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FAITH OF OUR FATHERS 2000
WESTMINSTER CENTRAL HALL, SATURDAY 20th MAY


THE TRUTH HAS ITS OWN POWER

PATRICIA McKEEVER

I’d like to begin by sharing with you my hopes for this afternoon. Firstly, I’m hoping that you will all leave here determined to do something about the decline of Catholic education. You will, I hope, feel a righteous anger when you discover that teachers who fully believe all that the Church teaches are often very unwelcome in Catholic schools. I hope that, from now on, you’ll ask pertinent questions of your local school about the orthodoxy of the teachers/resources because my experience is not unique as Daphne could confirm. She takes calls from teachers fairly regularly who have to lie low and endure what the so-called "liberal" camp is doing in our schools. My second aim is to encourage every person in this hall to join in the battle (and it IS a battle) to restore orthodox Catholicism across the U.K. Orthodoxy simply means "right belief" and the Pope has publicly admitted that the Church is in crisis because so many Catholics, including priests, are contradicting right beliefs. An orthodox Catholic, then, is just an ordinary, fully-believing Catholic as opposed to the fashionable "liberal" variety. We really do have to remind ourselves of the simple truth that to use the term "Catholic" we must obey the Church; we must accept all that the Church teaches; "The truth and nothing but the truth" might well have been the title of this talk. But it isn’t – I chose instead ‘The truth has its own power’ and let me explain why…

Soon after I took up my appointment as Head of R.E. in a Catholic school in the south of England, I was chatting to a priest connected to the school about a potentially contentious item on sex education which was on the agenda for the next Department meeting. Before my appointment, another teacher had chosen two videos to be shown to pupils in Year 9 (i.e. 14 year olds).

The safe-sex message was heavily promoted in one of these films, which showed pupils how to use a condom. But as one American priest has said "how safe can safe sex be when Hell is the result?" The second film contained crude language and the "it’s o.k. to say no" message – which of course suggests that it is also "ok to say yes"! Not a suitable message for Catholic schools to promote, surely.

Now, you and I would not be able to see these films on television before the 9 o’clock watershed under current rules. So I was incredulous to discover that they were shown to pupils under the legal age of consent in this prestigious Catholic school.

Well, according to all the best management theories, it’s advisable when forced to criticise to be able to offer an alternative. So I searched around and found a film that communicated information about AIDS and homosexuality in a factual way against a backdrop of images of Church weddings.

I think you will all be taken aback when you hear what happened next but I think it is important that I share with you some of my experiences of teaching R.E. in three Catholic schools in different parts of the country. I’m hoping that hearing a first hand account of how bad things are will help to galvanise you into doing whatever you can to restore orthodoxy in Catholic schools.

Of course, not everything is bad in the Catholic sector. There are, in fact, many teachers of goodwill in Catholic schools who want to pass on the Catholic faith and I was privileged to work with such teachers. It was the ones who wore badges stating that "THE CHURCH SHOULD ORDAIN WOMEN OR STOP BAPTISING THEM" that were the problem!

Anyway, back to my conversation with the Reverend Father. He was amazed himself at the fact that these films were being shown in the Catholic school attended by many of his young parishioners. But, he said to me, as a parting shot, "…don’t say too much. You might be tempted to go on a bit. Just remember," he said, "the truth has its own power." The force of these words struck me at the time, and I have never forgotten them.

This was wise advice. And it gave me an idea. I decided to give each colleague attending the meeting, a copy of the relevant passage from the Vatican document Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality. I thought that if they read for themselves why explicit materials, like these films, is absolutely forbidden in Catholic schools they would realise that we just could not show them to our pupils.

In one scene a woman chats about the fact that she and her husband have to restrict themselves to non-penetrative sex now that he has been diagnosed HIV positive. The woman spoke about various perversions that they could do (and, therefore, that pupils could do) without having full sexual intercourse. The scene was filmed in the bedroom and all the while, the lady was making their double bed – talk about subliminal messages!

So I was dumbfounded at the hostile reaction of my colleagues when I suggested replacing these two films. The Vatican prohibition on explicit materials was mocked by these R.E. teachers and then in a schizoid about-turn one after another said that I was effectively questioning their orthodoxy. Interestingly the only member of the RE team to support me was a young married mother. She said that she would not want her child to see either of these films. But she was squashed every time she tried to speak.

