Monday 20 July 2015

Catholic Schools as Sanctuaries

I knew there was something else... something that has been niggling at the back of my mind over the weekend.

And I woke up with that sudden clarity induced by a glass or two of red last night and a shower this morning.

It is this: I think the practice of appointing ex-nuns and ex-priests (I use the term in the colloquial sense - priestly ordination is, of course, permanent) to teach in our Catholic schools is a very risky one.

It has been going on for decades now: someone leaves the convent or the presbytery and immediately turns up teaching in a Catholic School.

Here's why that concerns me. I think that teaching in a Catholic School is also a vocation. A Catholic School should be a sanctuary dedicated to learning the Faith and how to live as a Catholic adult in a hostile culture, not a sanctuary for people on the run from their vocation, or struggling to come to terms with themselves.

That, I am sure, sounds harsh. But the reality is that if people are leaving the priesthood or the religious life, they have either discovered that they have mistaken their vocation, or are in the process of abandoning it. Either of these realities is likely to be a traumatic and unsettling time for them: it is not the time to start teaching children.

Yet somehow, Catholic Schools repeatedly appoint people in that situation. I suspect it is as a way of keeping them on the Catholic payroll, as it were, when their lives are in transition. A charitable aim, perhaps, but I think a misguided response.

I am not saying that no ex-priest or ex-nun should ever be employed as a teacher. People who have gone through that trauma are certainly not beyond redemption, and once they have resolved their crisis they may make fine teachers.

Nor am I saying that the Church should not find ways to support such people: that may indeed be an obligation, and is almost certainly an act of charity.

But it is also true that while going through such turmoil, people are almost by definition not in the most stable state. Many also have issues with the Church and its teaching. 

So I think that at the very least there should be both a cooling off period, and then a process of genuine scrutiny before appointing such people to teaching positions in Catholic Schools. Our children deserve no less; and yet that is not what I see happening.


Anonymous said...

Similarly our 'Catholic' Universities have a propensity to appoint ex-priests and ex-nuns, and seem to demand no assurance of submission to the magisterium as provided in 'Ex corde ecclesiae'.

Oona said...

I agree. This happens a lot. Also, with increasing numbers of non-Catholics using the Catholic schools, it is questionable whether the Church should remain involved in running it's own schools for much longer. Catholic staff are generally now in a minority, Leadership in matters of faith is flimsy and I think it is one of those institutions that has had it's day. Their purpose was to cater for the Catholic (largely immigrant) population after the war and, to increase Mass attendance on Sundays (parish, home and school working together in a Trinity). This hasn't happened. The experiment has failed, to be blunt. Time for the Church to pull out. Ditto with state marriage, time to recognise that Christian marriage has nothing to do with the state.

On the side of the angels said...

Sorry Sir but the Catholic Church does have a responsibility and duty of care to all those who depart from their auspices.
They are automatically impoverished, rapidly need to find new accommodation and employment [and given their complete lack of work experience and the majority of required skills in the demanding workforce there are very limited niche careers into which they can even attempt to enter]
Unskilled work like retail/catering/service industries not only provides inadequate wages to pay utilities or keep a roof over one's head - it's also very difficult to enter if one's of a certain age and young [ie below the minimum wage threshold] employees are more readily available [this will be aggravated given the government's new 'living wage policy for the over 25s] and employment agencies with zero hours contracts completely invalidate the chance of gaining a rent agreement.
Therefore normative customary practice in the Church is to make every attempt to try to keep ex-priests/religious under the 'umbrella of care' by seeking to gain them employment in the Schools, charities, administration or diocesan/conference quangos.

Now as I hae repeatedly stated elsewhere Catholic schools in recent generations have not merely employed a plethora of non-Catholics and Catholics not in good standing [eg co-habiting, divorced & remarried, living in a 'don't ask:don't tell' homosexual relationship]...but usually an administrative silence and unquestioning side-steps 'grave concern' for public scandal.
We also have MANY charities and apostolates which contravene Canon law by not only employing people in such disordered relationships - but employing or being represented by people who are automatically canonically barred for life due to their past actions [being criminally charged for offences which invoke public scandal, being dismissed for gross misconduct, financial irregularities, perjury, having paid for or having procured an abortion, etc etc etc]

On the side of the angels said...

There are many cases [discreetly kept private within their orders] of people in religious orders who [despite their past lives 'not existing' within their communities of mercy] are still prohibited canonically [duty of care for the common good by the order's ordinary] from engaging in certain roles given potential public scandal which would be invoked given their past lives [prostitute, nurse in abortion clinic,homosexual activist, public practitioner of occult practices, people who have engaged in publicly contra-Church or Contra-theism practices etc] - Justice and mercy are meted out in accordance with these provisions

But the Secular Church has simply not retained such regulations or provisions and guarantees of no potential scandal upon the teaching, caring or administrative office or charism.

Now if you are calling for an augean stable 'purge' [resembling the US codes of conduct contracts requested by certain dioceses] I will concede that it is very much an aspirational mandatory necessity for reform - but given the ongoing conspiracy of silence in these regards - plus the profusion of overtly-active homosexuals among professional lay circles - especially on the metropolitan scene - together with the flagrant 'acceptability' of overt homosexual clerics [including those notorious for their multiple or long-term relationships - some even publicly professed to be sexual ones] - and given there is a well-known record of scandals in our hierarchy of old [having domestic relationships with women and men - fathering children - even becoming gravely ill through sexualy related diseases]
...the 'conspiracy of silence' is endemic!

On the side of the angels said...

