Gerald Warner on Lord Lucas and “non-sectarian” Catholic schools

From my friend Fr. Ray Blake of St. Mary Magdalen, I learned about this article by firebrand Gerald Warner’s piece in the Daily Telegraph on something bizarre.

WDTPRS has written of Gerald Warner before. Here he is on the real cause of the clerical sex abuse crisis.  See this decidely unirenic offering as well.

I don’t know much about the British political landscape, but I do know that there is a war going on over education.

It seems a member of the House of Lord’s, an elected hereditary peer, had a little nutty in Parliament about Catholic schools, and therefore religious education.

My emphases and comments:

Tory peer’s claim that Catholic schools teach ‘Gandhi is burning in Hell’ illustrates lawmakers’ incomprehension of faith schools

By Gerald Warner   Politics  Last updated: June 21st, 2010

Fruitcake of the Month award must surely go to Lord Lucas, a Conservative hereditary peer, for his remarks in the Lords’ debate on the Academies Bill. On the topic of faith schools, Lord Lucas delivered himself of some opinions and claims that can only be described as mind-boggling:

    Although I am not religious myself, I would happily send my children to faith schools. However, if we pay for them as state schools, they should be open to all. We should not see in the bill a rowing back from the commitment to include the wider community in faith schools that we have extracted from the churches to date. Nor should we see an increase in sectarian teaching. There are Catholic schools that teach that Gandhi is burning in Hell. Frankly, I do not think that we should fund that on the state. (Lords Hansard, Academies Bill Debate, 7 June, Column 562)

[Steady on there, Lord Lucas!  I think we have to challenge your premise.  Do we know that Catholic school teachers in England believe in Hell, or believe that anyone is in Hell if Hell actually exists?]

The part of this speech that has attracted most controversy is the claim by Lucas that some Catholic schools are teaching children that Gandhi is burning in Hell. Why Catholics would have an issue with Gandhi is baffling. Hitler, Stalin, Mao or Cromwell (both Thomas and Oliver) might well be considered likely candidates for perpetual incineration; but I have yet to meet a Catholic who had a serious antipathy to Gandhi. In the wet, ecumenical, Justice ’n’ Peace ambience that prevails in Catholic schools today, [in which it is likely few teachers believe in Hell] he is more likely to be enshrined alongside Nelson Mandela.

Challenged to identify the Catholic schools that were teaching this bizarre doctrine, Lord Lucas refused to do so, for fear of reprisals. Uh-huh. [Albino assassins?] Catholic doctrine in fact refuses to ascribe damnation to any individual, however sinful his life might be, as such a presumption would usurp God’s power of divine forgiveness. Most orthodox Catholics will be less astonished by the specific claim regarding Gandhi than by the suggestion that any Catholic schools today retain the eschatological integrity to teach the existence of Hell at all, [My point exactly.] which they will find encouraging if barely credible.

What deserves more attention, however, but has been obscured by the Gandhi controversy, is the attitude of this Tory peer towards faith schools and the total incomprehension it reveals of their purpose. He believes that “if we pay for them as state schools, they should be open to all”. In that case, [wait for it…] they would not be faith schools: they would be secular state schools, like any others. The whole purpose of the institutions would be negated.  [Is this anything like the voucher debate in the USA?]

In Catholic schools (to take the example Lord Lucas seems to have had in mind) the aim is to create an ethos within which children can be schooled in the doctrines and moral precepts of the faith. If one-third – or, conceivably, two-thirds – of pupils are unbelievers, that ethos will be totally subverted. In a hostile secularised world it is difficult enough to inculcate belief in doctrines such as Transubstantiation; if many pupils are sceptical of all Catholic teaching, peer pressure and a secular atmosphere will make religious formation of children virtually impossible.

Nor should we see an increase in sectarian teaching,” [Religion should not entirely isolated in the private sphere?] drivels Lord Lucas. “Sectarian” is a loaded term that, in this context, should simply be rendered as “denominational”. Denominational teaching is precisely the purpose, the raison d’être, of faith schools. If the state has contracted to support faith schools it should do so properly, instead of trying to gerrymander their admissions policies so that they are no different from secular institutions. This is the creeping agenda of the aggressive secularist lobby.

That lobby is assisted by politicians who may not share its aims but have lost the capacity to think because their minds are so marinated in “inclusive” prejudice. When the political class is incapable of understanding that a Catholic school should exclusively be attended by Catholics or it will not fulfil its purpose, it is sobering testimony to the extent to which brainwashing by political correctness has eliminated the ability of politicians to discern self-evident reality. The PC campaign of the past two decades has not only enthroned secularism, it has infantilised our legislators.

This is a much hotter debate in England right now than it is in the USA, but watch for this in the future in the USA as well.

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  1. moon1234 says:

    I have a hard time this believing that this would ever happen in the US. First the religion of Atheism would never allow private Catholic schools to be funded with tax dollars. They happily take our tax dollars though.

