Friday 16 August 2013

A summer Festival approaches.

The young Church of Britain is invited to take part in the Youth 2000 Prayer Festival, 22nd to 26th August, at Walsingham. ( This is an extraordinary opportunity to be formed as a disciple through an encounter with Grace in Person. Deliberate no further; come, and invite your friends to accompany you. Set aside these days at Our Lady's Shrine in Norfolk as a priority.
The above photo was taken at the 2003 Walsingham Festival.

There is another blog-gap coming up as I shall be on retreat during the whole of the coming week, and following that I too shall be taking part at the Youth 2000 event. I'll return to posting in the last week of this month. 

Thursday 15 August 2013

How can we respond?

In the light of what I have said about Corpus Christi Catechetical College and its influence on the Church in England and Wales, what would I recommend in terms of ways in which we could respond in the present context? These following comments must, of course, be made in a general way because the way in which you personally could respond depends upon who you are and upon your situation.

First, ask God for light. Appeal to the Holy Spirit. Be led by God. This should be the basis and foundation of all our ‘doings’; that before ‘doing’ any thing, we might be able to receive and welcome the Word of God.

Secondly, consider taking part in a Catholic Conference, Retreat or Pilgrimage; there are many opportunities to choose from here. I think that it is important that we try to see a bigger picture, see what others are doing, and actually come into contact with them.

Thirdly, take one or more of the English and Welsh Martyrs for your inspiration and model. These are our fellow countrymen who actually opened up a way for the Church in this country. In a certain sense, they are our starting point.

Fourthly, receive formation yourself. If you wish to really participate in the Mission of the Church then you need to be formed. Maryvale Institute in Birmingham would be an obvious place to look, but there are many other ways, and at different levels. But seek formation which will prepare you for the area that you feel called to work in. The better formed you are the more effective you can hope to be.

Fifthly, the call for a renewed Catechetics is one which Pope Benedict made repeatedly, particularly with reference to parish life. There is need for a renewed Catechetics at all levels: principally adults and parents, then young people, then children. There are tremendous resources available now: Evangelium; Come, follow me; Faith in the Family; Fit for Mission; Engaged, etc. If you are clear about what you want to do, then locating resources to enable you, will not be a difficult thing. Joining forces with others and planning a project together will probably be more difficult to achieve – that is why submitting all to God in prayer should be your first endeavour.

I took the above photo recently of the Knight's memorial above the choir in Tewksbury Abbey.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

The legacy of Corpus Christi.

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.

Monday 12 August 2013

An evaluation of Corpus Christi Catechetical Institute.

Recently returned from the Summer Session of the St John Vianney Society, which I will post about in due course, I want first to continue my posts about Corpus Christi College. In this post I want to post some comments by way of evaluating this 1965 to 1975 phenomenon.

First, neither Cardinal Heenan nor the other Bishops of England and Wales were ready for what took place after the Council, and the ‘modernising’ project, promoted by some, to superimpose a new agenda onto the teaching and directives of the Council Fathers went ahead under its own steam. It is hard to think that there was any Bishop, at the time, who was sufficiently aware and ready to deal with such a circumstance; Corpus Christi College took everyone by surprise. Those who were involved in this project, which was something much more defined than simply the zeitgeist of the 1960s, did not wait for the Council to end, nor did they even want it to teach; but rather they wanted to teach their own religion – a new form of Modernism. The Corpus Christi experiment was a terrible mistake. It would not be proper, however, to blame Cardinal Heenan for it; rather, he should be commended for way in which he acted as the disaster unfolded.

Secondly, the greater problem with Corpus Christi Catechetical Institute was that it took part in the worldly movement of secularisation that has been taking place since the Enlightenment, and which has its roots in the Reformation. This movement is one that thinks that human beings can and should wriggle out of the human condition; by putting all considerations about Original Sin and Grace in a back room, and by deploying all our human energies, we will be able to build a better world on our own. For this project, the Christian Redemption is something which must be set aside; human resourcefulness alone can make it through. This is the movement that is forming the prevailing culture today. The terrible thing was that the architects of Corpus Christi College aligned themselves with the secular project, and in so doing attempted to set aside the relationship between nature and grace which Christ uniquely has established, and so attempted to lead the Church into the contemporary secular movement. Even now, as far as I know, the architects of Corpus Christi College have never been asked to account for the way in which they tried to bring the Catholic Church in England and Wales in line with the great error of our age: that our lives should be built without recourse to Christian Dogma, and that ultimately, the God of Revelation should not be the basis of human life.    

Thirdly, why were Frs Ripley and Drinkwater, who were already involved in the new Catechetical Movement and who were producing genuine Catechetical materials, not chosen as the principal staff of the College, but that Richards and de Rosa, who were not previously involved in the Catechetical movement, were? This is a mystery to me.

Fourthly, at another level, Corpus Christi College looked like a plan whose design was to graft a new religion into the Church in England and Wales through the ecclesiastical structure of the schools. 

Sunday 4 August 2013

Short gap.

This coming week I shall be away with the priests of the St John Vianney Society, taking part in our summer fraternity week in Germany. I will resume posts next weekend.


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.

Saturday 3 August 2013

The beginning of the end.

At the start of 1972 the staff of Corpus Christi Catechetical Institute resigned. Fr Hubert Richards, its Principal, wrote to the Cardinal saying, "There is between us such a divergence of understanding on the nature of religious education that it would be inappropriate for us to remain as a staff in charge of your College."
Cardinal Heenan appointed Fr Michael Keegan of the Leeds Diocese as the new Principal, and Fr Hugh Lavery of Hexham and Newcastle Diocese as the new Vice-Principal. I knew Mgr Keegan when he joined the staff at the English College when I was a seminarian there. He was a much-respected house Theological tutor to the students. I remember him telling us a little about his time as Principal of the College – he spoke of the very strange culture which he encountered there when he took up his appointment.
After resigning Fr Hubert Richards first spent some time at St Edmunds in Cambridge, then at Pinner in Middlesex before leaving the Priesthood in 1975 and marrying one of his former students of Corpus Christi, the former religious Sister Clare Milward. They settled in Norwich where he died in 2010. Clare Richards, recently retired from her work in Education, lives there still.
In March 1975 the closure of Corpus Christi Catechetical Institute was announced; it closed in July 1975. The reason given for this was an economic one; student numbers, especially from English Dioceses had fallen, and the College was relying heavily on International students. However, I have heard it said many times that the reason behind its closure was not simply financial, but that this erroneous start in the new catechetics needed a radical closure. Even so, the damage had been done, and during the six years that Fr Richards led Corpus Christi, huge numbers of priests, religious and lay teaching staff attended courses and disseminated the errors of the College throughout the British Isles and further afield in the Engish-speaking world.
At Junior school in Leeds, I was aware of some of the Sisters going away on courses and coming back with their habits radically changed in appearance and full of all sorts of weird ideas. However, I was never in one of their classes; the class teachers who I had, at Junior school, never went to Corpus Christi and, as a consequence, we were taught the Catholic Faith. Later, at St Michael’s College in Leeds we had an RE teacher who taught us that Jesus (a human person) received a Divine mission at his baptism in the Jordan. I remember thinking at the time that this was bizarre clap-trap. He also incidentally taught us about all the forms of Contraception. This was 1973 and we were thirteen year olds!