Wednesday, April 30, 2014

St John Paul II on the liturgy.

I was in Manchester at the time of the canonisations, so I haven't had the chance to blog about it. I think Fr Zuhlsdorf makes an excellent point about these canonisations underpinning the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council proposed by Pope John Paul II: it gives St John Paul's writings greater authority.

This is important. One of the things I have understood better in the course of editing the FIUV Position Papers is just how much Pope St John Paul had to say about the liturgy, and I mean good things, obviously! Not just in documents explicitly about the Old Rite, such as Ecclesia Dei Adflicta, but all over the place. He was a Pope with a liturgical imagination.

I include below three quotations from just one Position Paper, 'The Extraordinary Form and Western Culture.' Read the paper here. He is also quoted to important effect in the paper on Silence and on Latin as a Liturgical Language.

Address to the Bishops of the North Western region of the United States, in their ad limina visit in 1998:
Active participation certainly means that, in gesture, word, song and service, all the members of the community take part in an act of worship, which is anything but inert or passive. Yet active participation does not preclude the active passivity of silence, stillness and listening... In a culture which neither favours nor fosters meditative quiet, the art of interior listening is learned only with difficulty. Here we see how the liturgy, though it must always be properly inculturated, must also be counter-cultural.

Address to the Plenary Session of the Congregation for Divine Worship, September 21, 2001.
The People of God need to see priests and deacons behave in a way that is full of reverence and dignity, in order to help them to penetrate invisible things without unnecessary words or explanations. In the Roman Missal of Saint Pius V, as in several Eastern liturgies, there are very beautiful prayers through which the priest expresses the most profound sense of humility and reverence before the Sacred Mysteries: they reveal the very substance of the Liturgy.

Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa (2003) 60.
Nor should we overlook the positive contribution made by the wise use of the cultural treasures of the Church. These can be a special element in the rekindling of a humanism of Christian inspiration. When properly preserved and intelligently used, these living testimonies of the faith as professed down the ages can prove a useful resource for the new evangelization and for catechesis, and lead to a rediscovery of the sense of mystery. … artistic beauty, as a sort of echo of the Spirit of God, is a symbol pointing to the mystery, an invitation to seek out the face of God made visible in Jesus of Nazareth.

St John XXIII also had a lot to say, and to counter the strange view that he was some kind of free-wheeling liberal I've blogged about his writings a number of times, notably his Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia on the importance of Latin. Yes, the man who called Vatican II almost simultaneously defended the use of Latin and demanded it be not only retained by restored, and teaching in it strengthened. See here and here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bishop Brain ordains for the Manchester Oratory


I wasn't the only photographer present so better photographs may emerge elsewhere, but I was very pleased to be present at this very important milestone in the development of the Oratory-in-formation in Manchester. Having moved from the Holy Name to another fine (but not as big), church in central Manchester, St Chad's, which has the advantage of a large presbytery suitable for community life, the community's induction into the congregation of the Oratories of St Philip Neri is proceeding, with the support of Bishop Terence Brain.


On Saturday, Bishop Brain went further and ordained one of the Brothers, Richard Bailey. As you can see they have the right to wear distinctive Oratorian habit.


The development of another Oratory in the North of England is a matter of great significance. Fr Richard is also very friendly to the Church's liturgical traditions, is an excellent singer, a great Latinist, and has taught at the LMS Latin Course in Pantasaph for two years, and will do so again this year. By a providential coincidence, this was the church where Fr Richard was received in the Church, as a young convert, many years ago - he went to school down the road.


St Chad's now, as the Holy Name was, is a very important centre for the Traditional Mass, having a popular Sunday celebration in the afternoon. I also attended this. Many of the regulars went this weekend to Fr Richard's 'first Mass' in the morning, but it still pulled in a good crowd.


The church needs some cleaning and restoration, and a Lottery grant has been secured to help with this. It is an excellent church, lived-in in the best sense, filled with the devotional items which have enriched the lives of generations of Mancunian Catholics, and it has survived the liturgical reform better than many places. Bishop Brain seemed quite happy to celebrate ad orientem on the fine Altar.


The Catholic Church in the North of England has its problems: in many dioceses the shortage of priests is becoming very serious. Here, thanks to Bishop Brain's foresight, the planting of an Oratory of St Philip will secure the future of this church and provide something very special, liturgically, spiritually, and intellectually, in this important Catholic city, which needs re-evangelising just like St Philip Neri's Rome of the 16th century.

