Authority to Speak
SIR,-I wonder if Father Ryan will accept a challenge ? Will he tell us who-or rather what he is? I am not trying to be rude. I feel that this is important. He has adopted a very superior tone.
He speaks with authority. If he is entitled so to speak, well and good. If not, there is a real danger that the uninitiated may be misled by his facile pen. We know he is a priest and as such is obviously an authority on the Teaching of the Church. Rut is he an authority on teaching ? Has he ever faced a class of children as a teacher ? Is he a parish priest with a school under his management, which he can enter and hold his own in the classroom before the teachers under his control ? Perhaps he is a Diocesan Inspector ? If so, then doubtless I should withdraw from this controversy immediately. If he is any of these things let him tell us, so that we may listen to his theorising with added respect when we know that he can practise what he teaches !
If not. let him beware of lightly dismissing the considered opinions of experienced teachers with cheap sarcasm or by the use of those Misinterpretations with which he has taken me to task.
Surely he is not serious when he compares the discussions of experienced and mature men and women with the classroom question and answer between youngsters in the Seminary and their lecturer ? The learned opinions of the former is surely a reflection of their teaching when teaching is the subject of discussion ?
Father Ryan triumphantly claims a point against me when I refer to the Catechism as a Text Book. It is a Text Book of major importance, and its correct use as a' summary does not necessarily mean that it ceases to be a Text Book.
He breaks new ground (I dare not call it a red herring l) and now accuses teachers of misusing the Catechism. He dismisses the problem of Catechism Reform-the very gist of this controversy-and assumes the need for reform of Catechism Presentation with no further eve dence than a deliberate misinterpretation of my letter and those of other writers. He assumes our inability to present to our children the beauty and truth of our religion. Not even the chief of all Diocesan Inspectors would dare generalise as does Fr. Ryan.
He points his pen-or should It be chalk-at others as well as me. It was John Gaffney who used the words " fossilised pedantry," but not in relation to the whole Catechism. In his context he referred to one question, that on secret societies, and who but a pedantic old fossil-or, if our language must he accurate, a fossilised pedant would expect a child to use or understand such language as is used there.
" Pa rrotry " ts as Mr. Gaffney's contribution. "archaic" was mine. Ii is parrotry to learn by heart tresses of stuff eh.ch is utimtelligible to the average child because much of its language is archaic.
May I remind all critics of any alteration of the Catechism of what 1 Isk for. I speak, as St. Paul says as one less wise. I dare not speak for my colleagues without their authority. I ask for a revision of the wording of the Catechism. I fully realise that it is essential that in changing the words, no change of doctrine must be allowed. Hence, any new text would have to be strictly censored by a very competent authority. 1 do not ask for the abolishing of learning by heart. hut I am at one with the authors of the Westminster Syllabus when they advise the learning by heart of only some of the questions. The time spent in trying to learn all the questions can he far more profitably used in applying modern teaching methods to the most important sub
ject on our syllabus. Again and again the Catechism will be in use whether the lesson is on the Mass, the Commandments or the Sacraments, the history of the Church. the lives of the Saints, or the practice of our daily life.
I cannot improve on Fr. Ryan's excellent description of a properly presented " Religious Lesson." 1 can only hope that he is as capable of putting it into practice as the teachers in his own school.
I commenced this letter by demanding Fr. Ryan's credentials. It is but fitting that I give my own. Following a secondary education in an excellent Catholic College, I matriculated and spent three years in a seminary. I received two years instruction in a University followed by a course at a Catholic Training
College for teachers. Since being recognised as an efficient teacher by the Ministry of Education I have taught in Senior and Junior schools for 28 years, and became a Headmaster four years ago. I am on the Council of the Catholic Teachers' Federation-but I must point out that the views I have expressed are my own.
Added to this, I have been closely associated with the organisation of comes of lectures for teachers, and on more than one occasion have been invited to lecture to teachers and catechists on the teaching of religion.
Nevertheless, I am quite prepared to admit most humbly that, in spite of the temptation " to have a go," I am not the person to attempt to revise the Catechism. The temptation to write and the actual writing are two horses of entirely different colours-if I may so add to Fr. Ryan's collection of my animal metaphors !
RICHARD A. B. BURKE.
St. Joseph's School, Plaistow Lane. Bromley, Kent.