    England and the USA have such different religous heritages.

  2. Oneros says:

    Oh, but teach that there’s no heaven OR hell, that Gandhi (and everyone) simply ceases to exist when they die…and that’s okay? Absurd.

  3. Supertradmum says:

    This is more of a problem in England, where there are very few truly “independent” schools. Because of the nature of the national curriculum, most Catholic schools have succumbed to being told what to teach anyway. And this has happened here, where many Catholic schools which accept government monies for sports education or other things compromise the curriculum. The only schools which I know as a group which do not do this are the NAPCIS schools.

    It will happen here and has already in many subtle ways.

  4. TrueLiturgy says:

    I don’t know many Catholics that would say that Catholic schools schould only have Catholic students in them. There’s nothing like captive audience classes that explain the Faith to the Protestants and such! :-)

  5. Sixupman says:

    Regarding The House of Lords: it was far superior prior attempts at reorganisation. The odd nuty Peer lightened life, and the rest demonstrated a wealth of experience, resulting in absorbing debates.

    The diluted House, with some exceptions, is a talking shop for has-been politicos of the Commons.

    Catholic Schools, I would guess do not even teach Catholicism, R.E. teachers attempting to do so will get short-shrift.

  6. seanl says:

    Oh yay, things I have to look forward to in my future as a Catholic educator.

  7. Jack Hughes says:

    Sadly I can testify to the fact that most ‘Catholic’ schools are Catholic in name only, my athiest sister got into a Catholic sixthform Collage (high school to Americans) and was taught nothing about the faith- I guess they wanted to be inclusive ,, gRRR

  8. sprachmeister says:

    Having not long come out of a state-funded “Catholic” school in Scotland (where the education system is different from England, Wales and Northern Ireland), I can assure the delightful-sounding and typical-for-a-policitian-nowadays Lord Lucas that we were not being taught that Gandhi was burning in hell. The last time hell was mentioned in the general Religious Education classes that everyone received was in primary school (also Catholic), at the age of about seven. Otherwise, you needed to choose Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies as a main subject – where one third of the course was on Christianity – to hear hell mentioned again.
    Aside from this, in the general class we were taught an awful lot about Islam, Buddhism, Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi, and there was no mention of hell in any of these.
    Finally, for an indication to how Catholic this school was, at the weekly mass about seven pupils maximum attended, along with about 10-15 teachers, from a school of 950 pupils. Sad.

  9. Legisperitus says:

    We ought to recognize that all schools have a religious dimension, at least in some subjects. There’s no such thing as total religious neutrality in education. If you teach history without mentioning that God acts in history, you are effectively teaching that God does not act in history.

    I have no problem with atheists having their own schools. But why believers are required to pay for them, I’ll never understand.

  10. We face similar pressures in Ireland. We don’t have peers but we do have politicians who believe pc-speak is thought. I work as a chaplain in a Community School that is a State school into which the Church ‘bought’ at its foundation in the ’70’s. The ethos is ‘Christian’ but I am a Catholic. We have about 1100 pupils so we’re one of the biggest. I offer Mass at 8.30 am and I get 2-4 people all teachers (none from the R.E. dept. though they’re good people). Teaching religion is an up-hill struggle because most students are so poorly taught at home and in Primary (National) school (4-12 years old, Church owned, part-funded by the State). They come to us seriously ignorant of the faith. The bishops know this. So far as I can see nothing has been done. The situation in Second level (12-17/18) whether in Community or Secondary Voluntary (Church) is not much better. The Junior Cert. program is not far off being a comparative religions course and for Senior cycle well it’s make it up as you go along. I only hope this Apostolic Visitation makes a real difference. We could with a nutty peer here to stir things up.

  11. JohnE says:

    I was going to say that our public schools strive to serve everyone and end up serving no one, but in reality few people seem to care — the school system is what it is and there’s nothing much you can do about it. If the government limited the brands of coffee you could buy, everyone would be in an uproar. But let the government control something much more important — like the education of your children — and relatively few seem to mind.

  12. RichardT says:

    I just looked up Lord Lucas. His blog is here:

    Apparently he is editor of the Good Schools Guide (Lord, help us!). However he also seems to be a strong supporter of home education, which is generally faith-motivated, and so doesn’t seem to fit with his seeming opposition to church schools.

    Having read his speech, he seems to make several unsupported comments criticising various groups, and his main motive seems to be to save the government money rather than anti-Catholicism. But that doesn’t change the matter – legislators should not say things like that.

    By the way, if anyone wants an authentic flavour of House of Lords debates (in the same debate), follow the link below and scroll down until you get to the speech by Lord James of Blackheath (an appointed life peer rather than a hereditary); it deserves to become a minor classic:

  13. catholicmidwest says:

    Catholic schools should only have Catholic kids in them and Catholic teachers teaching them. There. I said it and I think it.

    We don’t need vouchers either. They just cause trouble.

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