why don't less well-off parents insist on having great local schools just like more well-off parents do? They surely could achieve this if they got off their duffs and got organised. Why don't they value education? And are they economically or otherwise rational when they value it? I have not seen research into this issue, but I know from personal experience (OK, it's anecdotal)that first-generation educated kids tend to move away from their extended families and often suffer for it.

Another interesting fact that I am now in a position to observe is that car mechanics who worked hard and own their own business tend to be better off at my age than highly educated techies like me. What does that tell you?

Is education all it's cracked up to be? Or does it merely serve the collective?

12 January 2008 at 17:21  
Anonymous dexey said...

aethelbald, king of wessex said...

Another interesting fact that I am now in a position to observe is that car mechanics who worked hard and own their own business tend to be better off at my age than highly educated techies like me. What does that tell you?

12 January 2008 17:21

That you ought to try your hand at car mechanics? Starting with your own perhaps?

12 January 2008 at 17:28  
Anonymous The recusant said...

Your Grace, on another fishing trip I see. So long as every Roman Catholic recites the Roman Catholic Creed they are Roman Catholics. We do have our preferences in terms of liturgical style but we are One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic (Tablet [yeuch] readers as well as Herald). It is unfortunate if we give the impression our partialities somehow separate us, they do not, that is what we mean by Catholic, unlike the ecclesial communities originating with the Reformation that lack elements considered essential to the Catholic Church, we do recognise one authority to finalise topical matters under discussion, some take a little longer to be convinced but in the end all accept it or leave, why, because they recognise the one true church and as St Peter said, ‘where shall we go’.

12 January 2008 at 17:37  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Recusant,

His Grace does so enjoy a spot of fishing.

;o)

12 January 2008 at 17:53  
Anonymous invincibly ignorant said...

AethelBald, King of Wessex said ''Would any rational taxpayer want to fund an Opus Dei school? What about an Al Quaeda madrassas? And ''So, to me, it looks as if there is a substantial discussion to be had.''

The spinelessness of Moral equivalence is always especially disgusting.
When Catholic schools start advocating flying planes into the minarets of Mecca then you can have your debate.
Until then please accept that an English atholic education is better for all than a Pakistani madrassa one

12 January 2008 at 19:57  
Anonymous ii said...

er make that 'Catholic education
Bl**dy Chablis

12 January 2008 at 20:00  
Anonymous hear o israel said...

your grace
what is interesting that church based schools seem to produce better exam results.
surely this should be celebrated by nu labour , in that it shows , that with the power of will , good schools are able to survive.

as for it being a middle class aspiration that has only occured under nu labour , i can remeber a time when payers and christian hyms were sung in every school every day , surely they are not now now admitting that in de christianising schools they have somehow lowered education .

surely anyone would be able to spot such an act of vandalism to our education, why there would , be violence and malevolence on our streets and kids would carry carry guns and shoot one another , ohhh errrrmmm hang on a miniute , i think were there

12 January 2008 at 23:22  
Anonymous DocBud said...

Here in Australia, about 1 in 3 children go to independent schools, the vast majority of which are faith schools. These schools tend not to discriminate on grounds of faith, our daughter's Anglican school has muslim pupils, although in a competitive entrance market, belonging to the appropriate faith is an advantage.

The key to the large number of independent schools is that the government recognises that a) we are taxpayers and b) if our children are not at a state school, the proportion of our taxes that would go to educating our children at a state school is not being spent. Accordingly, the government pays some of that money to the independent schools (about $5050 per pupil on average as opposed to $10750 for state school pupils). The amount paid does vary based on socio-economic factors, so schools in disadvantaged areas or taking large numbers of disadvantaged pupils will get higher amounts for those pupils.

This funding makes the additional fees realistically attainable for large numbers of people (we pay about $6000 per year). There are both Islamic and Jewish schools in Australia. Although the schools have to meet certain regulatory requirements, they have a high degree of autonomy. They thrive by delivering what parents want.

13 January 2008 at 01:42  
Anonymous vergilivs said...

I wonder what St. Thomas said about the Lord's baptism as an adult. Anybody know?

13 January 2008 at 01:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A short visit to many CoE schools particularly in the Northern Mill Towns will soon dispel the notion that parents are being selective in their religious beliefs for academic reasons.

