Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

standard of secular instruction, set up by the State and kept up to the mark of gradual progression for the whole country, are a great good to us. The submitting of our pupil-teachers and teachers to an unrestricted competition, the treating of our schools and their results with rigid fairness and no favour, although the original condition of having only Catholic inspectors has been removed without any compensation to us, however hard the discipline, may in the end be serviceable. If there be a present loss, the change may lead to greater exertion, and be succeeded by larger gain. But the very exertion is a good. In what was said above, these things have been considered in themselves ; but connected with them, and in fact, as their motive power, is a large annual Parliamentary grant-say £40,000 a-year at present. If this were withdrawn, if we had to replace and continue on by our unaided exertions the works which it supports, may it not be doubted, considering the nature and extent of our population, whether we should be equal to the task? At this moment we have no inspection of secular instruction save that of the Education Department. The schools which are not under thie, as a matter of fact, go without inspection as to the efficiency of their secular instruction. But, moreover, it is a great many years since this Committee urged the universal employment of religious inspection. It is still only partial—it is not uniform ; the several inspectors do not confer together, nor work on any agreed standard. But inspection has been considered by the Education Department from the beginning as the primary condition of efficiency. Does not every one who has given attention to schools, or examined and compared them, agree with this judgment of the Education Department? But inspection is only one of the advantages above named. It must be supported by training-schools and qualified teachers. Could we maintain them all if we had to stand by ourselves ?

It is undoubtedly a downward movement for the State itself to retreat from avowing that religious instruction forms an essential part of education. This, as we have seen, it did avow by its condition of making grants up to the Education Act. But to us as Catholics, where the State has not the blessing of possessing the Catholic Faith, its complete severance from any interference with religious instruction has its advantages. Under the Education Act and the Code its self-chosen attitude is that of a policeman, who has his eye always on the school to see that no child is forced to receive religious instruction against the will of his parent. What is true religion, and what is false, is beyond such a policeman's cognisance. He has simply to prevent the exercise of force upon the scholar in the matter of religious instruction. But in her long life of eighteen hundred years the Church has fought with persistent perseverance for the free-will of man. It is a condition which she not only can, but will keep, and exact from others in the freedom of religious instruction. This must be looked upon from two sides : freedom, on the one hand, to teach completely the religion to which the parent belongs, and to which he wishes his child to belong ; freedom, on the other hand, of the parent to object, on behalf of the child, to all teaching of a religion which he does not accept. If we retain full and entire the former freedom, we do not object to the latter.

a

Indeed, Catholic schools before the passing of the Act were frequented either by Catholic children only, or by such others as the parents sent thither by choice. The concession of their liberty made by Catholic schools, in accepting for the first time a time conscience-clause, is far harder on them than on the schools of the Established Church, because in their case there was no reason to impose such a restriction. In their schools nobody's liberty had been violated, nor any complaint heard from a parent that a child received religious instruction against his will. The jealousy as to the imposition of religious instruction on unwilling scholars has a reason in the case of a national school in country districts, which may be the only one where scholars not belonging to the National Church may be able to attend ; but its application to schools intended for Catholics, and frequented by others only at their choice, had no such justification. Still, so long as this is accompanied by the positive freedom for those who value it to make religion the basis of education and to teach it in the school, it can be borne. But an advance beyond this point-any attempt to make the parent receive on behalf of his child secular instruction, from which religious instruction is violently severed by the will of another, is persecution. “Public elementary schools,” which receive the Parliamentary grant under the Minutes of Council

, are still free, at a certain time, to give religious instruction; but "public elementary schools," which are under a Board, are prohibited from using any distinctive religious catechism or religious formulary. But it is precisely by means of such that the Catholic religion always has been, must be, and will be taught. It follows that our only safety in the present consists in supplying for all our children schools in which full freedom of all religious instruction—as we understand that term—is allowed. And here it is both fair to the Education Act and important to ourselves to note a provision in Clause 76, whereby not only sanction is given, but an arrangement is made, for the inspection of the school “ by other than one of her Majesty's inspectors,”

