The Catholic vision of education… “is fundamentally theological, not economic.” (T. Rowland, 2016)
In this paper I will take the position that an integral Catholic Education in the 21st century requires an integral approach to the person and be in service of the Church as Communion.
This requires a clear self-conscious understanding and reflection on the Kerygma and the Trinity, should be Theological and Christological and should take seriously that there are many different ‘liturgies’ or philosophies on offer.
I will show that the relationship between Catholic Schools and the economy has an impact on that mission, as does the state, many modern philosophies, especially pertaining to ethics.
At this time many Catholic Schools in the UK are maintained to a large extent by the state, receiving support mainly in the form of finances. Indeed ‘At the moment, Catholic schools receive 90% of their funding from the state and 10% from church funds.’ (BBC Education and Family, 2010)
I aim to consider whether Catholic Schools need the state in this way, and at what cost, in more than just financial terms do they share in this relationship. I will consider how this very relationship frames the idea of Catholic education and identity.
Firstly, we should acknowledge that the relationship between Church and State in every country is not the same, and despite the Catholic Church being united throughout the world, it does not follow that her school systems are the same. The Catholic Church in the USA has a very different relationship with schools and the government when it comes to education from that of the UK.
The schools in the USA are not as closely tied to the government as the in the UK, their more distinct identity in the USA apparently ‘was part missionary zeal—to spread “the word”—and part defense against the encroachments of an increasingly secular world.’ (P. Meyer, 2007)
In the USA ‘secular, for Catholics, meant a certain slackness in moral and academic discipline. In the United States, the so-called “wall of separation” between church and state, between order and freedom, eventually forced Catholics to build their own school system, the only country in the world where they have one.’ (P. Meyer, 2007)
We do not have to follow the model for Catholic Education that we now do in the UK and with the example from the States there is a clear historical case for at least one alternative.
‘As most educators know, Catholic schools work and have worked for a long time. Sociologist James Coleman and colleagues Thomas Hoffer and Sally Kilgore, in 1982, were among the first to document Catholic schools’ academic successes, in High School Achievement: Public and Private Schools. A variety of studies since, by scholars at the University of Chicago, Northwestern, the Brookings Institution, and Harvard, have all supported the conclusion that Catholic schools do a better job educating children, especially the poor and minorities, than public schools.’(Peter Meyer, 2007)
We know that Catholic schools can be effective in a variety of guises, but beyond any effectiveness we have to consider Catholic Education in how it relates to the Church and it’s mission.
Dr. Peter Leithart makes the claim that ‘The Christian school has to function as a fruit of the Christian church. That does not mean it has to be administratively connected to a church. But to be Christian it has to take the church’s ministry as its given starting point.’ (P, Leithart, 2015)
If he is correct, as I believe he is, then the Catholic School needs a Catholic Teleology. Leithart adds that ‘Kids from Christian schools are subjects of Christian nurture simply by virtue of their birth. But that is not a sound premise. They are members of the people of God not by virtue of birth but by virtue of baptism. They are to be nurtured in Christian faith not because they are human but because God has claimed them.’(P, Leithart, 2015)
A new self-understanding for Catholic Schools could and should meet the demands posed by ‘the changing religious and cultural profile of pupils and teachers in Catholic schools’ pointed to by the Catholic Bishops. (Catholic Bishops conference, 2012) This understanding is necessary if Catholic teachers are to ‘recognise that they share in the teaching office of the Church exercised in the person of the local bishop and enshrined in the trust deed of the school’ (Catholic Bishops conference, 2012)
The proper framework for Catholic Education is hinted at in the report on non- statutory guidance for R.E. ‘Religious education provokes challenging questions about the ultimate meaning and purpose of life, beliefs about God, the self and the nature of reality, issues of right and wrong, and what it means to be human.’ (Department for children, schools and families, 2010)
This reference to the ‘ultimate meaning and purpose of life’ begs for a clear self-conception about the mission of the Catholic school as an organ of the Church, and as part of her larger mission. Likewise, If the Catholic school is to be integral in Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development’ (Department for children, schools and families, 2010) it cannot take its cue from a ‘culture’ which is outside of the Church itself.