"Yes, Father", I thought to myself, "the truth DOES have its own power but only if the hearer is receptive to it". Here, in this meeting, there was no desire for truth. Sheer hatred of Catholic truth about the meaning of human sexuality was all too evident.

Indeed, if Cardinal Silvestrini, quoted by Daphne this morning, had been present at that meeting, I have no doubt that he would have spoken about Satanic activity in the Church at that time and not waited until the 1999 European Bishops Synod!

But wait, as one popular Irish comic used to say, there’s more: the colleague who had chosen the two explicit sex films astonished me by saying that she had already seen and rejected the video on AIDS which I’d suggested should replace the two offensive films. precisely because of the images of Church weddings. She thought the pupils would laugh at these images of happy brides in white wedding dresses in this day and age…!

Still, I have to say that the problem in Catholic education is not really with the teachers. Given clear instructions and leadership from the Bishops, the right resource materials and good in-service training, things would improve and we could enjoy a wonderful revival, a renaissance in the teaching of the Catholic faith in our schools.

When I was a student teacher we were taught that it was not our job to be "confessional" in our teaching. That is, we should not "confess" or profess our faith – to avoid influencing pupils – the very opposite of the reason for having Catholic teachers in Catholic schools in the first place. According to this philosophy it is not our job to teach pupils that Catholic teachings are true any more than we would teach them to believe Islam or Judaism. At one in-service course I attended about 3 years ago I suggested that perhaps it would be more honest, then, if we stated openly that Catholic schools were no longer about passing on the faith. The RE adviser (a Religious Sister) agreed. Yet in spite of the fact that Catholic teachers are trained to take the same neutral approach as those of us teaching in the state sector, the alleged experts have convinced the Bishops that children are lapsing because they come from non-practising homes. Logically, lapsed backgrounds are all the more reason for teachers to make clear to pupils their commitment to Catholic belief and practice. No, the young are lapsing because they do not know what the Church teaches and why. Quite simply, their Catholic schools have not been doing the work they were built to do – pass on the faith.

Indeed, at one in-service course a leading member of the catechetical establishment from Leeds Diocese ridiculed the whole idea that there was any such thing as "the faith" to pass on! He made little inverted commas in the air round the words "the faith" a couple of times. This had his audience of teachers and priests rolling in the aisles.

The real problem in Catholic education, then, is not the teachers but the so-called "experts" who dominate the system. Many teachers acknowledge that they have not been taught the faith themselves and so they cannot pass it on. It’s not the teachers who are holding back the long overdue renaissance in Catholic schools (although there are certainly some who would) but the establishment figures, the self-styled "experts" appointed by the Bishops. They talk a lot about preserving the "Catholic ethos" but I’ve taught in both non-denominational and Catholic schools and to be honest, I’ve never been able to detect any real difference. Indeed, in one Catholic Sixth Form College where I was Head of R.E. I produced a discussion paper to get staff thinking about how we could create a truly Catholic ethos in the college. Even the most mundane of my suggestions were rejected by the dissenting Tablet readers on the staff. Could we organise a crucifix for each classroom? Too expensive. Perhaps we could start all Department and staff meetings with a prayer? Objection: this might cause offence to Protestant colleagues. And so it went on. All to prevent a truly Catholic ethos developing in the college – much better to be vaguely "Christian". This philosophy is widespread in so-called Catholic schools across the U.K.

On the other hand, I encountered teachers of integrity who were only too ready to admit that they lacked the confidence to pass on the faith because they’d never been taught it themselves. I respected the professionalism of these teachers. And the fact that the truth has its own power, was confirmed by their grateful response to the orthodox resources provided for them. These teachers were not, in any sense, a problem. The problem lay with those teachers (and there was always at least one in every Department I led) who rejected what the Church taught especially Catholic teaching on marriage and sexual morality. It is noticeably these areas that cause the most tension.

Thus in the Sixth Form College, some students told me how their RE teacher ridiculed the teaching of Humanae Vitae where the constant Christian condemnation of contraception is restated

In another school, a colleague objected to my proposal to include teaching about Confession in our lessons. She was a Eucharistic Minister in the school yet she said that she could not believe in the Real Presence because she could not find these words anywhere in Scripture. This is, of course, a typically Protestant objection. But, shocking as this confusion is, coming from a qualified R.E. teacher in a Catholic school, the blame cannot be laid entirely at her door. She is like so many others today, simply ignorant – she has not been taught properly herself so she cannot, with the best will in the world, pass on what she doesn’t know. And because she has been brought up in an atmosphere of "Consensus Catholicism", where everybody is infallible except the Pope, and where Catholics are described, ridiculously, as being either "right-wing" or "liberal" she does not believe that the teaching found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church comes from God. The Catechism is just one more right wing manifesto as far as she’s concerned – so why use it to inform your lessons?

