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April 2008

Fit for Purpose? - Bishops


"His watchmen are all blind, they are all ignorant: dumb dogs not able to bark, seeing vain things, sleeping and loving dreams."
Isaias 56:10

In January, we noted the excellent Review Document on Catholic education - Fit for Mission? Schools - published late last year by Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue of Lancaster. In returning to this publication as promised, we have decided to run lengthy extracts over two issues. Given our critiques of so many dire and dangerous English catechetical programmes down the years, it seems only fair to dedicate more than just a few pages to this belated but worthy effort; to give credit where it is due. Indeed, after decades of tracking and reporting episcopal negligence and dissent it is an unmitigated pleasure to do so.

Even the better modern publications, of course, betray glimpses of postconciliar rot. Thus, we cannot vouch for every work or person referenced or endorsed in the full 66 page document. The Bishop's recommendation of ultra-Modernist Cardinal Martini, for one, is disturbing, as also his promotion of CAFOD, the hierarchy's dissident and discredited aid agency. (His Lordship recommends condomanic CAFOD to his schools in one passage, while denouncing the delusion of condom 'safe sex' propaganda in another: a stupendous contradiction [see "Contributing to CAFOD is a Sin!" CO, Jan. 2005.]

Inevitably, too, there is the pliable Novus Ordo liturgy. The Bishop hitches his robust catechetical enterprise to this inherently unstable vessel in the mistaken belief that he can keep it steady with (commendable) calls for reverence. A shipwreck waiting to happen! Even motivated by the best will in the world, it simply presents 'creative' teachers and pupils with multiple liturgical options by which to muddy and undermine his orthodox cause.

Mercifully few in number, such postconciliar negatives are offset by many more positives e.g. banning of classroom sex-ed and rejection of Comic Relief's anti-life Red Nose Day, despite its scandalous endorsement by the episcopate.

Instead of looking for perfection, therefore, Fit for Mission? must be read in the context of a local Church imbued with neo-Modernism from top to bottom, with a long and tragic history of betraying parents and children. From that perspective it is a mini-miracle, containing pristine passages like this:

"The secular view on sex outside of marriage, artificial contraception, sexually transmitted disease, including HIV and AIDS, and abortion, may not be presented as neutral information ... parents, schools and colleges must also reject the promotion of so-called 'safe sex' or 'safer sex', a dangerous and immoral policy based on the deluded theory that the condom can provide adequate protection against AIDS."

Accordingly, the document has been rightly praised by both the Congregation for Clergy and Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, who highlighted the publication's "comprehensive" use of documents from the Holy See to support the Catholic ethos in schools on a diocesan level.

The most telling endorsement of all, however, came from the liberal-Left which squealed like the Gadarene swine at the prospect of a Catholic shepherd actually doing his job: teaching undiluted Catholic doctrine from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The head of the National Secular Society [NSS], which campaigns for the eradication of religion from public life, wailed: "I do not think the state should be funding Catholic indoctrination." While on the NSS website Terry Sanderson contributed this little gem of a hate-crime: "The bishop, it seems, wants to introduce a Taliban-style regime of Catholic orthodoxy in his diocese's schools"!

Maintaining the terrorist allusion, Barry Sheerman, chairman of the parliamentary cross-party committee on Children, Schools and Families, sought a meeting with English bishops in relation to a rise in "fundamentalism" among religious leaders. Presently considering whether faith schools should be publicly funded and whether they should continue to control their own pupil admissions, the committee is alarmed by the Lancaster turn of events. Sheerman told the neo-Marxist Guardian: "A group of bishops appear to be taking a much firmer line and I think it would be useful to call representatives of the Catholic church in front of the committee to find out what is going on."

"It seems to me," he went on, "that faith education works all right as long as people are not that serious about their faith. But as soon as there is a more doctrinaire attitude questions have to be asked. It does become worrying when you get a new push from more fundamentalist bishops. This is taxpayers' money after all."

