Three cheers for Mrs Shirley Williams' remarks (February 18) on the state of religious education in our Catholic schools! For years now, our catechetical experts have been telling us that "we have been teaching too much doctrine to our children", that "religion is something that is caught, not taught", that "religion is a Person", that "after all one under the age of 16 cannot commit himself to Christ", etc, etc.
One began to wonder why on earth we had Catholic schools at all! No wonder we are losing our young people, even before they leave school. But surely, this is what our schools are there for —to teach the Faith, among other things of course I
The young Catholic, as well as the old, needs to know the answer to the many vital questions which he is asked about his Faith, not only by the hard world when he leaves school, but also by his own nonCatholic companions and environment even when still at school. Where does he get the answers? Not at school! .
In our average Catholic comprehensive school with a staff of over 60 teachers, it is not unusual for only three or four of the staff to consider themselves expert enough to teach religion. A teacher of religion is a really rare bird these days! But then is this really so very remarkable?
The young Catholic's elder brothers and sisters, and parents, and indeed the teachers themselves, fare no better in the matter of finding out what the Church is teaching today. if he goes to church it is the same.
Of course it is great to hear a snappy five-minute only homily from Father Tom with a good opening story and a powerful punch line at the end to hammer the lesson home; but where, oh where, does he get the answers to the really big questions upon which his very Faith depends, the Existence of God, the Divinity of Christ, the Trustworthiness of the Gospels the Resurrection, the Virgin Birth, the Real Presence, Heaven, Hell, the authority, if any, of the Church herself, etc?
He has no chance of learning the real and genuine Catholic Faith, or of learning how to answer even the simplest objections brought against it.
With the return of the homily, it would seem that the days of systematic instruction of our Catholic laity have gone for ever. Is it not time for the Church once more to assume her role of teaching, from the lectern if not from the pulpit, by going back to some sort of systematic instruction, based, if necessary, on the ThreeYear Cycle of Readings.
But it must be systematic, so that we can all rediscover what it is that the Church is really teaching today, and so that, hopefully, both the socalled "traditionalists" and the socalled "progressives" may find a common cause in teaching all the things which Christ commanded them to teach, and in speaking with the one voice, the Voice of Christ, who spoke, not to please men, but as one having authority.
When that happy day arrives that our Catholic teachers once more hear their clergy give systematic exposition of the Faith from the pulpit, I feel sure there will not be such a lack of teachers to expound it in our Catholic schools, (Fr) Philip M. Casey Iloly Trinity Presbytery,
Oxford Street, Bilston, West Midlands.
I acknowledge the learning and saintliness of Bishop Restieaux and my own lack of both, and though it is temerarious of me to challenge a point in his reported Encyclical (February 18),
However, the Bishop must not be allowed to get away with non sequitur that in another context could have slotted comfortably into a Pravda editorial.
"Sometimes people complain that our schools create a ghetto mentality. In their view, children diould he left to themselves to work out their own beliefs later in life."
I am one of those people who have stated in your letter columns that our schools sometimes create a ghetto mentality. But the Bishop cannot from that draw the conclusion that I want to leave my four children to work out their own beliefs later in life.
I am avidly anxious that my children have a good Catholic education. But I do not accept that separate buildings and social apartheid is the best or only way to achieve this. I sincerely believe that ecumenical. economical, social and educational benefits could be gained for the whole community by controlled integration.
A detailed and properly implemented concordat with the state, which guaranteed our right and power to ret,iin our own "ethos" could, far from being contrary to the Gospel, enable our teachers and children to act as the "leaven" for Christ in this godless society.
I do not share the assumption of the clergy. the Catholic press and so Many Catholic teachers that because a school is Catholic it is a good school or that it even teaches religion well. But I am sure that when we were given the vocation "to go and teach all nations," we were not required to dig moats round our educational establishments.
J. G. Murril Knowle Green, Lancashire Fr John Tracy's method of criticising the Social Morality Council's report on Moral and Religious Education in county schools and its sequel, just published, on primary schools, is to quote three Humanist propositions on moral and religious education. He then says that the SMC reports inspire no confidence because one of them was initially drafted, and the other edited, by a (former) director of the British Humanist Association (Catholic Herald February 1 I).
