17 AUGUST  2007





Private Good: Roman Catholic Schools at Work

Roman Catholic schools are about the private, not the public good. The Pastoral Letter of the Bishops of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, "Catholic Schools at a Crossroads "(7 August 2007) signed by Cardinal George Pell and sixteen fellow bishops, clearly reveals that the private good of this sectarian institution is the basis of this letter.

Consider the following quotes from this document:

 The bishops challenge "all Catholic educational leaders, staff and parents, as well as the broader Catholic community to join them in re-committing to Catholic schooling in the new situation of the 21st century. And they challenge all those involved to dedicate themselves to ensuring that our schools:

are truly Catholic in their identity and life

are centres of the new evangelisation

enable our students to achieve high levels of ''Catholic religious literacy and practice

are led and staffed by people who will contribute to these goals.

At Page 10 under the heading Identity of the Catholic School, we read the following:

"Put simply: the Catholic school is the principle educational arm of Catholic families, parishes, and the wider church for those generally aged under 19. It is there to assist parents and parishes in their educational, evangelical, and catechetical mission. However, much more is required for a genuinely Catholic school than just a preponderance of students from Catholic families. The religious education curriculum is sound, attractive and professionally taught by teachers with appropriate R.E. qualifications and other disciplines also consider the Catholic dimension of their subject areas. ......leaders and staff understand and are solidly committed to the Catholic identity of the school. .....schools are Eucharistic communities within the parish context where, as far as possible, students regularly take part in Mass and Reconciliation....schools are places cultivating a Catholic imagination, where prayer and liturgy are supported by Catholic visual culture. "

Schools are connected to their local parishes through inviting periodic presence of the bishop, clergy and religious and parents in the school and through active collaboration with the wider Catholic community. ....

At page.14, under the heading Passing on the Catholic Faith, Life and Culture, we read the following:

  If Catholic schools are to succeed in passing on the Catholic faith to the next generation ...schools will have to have as their goal th3e formation of Christian disciples with the appropriate world view, character, and behaviour.....There will be demonstration of Catholic religious literacy through appropriate assessment and religious activities...Our schools will also seek to involve parents and families in the process of evangelising and catechising their children, seeking in the process to educate those families in the faith.

At page 16, under heading, Leading and Staffing Our Schools in this New Era, we read the following:

"If Catholic schools are to succeed in the mission articulated above, it will be essential that"....all those appointed as principals, assistant principals and religious education co-ordinators are faithful Catholics who are ready to embrace the mission of the Catholic school to-day and to lead and inspire their staff and parents accordingly.....all teachers are committed to the mission of the school and teach and live in accordance with the teachings of the Church...while fully supporting existing leaders and staff in our Catholic schools, we identify and form a new generation of leaders and teachers who are deeply committed to the goals of Catholic Education....vocations to the priesthood, religious life and Christian marriage are actively promoted in our schools."

At page 18, under the heading, Critical Indicators of Progress, we read the following:

"...the Catholic purpose of the school is clearly stated in each school's mission statement....progress towards an increase in the proportion of school staff, especially of Religious Education teachers -who are practising and knowledgeable Catholics...progress towards an increase in the proportion of students in our schools who are Catholic... efforts to connect with Catholic families and to maximise their participation in Catholic schools. "

For further details DOGS refer readers to the Pastoral Letter of the Bishops of NSW and the ACT: Catholic Schools at a Crossroads. itself.

Contrast the Public Good of Public Education with the Private Good of the Pastoral Letter

Readers should contrast the fundamental public purpose of public education with the private, religious good outlined and stressed in the Pastoral letter.

The public school and system is a exercise in community which elevates the RES PUBLICA ( public good) above the private good. The fundamental reason for public schools is for a public, political and social purpose. The Founding Fathers of the Australian Constitution, Griffiths, Barton, Parkes, Higgins and Inglis Clark, attempted to protect the Australian nation state from social and religious fragmentation. They wished to avoid "States within States" caused by powerful Church interests emphasising and pursuing their own private good. They attempted to do this with the establishment, support, promotion and protection of public systems of education enjoying sole public funding. In 1948 Justice Frankfurter of the United States Supreme Court in McCollum  referring to public education, in similar terms to the Australian Founding Fathers sixty to seventy years before, said;

" Designed to serve as perhaps the most powerful agency for promoting cohesion among a heterogeneous people."

 Readers should realise that, at his basis, public education has a public, not a private purpose. It is not maintained for the private purpose or gain of the teacher, the proprietor, the board of management, the Imam, the Bishop or the Church trustees. Nor does it exist simply for the enjoyment, happiness or advancement of the individual student or their parents.

The public school system serves the whole society by providing schools for all children throughout the community, ensuring  the knowledge and understanding necessary to exercise the responsibilities of citizenship. It is public in purpose in that it attempts to bring all the community together in an exercise of community with the public learning to work, live and play together.

For further information on the above DOGS refer you to




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Last modified:Friday, 17 August 2007