So, there you have it: Catholic orthodoxy as grounds for State interrogation! It is hard to know which is more offensive and threatening: the pig-ignorance, or the rank fascism?

"They [the MPs] see me as a fundamentalist," responded Bishop O'Donoghue, "and that is a pejorative word these days with connotations of terrorism, violence and irrationality. I reject these connotations." Yet not content with intimating moral equivalence between sublime Catholic doctrines and inflammatory Koranic dictates - depicting Bishop O'Donoghue as a clear and present danger to the realm - Sheerman effectively disenfranchises millions of Catholic taxpayers at a stroke, questioning their rightful share of the public purse. Why? Because it will fund needs and aspirations which involve declarations of Catholic independence from Blairite social-engineers like himself! Such as:

"Under no circumstances should any outside authority or agency that is not fully qualified to speak on behalf of the Catholic Church ever be allowed to speak to pupils or individuals on sexual or any other matter involving faith and morals.

"Nor should a Catholic school or college ever refer a pupil to an outside agency for advice or counselling; such is the prerogative only of the parent.

"Schools and colleges must carefully scrutinise Year Planners to make sure that they do not promote the services of organisations incompatible with the Church's moral teaching."

Summoned to appear before the parliamentary committee on 12 March to answer its tragi-comic "fundamentalist" charge, we trust Bishop O'Donoghue took the opportunity to reiterate these Fit for Mission? non-negotiables. A far cry indeed from the insipid, compromising, faux-Christianity acceptable to Mr Sheerman, the NSS and Tablet-reading blackshirts.

Yet perhaps we should not be too hard on the hapless likes of Barry Sheerman. The Lancaster document has taken us all by surprise - stunning Catholics and anti-Catholics alike. And doesn't that speak to the deeper truth of the whole affair: the tragedy of Roman neglect mirrored in a corrupt and incompetent episcopate?

It is all very well for the Roman curia to weigh in now with enthusiastic praise for a one-off orthodox programme. But let's be frank: they have been missing in action for forty years! Where was the dutiful reaction to all those hand-delivered dossiers citing heresies, heterodoxies and ambiguities strewn through one English catechetical text after another?

If the Vatican had acted upon such copious orthodox intelligence, a Catholic Bishop producing a truly Catholic teaching document would have passed unnoticed. The godless Establishment could hardly have feigned shock-horror and stoked the rising flames of anti-Catholic bigotry if Rome had blessed England with even a handful of those "fundamentalist" [read: orthodox] bishops Mr Sheerman so dreads; reforming shepherds to set the educational benchmark.

Instead, we accrued a pack of hirelings worthy of Isaias 56:10: 'watchmen... all blind ... all ignorant: dumb dogs not able to bark....'

Daphne McLeod, the President of Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, once spent nearly two hours going through the episcopate's infamous Here I Am programme with then-Bishop Vincent Nichols, head of Catholic education. His Lordship finally admitted that the books were not Catholic, but told her that the bishops would not correct them. "You're putting episcopal unity above Truth!" she rightly protested at this wicked preference for closing collegial eyes, ears and mouths. (Subsequently promoted to Birmingham, Nichols is now the bookies favourite for Westminster. Heavy sigh...)

The history of this catechetical betrayal orchestrated by our Vatican-appointed prelates is related in Will Your Grandchildren Be Catholic? - Mrs McLeod's comprehensive insider account. First published in our May 2006 edition it is now available as a booklet and priced for the widest possible distribution: so that clueless Catholics might come to understand precisely how we reached this sorry state, and why Fit for Mission? is not a reactionary threat but, rather, a Catholic corrective (2 per copy, 15 for 10, 20 for 30, post free, from 4 Fife Way, Great Bookham, Surrey KT23 3PH. Cheques and Postal Orders payable to Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice).