I mentioned earlier that in every Department that I led, there was at least one dissenting member of staff. But in the Sixth Form College there was a small group of so-called "liberals" who worked against me from the very beginning of my appointment.

One colleague expressed concern that I was placing too much emphasis on suffering in the assemblies… during Holy Week! Another said he had been so concerned when he heard me speaking to the students in assembly about the Mass as a Sacrifice that he had gone to see a Monsignor who was on our Board of Governors about it. Monsignor told him not to worry, all that stuff about Sacrifice had gone out with Vatican II. What a disappointment the Catechism of the Catholic Church must have been to them both where we read - and I quote - "the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice…" Par.1367

In fact, the publication of the Catechism was the last straw for the group of dissidents in that so-called Catholic College. This small group of Tablet readers had always been outspoken about their disagreement with Catholic teaching. One senior manager even agreed that he and I probably held different beliefs about the Eucharist. So as soon as I provided a stock of the new Catechisms to be used as our primary source of reference the dissenters stepped up their campaign against orthodoxy which, unfortunately, was personalised on me. Don’t get the wrong idea. They were charming people, always friendly towards me. I liked them all and I never had a cross word with any of them; indeed, the teacher who shocked the students by her attitude to Catholic teaching on birth control once said to me in the midst of a fairly animated discussion: "Don’t take this personally Pat. It’s not you. We think you’re lovely. It’s not you, it’s what you believe". I can remember exactly what she said, because I remember thinking that it was a shocking admission of their loss of Catholic faith.

I just couldn’t convince them that the students had a right to sound and demanding teaching in their RE lessons and that our professional obligation was to see that they got it. Pupils in Catholic schools are not being challenged in their R.E. lessons I’m afraid. In the state school where I currently teach, the County Agreed Syllabus contains far more sound Christian doctrine than anything I’ve encountered in the Catholic sector. Our 5 yearly review is now due but because the quality of teaching and standards in R.E. have improved so much, very few changes are thought necessary. Compare that with the constant succession of Catholic schemes over the past thirty years, each one worse than the one before.

Anyway back to my experience of life at the Sixth Form College. To repeat, most of my colleagues were very pleasant in the day to day life of the college. Which is why it was such a shock to receive a succession of unpleasant presents, including a pornographic magazine, in my locker in the staff room. The Principal was anxious to prevent any publicity about this little campaign – this was dynamite. I’ve recently been reliably informed of the identities of the people responsible for the magazine – pillars of the local church. Avid Tablet readers.

The R.E. Adviser at the time was a Religious Sister. She insisted that I pursue this in the context of the law on sex discrimination. I’m convinced Sister saw some feminist mileage in it but I pointed out to her that I didn’t receive this magazine because I am a woman but because I was producing RE schemes of work and resource materials to teach orthodox Catholicism; I was obviously annoying the dissenting RE staff by asking them to consult the Catechism when teaching doctrine, which is what it is for. Teachers and priests are supposed to use the Catechism as their first source of reference. She disappeared off the scene shortly after that. Next thing I heard she was getting married. A sign of the times, I guess.

All of this is dreadful, I know, but what I have outlined this afternoon is a mere fraction of the stories I could tell. My purpose however, is simply to give you a flavour of what is the reality of life for teachers like myself who hold to what the Church teaches. We are not extremists or more Catholic than the Pope. I say "we" because, as I said at the beginning of this talk, my experience is not unique. Anyway, I can take a hint. The little presents coming my way in the Sixth Form College made it crystal clear that I was not welcome in the Catholic sector so I am now employed in a state school. In the end, the Bishop had sent a Monsignor, no less, to instruct me to follow "the middle way" when teaching to avoid annoying some of the diocesan pillars of the Church. The Bishop’s representative offered all the diocesan resources to help me if necessary. I agreed to do this. But when I later took up their offer of help and asked what the middle way actually is in the matters that had caused controversy in the college - contraception and the Sacrifice of the Mass among others - no-one would (or could?) tell me. Anyway, as I say, I can take a hint!