Peter Leithart suggests ‘baptising education’ and shows us how Baptism, in forming an identity within the Church, ultimately ‘… has several direct implications for how teachers carry out their work. Whenever and however administered, baptism is a renunciation of the world. It is a liturgical initiation into a people that rejects and resists the liturgies of the world.'(P. Leithart, 2015)
I will use this definition of ‘liturgies of the world’ alongside ‘philosophies’ to describe cultures and worldviews outside of the Church, since they have a different teleology and goals for the people involved in them. These ‘liturgies’ are many; I will offer a few to make up a list but this is by no means exhaustive- the modern nation- state is one such ‘liturgy’, as is the economy, the overarching modern philosophies and ontology are all competing narratives to the Kerygma that a Catholic education should aim to proclaim if it is to be de facto Catholic.
‘If Catholics are to be missionary disciples, competence in proclaiming the kerygma is a must.’(C. Klamut , 2014)
Pope John Paul II called the kerygma “the initial ardent proclamation by which a person is one day overwhelmed and brought to the decision to entrust himself to Jesus Christ by faith.” (C. Klamut, 2014)
Prof. Tracey Rowland likes the German word, Bildung, to describe what education ought to be. “Education is about the formation of human character or personality.” What education is follows what man is. If man is created in the image of God, as he is, then his dignity requires that we see him, like all of creation, as “marked by the form of the Trinity.” (T. Rowland, 2016) This is a clearly ontological claim, which also includes a contrasting teleology to modern secular philosophies.
According to the National Secular Society’ ‘We… campaign for an inclusive secular education system in which religious organisations play no formal role.’
Suggesting that ‘Whilst all schools should respect the beliefs of pupils and their families, no schools should seek to promote or instil such beliefs.’(National Secular Society, 2016)
This secular approach, good, bad or indifferent is evidently a very different claim from that of Catholic education, if it is to be Catholic, and meet the criteria we have seen from the Church itself.
It is but one of many variant philosophies on offer today however. Alasdair McIntyre suggests “One cannot make any sense of the contemporary cultural wars without some knowledge of contending philosophical systems’ which he believes have roots ‘in the seventeenth century Spanish Jesuit, Francisco Suarez, whom he thinks lies at the origin of modern thought even more perhaps than Descartes.’ ‘How so? It has to do with a thesis about the subjective origin of “rights,” but more especially about the proposition that man has “two ends,” a natural one and a supernatural one.’ (J. Schall 2016)
McIntyre, in line with the Churches teaching however postulates that ‘Man, as we know him in Catholic thought, has but one end and that is supernatural.’ Rightly highlighting that ‘No purely natural end ever existed.’ (J. Schall 2016)
In stark contrast, the Church has a concept of the Trinity which should inform every part of it’s life, including educating Christians in school. Radu Bordieanu says ‘sometimes because a true relationship between the Trinity and the Church has not been properly established, the Church is seen as a parallel reality, somehow unrelated to the Trinity’. (R. Bordeianu, 2016) Since this is so, it is not surprising that the Christian school is not seen in Trinitarian perspective.