Thanks to the diabolic RE revolution, an English prelate belatedly looking to clean house must now face down the anti-Catholic products of his own making. Never mind Barry Sheerman and the National Secular Society, the biggest threat to Bishop O'Donoghue's success is the teaching establishment itself: a Modernist monolith decades in the episcopal-making. As educational veterans like Daphne McLeod and Eric Hester have long protested, diocesan RE advisers keep a liberal stranglehold over the teaching of religion in Catholic schools. Even the inspectors, they point out, are approved by those who sanction the corrupting catechetical texts in the first place!

Lauding Fit for Mission? on his weblog ("in a different league from anything I have seen in terms of school policy in over 23 years as a priest"), Fr. Tim Finigan also flagged this malign byproduct of official complicity and neglect: "senior staff, governors and officials who will be outraged that the Church should suggest that they actually follow the teaching of the Catechism."

Nor can we ignore the broader backdrop against which this local mini-revival will be played out, since Lancaster reflects the decay and dissolution everywhere. Reaping the Modernist whirlwind, the diocese is fast disappearing, clerically and numerically. According to diocesan figures, Mass attendances in Preston have plunged from 17,203 in 1974 to just 6,427 in 2004 - and could sink as low as 4,500 by 2020. It is also likely that there will be no more than 10 priests under the age of 75 years to serve the area within the next 13 years.

Consequently, parish closures and amalgamations are rife. As part of the diocesan Mission Review, ten churches in Preston alone are under threat of closure, including the iconic St Walburg's, which boasts the third-highest spire in the country. Furthermore, it seems that Bishop O'Donoghue would rather shut down St Walburg's than hand it over to the Institute of Christ the King (who are keen to secure the church), apparently fearful that it would become "a cathedral for the Old Mass" - the ultimate desecration!

The Bishop's preferred option might be seen in the proposal for St Ignatius church in the city centre, which would become a "lighthouse church" - open to the community and to promote inter-faith relations. Needless to say, the faithful are at odds with each other and the diocesan authorities about all of this and discord and disunity is the order of the day.

In addition, Lancaster is mired in the scandalous fallout from massive debt: crippled by years of salaried lay management living beyond its means.

Thus, behind the exhilarating facade of a provincial counter-revolt we find the crumbling infrastructure of the English Church at large, testimony to its Modernist foundations: "And every one that heareth these my words, and doth them not, shall be like a foolish man that built his house upon the sand/And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall thereof." [Matt. 7:26-27]

In the end, however, Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue's eleventh hour bid to rebuild his tottering diocesan house upon the rock of Catholic orthodoxy is not entirely in his own flawed hands.

If Catholic schools are not fit for mission, it is clearly because the English episcopate, a Modernist closed-shop, is "not fit for purpose". We are all prey to this faithless collective, including and especially the rare Liberal "watchman" who finally sees the light and finds his Catholic voice. For leading a mass outcry by priests, Religious and laity against the scandalous Education in Sexuality guidelines concocted by his brethren, the late Archbishop Couve de Murville, for instance, was famously denounced and humiliated by his brethren at the November 1994 Bishops' Conference [see CO, Nov. 1997]. Cometh the orthodox reformer, cometh the episcopal obstruction! And this time it looms in the form of one Fr Michael Campbell OSA, the recently appointed co-adjutor bishop set to succeed Bishop O'Donoghue following his retirement in the summer of 2009.

Ominously, Fr Campbell is listed with a Who's Who of Tablet-dissidents - Timothy Radcliffe, Clifford Longely, Tina Beattie et. al. - as contributing to a work recently commissioned by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales: "an evaluative commentary on contemporary culture and social trends, secularization and modernity and the part both play in the field of catechesis, religious education and formation."

Eschewing the sort of social gospel pap one can expect from this "evaluative commentary," Fit for Mission? espouses instead the unadulterated Catholic faith set forth in the Catechism. As such, it provides the supernatural antidote to the naturalism underpinning "secularization and modernity" both in the world and within the Church. Whether "watchman"-elect Campbell, the latest addition to our Stepford hierarchy of the blind and mute, will sanction that divine remedy, is another matter.

Watch this space.

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