Saturday, 04 Sep 2010
The crisis of Catholic higher education in Australia...
The exit of tens of millions of the adult baptised out of the pews across the Western world is a scandal more serious than the sex abuse crisis itself. Evidence suggests that the most disenchanted are drawn from the more educated sectors of society who are no longer prepared to tolerate Catholicism being reduced to some narrow ideological and dogmatic game of trying to constantly prove how we Catholics can read the mind of God better than anyone else on earth. This crisis needs to be addressed and the people who have brought it about need to be brought to account.
In Australia one aspect of the crisis in recent years has been an attempted ideological takeover of Catholic higher education. Trying to turn Catholic higher education into some kind of brainwashing factory that turns out cloned spokespeople for the small ideological remnant who believe they alone known the mind of God is the road to disaster and further dramatic reduction of the participation rates. It is delusional to believe that this ideological remnant are ever going to "reach out" and re-evangelise the lapsi (those who have ceased regular participation in the sacramental life of the Curch) or evangelise the world. Where did this delusional thinking come from?
The role of Catholic universities and institutes of higher education is to be encouraging students to their full potential, to encourage them to penetrate the mysteries of Life and the mysteries of the Divine. It is not some game of trying to train ideologues who can parrot some company line. Catholicism is supposed to be about reaching out to all of humanity but not in an endeavour to force them into a particular set of ideological beliefs but to open themselves to the freedom, creativity and potential God imbued into each individual member of the human race. What is this enormous fear that exists in the institutional leadership to allow God to direct the individual human soul and spirit? Why this "control freak" agenda that only the institutional leadership, and their small peanut gallery of lay supporters, are constantly telling us how to think, how to pray, how to live our lives?
Today on Catholica we bring you a hard-hitting commentary from a Christian Brother upset at what has been going on in Australia's newest Catholic university. It is time for the rot to stop. It is time for the other bishops of Australia to show a bit of leadership and speak up on behalf of their people and say "we're not taking any more of this nonsense that has been driving the people out of the pews in droves". Ultimately, gentlemen, you are not going to be judged by Benedict or George Pell. Your stewardship is going to be judged on how well you responded to the needs of your flock and the generations who will lead the institution into the future.
None of us prove our Catholicity by constantly proclaiming how "faithful to the magisterium" we are. That is a game played by sporting clubs, and in kindergartens. Catholicism is about demonstrating our proficiency in firstly discerning, and then following, the very personal and individual guidance our Creator-God provides to each one of us. Yes, we know there is a risk that some people will be distracted by their emotions, their egos, and their anxieties. The challenge of the institution is to help people through all those hurdles so that they can hear the voice of the Divine themselves. It's about educating people how to use their consciences. It's not a game of endeavouring to be the conscience for the people. Catholic higher education has a special place in this entire process of showing people how to do this. Catholic education in general and higher education in particular, is about encouraging the leadership of the future — self-actuated people who can work out right from wrong for themselves, courageous individuals who truly are leaders in society who can discern the difference between trying to impose some idealogy on society and encouraging people to "enter the Mystery of the Divine" and have their lives, and consciences, guided by the Source of all life and all of Creation.