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!

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