Friday, 11 November 2011

Save us from a Catholic Ethos...

Why is it that when I hear the words 'a Catholic Ethos,' in relation to a school, I shudder?

It seems to me that they are weasel words. They are trying to do two things at once. On the one hand, they are trying to suggest to devout Catholic parents that the school is a Catholic School. On the other, they are trying to suggest to parents who are not so keen on the Catholic Faith that religion won't be shoved down their children's throats.

It seems to me that they indicate a retreat from the mission of a Catholic School, which by definition must be to educate their pupils to be saints: to teach them the Faith, in ways which accord with the Faith, and to educate them more broadly to discover and fulfil their vocations.

If that is the primary purpose of a Catholic School, which I take to be axiomatic, then it is hard to see why showing children videos which are occasions of sin, examples of immorality and contain obscene and blasphemous language can be considered 'appropriate' (or as an unreconstructed traditionally minded Catholic like me would say, right). See my previous post for the details.

So consider a school which not only shows such videos, but defends the practice and then tries scare tactics ("For security reasons we advise you not to access the website as we believe that it could compromise your account") to stop parents finding out what is going on. Reflect on that remarkable sentence for a second. It is the only place on the front page of their www site where they believe anything - and it is patently rubbish (and I suspect that they know that: the phrase 'terminological inexactitude' springs to mind). Yet they profess to believe it, while they express no Catholic belief at all: but, of course, the school has a "strong Catholic ethos."



Anonymous said...

Please continue your good work foe Catholic Education and the salvation of souls.

Highland Cathedral said...

This is what arch secularist former MP Evan Harris had to say about the differnce between ethos and religion:

Extract from speech given in the House of Commons Feb 6th 2002 (Hansard Col 927)

Dr. Harris (Lib Dem): The hon. Gentleman has fallen into the same trap as the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner) in arguing that the job of a religious school is to promote its religion. As I understand it, the job of religious schools is to promote an ethos and not a particular religion. That point was made eloquently in Committee by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough, which the hon. Member for Isle of Wight, who is no longer in his place, quoted. I believe that one can promote an ethos without determining what teachers do in their spare time with regard to their private religious beliefs.

Part-time Pilgrim said...

The job of a Catholic school is to assist parents in their duty to bring their children up in the Catholic faith.
When I talk about ethos I mean “the way we do things here”; clearly on this definition all schools have an ethos and if Catholic schools are to assist parents they need the Catholic nature of the school to pervade everything they do. I would never countenance the use of the term ethos as an alternative to religious nature of the school in the way that Dr Harris does, something that Ben believes some Catholic schools do too.
The mission that Ben has ascribed to Catholic schools is actually the parents responsibility and Catholic schools are their merely to assist. That’s another thing that the BP could have remembered and avoided their current difficulty. You can’t assist people effectively if you alienate them. If you are doing something that parents are uncomfortable it’s best to drop it unless you are sure it is essential. Even if you think they are being over sensitive, you serve them and not the other way round.
Btw I think “educate them more broadly to discover and fulfil their vocations” puts the role of the curriculum that falls outside RE really well and might use it myself in future.

Ben Trovato said...

HC: quite! One of my least favourite politicians (and that's with some fierce competition!)

P-t P: You are quite right in pointing out that the school's role is in support of and subservient to the parents'. Glad you liked the phrase about vocations: no copyright attached!