The legacy of Corpus Christi Catechetical Institute is found principally in two ways:
First, its effect on catechesis in schools. Corpus Christi intended to establish a ‘renewed’ form of Catholic teaching in schools, but what actually took place was the inauguration of a new Pelagianism in place of Catechesis. Most of the RE Programs that were introduced into Catholic Schools during the 70s, 80s and 90s were manuals providing information about what Catholics do, and giving that information in an evaluative and comparative way. By ‘evaluative’ I mean, that these programs were written so as to enable the student to make his or her own critique of the Church and her teaching. By ‘comparative’ I mean, that these programs led the student to compare what he or she did with what Catholics do. The basic foundation being that religion can help you to be a nicer person, and that even Catholicism has some commendable elements that can help to build a better world. What these programs didn’t do was lead the students into the transforming grace of Jesus Christ and into living His life. In more recent years, the context of Catechesis in schools has changed and there are now some very good Catechetical programs. These indicators point to a sea-change; the era of Corpus Christi is now fading.
The second effect was the effect that Corpus Christi College has had on the Church in England and Wales. It produced a generation of confused priests, religious and lay teachers who, given the prevailing culture in Britain, aligned themselves not so much with Grace, but with human nature. This has led to the Church culturally embracing a model of maintenance, becoming detached from her Mission. Choosing to place one’s trust in human nature rather than in grace has delayed the response to the New Evangelisation by the Church in England and Wales. Pope John Paul II described the situation in England and Wales to the Bishops on their Ad Limina visit in 2003 as “bewilderment”, with particular regard to “the grave difficulties experienced by parents in their attempts to catechise their own children.” Corpus Christi College contributed to this state of bewilderment which the Church now finds itself in.
Writing in the Catholic Herald Ireland on 23rd July 2008, Peter de Rosa in speaking of how he began his priestly life said, “Ordained at 23, I still had four years of study in Rome and Oxford ahead of me before I began my teaching career.” Right there you see the seeds of this movement; priesthood for him was merely a career. But neither the priesthood nor the Mission of the Church is a career, and in the rejection of Humanae Vitae by many clergy we see again this same trust in human nature and reliance on self, rather than on grace. In an analogous way, the Parliamentarian position regarding same-sex couples represents secular Britain’s reliance on self, rather than upon objective indicators – human nature, moral truth, the Divine Law and Natural Law, together with the colossal human ‘fall-out’ which has taken place since the culture embraced contraception and abortion.
In the light of this you can see how great is Pope Francis’ insistence that our primary task is to focus everything on Christ and to beg Heaven that all the baptised might see themselves only in Him. So too, there is a new generation of builders in the Church in England and Wales and, brick by brick, a renewed vision for the Church is coming into being. If you are one of those builders, don’t drop the ball!
In 1965 when Corpus Christi opened, I was four and a half years old. Thankfully I did not come into contact with its influence until I was thirteen, but even then, at that age, I smelled a rat. It has been as a priest that I have really experienced the influence of this College, but its effects pale now because of the call to a New Evangelisation, whose light and purpose set in clear relief the confusion from which we are now emerging.