Leaving Catholic education meant I was now free to speak out. I no longer had to consider my position in a Catholic school. Hence my involvement in the newsletter which came about after Charles Smith, our Treasurer, twisted arms and got a few of us to agree to publish our concerns about the Church in Scotland.

Apart from Charles, only a retired gentleman called Ronald MacDonald, wrote on a regular basis to the Scottish Bishops, the Vatican and to the press. For years Ronnie has written to the Bishops, asking them to put a stop to liturgical abuse or to silence dissenting priests. More often than not the Hierarchy ignore his letters. And those he sends to Scotland’s national Catholic newspaper, the Scottish Catholic Observer are seldom published while dissent is published (and therefore supported) with depressing frequency. It is mainly thanks to Ronnie’s efforts that we are able to expose the crisis that is destroying the Church in Scotland. So, Catholics in Scotland really do owe a huge debt of gratitude to Ronnie MacDonald. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank him most sincerely, and to thank both Ronnie and our Treasurer Charles Smith for all their hard work in running the newsletter.

Charles, however, is also a prolific writer, a well-known local Historian in Edinburgh, and his commitments have been piling up for some time now, with publishers on his back all the time. So it is with great sadness that we have to announce that he is standing down as Treasurer. Charles will of course continue to be part of our team but we will name a new Treasurer soon so that Charles can once again meet his publisher’s deadlines.

The newsletter, Catholic Truth has been described as a kind of religious version of Private Eye. That is because, we thought that, well, when things are so bad that you don’t know whether to laugh or cry, you might as well laugh!

And things are very bad in Scotland. We all know that the Church is in crisis everywhere but our problem is made worse by the fact that the Scottish Bishops have somehow managed to come through it all giving the impression of being, in media-speak, "ultra-conservative" and totally loyal to the Pope. If only! The media have cultivated this image because of Cardinal Winning’s pro-life stance. It is, of course, wonderful that he speaks out on abortion and we appreciate his leadership during the current furore over Section 28 although we’ve just heard the news that he is not going to tell Catholics how to vote - to retain the clause. But being pro-life is not the same thing as being an orthodox Catholic as all the pro-life Protestants, (some of whom are here today) Moslems and Jews who work for the pro-life cause will tell you. The fact is that the defiance of the Scottish bishops towards the authority of Rome is quite staggering. The evidence is huge and it is indisputable. There is only time here to scratch the surface, but anyway, here goes.

In Scotland we have some of the most publicly dissenting and scandalous priests in the entire United Kingdom all of whom enjoy the full public support of the Bishops. Rome’s interventions are ignored. Cardinal Winning’s spokesman once even said that "it was none of Rome’s business" when the Vatican attempted to stop the public scandal of Edinburgh’s Father Andrew Monaghan. For over 20 years now, Fr Monaghan has hosted a radio talk show every weekend – oh yes, we have our very own Jerry Springer north of the border - dishing out permissive advice, encouraging co-habitation and promoting the contraceptive and homosexual lifestyles. And only last week he’s added Edinburgh’s prostitutes to his long list of fans. He tells his callers to address him as "Andy". Recently, e.g., Karen asked for advice because she had an extra job and was worried that the Inland Revenue might catch up with her, and her employers would find out. Now you’re thinking that she was doing a bit of cleaning on the side or helping out at the local newsagent’s, aren’t you? Not a bit of it. Karen’s extra ‘job’ is running 3 in a bed sessions with both men and women. Father Monaghan told her that it was important for her to get advice on the "practicalities" as soon as possible so she ought to get herself down to the Citizens Advice Bureau without delay. This priest did not show a whiff of disapproval or priestly concern for Karen’s physical and spiritual wellbeing. It’s more important, he thinks, to help Karen to protect her immoral earnings. Yet when Rome acted, withdrawing support for Fr Monaghan’s radio show as long ago as 1988 following complaints from scandalised lay people, Cardinal Winning’s spokesman said it was none of Rome’s business. And Father Monaghan then said publicly in 1989 that he would not stop doing the show and that he would give up his priesthood if he had to make a choice. But here’s the biscuit: The Scottish hierarchy then named Father Monaghan as official Church contact for the media in their letter for Communications Sunday 1993. So to this day, Fr Monaghan continues his radio work supporting and promoting evil with the support of Archbishop O’Brien and the entire Scottish Hierarchy in open defiance of the Vatican. Our pro-life Cardinal obviously sees no hypocrisy in enjoying a pro-life media image while at the same time promoting a priest who refers young pregnant women to abortion agencies and homosexuals seeking partners to the Gay and Lesbian Switchboard. Father Monaghan frequently tells us how respectful he is towards everyone and how important it is for everyone to be respectful, what a better world it would be and so on. And he boasts about his tolerance; in fact, the only thing he won’t tolerate is criticism of himself. He lost his temper with Jack, who called in last week to say he thought Father was in an excellent position to have cited Bible teaching when talking to some prostitutes who’d phoned in. Here are a couple of quotes from the Gospel according to Father Monaghan. "Jesus said people like you were hypocrites… Jesus didn’t come into the world for folk like you, Jack, think about it, will ye?" Not very respectful towards Jack, were you Father? Think about that will ye?

