Page 2, 30th March 1951

30th March 1951
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Locations: Chester


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Extracts From Letters

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Si,-I am afraid that Fr. Geary's long and interesting letter on the Leakage is in danger of causing a misunderstanding of both his views and those of the C'heshire Catholic Teachers' Association on the urgent need for rewording the technical vocabulary of the catechism so that it may be understood by the children.

In order to remove the red herrings from this discussion may I point out the following facts : 1, Fr. Geary in your issue of

hebruary 23, %coed : That the Catechism needs to be simplified iS admitted by all. Every schoolboy knows that the language is too technical; that it is badly adjusted to the child mind; and that it substitutes notional .apprehension for real apprehension.'

We agree wholeheartedly-that is why our Association passed a resolution urging re-wording, 2. In a letter to our Association dated February 26. Fr. Geary stated: "Believe me, I admire your motives. and 1 sympathise wholeheartedly with your efforts. . . quite frankly I think you set about it the wrong way. Catechism Reform appears to be your line. Stick to it and you will win many supporters. May I suggest that in future you stick to the more sound and convincing reasons for reform of the Catechism: the defects in the Catechism itself . . The " leakage " is another problem and much more compli cated. They are best dealt with separately. , My point is that you don't help a good cause by giving the least effective reasons."

3. Our Association has never claimed that the Catechism is the

sole cause of the leakage. As we stated in the Universe, " No. rote learning of unintelligible sound sequences is not a prime cause of the leakage of the children. But it throws away the only opportunity of the teacher qua teacher of stemming It.''

4. As the Rev. J. D. Barrett, S.M.A.. stresses in this month's issue of the African Missionary: " Above all, in other subjects in accordance with another fundamental principle of education. the text books are adapted to the age and s of the pupil. In Christian Doctrine, however. we have the same text-book for standard II and standard VI. for the pupils of seven or 70. And this textbook contains a sequence of profound truths. terse technical definitions and precise theological formulae. It is tahloid-theology. Educated adults would find it difficult to understand most of it. Yet we present it to youngsters! We should not be surprised if Faith of our Fathers becomes too frequently Faith of our Grandfathers."

JOHN IGNATIUS GAFFNEY. Secretary, Cheshire Catholic Teachers' Association.

The Y.M.C.A., The Old Palace, Chester.

Sip.-From even a very careful reading of Fr. Geary's two long letters it is difficult to ascertain whether he considers there is a leak age problem or not. Apparently not, I think, since he informs us that after twenty years' experience of conferences and discussions he still wants to know what we. the cranks and charlatans with our quack nostrums or the Jeremiahs indulging in rodomontades, are lamenting about. Well, Sir. let us try to tell him with all due deference.

We lament the fact, and he asks for facts' that there are in England possibly five million-taking the socalled lapsed as two to one in relation to the practising-men, women and children, the majority of whom in their early years have been subjected to the influence of a Catholic School and attendance at Mass, who should. for Army purposes describe their religious attachments as R.C. but who never put their foot inside a Catholic church, whose first Holy Corrimunion was (up to the present) for many of them their last Holy Communion and who. on leaving school, drop any pretence they ever had of practising their religion.

With five years' more experience than Fr. Geary's twenty on one of the lay societies of the Church personally lament the many Catholic families I know with very many children. some of them still at Catholic schools, who never go to Mass or frequent the Sacraments. I lament the fact that on the Children's Holy Communion Sunday in ray small parish church the priest on occasion finds it necessary to point out that two small boys are not many ciut of the last hatch of twenty or so First Holy Communicants. I lament the fact that what my parish priest tells me is a card index of 1,400 parishioners we have 400 at the outside at Mass on Sunday. Fr. Geary points to the steady growth of she Church in England and we all rejoice with him but he may remember that during last year's Centenary celebrations warning voices were heard that everything in the garden is not as lovely as might appear. He asks whether any society which suffers the drain of a loss of 50 per cent. of its young people can stand hut that is very precisely not the point. What he should ask himself is what could we not do, what example could we not set to this country and the world if only the Church in England could retain the spiritual allegiance of all Catholics so-called. I know that " lapsed" and " leakage " are only labels and cover a multitude of diverse attitudes towards God and religion but there is something to he said for attendance at Mass and the reception of the Sacraments.

To say the above is not to propound a solution but to assert that there is a very definite problem. Mr. Gaffney in all sincerity has offered one solution. To describe him and his friends as quacks or charlatans leaves doubt in the mind of one of Fr. Geary's readers as to where, as between Tim Healy and his legal opponent, Fr. Geary himself stands.


1 Greenfield Avenue. Northampton.

Ste,-lt is a little annoying to read Mr. Burke's letter, especially since he judges himself to be right on the mark, whilst others are hunting cats and pigeons and doing something with red herrings in the fog. It is a pity too, that he has thought teachers are "experts " on the subject of child language " a fortiori,' a pity that a teacher should be tempted to rewrite the Catechism. which after all requires great theological precision, however simple the language may be.