Rowland suggests however that ‘We must appreciate that the Christian God is “Trinitarian.” Often our students are quasi-Unitarians. They have never heard an intelligent explanation of the Trinity and why it is important.’ (T. Rowland, quoted in J. Schall, 2016)
‘Prof. Rowland amusingly noted that the German philosopher Kant once remarked that it made no difference whether there were three or ten persons in the Trinity. The only response to this is: “Kant was not a Catholic.” ‘(J. Schall, 2016)
On his piece on ‘the Father/Son relation’. Thomas Torrance points out how ‘It is exclusively from within that relation that we are given access to know God as he is in himself, for it is only in the Son. the one only begotten Son, the one Word of God incarnate, that God has revealed himself to us so that we may know him strictly in accordance with his divine nature.’ Placing this understanding in perspective he claims that ‘…here we found that godliness and precision, theology and science, go together, in a realist approach to God’s self- revelation to us in Jesus Christ within time and space and in the radical change of mind it calls forth from us. ‘ (T.F. Torrance, 2016)
This ‘radical change of mind’ goes with the Kerygma that we mentioned before and must encompass a de facto ‘Theological’ and ‘Christological’ education at every level for Catholics if their education is to be truly Catholic. This is shown in the Catholic Bishops statement in suggesting that ‘The God whom pupils come to know is One as well as Three: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To have faith in God means to acknowledge God’s greatness and majesty. It includes trust in God in all the circumstances of our lives. An understanding of faith in the Trinity, reveals God who is actively present in pupils lives.’(Catholic Bishops Conference, 2012)
Now to look at again at the alternative ‘Liturgy’ of which education may be of service in the modern world in more depth- The Economy.
The demands, particularly economic demands, of the modern world present a great challenge for Catholic education; this can be seen primarily in works on ethics and can manifest itself in many ways. This shows that modern philosophies, the state and economy intertwine in relation to Catholic Education.
One example showing how is Daniel Bell’s work on modern capitalism “At its most general level, neoliberal capitalism is about the complete marketization of life”, remarking that “Although markets of various shapes and sizes have existed for ages, with the advent of capitalism, the market becomes central to the life of the household and society.” Having an economy as described creates a competitor for the minds and hearts of persons of all ages across society and Bell argues that it shapes our very desires. This idea of a complete ‘marketization of life’ is antithetical to an Integral Catholic education framed for Spiritual, Moral, Cultural and Social development.
Even those who support Catholic education often look at that very education largely within the framework of the economy however, as can be seen from quotes like the following, ‘The schools operate in a competitive marketplace… noting it’s not just district schools and religious schools, rather there are many options for parents, such as charter schools. Because of increased competition, Catholic schools must turn to entrepreneurialism, must think outside the system and must embrace new approaches…’.( A. Smarick, quoted in P. Meyer, 2007) or in an apologia for an older Catholic ‘liberal education’- ‘capitalism cannot continue to flourish without liberal education. Why not? Because it needs, as its champions rightly understand, continual innovation for its survival. And liberal education grounded in original sources is a powerhouse of innovation’, (C. Nelson, 2016) placing it again within a framework dictated by the market. But I will question if turning to ‘entrepreneurialism’ or ‘innovation’ for the economy is necessary or even healthy for Catholic Schools.
Daniel M. Bell places questions like this in a larger framework and argues instead of the modern economy in general, and its many demands, for a Christ-centred economy “the divine economy does not reject the market entirely, denounce the division of labor out of hand, or renounce currency, investment, and profit. Instead, Christian economics is about redeeming such practices, that is to say, properly ordering them toward the end of the renewal of communion in God’s household.” (D. Bell, 2012)
If the purpose of Catholic education is really to bring our children up as Catholics then we have to see beyond a secularised and sanitised version of what that means. This means that Catholic education should orient our thoughts and desires towards Christ and his Church. This takes in everyday life, from the economy, to the nature and purpose of the family and our ultimate ontology for living.
Ralph Ancil is in agreement with Bell in many ways, showing how ‘Nineteenth-century liberalism was smitten with the idea of the immanentist or self-contained quality of the capitalist system, believing that it inherently possessed or produced the virtues which were really its prerequisites. The market was viewed as morally self-sufficient.’ (R. Ancil, 2014)
That trend’s in industrialization did not always produce harmony and contentment bothered other Christian thinkers such as Röpke however, who believed ‘…the new “philosophy” had eroded the older foundation of values reflecting a Christian heritage and sense of the transcendent in life… (R. Ancil, 2014)
Those such as Wilhelm Ropke, like most Catholic Social Teaching felt that ‘Life is not worth living if we exercise our profession only for the sake of material success and do not find in our calling an inner necessity and a meaning which transcends the mere earning of money, a meaning which gives our life dignity and strength…’ (R. Ancil, 2014)
We must ask, where, if not in Christian schools, are we going to articulate an ontology clear-sighted and encompassing enough to resist such a pull on young minds. If as Bell suggests, the government itself is merely a servant of the economy then a government-led education is not in a place to resist the tide.
