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4-011 (Original)

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author,male,Catholic Bishops of NSW,un addressee,family
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Public Written
Official Correspondence
Clark, 1975
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And more than this: this expenditure on godless education, this studding the colony with Schools which the Church knows from experience will, in course of time, fill the country with indifferentists, not to speak of absolute infidels; this use of Catholic funds - of taxes paid out of Catholic pockets - for establishing a system of education throughout the land, which not merely Catholics cannot safely make use of, but which they firmly believe is calculated to sap the foundations of Christianity; is an act so galling to every feeling of fair-play, that we do not see how any free man, with any spirit in him, can allow it to pass unchallenged.
Not merely as Bishops of the Catholic Church, but as citizens of a free country, which boasts that even-handed justice is dealt out to all its tax-payers, we emphatically lay claim to our share of that same even-handed justice; and believe it to be the duty of the Catholic body not to rest until they have been placed on an equal footing with their fellow-colonists. We, Catholics, who represent one-third of the population, do not ask for or seek one jot or tittle more consideration than our fellow tax-payers receive; and we do not see why we should be content with one jot or tittle less.
Let it be borne in mind that this is distinctly a religious question. With politics, as such, it was never our taste to meddle. But when not justice alone, but the future of religion itself is essentially bound up with a certain position; when the question of education is in point of fact the great religious question of the day; we should be prevaricating against our bounden duty, and should prove ourselves unfitted for our trust, were we to hold our peace; did we not, at the present juncture, set forth the teaching of the Church with great distinctness, and point out to you, Dearly Beloved, with unmistakeable clearness, your duties as interpreted by that teaching. [721]
We find, on all sides, that where philanthropists have attempted to educate the inner life of man by philosophy, legislation, or intellectual culture, the effect has always been the same. Every civilization which has not had Christianity for its basis has been dwarfed, stunted and deformed: and every effort, from that of the most remote paganism to that of the most modern infidelity, to deal with the conscience, the will and the heart of man in their inner sanctuaries, has resulted in the degradation of man, and in the collapse of the philosophy which corrupted him. The reason may have been exercised, and the intellect may have been informed; but, apart from Christianity, the moral nature, on which man's worth so much depends, has never been educated, nor his powers, passions, and motives -elevated or refined. [...]
Now we are bound both by the natural and revealed law to educate children in the knowledge of God, in His love, and in His commandments. As Christians we are bound to educate them in the full revelation of Jesus Christ, and to procure for them those blessings and gifts which the Christian Church alone has the power to bestow. By the law of nature parents are bound to train their children; and by the law of Christianity the Church is bound to see that parents do their duty. And whilst Father and Mother, on the one hand, are obliged, under strict obligation, thus to rear their children from the dawning of their reason: the Church is bound, on the other hand, to complete the work which the parents have begun. "Go ye therefore and teach," or make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you," is her commission. Here the duty is imposed upon her, and she receives the necessary gifts and powers. Thus both parents and the Church inculcate the same class of teaching; they are in perfect harmony; the education of the child at its mother's knee is not. undone in the Christian Schools, but developed and completed. Through the whole period the graces and influences of Christianity are operating on the inner life of the Christian child; the heart, the conscience, and the will, are being moulded for life; and the entire being, body, soul and senses, the complete personality becomes saturated by a civilization, of which Christianity alone can be the origin.
Thus it is self-evident that education without Christianity is impossible; you may call it instruction, filling the mind with a certain quantity of secular knowledge, but you cannot dignify it with the name Education; for religion is an essential part of Education; and to divorce religion or Christianity from Education is to return to paganism, and to reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus it is that the Church condemns, with marked emphasis, those schools, and that method of teaching in which the religious element is divorced from the secular. She knows that instruction is not education; and that a system of national training from which Christianity is banished, is a system of practical paganism, which leads to corruption of morals and loss of faith, to national effeminacy and to national dishonour. [722]
Such, then, being the emphatic teaching of the Catholic Church, we, the Archbishop and Bishops of this colony, with all the weight of our authority, condemn the principle of secularist education, and those schools which are founded on that principle. We condemn them, first, because they contravene the first principles of the Christian religion; and secondly, because they are seed-plots of future immorality, infidelity, and lawlessness, being calculated to debase the standard of human excellence, and to corrupt the political, social, and individual life of future citizens. Wherefore we urge our clergy to do all in their power, in the pulpit, and out of it, to instruct the people in these teachings of the Christian religion. They should not rest till each member of their congregation fully realizes the true position of affairs. They should bring before the minds of parents the terrible calamity to their children in exposing them to loss of faith and morals, and endeavour to make them feel that they could not do a greater service to religion or to the State than to upset, by constitutional means, a system which, whilst it is a crying injustice to themselves, promises to be a source of incalculable evil to the colony. Let them, moreover, warn parents, who through a spirit of indifference or worldliness, are exposing their children to proximate danger of perversion and of ruin, that they are tempting the anger of the Almighty God, and that they are jeopardizing the faith, the morality, the eternal happiness of those who are too young to help themselves, and who have been confided by Nature itself to their guardianship and protection Let them often remind the people that they are gravely responsible if they give encouragement to such schools, for, by so doing, they are helping to perpetuate a great evil, and are standing as obstacles in the way of Christian men who are bent on bringing about a change. Let one and all remember what their fathers of old suffered for the faith, and let them not show themselves unworthy of their own flesh and blood - flesh which was freely wounded, and blood which was freely spilt, rather than betray Christian principle or compromise Christian Faith.