;" “ as well in respect of religious as of other subjects.” As much as two days in the year are allowed for such inspection, and it is stated that “ on any such day any religious observance may be practised, and any instruction in religious subjects given at any time during the meeting of the school.” By this clause not only is the full freedom of religious instruction in what the Act terms“ voluntary” schools recognised by the Act itself, as forming part of the school's course of teaching, but the efficiency of such instruction is cared for by the suggestion of annual inspection in regard to it. And it follows that any “voluntary” school, in which such inspection and examination are not carried out, would sink below the religious level of the Act itself. This last remnant of the conditions of the past, wherein religious instruction was never absent from the idea of education, is most valuable in itself, and yields to us a position in which we may maintain that which we most value, as a right guaranteed by the Act itself.

What condition of things, as to the relation of the State to the Church in the matter of primary education, may be coming in the future, is unknown to all. But in estimating the present, and the value of the

a

position which it offers us, a considerable element is the view of other possibilities. The golden age is passed ; we stand in the silver ; we may have to encounter the iron. In the golden age, the State would make no educational grant without the condition of religious instruction. And of that instruction, the quality, the amount, and the time were all unrestricted, at the disposal of the Church. Yet many were found who censured connection in primary education with the State on these terms. This Committee advocated such co-operation consistently from the beginning, and to a certain degree it was carried out; but no one will deny that it might have been carried out with much greater energy and to a much greater extent. In the silver age the work of religious instruction is allowed, but not encouraged; the four pounds of flesh are rigorously required; the blood, “in which is the life,” is sparingly permitted. Even so, if the Church will exert to the utmost Her power, She can still animate this flesh; She is allowed not only to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, but what moral use man is to make of them; and the State does not compel her, as the price of its co-operation, to treat man as if he were brother of the ape. Shall we stand aloof, or make the most of this concession ? Perhaps it depends on the efficiency with which it is used,--that is, on the fact whether we are able to raise the labouring population out of the ignorance in which they lie, -whether this condition of things be a mere breathing time or a permanent state. But it should not be forgotten that an iron age may come. Such an age would be when the State should prohibit, in schools which it assisted, definite Catholic religious instruction. It is sufficient here to note that on such terms co-operation of the Church with the State would be impossible; and it would remain for it, at its own expense and risk, to provide its schools and all which should maintain them in efficiency. There is an old myth which still “speaks to the wise.” An unknown woman came before the Roman king and offered him nine volumes at a high price. He refused, and she departed and burnt three of her volumes; and returned with the six, asking the same price. The king refused again, and she went away once more and burnt three others; but she came a third time, and demanded for the three remaining the same price which she had asked for the whole nine. And then we are told that the king, who refused the nine volumes and the six, paid the whole price for the three. Thus, when the action of the Church was entirely untrammelled, we might have formed such a body of male and female teachers,—by the aid of the State,—that every school should have been supplied with them before an Education Act arose, and no large portion of the population been left outside ; or, again, we might, as some advised, have kept aloof from all co-operation with the State ; in which case do not the facts cited above show at what a terrible disadvantage we should have stood on the appearance of such an Education Act as that of 1870? So now we may fold our hands, and leave the waifs,—who appear to be half our number,—to schools which must have a spirit hostile to ours, and in which our belief cannot be taught; or we may so use the liberty still left us, and the aid still supplied to us, that our schools shall be more thoroughly leavened with Christian education than before. But

[ocr errors]

should the liberty ever be taken away, which God forbid, what we are now doing, the energy now put forth, and the experience now obtained, will probably determine whether we shall be able to keep those committed to us, or be condemned to lose them.