There is of course a general spirit of dissent abroad in Scotland as there is here in England, but the three notorious dissenting priests are those who make a living from it – the media stars: Fathers Andrew Monaghan and Steve Gilhooley (Edinburgh) and Father John Fitzsimmons (Paisley). These have all publicly denied and /or attacked Catholic teaching on just about everything you can think of, they’ve attacked the Roman curia, the Pope, and even the Scottish Hierarchy who have permitted their dissent and defended them when any of us expressed concern!

How starkly their attacks on the faith contrast with the heroic loyalty of the great Chinese Cardinal Kung who died on 13 March this year having spent almost a third of his life in prison rather than deny a single Catholic teaching. He refused all the Chinese Government’s attempts to make him deny the authority of the Pope. He was even told that he did not have to say the words, just nod his head. Cardinal Kung replied: "If I denounce the Holy Father, not only would I not be a bishop, I would not even be a Catholic". What would that saintly Cardinal have thought of Father Gilhooley’s Friday evening column, headlined that it was time to do away with all Church dogma and a more recent one urging Catholics to throw off the shackles of attending Sunday Mass in the interests of ecumenism? Last week Father Gilhooley’s column was full of obscenities, and in case anyone thinks that the lady doth protest too much, please come to the Catholic Truth stall and have a look for yourself. I’m certainly not going to read out the utterly obscene column that was published in Edinburgh last week although I know it commands the full support and blessing of Archbishop Keith Patrick O’Brien. I wonder, too, what Cardinal Kung would have thought about Fr Monaghan’s response to Robert who said that for the past 7 years he has regularly had sex with animals and feels awful about it: the really important thing is that Robert find - and I quote - "straightforward acceptance so that you can journey away from what is upsetting YOU and begin to ease the fear and what is making YOU feel so awful". Anything goes as long as it is what YOU want, but if it makes YOU feel awful, then get help to overcome the behaviour. There’s no right or wrong – just YOUR CHOICE. Say hello to Oprah Winfrey in a Roman Collar. Yet surely both the programme makers and callers to his show Open Line, must have expected that if they ask a Catholic priest to play the part of Agony Uncle, the advice given will at the very least not contradict Catholic teaching? Yet Fr Monaghan has sunk to very low levels indeed - advising one woman recently to lie to her husband; and telling another (Catholic) woman that when she committed adultery there was a "great deal of love" in what she did adding that she could go to Communion and only go to Confession if she wanted to later. If he says this on the radio, what on earth is he saying in the Confessional?

It should come as no surprise to anyone here that these priests are constantly, how can I put it, "economical with the truth" in every sense. When our newsletter reported verbatim what Father Monaghan had said during his March programmes he informed his listeners that a "sick old man" was taping the programmes and distorting what he said. In fact a young, and as far as I know, very healthy man taped the programmes and a fairly youngish woman (me) transcribed the pieces we reported. So I know for a fact that our reports are word for word what Father Monaghan said (and I have the tapes to prove it) but then blatant falsehoods come readily to such priests who plainly hate the truth.

I have a message for Father Monagan: specify. Quote any words that we have attributed to you that are not what you said or that are taken out of context. You won’t of course, because you can’t, because I personally painstakingly wrote down exactly what you said – every untruthful word. And that is what we published. I think, in the interests of justice, since you are plainly a stranger to truth, you must either demonstrate how we have distorted your words or apologise to us on your next radio show.