May they flourish!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Loftus digs his hole a bit deeper

Inevitably someone wrote in to The Catholic Times to protest about Mgr Loftus' rambling denial of the teaching of Scripture and the Church on the physical nature of Christ's risen body, and inevitably Loftus was given lots of space to ramble some more, adding another 366 words to the 1,465 he had written the week before, as well as delighting his readers with a new column elsewhere in the same edition.

Like all his columns, and all the clarifications of these columns in the Letters page, on this subject, Loftus refuses to as much as mention -- despite it being cited against him by David Goodhind, who wrote this weekend's letter about it -- the Gospels' emphasis on how Christ's risen body could be touched, and how Christ ate in order to show them He was not a ghost. If Loftus wanted to do so, it would be so easy for him to say - 'Of course I don't deny that Christ had a body which could be touched, and which could eat, after the Resurrection; of course this was a glorified form of the body which had been nailed to the Cross, and which still bore the marks of those nails, whatever special properties it might now have'. But he never says this.

This is what he does say, in full.
The Ascension

I am grateful for this opportunity to expand a little on the article to which your correspondent refers.

If we take first the instance of Peter, in a very few days he progressed from denial of reports of the resurrection, to doubt about it, then to belief, and finally to giving witness of it. So there was in Peter’s mind a ‘development’ of ‘working out’ of what had happened. And this applied to all who herd about and then witnessed to the risen Christ. This ‘working out’ is also illustrated by the disciples on the road to Emmaus. They walked with the Risen Jesus without recognising him, realised who it was only when he ‘broke bread’, and believed in him as the Risen Lord only when he had disappeared from their sight.

Then, because the first Gospels contained accounts only of Christ’s passion and death, it took much longer for the early Christians to write down in a definitive form the impressions given to the disciples by the Risen Christ during his appearances to them. As a consequence of this the Gospels recount not just the all-important conclusion reached by the disciples, but also various and something conflicting accounts of the steps which led to the these conclusions. So the differing ‘guises’ in which Christ appeared can sometimes seem to outweigh in importance the conclusion they led to, and the witness they underpinned—‘Christ is Risen from the Dead’. But it is this conclusion and the witness it led to, which is the ‘core’ of God’s revelation.

As some stage the disciples also realised that those ‘appearances’ of the Risen Lord had stopped, and that Christ would not be seen by them again until he returns in glory at the end of time/ It is this which is the core truth of the Ascension. Whether this occurred, as Luke says in his Gospel, on the same day as the resurrection, or on the 40th day after the resurrection, as he says in the Acts of the Apostles, is, like the more graphic accounts of a ‘Cape Canaveral’-type ‘blast off’ for Christ on his way to the Kingdom, all to do with literary style and artistic licence.

In the post I did about three of Loftus' treatments of the Resurrection of Our Lord, I pointed out that in 2010 and again in 2011 he denied that it was an historical event: or, at least, that we know about it as an historical event. In 2012 he wrote:

Christ did not return to life through his Resurrection, any more than we shall return to life when we share in that Resurrection. Rather, Christ entered into a new life, just as we too shall be transformed and enter into a new life.

In the article last week, he reaffirmed this, adding that all the details about the physical nature of the Risen Lord amount to 'wrapping paper', wrapping up the core message of the Resurrection (whatever that might turn out to mean), and in which we should have no interest. Now he clarifies his metaphor by explaining that these details are a matter of 'literary style and artistic license.'

Cape Canaveral: spot the difference.
I think it is evident from all this, amounting to four full-length treatments plus 'clarifications', that Mgr Basil Loftus does not believe in the historical reality of Christ's physical resurrection. For him, talk of the physical side of it in the Gospels is just flummery, 'wrapping paper', 'artistic licence', presumably intended to get across in a vivid way the 'core message', but actually, according to Loftus, getting in the way of our understanding that core message.

I'd be delighted if he denied this, but it seems pretty clear that he has no intention of doing so. In another post I will say something about the kind of motivation people like Loftus commonly have for adopting this kind of position.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Basil Loftus on the Resurrection, again

Last year  Mgr Loftus let us off his reflections on the Resurrection of Our Lord. I did a critique of his ideas from earlier years here.

Any idea that this reprieve might have been because he thought better of airing his peculiar views has been dispelled by this year's effort. It is so strange and difficult to understand - not to say incoherent - that to be fair to him I have retyped it and put the whole thing up here.

Here is a key section from the middle. More analysis to follow when I've more time.