Such then is the language of the Poor School Committee : the same which we ourselves held in April. The recent Act has inflicted severe injury on Catholic schools which receive Government help; yet not such fatal injury, but that, by proportionally increased efforts, these may be made to continue thoroughly Catholic in spirit and in tendency. Such also is the Archbishop's judgment, as expressed at the great educational meeting of June 20th. The new arrangements, he said, "place the religious instruction of our schools at a notable and a formidable disadvantage"; and “we must therefore, with a concentration of attention, vigilance, and energy, maintain the religious efficiency of our religious instruction.”

We have spoken hitherto exclusively of the present; but we feel, quite as strongly as Canon Oakeley can feel, the alarming prospect which threatens Catholics for the future. In fact, these perils of the future were our very reason, for protesting against what seemed to us undue depreciation of the present : "It is not possible,” we said (p. 413) “that Catholics should throw themselves heart and soul into the impending contest against irreligious education, if they consider the existing system inevitably and hopelessly irreligious.” Had it been the case, as Canon Oakeley said, that true education is rendered utterly impracticable by the State's conditions of help, Catholics would have had no resource, but to do the best they could in their own strength; and, so far as education is concerned, they would have been comparatively indifferent to the political arena. Our own conviction on the contrary is, that they now retain much which is worthy of energetic political struggle ; and that they have means, moreover, of retaining it, for a very considerable time at least. But then we also think that, in order to retain it, they must put their shoulders vigorously to the wheel. Let them exert then their united strength, that not one denominational safeguard now existing be removed, and that the compulsoriness of instruction be not advanced one single step beyond its present position. In so much as this, by co-operating heartily with other denominationalists, there is every hope of their succeeding, for at least a very considerable time. And while such is their political attitude, let them domestically (if we may so express ourselves) strain every nerve-by building and endowing Catholic schools and training Catholic teachers,--that they may be more and

[ocr errors]

more prepared to meet the evil day, when at last it comes; and that even in the present they may make more and more provision for those unhappy children, who otherwise, by an unjust and cruel law, are placed under non-Catholic secular instructors.

Doubtless, as we also said in April (p. 422), they should “use their best efforts," if opportunity be offered, “to obtain some amendment of the law in the interests of true religion.But we think there is so little probability of important success in this direction, that they would but waste strength by laying any very great stress on the accomplishment of such a result. In truth, seldom has a political end been pursued under greater difficulties, than those which now cripple the Catholic politician in this matter of education. Bad as are the terms which the Church has obtained under Mr. Forster's Act, we are only surprised that they are not much worse ; and we believe that Catholics owe far more than they sometimes suppose, to Mr. Gladstone's influence with his party. They stand between two cross-fires. Speaking broadly and generally, the Catholic conclusion is derived from two premisses, of which the major is denied by liberals, and the minor by conservatives. That the State should exert itself to promote good religious education, this is the principle which Catholics assume. But liberals deny the principle; while conservatives, admitting the principle, deny that Catholic “religious education” is really good.” And so it turned out, that the very same men who supported Mr. Gordon against Mr. Gladstone, would have voted (it was understood) to a man, in favour of Mr. Fawcett's attack on the same Minister. They proceeded on a very intelligible ground: viz. that the Empire's true religious interests are advanced, on the one hand by promoting presbyterianism in Scotland, and on the other hand by repressing “popery " in Ireland.

Then, there is another complication. Catholics of course are directly at issue with most liberals,—while so far agreeing with most conservatives,-on the vital importance of Christian education. But a large number of Protestants advocate Christian education under the particular shape of teaching children the Protestant Bible; and, in fact, Mr. Gordon's motion on the Scotch Education Bill went precisely to this point. Here then the remedy is worse even than the disease. That a Catholic child be instructed by an heretical teacher in an heretical translation of Scripture, -is even a greater evil in the Catholic eye, than that he should be placed under such a teacher for the acquirement of purely secular knowledge. Cer. tainly it seems to us, that Protestants who advocate religious

« FöregåendeFortsätt »