Wednesday, January 04, 2012

More from Lancaster

I see the bishop of Lancaster issued a Pastoral Letter for New Year`s Day which asked:

Is it right or sustainable to expect our Mass-going population of 21,000 to support our schools and colleges in which often the majority of pupils, and sometimes teachers, are not practising Catholics? Is it time for us to admit that we can no longer maintain schools that are Catholic in name only?

A good question.


Just Asking said...

I think that the bishop is coming at this problem from the wrong end. Instead of asking whether we can maintain schools that are 'Catholic in name only' he should be addressing the reason WHY our schools are Catholic in name only. How have we reached this dreadful position? Why is it that only 21,000 in his diocese are attending Mass? What has put them off? Why are our schools staffed by Catholics in name only, or by non-Catholics? Who, directly, are responsible for this parlous state of affairs? Who controls what happens in our churches? Who controls what happens in our schools? It is the bishops, and the laity both old and young are suffering because of their policies of the past 40 years. All these statements by bishops are negative. We cannot sustain our parishes so let's close some of them down. We cannot sustain our schools so let's close them down. We cannot sustain our seminaries so let's close them down. Everything is defeatist and negative. Why can't we have a bishop who admits that things are in parlous state but comes up with a plan to improve the situation; like ordering all his priests to celebrate Mass strictly according to the rubrics, like restricting the use of extraordinary ministers of all hues to the absolute necessity, like sweeping away all these catastrophic RE courses in our schools and replacing them with CATHOLIC teaching. This would be a start and a signal of intent. At least it would be a step in the right direction instead of this defeatist management of decline that priests are being ordered by their bishops to undertake.
Might I suggest that the theological virtues of FAITH, HOPE, and charity become the order of the day.

Anonymous said...

I concur with most of what !JUST ASKING" has said on this matter.
Best wishes for New Year, Father Michael.

Mater mari said...

Indeed, but at least he's asking the question and not pretending there's no problem.

Seeker said...

Certainly step one is to stop apologising for being Catholic and start making it a feature! I don't know why this management of decline seems to have such a grip on some diocese, including H&N. There is a lot of good going on out there, but there are some heads need knocking together before things will turn around.

David O'Neill said...

Might I suggest you look at my letter to be published in this week's 'Catholic Herald' which makes the point that in our "Catholic" schools probably as few as 1% receive a TRULY CATHOLIC education as even 'Catholic' teachers have been educated in a less than Catholic way.

Paul - Ryhope said...

I'm pleased the Bishop has recognised the problem in public and while I think catholic schools can do more damage by offering a low key towards a catholic ethos, the model does work in some places.. a retired local priest was on a local bus last year at school hometime and didnt recognise one pupil in catholic uniform!

1569 Rising said...


The statement by the Bishop of Lancaster that there are 21,000 practising Catholics in his Diocese, a Diocese which covers an area steeped in Catholic tradition and history is startling, to say the least.

We are, of course, all aware of the shortage of priests in England, and this concern has, certainly in my case, concealed a more serious problem - the shortage of practising Catholics.

The current issue of the Northern Catholic Calendar (the yearbook of the Diocese of Hexham & Newcastle) reveals the following statistics of average weekly Mass attendance:

2001 - 52563
2002 - 50952
2003 - 48841
2004 - 47155
2005 - 45824
2006 - 44747
2007 - 43820
2008 - 40229
2009 - 39216
2010 - 38485

This represents a 27% drop in practice in 10 years - a fairly consistent straight line graph year on year.

The notional Catholic population of the Diocese is 179,888 (based on what, I am not sure?) Thus, the notional "practice" rate in the Diocese is 21%.

By any measure, the only conclusion I can reach is of an organisation in terminal decline.

Frankly, the answer is beyond me, and I suspect is beyond the current thinking of the leadership of the Church, and not just the Catholic Church. And, I do not believe the answer lies in the system of Catholic education we have in England. It is quite a few years ago that some of the more prescient Catholic teachers expressed dismay at the syllabus in schools based on "Here I Am" (apologies if I have got the name wrong), but their concerns were dismissed by the authorities in charge of Catholic schools.

Whilst the numbers practising the faith has dropped, and is continuing to drop, there seems to have been a burgeoning of Diocesan Commissions and Committees - 27 in total, that is without counting the number of Diocesan Societies and Organisations. On the face of it, lots of worthy activities run by no doubt worthy people, clerical and lay. Trouble is, committees create committees, and they finish up talking to each other, while the iceberg is taking away the steerage passengers below decks. (Sorry, but it is the Titanic anniversary).