Perhaps the single biggest obstacle to our unwrapping of the Easter gift of glorification from its wrapping-paper of empty tomb, post-Resurrection appearances with lakeside picnic, and the walking though closed-doors, as well as the Cape-Canaveral-like finale of the Ascension, is the difficult we have in grasping the reality of the purely spiritual.

There is no physical reality about the Risen Christ, only, as St Paul tells us, a real 'spiritual body' appearing 'in the guise of' something else, whether it is a gardener to Mary Magdalene, or a fellow pilgrim to the disciples on the road to Emmaeus. The reality is the glorification, and that is purely spiritual. And it is that spiritual, glorified body, not a physical body occupying time and space, which is also under the appearances of bread and wine in Holy Communion.

Through Faith we are enabled to unwrap the spiritual, non-physical reality of a Christ's body, blood, soul and divinity from the appearance of bread and wine at Mass. But that body is Christ's glorified body. It is not physical. It does not occupy space within the host, within the world, within heaven. Indeed, as Pope John Paul II reminds us in the Catechism, heaven is anyway not a 'place' that anyone could occupy. There are, as St Paul assures us, "many dwelling-places" in heaven - plenty of 'room' for all of us, but only because the reality of our risen and glorified bodies, like that of Christ himself, will be a spiritual reality, not requiring space. And because the purely spiritual does not require time either, we live in that glorified state for ever. It's not that eternity lasts for a long time - it has nothing to do with time. 

My first comment here would be that, obviously, there is something physical about the resurrection because the body disappeared from the tomb. The corpse was involved - it wasn't left behind.

On this strange 'non-physical' understanding of the Blessed Sacrament, I don't see how we can say that Our Lord is present in the Host specifically, any more than in the wood of the altar rails. The reality is that the 'substance' is changed into the Body of Christ: it is therefore really present there as the underlying reality of the object resting on the corporal. Paul VI described this as a physical reality:

...Christ is present whole and entire in His physical "reality," corporeally present, although not in the manner in which bodies are in a place.

But this is only to scratch the surface of the lunacy here. Just to get our feet back on the ground this is the Catechism on the subject of the Resurrection.

643 Given all these testimonies, Christ's Resurrection cannot be interpreted as something outside the physical order, and it is impossible not to acknowledge it as an historical fact. ...

645 By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his Passion. Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ's humanity can no longer be confined to earth, and belongs henceforth only to the Father's divine realm. For this reason too the risen Jesus enjoys the sovereign freedom of appearing as he wishes: in the guise of a gardener or in other forms familiar to his disciples, precisely to awaken their faith.

646 Christ's Resurrection was not a return to earthly life, as was the case with the raisings from the dead that he had performed before Easter: Jairus' daughter, the young man of Naim, Lazarus. These actions were miraculous events, but the persons miraculously raised returned by Jesus' power to ordinary earthly life. At some particular moment they would die again. Christ's Resurrection is essentially different. In his risen body he passes from the state of death to another life beyond time and space. At Jesus' Resurrection his body is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: he shares the divine life in his glorious state, so that St. Paul can say that Christ is "the man of heaven".

What Loftus refuses to do is affirm para 645 when placing all his emphasis on the sort of thing noted in para 646. It is scandalous and misleading because it is unbalanced. In all his writings on the subject I have seen, he can never bring himself to affirm the earlier paragraphs. It is hard not to conclude that he doesn't believe them.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Easter Monday in St Birinus, Dorchester on Thames


As always, Fr John Osmon celebrated a lovely High Mass in his church for Easter Monday. It was accompanied by the Newman Consort, who were joined by Christopher Hodkinson.

The next High Mass at St Birinus will be for the 

Ascension of the Lord, Thursday 29th May, at 7.30pm
The church is located on Bridge End Street, Dorchester, OX10 7JRClick for a map


These Masses are very special and opportunities to attend should not be missed. The church is small and full nearly to capacity on these occasions.



Thursday, April 24, 2014

The scandal of the Empty Tomb

What happened to Jesus? Those who want a non-supernatural explanation of the Gallilean Rabbi, need to have some explanation of his ultimate fate, and its consequences. Everyone agrees that he was put to death by the Romans, it is pretty well the only thing sources outside the Gospels can tell us. But what then?

Those who want to be nice about Christianity, or at least nice about the very early Christians (didn't it all go wrong with St Augustine? Or was it St Paul?), say that the either the disciples convinced themselves that Jesus rose from the dead, by some kind of group-hysteria, or else that their talk about his rising was purely spiritual. That is, he didn't actually rise (there was no 'conjuring trick with bones'), they just meant that he was alive in their hearts or something like that.

