exercising initiative in the life of the Church, Britain does not lead the world. And despite the new stress which Vatican II placed on this point, the response of the bulk of our Catholic lay societies has for a
variety of reasons been so far undramatic.
This week. however, the Union of Catholic Students has produced two reports that show an earnest coming to grips with problems facing the Catholic Church in Britain.
Work on the first report, which deals with Catholic schools, was started a year ago because a group of students was annoyed at the kind of discussions going round the country on the matter.
Some people argued for dropping the schools—simply because hearsay reports indicated that people who had been to Catholic schools lost their faith just as rapidly as those who had not. Others argued for keeping them—simply because we had sunk so much money into them.
The students felt both sides were arguing from a sort of blind faith. Neither had substantial evidence to back up its claims. So they set about searching for the evidence.
What they found was that there is almost none. Nobody knows the size of the Catholic school debt or the effect of Catholic schools on their pupils or the philosophy behind Catholic education.
On the surface this may look like a wasted year's study. But it is really a valuable contribution, in the sense that now We know, from a scientific study, how much we do not know. It is a starting point for positive exploration and concrete proposals.
rr HE second report, which
draws a blueprint for a democratic church of the future, is, like the first report, careful to avoid blaming bishops for taking too much responsibility or laymen for taking too little.
Instead, the students appeal to clergy and laymen to forget their differences in outlook and training—or rather to capitalise on these differences by working together.
They even spell out how this can be done: by forming councils of priests and laymen to thrash out the problems facing the parish, the diocese and the church in the nation.
Such councils would provide much-needed lines of communication between different levels of authority. They would also be able to draw out the variety of abilities in the church and develop in everyone the vital concern that is now shared by only a few.