1 OCTOBER   2007




Two Pastoral Letters Released

On 7 August 2007, a pastoral Letter entitled Catholic Schools at a Crossroads, was issued by the Bishops of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. This letter was signed by Cardinal George Pell, and sixteen fellow Bishops.

Less than a month later, on 3 September 2007, a Pastoral letter on Education was issued by Cardinal Cormac Murphy - O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, and Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool, President and Vice President of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales.

This letter was sent to all parishes in England and Wales.

Important Critical Mass Difference:

To make any sense of the reading of these two Pastoral letters on education, the reader should first note the difference in the power relationship in the Body Politic of the two countries. There is a extensive difference in the percentage share of those adhering to the Roman Catholic faith in the two countries.

 Research reveals that in the 2001 census, the Roman Catholic population in Australia represented approximately 26.6% of the total population. In New Zealand the relevant percentage share was 12.7 %; and in England and Wales  7.9%.

Later figures, if and when they are available would reveal similar relativities to those outlined above.

Research in  the Australian  situation reveals further interesting facts:

  • In the Australian Capital Territory , the centre of  Federal Parliament and its administrative headquarters, the Roman Catholic percentage share of the population ( 29 % in 2001) is greater than the national average

  • A similar situation exists for New South Wales.

  •   Taking account of all the above, the Australian Roman Catholic share of population is more than three times the share of population in England and Wales.

  • It would not surprise the reader to discover that Roman Catholic bureaucracies are far more powerful in Australia than in the United Kingdom.

Strength of the Roman Catholic Education Bureaucracies.

Taking account of the above, the reader should be particularly aware of the strength of the highly centralised Roman Catholic education bureaucracies in Australia in comparison to those in other countries.

To illustrate this point DOGS quote from three separate persons:

  1. Cardinal Pio Laghi , the then Prefect for the Congregation for Catholic Education  (Vatican) claimed in The Catholic Leader, 28 May 1995, p.17 that Australia possessed : '' Catholic system of Education unequalled anywhere in the World.

  2. 'Bishop David Konstant, the Bishop of Leeds in Kairos  9 April 2000, p. 18  making a speech iduringCatholic Education Week said that': the support given by the public authorities over the years has been quite remarkable. The partnerships that exist between Church and State in your education system is a model that many countries might envy.

  3. 'Hedley Beare, the Professor Emeritus in Education, University of Melbourne, described the Victorian Catholic Education Office  as a behemoth. ( A great or monstrous beast, also a general term for one of the largest and strongest animals.)

DOGS suggest that readers keep in mind the difference between the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in the two countries. This does not demean the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. Even with only 7.9% of the population the Bishops have forced the Labor Party in that country to back down and grovel from their position on publicly funded 'faith schools' in 2006.

Similarities Between Australian and UK Situation

The purpose of religious schools in both countries is overtly religious. Both Pastoral letters proclaim the fundamental purpose of Catholic Education.  for example, we quote from the UK letter:

' ...want at the start of this new school year to reaffirm our vision of Catholic Education and our commitment to providing Catholic Schools....this vision of education stands in contrast to a secular model of education...underlying these indications of the success of our schools is their distinctiveness... Schooling has been, and remains, an important part of the mission of the church. The aims of our schools are to help everyone within the community to grow in the faith.'

This statement is echoed in the Pastoral Letter of the Bishops of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

' our schools:

  • are truly Catholic in their identity and life

  • are centres of new evangelisation

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

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

 These two statements differ markedly from the evidence presented in the DOGS High Court case.

In their Facts proved in evidence the Church school defendants, in relation to the Roman Catholic schools,  wrote the following

'The fact is that Catholic schools in Australia are not conducted for religious or confessional purposes.'

DOGS invite readers to reflect on the difference between the above two Pastoral letters and the statements made in the context of the High Court case. DOGS suggest that the pastoral letters are correct as they are a statement of what was said both before and after, but not during the High Court case in Australia ( 1979 - 81) 

DOGS also suggest that the provision of State Aid to Church schools, contravenes Section 116 of the Australian Constitution.

Differences Between the UK and Australian Pastoral Letters

Difference in Size and Quality of Pastoral Letters:

The two pastoral letter differ markedly in both size and quality of production. The Australian production, Catholic Schools at a Crossroads contains about 3,800 words while the UK Pastoral Letter contains a mere 700 . The English Pastoral Letter has no illustrations whereas the Australian production has 26 pages, 12 and a half of which are devoted to pictures of religious representations or activities or religious men dealing with schoolchildren in such activities. Our taxes at work! The UK production on the other hand is a sparse two pages, with no full page or even half page pictures at all. Readers may wish to contemplate the reasons for this difference.

Difference in Tone of Pastoral Letters: Connection with the State

The UK Pastoral Letter attempts to legitimate the relationship between 'faith schools' and the State. It is defensive. For example: 'For a very long time now the Catholic has been an important partner with public authorities in the provision of education. .... rich history of co-operation between Church and State. These tasks are, of course carried out in close co-operation with local and national government....This publication of a letter in the name of all the Bishops of England and Wales is an unusual and important step and it renews our commitment to co-operate with local authorities and central government.

The Australia Pastoral Letter reflects the current relationship between Church and State. Unfortunately for our secular, democratic State, the Church knows it has the State well covered. If anything it is triumphalist.

Whereas the UK bishops have been under attack in the past few years from teacher unions and secularists, the Australian bishops are riding high, so high that they should be worried about hubris.

UK Bishops Under Attack from Various Sources

Church Schools have been under attack in the UK to a much greater extent that in Australia. Consider the following:

  • In the UK the National Association of School-masters and Union of Women Teachers in May 2002, voted in favour of ending a long-standing tradition in England and Wales. They voted in favour of a secular state school system as exist in the United States of America.

  • In August 2005 the Guardian newspaper  under the heading  Two Thirds Oppose Funding of Faith Schools:

  • Faith schools, a central plank of the Government's Education reforms designed to increase parental choice are opposed by almost two thirds of the public.

  • In March 200, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers  decided that "faith schools which discriminate against potential pupils and staff should no longer be allowed State funding."

  • On September 19, 2007,  the Guardian Unlimited published an article headed 'Faith Schools Should not be State Funded'

  • Even in Ireland, from the home of the original attack upon our public system by the Roman Catholic Bishops, there is questioning of the Roman Catholic stranglehold on education and a suggested move to replace it by an Australian style secular system.  DOGS quote from Dublin,  The Independent  September 23, 2007: Why Religious Bias should Not be One of the Three R's. Children have the right to a Roman Catholic Education but it should be separate to the current State Education system.

 In conclusion, DOGS note that in the UK and Ireland, the Roman Catholic Church Bishops are sensitive to the call for the abolition of faith schools. In Australia, on the other hand, the bias of the mainstream media in favour of Church Schools and the abdication of responsibility by politicians means that the Roman Catholic Bishops and their Protestant brethren are becoming triumphalist.

Given that Australia tends to follow the UK a few years later, readers, should watch this space. DOGS are one of a very few groups in Australia who are prepared to take on the religious lobby's attacks on our public purse and the public education system.

DOGS also refer readers to press Release 218 at





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Last modified:Monday, 01 October 2007