by Alex Cosgrave
CATHOLICS in the Salford diocese who send their children to nonCatholic schools could be committing a "grave sin".
Salford is the only diocese in the country which persists in reading a statement produced by the bishops of England and Wales at least 25 years ago which is regarded as an embarrassing anachronism by many of the other diocesan schools commissions.
The statement, read verbatim in every parish in the diocese on the second Sunday in January and printed in the Salford Diocesan Almanac, says that in normal circumstances any parents sending their child to a non-Catholic school expose that child to "the danger of losing their Faith".
"They are guilty of grave sin if they do so in defiance of the Church," says the statement.
In addition, parents who send their children to non-Catholic schools are said to be setting a bad example, tempting other parents to imitate them and thus doing great harm, especially to "weaker Catholics".
The statement admits that there might be exceptional Circumstances in which a child may be sent to a non-Catholic school, but this may be done only with the explicit permission of the bishop who will only grant permission if he is convinced that the case is a genuine one and if "all necessary safeguards are being taken to prevent injury to the soul of the child."
The statement concludes by appealing to Catholics to "adhere generously to those principles of loyalty to Church and Faith for which their forefathers made so many sacrifices not only or worldly position and success b,ut even of life itself."
Catholic teachers conference — page 3 None of the diocesan schools commissions, or Mgr David Norris, General Secretary of the Bishops' Conference, seem clear when the statement was first issued.
However, it has not been read in Lancaster for more than 25 years, in Westminster or Leeds for at least 20 years, and Fr Laurence Cresci of the Cardiff archdiocese said he did not remember it being read in the 42 years since he was ordained.
No other diocese in the country now uses the statement, and many schools commissions said they felt it was totally outdated.
Fr Ronald Richmond, of the Flexham and Newcastle Schools Commission, said he felt that although, naturally, parents were still encouraged to send their children to Catholic schools, no one would consider it a "grave sin" not to do so in this day and age.
Fr Alban Cochrane of Lancaster said that his diocese gave up reading the statement "years and years and years ago", while Mr P. W. Tagncy, of the Clifton Commission, referred to the statement as "death and glory stuff' which had not been read for 10 or 12 years. Most schools commissions also said they thought parents no longer bothered to ask the bishop's permission before deciding on a school for their
Most diocesan schools commissions said that they now followed the most recent bishops' statement on Catholic education published after the April Bishops Conference last year, and many said they felt this superceded earlier statements.
The April statement speaks of parents' "duty to educate their children in the knowledge and practice of the Faith". It "urges" Catholic parents to support Catholic schools and entrust their children to them, but avoids the dogmatic use of "grave sin" and seeking permission of their earlier statement,
The bishops' most recent statement was drafted by the Catholic Education Council, but Mr Blake, the CEC's assistant secretary, this week declined to comment on Salford's practice.
"It would be improper for me to say that it is obsolete because that would be a criticism of a bishop, and one doesn't want to do that in the Press," he said.
However, Mr Blake said he felt that Bishop Holland was not infringing parental rights by insisting that the statement was read.
Mr P. Carney, of the Catholic Teachers Federation, said that the statement was completely out of date and that the bishops' April statement should be used as the most appropriate guideline.
"Parents will exercise their rights, no matter what the bishops say, but in doing so they should be aware of the consequence," he said. Catholic schools needed the support of the Catholic community.
Bishop Holland of Salford and his senior adviser are both in the Holy Land at present and were therefore unavailable for comment.
Two members of' the diocesans schools commission, Mgr Gerard Larkin and Mgr Joseph Lakin, said they knew nothing about the statement other than that it was read every year on the bishop's instructions.
Canon E. Glynn, also of the Salford Schools Commission, said that he did not know why the statement was still read. "As far as we are concerned we have our instructions and that's that," he said.
With regard to sending children to a non-Catholic school being a grave sin, Canon Glynn said that every case was decided on its merits.
One possible explanation for the strict enforcement of such regulations is that Salford is well endowed with Catholic schools. With 305 Catholic primary and secondary schools, it is second only to Liverpool.