Though one does not agree with everything Fr. Geary says. his letter dealt adequately with Mr. Gaffney's views. and made Mr. Burke's letter quite unnecessary. For Fr. Geary has said, quite decisively, " that the Catechism needs to be simplified is admitted by all." And he does not stop there. he goes on to show quite admirably. that the Catechism is only one 'of the many means of instruction. Indeed, even Mr. Burke says, " it is a summary of the lesson taught."

Of courue, the truth is, children should never be taught the Catechism from the Catechism alone, much less their religion. This does not mean you can do without the Catechism. It does riot mean the children need not learn the Catechisen (and it is quite untrue to say that teeming the Catechiere is necessarily a heavy burden on the

average child. Indeed, failure to learn it, I venture to say, will have dire consequences). But it means the particular point of doctrine, virtue or vice, is presented in a language in keeping with the child's years and mental capacity. Using copious well chosen illustrations; using some of the methods every educator (even if not every teacher) knows so well, and many of which, have been noted in Fr. Geary's letter.

Is e.ducation a matter of " drawing out " or "pouring in," either or neither, or partly both? Is the process e-ductive or in-ductive or what? Clearly the child must be educated in the Faith. To this end it would appear teachers should take refresher courses on the Faith, learn the Catechism themselves. wordperfect; arm themselves with some of the excellent books written beautifully and simply on this great matter. Then, whilst remamieg orthodox themselves, they could " draw out " front their particular children, a simple answer in the child's own language*, a summary in the child's own words, and let them learn that. But they will he surprised how often they will have to fall back on the exact words of the Catechism. foolishly described as "fossilised pedantry "; enlightened but humbled, " panting to the place from whence at first they flew."

This is not mere theory. It is not a now method. It is one of long standing. well proved. known to be effective and enjoyable. " animated. lively and imaginative." It was, and still is, in great part, the method of the old educators and the "moderns' have still something to learn from them. For if the saying is true in any field it is very true in the educational one, " the old dog for the road and pup for the puddle." All this to voice my suggestion: 1. Could a competent authority, without abbreviating, simplify the Catechism where necessary ?

2. Could me have on a national or diocesan scale, refresher courses for teachers, with a view to being religious educators ?

D. J. RYAN (Rev.).

SIR,-I'm sorry for intruding upon your valuable space again. Hut I would like to clear up two misconceptions.

have received many letters of congratulations as a result of my ieoent letters on the "Catechism and Leakage," and from these letters I gather that a number of people think : (1) That I have been trouncing Mr. Gaffney; and (2) that the resolution which occasioned the correspondence, was passed unanimously by a National Conference of the Catholic Teachers' Federation.

I cannot make it too clear that I personally have the highest admiration for all apostolic young men like Mr. Gaffney. They are far too few; and they are few because of lack of encouragement and positive discouragement. I agree with the late Canon Sheehan: " Why arc the old S o economical about kind words to the young ? They are 'hap. and God only knows what a splendid tonic is a kind word.

God bless youth ! for they need every square inch of energy and enthusiasm to meet the disappointments arid defeats, the lack of sympathy and appreciation, and the superabundance of criticism that await them. Dear me, if only the young had fair play and the tonic of a kindly word hut no. kind words are weighed out like gold; and then comes deadly depression and heartbreak, and all brave courage is extinguished, and all noble aspirations crushed; until in middle age we find only the driedup. cauterised, wizened soul, taught by dread experience to be cautious, and to allow splendid opportunities to pass unutifised rather than risk the chance of one defeat,"

Discouragement is the most deadly of the -deadly sins. Sampson slew thousands with the jaw bone of an ass and ever since thousands of good causes. and kind hearts end noble souls have been killed with a similar weapon.

It has never. at arty time. been my intention to add Mr. Gaffney to the carriage. The man who never made a mistake never made anything; and to be perfect is to have mode mistakes often.

2. The resolution did not originate from an annual conference of the Catholic Teachers' Federation. I think your reporter must take mosi of the blame for this misunderstand

ing. For while he does not expressly mention the C.T.F. Conference, he does write of a "conference," " a unanimous resolution." and " 2a.000 Catholic children leave the Church every year." In effect he makes a ItOyes ear out of a silk purse.

The simple fact of the matter is: there was no conference. There was a small meeting of teachers (six in all) assembled with a view to starting a branch of the C.T.A. in Cleeshire and from this small group your reporter conjures up " a conference," "a unanimous resolution" and sensational headlines.

It would have been much more true to say: " Never in the long history of human nonsense, has so much rubbish been ranted about so many by so few,"

J. J. GEAR' (Rev.), Brintatatl Hall.

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