In that the majority are now by default "Muslim Faith Schools" with 80 - 90% from an Ethnic Minority (or Majority if you use demographics) the only reason parents "up here" and in many other inner-city parts of the country are trying to get into RC Schools is not just for academic reasons but simply they don't want their children sharing a classroom with 27 out of 30 Muslim classmates who have little grasp of English.

Its not an opinion but a fact.

13 January 2008 at 03:25  
Anonymous Michael Canaris said...

Mr Recusant, apropos Limbo:-

---It goes on to say “There is greater theological awareness today that God is merciful and wants all human beings to be saved. Grace has priority over sin, and the exclusion of innocent babies from heaven does not seem to reflect Christ's special love for the little ones,".---

Since Limbo was originally posited as a pious speculation to soften the blow of the maxim Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus (St. Augustine of Hippo, amongst other early Fathers, contended that non-baptized infants were subject to the pangs of perdition), one fails to see how, besides for the sake of following some trendy Zeitgeist, the worthy sentiments espoused in the above-quoted paragraph warrant doing away with Limbo.

13 January 2008 at 07:40  
Anonymous DocBud said...

According to Cardinal Ratzinger with respect to Limbo:

“In the course of our century, that has gradually come to seem problematic to us. This was one way in which people sought to justify the necessity of baptizing infants as early as possible, but the solution is itself questionable. Finally, the Pope made a decisive turn in the encyclical Evangelium Vitae, a change already anticipated by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, when he expressed the simple hope that God is powerful enough to draw to himself all those who were unable to receive the sacrament.” (God and the World, Ignatius Press, 2002, p. 401)

I personally would not think much of a god who either damned infants who had not been baptised or excluded them from heaven. The same goes for damning or excluding those who never had the opportunity of hearing about Jesus. Neither position is compatible with a god of love and justice, and a god who is not loving and just is not a god I want to have anything to do with.

13 January 2008 at 09:49  
Blogger AethelBald, King of Wessex said...

I Ignorant said:

an English atholic education is better for all than a Pakistani madrassa one

Point taken. That part of my comment was ill-judged.

13 January 2008 at 09:55  
Anonymous Michael Canaris said...

---“In the course of our century, that has gradually come to seem problematic to us. This was one way in which people sought to justify the necessity of baptizing infants as early as possible, but the solution is itself questionable. Finally, the Pope made a decisive turn in the encyclical Evangelium Vitae, a change already anticipated by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, when he expressed the simple hope that God is powerful enough to draw to himself all those who were unable to receive the sacrament.”---

What does the course of a century have to do with anything? Also, with all due respect to those eminent divines, a pious hope hardly constitutes a ruling.

---"I personally would not think much of a god who either damned infants who had not been baptised or excluded them from heaven. The same goes for damning or excluding those who never had the opportunity of hearing about Jesus."---

It seems as though you're not too keen on Article XVIII, then.

13 January 2008 at 13:31  
Anonymous DocBud said...

Cardinal Ratzinger's words may not of been best chosen if one wishes to be pedantic, but people have tended to become more mature and enlightened over the centuries so that the views of Augustine and the authorities who supported him have become to be seen by many as archaic and incompatible with a god of love and justice.

Similarly, the notion that Jesus preached that salvation is only available to those who believe in him and that it is toughies for those who never heard of him is equally archaic and incompatible with a god of love and justice.

I don't like the bullying, murdering and discriminatory god of the Old Testament, and I don't much like the bigoted, uncharitable god of parts of the New Testament either.

13 January 2008 at 14:40  
Blogger Snuffleupagus said...

Your Grace
You would be mistaken, as much of the public is, to assume that faith schools are better than the comprehensives. It all depends on the individual school. You have an idea of what my current comprehensive is like as you read my blog. Let me assure you that both the Catholic and CofE school where I worked before were far worse. Another CofE school where I was at the start of my career was perhaps better - ever so slightly. But that was because it was half the size. It had nothing to do with faith, or the banning of sex education! :)

14 January 2008 at 20:25  
Anonymous British Patriot said...

I know what is going on here, Mass Immigration is to divide and conquer Western Europe, destroy National Identity.
Faith schools allow the British to maintain their Cultural Identity.
That is why the Govt is against them.
The EU wants a Divided Population throughout Europe, the TOTAL eradication of National Identity.
The British electorate are simply chooising schools where our Traditional Christian Family centred Heritage is upheld.
The EU doesnt want that.
It wants Mixed schools so Our National Identity can be eradicated, diluted, so we Become 'EUropeans'.
http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/865

1 February 2008 at 10:53  

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