Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Vaughan Controversy

We  didn't have our normal parish pump meeting after the 10.30am Mass, apparently the tea urn had "failed".
If we had I am sure that the main subject would have been Cardinal Vaughan School, it is certainly a subject that parents and grandparents, even in Brighton have feelings about. I hope it doesn't affect next weeks Catholic Education Service collection next week.

One parishioner told me that the problem was aired again on BBC's Sunday Programme. I think disputes amongst Catholics and their bishops should be aired in public, isn't there something about that in the Gospel?
I think today's Gospel had something to say about coming to terms with one's opponent in good time.


Ches applies his razor sharp mind to the issue and has an interesting piece and Fr Henry says, "what the school asks for is nothing more than what any and every Catholic is supposed to be doing anyway." In short the whole issue is whether the school should accept Catholics from the whole of London who are practicing, going to Mass every Sunday or from a limited but very posh area (see map) around the school who are baptised but not necessarily practicing.

It is an argument between Catholic-Lite: Archbishop Nichols et al and Catholic heavy(ish): the existing parents and governors. The Archbishop considers himself offering a "pastoral approach" and considers the parents to be elitist, at least as far as faith is concerned. The consequence of his actions will be dumbing down on faith requirements for entry but raising sky high the financial requirements for entry, Holland Park, West Kensington are hardly the places the average Sudanese or Iraqi asylum seeker lives, unless they are some one's servant. What the Archbishop wants to do is integrate the Vaughan into the diocesan schools structure and making it a "bog standard Comp". No one would argue the Vaughan is not elitist, it is and it attracts elite Catholic teachers, whether it will continue to do that is doubtful, it also attracts parents who want, despite hardships, want a CATHOLIC education for their children. That is going to end, and as far as Catholicity is concerned Vaughan parents will find the mediocre drive out the good.

As Ches points out all this smacks of New Labour, unfortunately Archbishop Nichols brings with him to this controversy his time as head of the Catholic Education Service, his collaboration with Ed Balls, his and Oona Stannard's support of the previous government's erosion of  parental rights on sex education of their children. I don't know if he was responsible for the appointment of the ousted Labour, anti-Life voting MP, Greg Pope as Stannard's deputy.

The Catholic-Lite tradition is hardly going to pave the way in the next great battle that the Church is going to be involved in: the defence of marriage against those who want to rob it of anything more than a contractual agreement between two people of either sex. Yes, I am quite familiar with what His Grace said about the possibility of the Church changing its teaching on gay unions.

Maybe it is only when the children of married Catholic clergy start demanding a truly Catholic education for their own children that change might come about.


Michael Petek said...

Today's Gospel does indeed have had something to say about coming to terms with one's opponent in good time.

Nowadays, I would think that Our Lord would advise waiting until the Judge gives directions for disclosure of documents and service of witness statements.

Once these are in, only then do you know how strong your opponent's case is.

nickbris said...

It has always been a well known fact that a Catholic Education was far superior to what was dished up elsewhere.

Most of my Jewish and Muslim friends and acquaintances seem to have been to Catholic schools,they are very well educated and most run their own businesses.

It used to be said that the discipline and free use of cane & strap was the reason.This is not true nowadays but Catholic teaching methods have certainly shown up the rest of what is available.

Lucy said...

When it was announced that the collection next week will be for CES I am afraid I smirked and decided that I would be sure not to give a penny. I am so glad we home educate.

PP said...

I know of one or two married soon-to-be catholic clergy with school-age children who might expect something Catholic.

I'm afraid that my advice would be to leave their children where they are if they aren't at Catholic schools already.

Ches said...

Thanks for the link, Father. That the State erodes parents' rights does not surprise me. That the Diocese of Westminster should attempt to do so is scandalous.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a much needed post. I expect "Liberals" will now apply their latest name-calling weapon to you and accuse you of "bishop-bashing".
Keep up the good work!

santoeusebio said...

The Catholic Education Service has been happy to co-operate in providing children with information about contraception and how to access services which provide abortion. Anyone contributing to next Sunday's collection for the CES will be providing financial support for such policies. It would seem unlikely that they would incur automatic excommunication under Canon 1329 para 2 as the connection between their contribution and any abortion is too remote. In theory they should have some penalty imposed on them - but they won't!

However I would have thought that the position of clergy facilitating the collection was perhaps more dangerous - if not in this world but the next!

Nicolas Bellord

pattif said...

Father - I wonder if the passage you are thinking of is 1 Corinthians 6:1-5:

"When one of you has a grievance agains a brother, does he dare to go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, mattters pertaining to this life! If you then have such cases, why do you lay them before those who are least esteemed by the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that theei s no man among you wise enough to decide between members of the brotherhood, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?"

Unfortunately, the Diocese seemed to have forgotten that text when they referred the School to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator in 2009. They also seem to have forgotten the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, that parents, not dioceses or bishops, are the "primary and principal educators" of their children.

in cithara said...

I currently teach in what used to be a fairly prestigious Catholic school in north London which still has a very strong Catholic ethos. This has, however, been watered down and eroded over recent years for the same reasons as those which threaten the Vaughan - objections to admissions criteria. No longer are we allowed to question mass attendance or commitment to the faith. The difference is obvious. Parents are increasingly inclined to take from the school but to offer little in return in the way of support and commitment. The Vaughan and the Oratory will, I fear, suffer the same fate as the Salesian college in Battersea, which was once the best school in London and is now sadly, as a result of Diocesan interference, a school parents would prefer not to send their boys to. 'Solitudinem fecerunt, pacem appelunt' (Tacitus). This could equally appeal to the Diocese of Westminster.