This explanation faces an impossible difficulty, however: we are told that the tomb was empty. We only have the Gospel writers' word for this, at this distance in time, of course, but it is interesting to see that the Evangelists are concerned to counter a story current when they were writing, that the body had been stolen from the tomb by the disciples.

Biblical critics like this kind of thing, and call it 'redactional embarrassment': if a source reveals something he doesn't like, that he needs to deny or explain away, then it is particularly good evidence that the writer didn't make it up.

Here it is: Matthew 28:11ff.
... behold some of the guards came into the city, and told the chief priests all things that had been done. And they being assembled together with the ancients, taking counsel, gave a great sum of money to the soldiers, Saying: Say you, His disciples came by night, and stole him away when we were asleep. And if the governor shall hear this, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they taking the money, did as they were taught: and this word was spread abroad among the Jews even unto this day.

The 'Jews', Jesus' opponents among the Judaean theological and political establishment, were telling this story, the early Christians didn't like it, it was not flattering, they did their best to deny it. What would have been easy to do, to show the story was false, would have been to lead people to the tomb, show that it was still sealed and guarded, or else show them that it had the body in it.

But they couldn't do this. And 'the Jews', the chief priests and the elders, they had the same problem, because rather than rely on a story about the disciples stealing the body, they would surely much rather have silenced talk of the Resurrection by producing the body. But they said that the disciples had stolen it, because they had to say something to explain the annoying fact, that despite their precautions the tomb was empty.

So the tomb was empty. The body had gone. And like the people of Jerusalem following that terrible Passover of 33AD, or whenever it was exactly, we have to decide whom to believe: the disciples or the establishment. For it is difficult to think of any other explanations apart from these two: the one given by the Evangelists, that Jesus had risen from the dead, and the one given by the Chief Priests, that the body had been stolen.

Now the important thing is just this. If the disciples had stolen the body, then they were clearly not under any sentimental illusion that Jesus had risen from the dead. And while they may have thought that Jesus' ideas could never die or something soupy like that, they were nevertheless clearly engaged in a deliberate conspiracy to deceive the public. On this story, they stole the body and claimed that he had risen: they stole the body in order to claim that he had risen in a physical sense, in the sense in which many Jews of the day expected to be raised up on the Day of Judgement.

Now it could be that they disciples' story is true: that Jesus really did rise from the dead, by a bare-faced act of divine power. But if that seems difficult to swallow - it must be said, it's not exactly easy to swallow - then we are left with the conclusion that they were a bunch of dishonest, scheming scoundrels, right from the very first - from before dawn on that first Easter Sunday.

Why am I seeking to destroy the comfortable middle ground? The space occupied by those who think that the early Christians, at least, were peaceful and do-gooding people with a message of inner harmony and kindness to strangers, even if their inspiration, the gentle Jesus of Nazareth, ended up (later, maybe, thanks to St Paul, or the Gospel of John) with exaggerated claims being made about him. The space occupied by those cultural allies of Christianity, who may be our last rampart against the secularist persecution.

But it's not me doing this, it is God: He arranged things like this. It is Jesus Himself who, throughout His earthly ministry, consistently destroyed the compromise position, who destroyed the tenability of fence-sitting. It is Jesus who forces us to a decision. Are we with Him or against Him? Will we die with Him, or crucify Him? 

You can hide from this decision, but it will seek you out.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Easter Sunday with the FSSP in Reading


Fr Matthew Goddard FSSP celebrated Mass in St William of York, Reading, on Easter Sunday. This is the first time we have the Eastertide chant for the sprinkling of the Faithful before Mass on a Sunday, 'Vidi Aquam' instead of 'Asperges me'.


'I saw water flowing from the right side of the Temple, alleluia: and to all that water came were saved, and they shall say: alleluia, alleluia.'

This refers to Ezekial's vision of the Temple (47.1):

And he brought me again to the gate of the house, and behold waters issued out from under the threshold of the house toward the east: for the forefront, of the house looked toward the east: but the waters came down to the right side of the temple to the south part of the altar.
Ezekial goes on to talk about how the stream grows into a mighty river, makes the Dead Sea pure and drinkable, and has healing properties.


The liturgy applies this to the Passion of Our Lord, and the water, representing Baptism, flowing from his right side on the Cross. This is the kind of embedded Scriptural reference that those who suggest the EF doesn't have enough of the Bible in it tend to forget. The whole of the ancient Mass is saturated with Scripture.


