IT was indeed interesting and heartening to read the financial statement issued by Cardinal -IL Heenan for the diocese of Westminster, in your issue of March 14. It was interesting and showed quite clearly how heavily mortgaged we are over our attempts to provide a full system of Catholic secondary and primary schools—in spite of generous government aid.
Westminster diocese is not the only one to be heavily in debt over education. The assessments that individual parishes have to meet in connection with the building of schools are a desperate headache for most parish priests. Yet surely it is not necessary to say "the alternative is to stop building schools and therefore eventually to surrender all our schools." Why?
Is it not true to say that the sector of education in which we have always been less well provided, and is of its nature more costly, is the secondary stage. We have a large number of primary schools. These, if kept up to date, form a more easily maintained part of local primary education.
They are also a natural extension of a child's home and parish. In an area where a three-tier system is in operation, perhaps the Church might concentrate on the first two school stages?
Apart from the question of finance, many educationists and catechists have grave doubts about the efficacy, religiously speaking, of a closed system of religious schools in a pluralist society. Are our schools turning out the cornmined Christians that we need?
Those who uphold the systerm insist that without them we should be immeasurably worse off. But how do they know? While we have concentrated so heavily on Catholic school places for all our children, any type of systematic out-of-school instruction on a serious diocesan or national scale has been completely neglected.
Surely there is a crying need for some careful pilot schemes on this subject before we continue to commit ourselves to such enormous expenditure?
These days we are . rightly urged to help the developing countries by every means in our power. We should be assisting Shelter, societies' misfits, struggling mission parishes in other parts of our own country and overseas. But this work cannot be really effectively undertaken while each diocese and parish carries such an enormous financial burden on account of the provision of schools for all ages.
Monica Comerford Merrow, Guildford