Bryan said...

I quote from Para 90 of the full determination by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator on the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School:

"The effect of the school’s current arrangements is undoubtedly to ‘select’ only the most devout Catholic boys with equally devout and supportive parents. By contrast the philosophy of the diocese (and indeed the Catholic Church itself) is actively to encourage the participation of all baptised Catholic children such that the beneficial ethos of its schools can draw the ‘lapsed’ back into fold. The position adopted by the school seems to betray a lack of confidence in the strength of its own character that it fears recruitment of anyone but the most devout will “undermine” its ethos."

The author of the Report might well have been a Screwtape. he seems to be saying "If you are that wonderful then you can the devout atmosphere will animate the lapsed".

Search for Kensington & Chelsea

St John said...

I see this from a slightly different perspective. I have posted the following on Ches's blog, but I re-post here for convenience and readers' interest:


You rightly say that "The parents themselves have the duty of educating their children as Catholics by virtue of their covenantal promises made to God on the day of their marriage". However, this does not mean that the parents get to call the shots as to how the school is run. When a parent sends a child to a school, which has held itself out as offering a certain type of education and formation that the parent has deemed suitable for his/her child, the parent has chosen to avail of what the school offers. If the parent does not like that, the school would be entitled to say "This is the way we do it here - if you don't like it you can go to another school." (Incidentally, this is the means by which many independent schools maintain their high standards in the face of outside interference or parental pressure.) Although in the education of children the school is indeed standing in loco parentis - at the choice, and with the consent, of the parent - the relationship of the parents with the school is something akin to partnership. Partnership does not mean that the parents can dictate (for their own benefit) the composition of the school’s governing board, or its admissions policy.

The primary duty of the archdiocese, and of Archbishop Nichols in particular, is not the education of children but the saving of souls. This means all the souls in the area of the diocese - not just those of children with devout parents but also those of baptised children who (through no fault of their own) have lapsed parents. Indeed, it also includes the souls of those lapsed parents. Therefore it is legitimate for the archdiocese to factor all these elements into the equation when taking decisions about the admissions policy and governance of a school.

Further, there is no reason why admitting the Catholic children of lapsed parents should require the Cardinal Vaughan School to drop the high standards which it demands of its pupils, whether in terms of their reverence at Mass, their knowledge of their Faith, their academic performance or their sporting and musical prowess.

Dilly said...

I remember the destruction wrought in 1974 on Catholic schools. That any survived the diocesan trots and placemen then was a miracle.

Ches said...

Dear Father,

Seeing that St John has re-posted his comment here, allow me to respond as I have done on my own blog.

St John, of course when the parents buy into a school, then they must accept what the school does. The problem, however, is precisely that the diocese is trying to shift the goalposts by sidelining parental opinion. That is not a partnership by any stretch of the imagination.

As to your second argument, I utterly disagree. The school is not primarily an instrument of the evangelisation of the unfaithful but a service rendered to Catholic parents on whom falls directly the responsibility to educate their children as Catholics. In every other way, let Archbishop Nichols evangelise everyone, including the active gays whose participation in Mass at Soho he apparently turns a blind eye to.

As to maintaining high standards, I, as a former school teacher, can assure you that the people who make the biggest difference to a school are the parents. Therefore, it is idealistic to imagine CVS would remain as effective a nursery of the faith in the circumstances you outline.

Ches said...

Let me clarify: it's not the gays' participation in Mass which is a problem, but their free communication in the sacraments whilst acclaiming their gay lifestyle to witnesses (see Daphne McLeod's letter to Faith Magazine this month).

Anonymous said...

Anyone who has the audacity to describe Archbishp as Catholic-Lite, really does not know him at all.
A rather derogatory term used to describe His Grace, especially so, when it comes from a memeber of the clergy.

Fr Ray Blake said...

On this issue I think "Catholic-Lite" is actually the correct description of His Graces position.

I obviously do not know him as well as you, but to expect just a baptism certificate and nothing else at all from prospective parents seems demonstrate a certain liteness, can you find a better description?

Anonymous said...

@in cithara
I , too, teach in a Catholic school and have noticed the steady erosion of Catholic ethos over the last twenty years. Great damage has been done to Catholic edcuation by those in the Catholic Education Service who are more interested in promotong political ideologies than they are in promting Catholic faith. It is a terrible tragedy that the Vaughan has fallen into the hands of suuch people. It will be heartbreaking to see what they will do. First they will appoint a headteacher after their own heart who will do their bidding, then , gradually brick , by brick they will dismantle what has taken generations to build up.

Ex Battersea Boy said...

I don't claim to be an expert on the Cardinal Vaughan situation but it seems to me that the School wants to cherry pick its parents while the Archdiocese doesn't want local Catholic boys to be disadvantaged by having less satisfactory parents.

If I'm right then the latter position seems the more Christian.

I don't think the whole area around CV is that posh - Shepherds Bush, Notting Dale etc

Breege said...

So the Archbishop wants to bring lapsed Catholics back into the fold and dumbing down the entrance criteria is his strategy. I have seen plenty of lapsed catholics with materialistic priorities suddenly appear at mass with school age children in tow. Not because they are intersted in the Lord but because of the performance of the Catholic head teachers. I think they should be welcomed back. Many will find it the right environment for their children and they will stay for good. Driving up standards in Catholic Schools will pull them back faster than lowering entrance criteria. The Catholic schools need to outperform the state schools or else even the devout Catholics won't go there. High achieving schools like Cardinal Vaughan have been a huge draw for the lapsed and devout alike.