We are profoundly conscious that a latent sense of fair-play exists in the community at large. Let all Catholics unite in bringing before the minds of their fellow-electors, and their representatives in Parliament these two facts, first, that Catholics have to pay for schools which they cannot safely use, and which they consider an evil to the country; and, secondly, that whilst they are thus made to pay, no equal provision has been made for them: let the country fully comprehend our grievances, and a sense of common, even- handed Justice will assist us in working out a remedy Would secularists hold their peace, if, without equal provision being made for them, public treasure were lavished on Catholic Grammar Schools, and Catholic Primary Schools, whilst £7,500 were spent on the training of boys, exclusively from Catholic institutions? [723] Would they not hold that they were being treated with extraordinary injustice and unfairness? And Would not the whole world agree with them? [...]
It will be urged that the State leaves religion to parents and priests, and lays claim to instruct children in secular matters only.
True, the State does not, and cannot claim a commission to educate. It is the bounden duty of the State to protect, not to usurp the moral duties of its members. All Christian Fathers and Mothers are required by the natural and divine law to give their children a Christian education. The State has no power or commission to usurp the parental rights, and to compel parents to violate their conscience by sending their children to schools where an alien religion or no religion at all is taught. To do so would be to indulge in the most cruel form of religious persecution. The State has no rights higher or more sacred than those of parents. Nor does the authority of the Church cross or thwart the natural rights and duties of parents: its commission is to see that those rights are not invaded, and that those duties are performed. The Catholic Church condemns godless schools and secularist education because they are solvents of Christianity, and tend towards depriving Christian children of a priceless treasure. And no man can be a sound Catholic and support that which the Church condemns.
The State may declare, and statesmen may teach, that the secularist system is not adverse to Christianity and to the Catholic religion. But, in matters of religion, are Catholics to be guided by the world or by the Church? Does not the Church know her own true interests best? Has not she had experience of centuries, in point of time; and all over the world, in point of space? Are not her professed opponents on the side of secularist education, and do not her best friends range themselves upon the Christian side? And to come to facts, has the secularist system, so far as it has gone, fostered and developed a Christian spirit? Has not the Catholic episcopate, in various quarters of the world, found that its direct tendency is to quench such a spirit? What is our own experience, and that of the Catholic clergy in this colony? to their shame, it must be said, some of our people do send their children to public schools. What is the deliberate conclusion we have arrived at with regard to such children? That there is a marked difference between them and children who have been educated in Catholic schools. Their faith is visibly enfeebled, not to allude to their morality: their manners are rough and irreverent they have little sense of respect and gentleness: they have no attraction for prayer or for the Sacraments; Sacraments; and promise to swell a class which is already far too large in number. [724] Our clergy look on the future of such wild, uncurbed children with grave misgivings.
If in any country in the world signs are being held out on every side of the necessity of an especial school of self-control, reverence, piety, purity, obedience, faith, it is in Australia. if in any country Catholic children require a strong Catholic education, it is here. At home the ancient traditions and monuments of piety and reverence, a large staff of clergy, a Catholic public opinion, with many other external helps, assist in the training up of the young in a Christian spirit; but here, where all is new, the clergy few, the population small and scattered, and the external helps wanting, it is most difficult, with the best efforts of the best Catholic training, to rear up the children to Christian piety, and with thorough Catholic instincts. How ruinous, therefore, is it not, to cast Christianity out of the schools, and to confine it to a Sunday catechism-class, under such circumstances as these.
The only fair chance for Catholic children turning out Catholic men and women in this colony is for them to be most carefully and conscientiously taught their religion by their parents from their earliest years; and then for them to be sent to thorough Catholic schools, where the home teaching is continued, and the mind and heart and conscience and senses of the children are impregnated with Catholic instincts, and moulded upon Catholic truth.
It may be interjected that some Catholics do not disapprove of Public Schools, for a certain number of Catholic children are going to them. We reply, because a certain number of Catholics do what is wrong, that is no reason why we should not condemn what is wrong, and teach them what is right. We declaim against and condemn intemperance, and we declaim against and condemn secularist education; and we are led to do so all the more strenuously in proportion as we are inclined to fear that Catholics are beginning to feel less and less horror at drunkenness and infidelity. The Church is not ruled or guided by the practices of corrupt views of bad, or indifferent, or ignorant Catholics; but by the successor of St. Peter, and the Bishops of the Church who are in communion with him.
So long as Catholics obey, in faith and morals, the voice that speaks with this authority, they will be safe; to listen to and follow, in such matters, any other voice, is to plunge into darkness, and, finally to make shipwreck of the faith.