I READ with interest Gerard Noel's item about the appointment of a resident chaplain to the Catholic pupils at Eton.
As Mr Noel states, such an appointment was mooted years ago, (I remember hearing of it when my husband was on the staff there in the fifties) but the idea was vetoed by the hierarchy on the reasonable grounds that it would be wrong to "impart a blessing on the idea of Catholics attending non-Catholic schools."
Are we to conclude from this Eton appointment that the hierarchy now does approve of this officially?
If so, and it is a major policy reversal, I can recall no public pronouncement to this effect issued as a guide for parents, although there has been a marked trend over the last few years away from the Catholic schools.
Perhaps we could be told?
In the fifties and sixties, hardly any topic was exhorted so frequently from the pulpits as that of the importance of education in a Catholic school; it was impressed upon parents as their solemn duty.
Up and down the land, parish primary and local secondary schools were opened, usually as the result of enormous hard work, dedication, and fundraising by committed Catholics,_ to ensure that as far as possible no child should be deprived of the chance of what was seen as a basic foundation of their upbringing in the Church.
In the private sector also, the Catholic preparatory and public schools were enthusiastically supported and frequently oversubscribed.
To meet part of this need, my husband and other dedicated Catholics — with the blessing of the hierarchy and the support of the older Catholic public schools — opened Red Rice School in 1961 as the first entirely lay-run Catholic public school.
The first intakes were almost entirety Catholic, and numbers rose steadily; however, within ten years the flood of Catholic pupils had slowed to a trickle, and after twenty years it was acknowledged with great sadness that the purpose for which the school had been founded had largely evaporated.
I am well aware that the last ten years has seen an enormous decline in the whole school population, Catholic and nonCatholic (which incidentally must reflect something about the Catholic attitude to birthcontrol).
But Eton is not alone in its considerable number of R.C. pupils. 1 suspect that a tally of Catholic students at present studying at non-Catholic public schools would easily fill at least one entire school of their own denomination. Maybe more.
Veronica T. Stokes Ash Barn Little Ann Andover