This is illogical and disingenuous. The Social Morality Council, although it includes some distinguished Humanists, is not a Humanist body, nor are its reports Humanist documents, The first of them was attacked just as strongly by extremists on the Humanist, as on the religious, side, Another SMC report was drafted by a colleague of Fr Tracy at Farm Street. Yet no one has seen a sinister Jesuit influence in it.
In any case, the point about reports is not who drafts them or who edits them, but what they say. The only way to criticise them is by quoting from them in context, which is what I invite Fr Tracy to do.
On the two working parties which produced the reports, and of which I was a member, the Humanists were greatly outnumbered by the religious believers. Your readers may be interested to know that agreement was reached only after much argument and re-drafting. The texts arc not a compromise but the successful result of genuine dialogue. Edward Oliver Secretary General, Social Morality Council' 17 York House, London, W8.
Those of your readers who have been prompted to question the worth of maintaining Catholic schools by the unfortunate juxtaposition of the two main items on the front of your February 18 issue, together with the correspondents who, with some naivete, ascribe the trouble in Northern Ireland to a "segregated" school system, should consider with greater care which of the Church's assets we could most readily dispense with, It is quite certain that if the Catholic school system were to be liquidated, Christian education in -. this country would be. to all intents and purposes, at an end. Other denominations have not found Sunday schools and part-time catechists an adequate substitute.
If. on the other hand, our churches were closed and our schools used as Mass centres, little harm would be done, and a good deal of money would be saved. The suggestion is by no means facetious, though I am sure that it may be construed as self-interested.
Therefore I ought to point out that Catholic teachers as a whole would have nothing to fear in material terms if their schools were surrendered to the State. On the other hand, their life's work and vocation, together with the faith of parents in the schools — not to mention that of the self-sacrificing generations who went before would be betrayed. L. R. Smith Headmaster, Holy Trinity School Chequers, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.
One at heart
May a non-Catholic bewail the Sacred Congregation's reaffirmed ban on praying publicly in church for deceased non-Catholics? While we speak of unity, our hearts, it would seem, are not in it.
And it is the heart that matters. I long for the day when Love outweighs all secondary convictions; when the King of Love is King indeed in the Churches, Until that day, Christian unity is a pipe-dream, as we, heirs of the Prince of Peace, wrestle over "right-belief' until the earth grows cold.
(Rev) T. R. Birch Chelmsford.
Essex. Your headline of February 18 relating to Shirley Williams' attack on religious education in Catholic schools must provoke a response from someone whose life for the past 13 years has been devoted to the building up of a Religious Studies Department in a Catholic college of education which now faces proposed closure.
There is an element of truth in the Minister's statement, and it relates to the inadequate provision of specialist teachers in religious education in our Church, as indeed in the State secondary schools.
Too few of our religious education teachers at this level are trained to a standard comparable to that required of teachers in any other subject. Consequently they lack the knowledge which engenders competence, and the enthusiasm which inspires confidence in the learning situation.
But beyond this, the element of truth relates to fear on the part of many Catholics who understandably have been confused by changes both within and outside the Church.
We have been afraid to teach our Faith in the context of a secular and multi-faith society, afraid to enter into the consequences of dialogue which means genuine attempts at understanding of what is other than .our own heritage of faith.
In short, we have so often lacked the real faith we proclaim: readiness to trust, the risking of our lives on Christ who loves all men.
In this context the primary aim of our Religious Studies Department has been to provide an increasing number of specialist teachers in religious education prepared to teach their Catholic Christianity, but equally able to understand that faith in dialogue with the beliefs of other world religions and with the non-believing attitudes of the secular world.
With the closure of the college will go this special contribution to. the Church and society in the North-East of England.
(Sister) Pamela Hayes Principal Lecturer in Religious Studies, St Mary's College, of the Sacred Heart Fenham,
Newcastle upon Tyne.