If ‘an inclusive secular education system’ is one ‘in which religious organisations play no formal role’ (National Secular Society, 2016) then other organisations are going to have to play that role. It remains to be seen what organisation that is not interested in serving the nation state and/or economy could provide such a role.
Stanley Hauerwas makes a strong case for distinctively Christian ethics oriented towards the community of the Church instead, ‘The church is a colony, an island of one culture in the middle of another.’ Like Dr Leithart he sees Baptism as an integral element of Christian identity. ‘In baptism our citizenship is transferred from one dominion to another, and we become, in whatever culture we find ourselves, resident aliens.’ (S. Hauerwas, 1989)
Hauerwas makes the Kerygmatic and Trinitarian claim that we have dealt with, when he says that ‘Christianity is more than a matter of a new understanding. Christianity is an invitation to be part of an alien people who make a difference because they see something that cannot otherwise be seen without Christ.’
His idea that ‘Right living is more the challenge than right thinking.’ And suggests that ‘The challenge is not the intellectual one but the political one—the creation of a new people who have aligned themselves with the seismic shift that has occurred in the world since Christ.’ This correlates with the idea that the Church has an Integral role, integrating ethics, economy, politics and other areas into it’s life.
Hauerwas, in seeing the Church as a Polis forcefully utters that ‘The primary entity of democracy is the individual, the individual for whom society exists mainly to assist assertions of individuality.'(S. Hauerwas, 1989) This individualism is one modern ‘liturgy’ and teleological claim that we can see differs from the Christian one.
‘What we call “freedom” becomes the tyranny of our own desires. We are kept detached, strangers to one another as we go about fulfilling our needs and asserting our rights. The individual is given a status that makes incomprehensible the Christian notion of salvation as a political, social phenomenon in the family of God.’ (S. Hauerwas, 1989)
This is a concern directly related to ethics, and one mirrored by Professor Rowland who maintains that if ‘“values” become separated from Christology’ it will be ‘only to end up being opposed to any true understanding of Catholicism’s importance’. (T. Rowland, 2016) Noting how ‘We find a temptation to “distil the Christian values from Christ and to offer the world a package of values stripped of any need of a personal relation with Christ and the other persons of the Trinity.”’(T. Rowland, 2016)
These modern ‘liturgies’ indeed don’t exist in isolation and Hauerwas correctly notes how ‘Our economics correlates to our politics. Capitalism thrives in a climate where “rights” are the main political agenda.’ In such a scheme ‘The church becomes one more consumer-oriented organization, existing to encourage individual fulfillment rather than being a crucible to engender individual conversion into the Body.'(S. Hauerwas, 1989)
We can see how work like Bell’s and Hauerwas’ highlight how, unless we have a clear self-conscious goal set for a distinctly Catholic education, we will be working towards other Secular ends, often in spite of our best intentions.
Railing against the secular mind-set which makes up much ‘Catholic’ education today, Alexander Schmemann noted ‘Secularism is an “explanation” of death in terms of life. The only world we know is this world, .the only life given to us is this life-so thinks a secularist-and it is up to us men to make it as meaningful, as rich, as happy as possible.’ (A. Schmemann, 1974)
‘Secularism is a religion because it has a faith; it has its own eschatology and its own ethics.’ (A. Schmemann, 1974) Whether or not it Schmemann is correct that it matches any definition of religion is probably irrelevant however, the key issue rather is that it provides an ultimately alternate worldview to Christianity, ontologically, teleologically and philosophically and therefore cannot by it’s nature provide a Catholic education.