It is shocking to realise that Fr Monaghan’s radio activity is fully supported by Archbishop O’Brien who refuses to listen to our concerns about the scandal caused by this programme. Indeed, Archbishop O’Brien is on record as saying that Father M is doing God’s work and the Pope’s. Very recently, in fact, Fr Monaghan interviewed the Archbishop for his other radio programme "View from the Earth" – obviously they are on very good terms.

But here’s an excellent tip from a Scottish priest who wrote to us after reading about Fr Monaghan in the April newsletter: "…Nowadays money seems to be one of the few voices that finds an open ear amongst our hierarchy. My advice is for Catholics to STOP putting their money into archdiocesan coffers via the Sunday collection and give it to some other worthy Catholic charity…and also to write to the archbishop to let him know this. Perhaps when funds get low Archbishop O’Brien will see fit to rein in Fr Andrew Monaghan". HEAR HEAR! This priest cannot be named for religious reasons. Unlike the Gilhooleys, Monaghans and Fitzsimmons of this world, he would be persecuted for defending orthodoxy while the Monaghans of this world are, as we have just noted, promoted for their dissent.

At least now, via the newsletter, ordinary Catholics and priests have a means of having their concerns published and that is good. For far too long the so-called "liberals" have had it all their own way and gone unchallenged. Predictably we are labelled "right wing" (I’ve yet to meet anyone who can define "right wing") and one of our dissenting priests – Father Gilhooley – describes us as "bigots" in his newspaper column at every opportunity.

I wonder, too, what Cardinal Kung would say to Father Fitzsimmons about the crude words (again, too crude for me to repeat here) that he used to mock the authority of the Church during an interview for the Sunday Herald in Scotland only last month? Father Fitzsimmons attacked Catholic teaching on male only priesthood, contraception and celibacy. He’s all for women priests, and since he’s been in love several times he thinks it would have been nice to be married. He forgot to tell us what he would have done with his wife the second time he fell in love and all the times after that! Clearly, thanks to compulsory celibacy some lucky women have had a narrow escape. Bishop Mone, (Fr Fizsimmons’ Bishop), on instruction from the Papal Nuncio, was forced to tell him to apologise or lose his parish (remember Bishop Mone has defended Fr Fitzsimmons from critics of his open dissent for many years now). But he apologised only for any offence he may have caused the Pope/bishops – he did not retract a word of his attacks on key Catholic teaching. So this apostate priest continues as Parish Priest. I don’t know about you, but I like to think my priest is at least a believing Catholic.

Today, I’d like to throw out a heartfelt plea to these rebel priests: please show some integrity; RESIGN. You have clearly lost the Catholic faith if ever you had it. Go away. We really do not need you. We have every right to ask you to go. Scripture is littered with warnings about false shepherds like you. And before you start shouting about tolerance (which Chesterton described as "the virtue of men with no convictions") let me be clear: we’re not asking you to be saints. The Church can always accommodate sinners. We’re all sinners. But the Church cannot and never has, tolerated unbelievers within its ranks – you must go! And the sooner the better! That great saint Charles Borromeo said that it was better to have no priests than bad priests and he lived in a era when priests were in very short supply. If, however, as I fear, you refuse to give up your salary, comfortable homes, cars and media-fame then choose a place, a date and a time and I will happily arrange to debate with you the following motion, reworking slightly the words of the saintly Cardinal Kung: If you denounce the Pope you cannot claim to be a Catholic let alone a priest! I’M KEEN, SO PLEASE REPLY ASAP.

Amazingly, though, despite all the evidence of a dissolute clergy there is still a lethargy at grass roots in Scotland as there is here in England. Since the launch of the newsletter we have been struck by the fact that, even in the face of the most damning evidence, many people do not want to admit how really serious things are.

Don’t be misled by our light-hearted approach. We are deadly serious. As long as these priests are allowed to publicly air their hang-ups about the Church, we will continue to expose what they say. We will go on highlighting just how far their beliefs are from the truth which comes from God and which they have been ordained to preach because it has the power to convert and to save souls. They have not been ordained to fight for human justice, to help the unemployed find work or houses for the homeless; to be talk show hosts or newspaper columnists. We will continue to expose the hypocrisy of Scottish priests and bishops who take their money, comfortable homes and a very nice standard of living, thank you very much, from the same Church that they so publicly despise. Then they can’t say on Judgement Day "Oh, dear I didn’t know…" because we’ll be right behind them in the queue saying "Oh yes you did – we told you! It was all in Catholic Truth!"

