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I write regarding John Morrissey's article, "Catholic religious education: some grassroots views" (June AD2000). I wish to share with readers some of my own experiences with the Catholic system which spans from the late 60s to the mid-90s.
I arrived in Australia as a 16-year-old refugee from communist Hungary. In that country the Faith could only be passed on in secret. The significance - and the irony - of my background will become apparent later.
We built our house close to church and school as we were committed to raising our children in the Faith. Our seven children now range from 28 to 48 years of age. All went to Catholic schools until we took the three youngest out and placed them in a State school. These children are the ones still living the Faith today.
What was wrong with the Catholic schools? It was not so much what was taught but rather what remained not taught. A wishy-washy, lovesy-dovesy horizontal religion was the go. No substance. Our efforts at home were left without reinforcement and often even contradicted. Our complaints fell on deaf ears and even the then Archbishop had no sympathy. Still, we persevered.
By the time the four older children finished 13 years of Catholic schooling and the younger three began (there's a nine year gap between the fourth and fifth children) it was obvious that we had spent a lot of money to have our children's faith ruined. (Not to speak of their alienation from their parents as a consequence). Unbelievably, in spite of this we enrolled our youngest three in the same schools their siblings had attended.
Then one day the oldest of the three came home and told me about the sex-ed classes. Among other things, he told us that according to the teacher, there are three basic human needs: food, shelter and sex. Well, that did it. After a whole lot of hassle with the school, complaints to the Archbishop - without results - we removed the three and sent them to the nearest State school which agreed with our proviso of non-attendance at sex-ed classes. At this point, I must mention that sex-ed in Catholic schools was/is given during the RE classes and children can't be removed from RE, or why else would you send them to a Catholic school?
Now it is 2011 and we've come full circle. The children of our children are encountering the same problems we ran up against 20 years ago. What has changed? I see Catholic school children and their teachers entering the church; no genuflection, no apparent awareness of the Sacred Presence. They carry on with conversations, loudly even, as if they were in an assembly hall. They sing and clap to mindless, infantile songs at Mass. What are these children taught about the Faith? And what about the sex-ed classes? I believe they are still in place.
In this environment what are faithful Catholic parents to do? They can't be expected to sacrifice their developing children as "leaven" only to be devoured by the prevailing culture. I can only pray that this situation will end soon and the time will be not long coming when real changes will be made so that every Catholic child can receive the Faith in all its fullness and beauty; that Catholic parents will be aided and not hindered by the schools they trust to pass on the Faith.
I pray that the freedom this country has to offer will be grasped and used with courage by those responsible for this task. Above all, I pray that there will still be such a thing as "a faithful Catholic parent" left after three generations of disastrous "Catholic" education.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 24 No 8 (September 2011), p. 14
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