William Oddie discusses the CES's criticism of the government for dropping RE from the English Baccalaureate, basically he is in favour of the governments decision.
He cites some of his own experiences of Catholic education; a nun teacher who boasts her school does not "indoctrinate" its pupils, sixth formers who don't know what the Blessed Sacrament is. It is easy for many of us to come up with horror stories not just of the products of Catholic education: the knowledge or lack of it by Catholic pupils and of the standard of teaching, as well as criticism of the Catholic Education Service itself but actually that isn't the issue.
The issue is whether RE per se should be taught in schools, not just Catholic schools, we are talking here not about passing on the Catholic Faith but passing on knowledge of religion. I would say that, in itself, is important in order that a student understands the significance of "belief" in society, simply because most people in the world believe. In Europe, it is important Christianity is taught in order to understand European culture: its music, its art and architecture, its history, its political structures. In Europe, even for a secularist the Christian myth is the fons et origo of our civilisation.
For Catholics, however, there is a need for debate and to ask what is RE for, indeed what a Catholic school is for, that is the beginning of a deeper debate that touches on the most fundameantal of all questions: what are Christ and his Church for. It was a debate Bishop O’Donoghue tried to start and which his episcopal colleagues simply brushed aside.
The conflict in Westminster Diocese between Archbishop Nichols and the parents of the Cardinal Vaughan school is part of this debate. I am no advocate of democracy in the Church but debate, discussion, dialogue is, or should be, an essential part of ecclesiastical life. Where this debate should take place I don't know but it seems that many Catholic parents are deeply concerned about Catholic RE, the CES and, in the case of the Vaughan, the Archbishop of Westminster are not listening or at least no conversation is taking place.
Oddie makes mention of Daphne McCleod, who for years has been the heroic lone voice calling for a form of Catholic Education that prepares our young for living a Catholic life, for Catholic marriage and ultimately for Catholic death. For years she has speaking but few have been listening and few have entered into dialogue with her.
If we can have a "Court of Gentiles", surely we can have a Court of Israel in which real dialogue takes place within the Church because, as I say, the main issue is not just Catholic education but the very purpose of the Church and Christ himself.
Perhaps one of the problems is the language that should be used. In Vaughan debate it seems that both parties are shouting through megaphones but not listening to one another, maybe the reason is that different languages or terms of reference are being used. Here the Holy See seems to offer common ground,
the General Directory for Catechesis and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, for Catholics, the Archbishop and Vaughan parents, that should be common ground, unless one of the parties is ploughing its own furrow, out of communion with the thinking, at least, of the Holy See.