Let me quote from a letter written by an American priest which I came across on the internet entitled: "A FEW BLUNT WORDS TO CATHOLICS". Here is something of what he said that I think challenges us all:

"…we are living in the most evil of all the ages… There is a very real conflict, a "spirit of warfare" that the followers of Jesus are called to take up…This warfare is not for the weak or the faint of heart …Most Catholics today…are simply not capable of dealing with the truth that the evil that is everywhere in this world is so deep within the Church…Throughout the history of the Church it has always been those who are within who have caused the most damage. Remember that Judas was a bishop and nearly all the heresies that have ravaged the Church throughout history have come from priests and bishops.

"If we wish to survive these days with our faith intact we should learn the lessons of history. We live in a time when the laity must rise up to save the true Church. This is very difficult because we are coming out of an age when the laity looked to the hierarchy for guidance. But as it was in the time of King Henry VIII, you may follow your priest or even your bishop and as a result find yourself outside the true Church. This is not an age that will suffer weak faith. Soon there will only be two kinds of Catholics – strong Catholics and ex-Catholics."

This priest goes on to address the problem of the faint-hearts among us who either try to pretend that nothing is really all that wrong or that if it is, better not to publicise it. If you cannot fight this Goliath, Father says, and I would like to echo his words, then at least stand back and make room for those who are going forward to sling their stones. The false charity and empty spirituality of those who mouth pious platitudes (such as "all we can do is pray" and "God will fix it all in the end") are an affront, he rightly says, to the martyrs and missionaries who gave their lives to share the true faith.

I agree with Father; soon there will be only two kinds of Catholics – strong Catholics and ex-Catholics. So, if we truly love God and the Church we must make up our minds to act NOW. We must be strong Catholics. We must stand up and be counted. Then there will at least always be a beacon of Light in all this darkness. I say this because I still firmly believe, in spite of my unhappy experiences, that the truth really does have its own power.

Indeed, I see this clearly demonstrated regularly in the state school where I now teach. What a relief it was to be accepted at last as a competent professional without any rancour from colleagues because of my beliefs. It was gratifying to receive praise during our Ofsted Inspection for the quality of my teaching and relationships in spite of the fact that I hold to all that the Catholic Church teaches. But perhaps the biggest surprise was that the pupils are so receptive to Truth. The vast majority, remember, are from homes without a vestige of religion. And like all comprehensives we have our fair share of disruptive pupils but when I teach them Catholic Truth as I have to from time to time as part of their syllabus on Christianity, you could hear a pin drop, they are so attentive. I noticed this recently when teaching a usually very noisy Year 8 class (that is 13 year olds) about Original Sin. And when I tell them about the saints, they ask for more. In Year 9 we study the story of Maximilian Kolbe and the pupils enjoyed it so much that they made me promise to read another saint’s life as well. So we started some work on Maria Goretti just before Easter. A colleague who was present in the lesson remarked on the fact that even difficult pupils in this group, known disrupters, were attentive and fully engaged with the story and response work. They were introduced to terms such as beatification, canonization, chastity and purity that they took in their stride. There was so sign of any mocking and no-one made fun of the story or the definitions of chastity and purity.

This shows that the Truth does indeed have its own power. It also shows that the excuses given by Catholic educationalists who say that we can’t teach modern children the Faith, are utter nonsense. Perhaps they should try teaching the Truth. In case anyone is interested, by the way, copies of my Maria Goretti pack are on sale today at the Catholic Truth table.

Now a good teacher must be able to demonstrate that she has achieved her stated aims. So I will now be scanning the Catholic papers to see if there is a sudden upsurge in letters especially on Catholic schools following this Conference but also on other issues where orthodox Catholic teaching is being flouted. I will be looking with especial interest at the letters page of the Scottish Catholic Observer to see who has taken up the challenge to defend the authority of Rome so frequently undermined in Scotland’s national Catholic newspaper. As recently as last Sunday, the editor wrote a disgraceful article about the Pope describing him as "authoritarian". So we must all take up our pens without delay! Write to the Editor, Write to the Cardinal, Write to Rome! And when we announce the venue and date for that debate with our dissenting Scottish priests, I will expect busloads of you to cross the border to cheer on the Catholic Truth team!

The time has surely come for us all to stand up and be counted, to promote and defend the truth at every opportunity, confident in the knowledge that, to quote again the words of that wonderful priest whom I mentioned at the beginning of this talk, the truth (undoubtedly) has its own power.

Thank you and God bless.


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