Now admittedly we have a much better behaved clergy than we had a generation or two ago but we seriously have to face reality here:
The Priesthood is one of those vocations which has an affinity with Catholic males wishing to suppress or hide their homosexual inclinations from their families.
many of these have been able to sublimate their sexuality into a sacrificial service in priesthood - their chastity and spirituality and pastoral devotion giving them a heart of bronze for chastity, a heart of gold for charity...
...and [awkwardly for some]we have to concede that there IS something in the 'twin spirited- desexualised' men and their roles in the priesthood - yes in the majority a 'ruggedly masculine' spiritual warrior - parish-husband-like sacrificial servant Priesthood is the norm - BUT in some cases God's ministerial service works through those not in any way feminine - but 'safe, secure, welcoming, unprovocative' 'type' of priest - there IS a place for them - for some priests with a homosexual inclination - the sacrament and God's merciful consequent will has wrought a miracle in their lives and transformed their ministry and their weakness into a gentle strength. Frankly some of our spiritual giants in the clergy have been chaste homosexuals.
Yes in no way is it to be recommended - in no way should a known active homosexual be compromised or jeopardised by being allowed to continue in their seminary training.
But nevertheless we have had many excellent chaste homosexual clerics with wonderful track-records.
Yes we have had a major problem with hidden cliques and tyrannies and blackmails and oneupmanships and mutual cover-ups and protection rackets of 'lavender mafia' of active homosexual clergy.
Yes we had a major problem of homosexual priests leading scandalous disordered second lives on holidays abroad or days off - yes we have had major problems within religious orders of exclusively homosexual groups engaging in public group activity - especially on the metropolitan scene where at Catholic charity/journal/jubilee/apostolate or even religious events one might regularly have to decline the invitation to join a 'group of like-minded' who wish to further 'festivities' at a gay nightclub, bar or even sauna!!

So how do we clean up this mess?
we cannot excise the rot immediately - we cannot perform an immediate purge as sadly you'd soon discover that there would be an outrageously unjust destruction of the wheat rather than the chaff [most of the really guilty reprobates have unscrupulous methods of self-protecting and keeping their activities very discreet with people in very high places guaranteeing their comfort and security- generally it's more the innocent and innocuous who might have strayed once or twice [and have repented and overcompensated for such fallings] who fall foul of such draconian rules as they are usually the more open and honest of their repented transgressions]

On the side of the angels said...

The only way is by introducing a more intense form of interview and higher new expected 'codes of conduct' and expectations for new employees and members...and it would have to be unofficial, unspoken guidelines.
Sadly it would have to be an ethos rather than an actual code and would regrettably take decades to implement...until the time arose where each individual body would be able to increase these expectations.
But IT IS the only way forward.
We have fallen so low - sunk so much into the mire - that if we started implementing absolutist draconian unconditional codes of practice and public life - we'd have to remove so many people the entirety of Catholic administration, apostolates, charities, even journals and newspapers - would collapse!!

Now I can understand if you do not wish to go into the particulars of the Fr Fisher case....
BUT one cannot indict on grounds of association or declared sexual inclination - EXCEPT where there is flagrant public refutation of Church teaching or public scandal invoked by a public declaration of sexual activity or being in a sexually active relationship.

Then an Ordinary or Parish Priest or an individual with apostolic executive power or body can discretionally decline to employ said individual or choose not to re-hire an individual.

But employment and anti-discrimination legislation in this country precludes the Catholic body from automatically firing such individuals.
It's the Catholic body's fault for employing them in the first case with undue scrutiny or discernment.

Now the usual method is to [somewhat illegally and immorally] work round the legislation by introducing institutional restructuring [generally when another person has retired/resigned] whereby all employees have to re-apply for their positions and the undesired candidate is not re-employed...but it places the institution in jeopardy of being prosecuted for unfair dismissal if their scrutiny procedures in the re-hiring are thought to be partial, partisan or suspect.

Yes the situation is that farcical.
But that's the level to which we've sunk.

On the side of the angels said...

So to return to my original point.
The Church does have a duty of care to those who have resigned from ministry. [one which on many occasions it has been guilty of dereliction]
BUT it also has a duty to uphold the moral standing of its institutions.
Therefore there has to be some form of accommodation by which UNLESS the indivudal makes it absolutely publicly defiantly untenable for them to be employed in a Catholic establishment.
They should be afforded such an opportunity.
I'll concede it would be much more advisable for such individuals to be employed in places where they would not be in contact with the vulnerable or easily-influenced.
But how we care for our own is a public act.

...and we already have a terrible record of tales of abandoned homeless penniless nuns, monks and priests - and even seminarians; where Church responsibility has been utterly severed and left them in terrible financial and employment circumstances - living on the charity, gratuity or grace and favour of others - I know of some living in hostels, homeless shelters or even squats. Of ex-nuns spending decades moving from pillar to post with no regular employment and living in dire poverty.
If I can speak briefly of my own circumstances - my Bishop chose a policy to move some of his students out of the seminary process and instead into the Universities where the state rather than the diocese would pay for degrees in theology - in the process myself and other candidates for the Priesthood were expected to work and fund themselves without any duty of care or supplementary financial, spiritual or pastoral support - it was reprehensible. Meanwhile ironically those who had left the seminary on grounds of misconduct or violation of seminary expectations were meanwhile afforded by other Bishops lucrative employment shoo-ins into charities and conference quangoes in the UK, Ireland and North America - some actually transferring to the permanent diaconate where they could co-habit with their boyfriends or move in with their boyfriend priests as resident deacon!!

Yes we are in a chaotic mess.

But there is a tension between the duty of care - and those who by their actions have made any form of entitlement to duty of care untenable and impossible. BUT we must not forget that on many occasions institutions and Bishops and catholic quangos have turned a blind eye to that which was canonically and morally impossible to ignore.

Only a slow reform is possible - but that requires good Bishops and a good supportive Vatican to assist in the process.