Those who only attend Sung EF Masses on special occasions such as feasts and pilgrimages never experience the 'Asperges' ceremony, which is one of the very visually dramatic and touching rites of the Church's liturgical tradition. It is, in fact, an option in the 1970 Missal, but only at the expense of the 'Penitential Rite', and it is very rarely used.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Tenebrae in Reading


On Easter Saturday, I attended (and sang in) Tenebrae in Reading, with the FSSP in St William of York.


They have a truly splendid, brand new 'hearse': the triangular candelabrum with fifteen candles holders. One candle is extinguished after each psalm, leaving one, which is taken out, hidden, revealed, and then extinguished at the end. The symbolism relates to the death and resurrection of Our Lord. It works better in the evening, when Tenebrae was celebrated until the Holy Week reforms of 1955. More about that here.


James Bogle, President of the FIUV, was also at the service.

Good Friday with the FSSP in Reading


The church of St William of York was packed for the Solemn Afternoon Liturgy of Good Friday, celebrated by the Fraternity of St Peter.


The Gospel of the Passion.


The Intercessions.


The veneration of the Cross.


The Communion Rite.


More photos.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Maundy Thursday with the FSSP in Reading


On Maundy Thursday the Fraternity of St Peter had a very well-attended High Mass in St William of York, Reading. Fr de Malleray and Fr Goddard were joined by a seminarian, the Rev James Mawdsley.


The procession with the Blessed Sacrament.


The Altar of Repose.


The stripping of the Altar.

More photos.

Tenebrae in St Mary Moorefields


The Latin Mass Society organises a celebration of the Triduum in St Mary Moorefields in the City each year, with Tenebrae of Maundy Thursday anticipated on Wednesday.


It is accompanied with polyphony - for the Responsaries - by Cantus Magus, led by Matthew Schellhorn.


Before it started Canon Newby, the parish priest, had to remove the monstrance in which the Blessed Sacrament had been exposed during the day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Joseph Pearce coming to England!

Like Bishop Schneider, Joseph Pearce is giving a talk to the LMS One-Day Conference on 24th May.

He is the author of numerous books (see Wikipedia), including many biographies of Chesterton, Belloc, Tolkein, Oscar Wilde, and Solzhenitsyn, and books of and about poetry.

He has written on the relationship to the Catholic Faith of C.S. Lewis, Shakespeare, and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

One very important work of his, in my view, is Literary Converts, describing the great wave of intellectual converts in the first half of the 20th century.

His latest, autobiographical, book, Race with the Devil, will be on sale at the conference. It describes his conversion from far-right political activism to Catholicism; see the Catholic World Report feature on it here.

At the conference he will be talking about the role of the Traditional Mass in conversions.

The evening before, Friday 23rd May, he will address the Catholic Writers' Guild, the Keys. This event is open only to guild members and their guests. If you are a member, or know one ou can drag along, do come!

Book your place at the LMS Conference here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Palm Sunday with the FSSP in Reading

The church of St William of York was fuller than I have ever seen it. The empty spaces in the pews in some of the photos are reflective only of the fact that there was a very long queue for confession!










More photos here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bishop Schneider is coming to England!

2010 08 12_7343
Bishop Schneider at the LMS Priest Training Conference at Downside Abbey in 2010
Bishop Athanasius Schneider, author of 'Dominus Est', a short book about the importance of receiving Communion on the tongue, is coming to England at the invitation of the Latin Mass Society.

He will be giving a talk at the LMS One Day Conference on Saturday 24th May, alongside Joseph Pearce, Fr Michael Mary of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer (from Papa Stronsay in the Orkneys), and others.

We have helped to create quite a schedule for him, which will take him to five different dioceses in ten days. I hope that he becomes better known in England. At the Conference he will be talking about the Traditional Mass as a tool of Evagelisation; he will address various other topics to other audiences on his tour.

Saturday 17 May: LMS Pilgrimage to West Grinstead in Sussex. Pontifical High Mass at 12noon, followed by lunch, spiritual conference and devotions. Our Lady of Consolation, Park Lane, West Grinstead RH13 8LT

Sunday 18 May: Pontifical Low Mass in Reading, 11am, with the Fraternity of St Peter at the Church of St William of York, Upper Redlands Road, Reading RG1 3HW.

