After the closure of Corpus Christi Catechetical Institute in the summer of 1975 there was a sort of hiatus; it seemed that no one quite knew where the catechetical experiment had got to, or where it would now go. One commentator remarked in 1976 that the College would “rise from the ashes like the Phoenix.” It didn’t. What had been an extraordinary mistake was now ended. Its legacy however, would be felt in other ways. What did take place was a coming to terms with what had taken place at Corpus Christi; a seeking to better understand what had really occurred at Corpus Christi by a Church that had simply not been ready for such a reckless experiment.
Fr George Telford, Director of Southwark Archdiocesan Catechetical Centre wrote to The Tablet in January 1972 to suggest about Corpus Christi that, “If, for instance, the impression is being given that the Resurrection was merely a psychological experience on the part of the Apostles, rather than an historical, physical fact; or that original sin is merely the accumulated effect of man's inhumanity to man, rather than a wound intrinsic to man's very being; or that the Eucharist is merely a symbol of human love and unity, rather than the absolute reality of Christ's Body and Blood; or that children cannot know moral guilt and therefore have no need of the reconciling grace of sacramental absolution — if this kind of dilution appears to be taking place, then the bishops have the right and duty to take whatever action they consider necessary to protect the integrity of the faith.”
Of course hindsight is a great perspective, and in this context I came across a very good article on the Internet about Corpus Christi College and the nature of the problem. I recommend this article warmly to you. It was written by Dennis Barton and appears on his Website, which you may like to investigate further as it has a whole raft of interesting material. Dennis Barton makes some very perceptive points in his article. Note for instance this sentence, which describes succinctly the context of the 1060s, which itself called for a new catechesis:
“But during this period the parish lost its central role in local life and the ethos of family life and society became secular.”
Note also the comment about the theological underpinning which the first staff of Corpus Christi brought with them into the College:
“For them, the Gospels were merely the thoughts of ‘creative’ theologians at the end of the first century, rather than being historical eyewitness accounts of the life and teaching of Christ.” And again, on the same lines: “When the study syllabus was published, it provided ample evidence that the new college was not going to confine its activities to catechetical formation. It had an aura of an institute of speculative theology. Doctrines disappeared or were demoted to subjects for discussion and doubt.”
I believe that a tremendously important comment is made by this article: that an erroneous understanding of Scripture led to an erroneous Catechetics. And here we find the basic problem of Corpus Christi: that the architects of the College were not originally experts in Religious Education, but of Sacred Scripture, and that their plan was to undertake the launch of the College and its catechetical project, and then once underway, to introduce their erroneous understanding of Scripture into the mix; it is this that led their catechetical movement away from the Catholic Faith and towards a new version of Christianity. This is how Corpus Christi went wrong.