Page 7, 5th May 2000

5th May 2000
Page 7
Page 7, 5th May 2000 — From Mr Eric Hester Sir, You are to be commended

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Organisations: Catholic Church
Locations: Oxford


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From Mr Eric Hester Sir, You are to be commended

on your important and well written open letter to the bishops asking them not to approve the new RE syllabus Icons. One hopes and prays that the bishops have not approved Icons. As one who was headmaster of Catholic grammar and comprehensive schools for 24 years, I can say that your article, if anything, underestimates the current crisis in the teaching of RE in our schools.

I am editor of the magazine for Catholic schools, Mentor, and in our May edition there will be a full critical analysis of Icons. This shows that Icons will not enable Catholic schools to "hand on the Catholic faith" as ordered by the Pope when he last met the English and Welsh bishops.

Icons is deficient in many ways. One of the big problems, as The Catholic Herald has so admirably revealed in recent articles, is the secrecy that has surrounded the RE debate and the progress of Icons together with the revised version ofthe primary schools programme Here I Am. There is a real crisis in RE teaching in this country.

Yours faihfully, Eric Hester, Gehl From Mr Patrick McGrath Sir, Congratulations on your forthright article. There is a definite malaise in the religious side of Catholic education. This is not to say that there is not a definite malaise in Christian teaching in this country, but that is no excuse for the Catholic Church.

I found it interesting that you mentioned that those who had been educated in secular schools and been taught RE in the parish and by their parents fared far better. I attend St Christina's Catholic Church in St John's Wood where the congregation is predominantly American. They are forbidden to have RE lessons in school, so after every Mass on Sunday the parents have highly organised and well run RE for the children. I believe the percentage of lapsed American Catholics is much lower that ours.

Yours faithfully, PATRICK MCGRATH pmcgrath @waitrose From Mrs Patricia McKeever I was delighted to read your insightful open letter to the bishops of England and Wales on the subject of Icons the new RE syllabus for secondary school pupils.Your first hand report of your encounter with the senior pupil who knew nothing about the tabernacle rang so true.

Over and over again, as a teacher of RE in Catholic schools, I was astonished at the ignorance I encountered in such fundamentals and it was very frustrating because young people are so receptive to the truth when they hear it.

The excerpt you quoted from The Way. the Truth and the Life is an excellent example of good teaching about the Mass and, as I know from my own experience, such straightforward teaching appeals hugely to young peopk while the watered down "rnickey mouse" stuff does not.

if, as you say, WTF is as faithful in presenting the rest of Catholic teaching as it seems to be on the Mass, it should replace Icons without delay.

I think a lot of readers, like myself, will be very interested indeed to see if the bishops take heed of your warning.

Yours faithfully PATRICIA MCKEEVER parricia.mckeever From Mr David Foster Sir, Many congratulations on your open letter to the Hierarchy on Icons and on religious education in general (incidentally, why not say "instruction"?). Your anecdote about the sixth-former who was puzzled by reference to the Blessed Sacrament is no doubt shocking but not, alas surprising. Also telling its own story is the Oxford don's experience, which one hears of so often, that it is typically the products of "Catholic" schools who lapse.

The Real Presence is, I think, well chosen as a test case. There are certainly many other areas of ignorance resulting from sheer lack of instruction, but this is unmistakably the one which reveals the presence or absence of a truly supernatural outlook in those who teach and those who produce textbooks.

Yours faithfully, DAVID FOSTER Brentwood, Essex.

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