Tuesday 20 May: address to The Newman Society: the Oxford University Catholic Society. 'Catholicism in Russia: the Experience of the 20th Century.' 8.00-9.15pm. Open to members of Oxford University and their guests. At the Catholic Chaplaincy, The Old Bishop's Palace, Rose Place, St Aldates, Oxford OX1 1RD.

Our Lady of Consolation, West Grinstead, Sussex
Wednesday 21 May: Address to the Conference of Catholic Clergy at 6pm, St Patrick’s, Soho Square, London W1D 4NR.

Thursday 22 May: Address to the London Oratory: 'Living under Communism',
8pm. London Oratory, Brompton Road, London SW7 2RP.

Saturday 24th May: Latin Mass Society Conference, Regent Hall, Oxford Street, London, W1C 2DJ, from 11am to 6pm. Book tickets here.

Sunday 25 May: Pontifical Low Mass in the London Oratory at 9am. Bishop Schneider will attend First Vespers of St Philip’s Day, 6pm, and celebrate Benediction.

Monday 26 May: LMS pilgrimage to Ramsgate - Mass at the Shrine of St Augustine of Canterbury, for the Feast of St Augustine of Canterbury, at 12noon; Procession with relic at 11am. St Augustine's Shrine, St Augustine Rd, Ramsgate, CT11 9PA.

Bishop Schneider will also be preaching at the 6pm Mass at the London Oratory for St Philip’s Day.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

EWTN series: 'Extraordinary Faith'

EWTN are about to begin showing a new monthly series, 'Extraordinary Faith', which looks at traditional Catholic liturgy, spirituality, music, architecture, and history.

It is being co-presented by Mary O'Regan, who lives in London and blogs at The Path Less Taken.

For those with EWTN, the first episode, about the Spanish mission in Southern California where the Traditional Mass is celebrated, is broadcast

Monday, April 14 at 4:30 AM U.S. Eastern time: that's 9:20am British Summer Time, assuming they are on Summer Time themselves.
And again on Friday, April 18 at 2:00 AM U.S. Eastern time: that's 7am BST.

I've been informed also:

'EWTN have a dedicated UK output, they have informed me it will air this side of the pond on the 9th May at 0200, 1030 and 2100.'

Extraordinary Faith Series Promo from Extraordinary Faith on Vimeo.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Catholic Herald feature on What's Wrong With Catholic Education


I encourage readers of this blog who see the Catholic Herald over the weekend to have a look at the feature on Catholic education, which is composed of four short pieces by different people, one of whom is me. My contribution was about the motivations of those who educate their children at home.

The other three pieces are by Philip Booth of the Institute of Economic Affairs, Kevin Meagher of Labour Uncut, and Ella Leonard of PACT Educational Schools, the trust which runs the Opus Dei schools.

Ella Leonard makes a general point:

'We need to be confident that Catholic schools have the answers because of of our understanding of the whole human being as God's creation, but we need to regain our confidence and re-evangelise. Understanding that education can never be neutral, our schools need to provide an envionment in which students are enabled to build and deepen their relationship with God.'

Kevin Meagher is more direct:

'How do you go through a Catholic education and end up spouting New Age claptrap?'

He concludes: 'Ultimately, if our schools aren't in the business of turning our committed young Catholics, then, really, what is the point of Catholic education?'

It is amusing think of the horror that sentence will produce among Catholic education professionals up and down the land.


Philip Booth focuses on the public policy aspect of the problem. His opening paragraph reveals what the Catholic educational establishment think is the answer to Meagher's rheorical question.

The bishops' 2007 joint pastoral letter on education said: "For a very long time now, the Catholic Church has been an important partner with public authorities in the provision of education." This perspective, which sees education as something which is handed down to parents through a partnership of bureaucracies, needs revising.

All place great emphasis on the role of parents. In a sense I do so more than anyone, because home education is the ultimate parent-led approach to education. One does have to recognise, of course, that while all parents would be delighted to have more educational choice, and almost all of them value academic excellence and a disciplined, spiritual atmosphere, attempts to make schools more visibly Catholic, just like attempts to make parishes more visibly Catholic, will be opposed by some parents. And not only opposed: what happens at home, and what children bring to school with them, can completely undermine attempts to create a Catholic ethos.

There is a parallel I suppose with the Reform of the Reform: the task of a good Catholic head teacher coming into a school is similar to the task of an new, orthodox parish priest: to persevere with what he knows is right despite certain howls of protest. It's not a task I envy them.

Photos: of the St Catherine's Trust Summer School last year. This year the dates will be Sunday 27th July to Sunday 3rd August, for ages 11 to 18. Download an application form.