Schmemann makes a similar claim to the others that the Church provides a very different account about the very meaning of life itself by proclaiming ‘Christianity is not reconciliation with death. It is the revelation of death, and it reveals death because it is the revelation of Life. Christ is this Life.’ (A. Schmemann, 1974)
This has a clear and direct impact on how we teach, especially R.E. One example from my experience in school, which shows subtly how we approach the subject can have a big effect, was when the teacher chose the phrase ‘to have an appreciation that Jesus is very special to Christians’ rather than one such as ‘to enjoy the story of Noah’s ark’.
This may not sound all that different but the former lends itself much more to developing an Integral awareness of the demands of religious commitment in everyday life for Christians and provides a platform to develop individuals Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural understanding. The aims in R.E are not only to document the Gospel nor to detail the sacraments rather to develop children’s learning and understanding as Christians.
Consonant with this point Schmemann offers what he calls a Sacramental or ‘Liturgical’ worldview, again centred around Kerygmatic, Christological and Trinitarian claims that the Church makes. And again makes clear how, if it is to be of service to the Churches mission Catholic education should have this remit.
‘A sacrament as we already know is always a passage, a transformation. Yet it is not a “passage” into “superna¬ture,” but into the Kingdom of God, the world to come, into the very reality of this world and its life as redeemed and restored by Christ.'(A. Schmemann, 1974)
For a Catholic education to be a truly Catholic education therefore it has to take seriously the message of the Church about what life is for, otherwise it is a ‘Catholic’ education in name only, with a super-added ‘Catholicism’ placed over it, the very idea of which is a clear oxymoron an untenable in a clash of mutually exclusive claims, from those mentioned such as the modern philosophies, economy and nation state, to others still.
‘Catholic education is vital to communities and to the church, but if it’s to continue, it must be open to different delivery models and innovative ways of teaching.’ .(A. Seeley, 2016)
Andrew Seeley identifies as ‘one concept key to Christian education: virtue’.(A. Seeley, 2016)
‘Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good’. (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
This quote from the Catechism shows the basis for a more integral understanding of Catholic Education which places it in the service not only of a utilitarianism, but of other areas which should not be separate even when they are distinct, areas such as ethics and ‘self-mastery’.
An integral Catholic Education in the 21st century then, as we stated, requires at least a clear self-conscious understanding and reflection on the Kerygma and the Trinity, should be Theological and Christological and should take seriously that there are many different ‘liturgies’ or philosophies on offer.
An integral Catholic education must be in service of the Church and it’s mission, should resist secularising tendencies in how we live and what for. This is important in many realms and it should be especially cognizant of Christian Ontology and Teleology.
To say that Catholic education should be integral and inform our lives in the areas outlined in this essay is not to say that it should be sectarian however as may be argued, and I concur with much of the current guidance for a Catholic education which ‘enables pupils to build their sense of identity and belonging’ and ‘helps them flourish within their communities and as citizens in a diverse society’.(Religious Education in English Schools, 2010)
A distinct Catholic education may well be at danger of slipping into sectarianism, however there is no reason to suppose that this is a necessary corollary. A distinct but open-minded Catholic education would and should, if it followed its own mission for the Church, still ‘teach pupils to develop respect for others, including people with different faiths and beliefs, and help to challenge prejudice’. .(Religious Education in English Schools, 2010) as we see Catholic educators themselves have held.
Modern ethics and values however, as we have seen are understood and framed in a manner which is incongruent with the Churches understanding of the moral life, so there should be a special emphasis on, and call for distinct Christian ethics, which would contrast markedly with modern ‘ethics’ or ‘values’ as they are now proffered.
Finally, it is essential that we look beyond contemporary economic practices and understandings which view the economy as the main driver for decision-making for Catholic Education. Any outline for Catholic Education should primarily focus on it’s role in serving the Churches universal mission, and should look at the examples from across the globe and across time for understanding of what this means. This will allow for an integral approach to the person and be in service of the Church as Communion.
This theory, combined with the experience I have so far will enable me to reflect on teaching with the proper ontological, philosophical and teleological mind-set, as well as the proper structuring of lessons and appropriate questions, such as I have seen. This will enable me to be a more effective provider for an integral Catholic education, one which serves the person and the Church as Communion.
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