Go north, young Catholic men

The measured calm of The Tablet magazine, the Catholic intellectual weekly, has been shattered in a burst of holy spleen.

The head of Ampleforth College, Britain's most prestigious and expensive Catholic school, has used its pages to mount a scathing attack on the growing band of Catholic toffs sending their offspring to Anglican alternatives - Eton and Harrow included. They stand accused of taking a "shallow and sentimental" approach to the church and submitting to the forces of secularism.

Not content with lashing his fellow Catholics, Father Leo Chamberlain then turns his scorn on Anglican public schools where, he says, religion has become "a marginal event".

"Rare is the Anglican school which has all its pupils in chapel on a Sunday, " writes the Benedictine monk.

"Ironically, the very time that religious ideals are vanishing from these schools, Catholics are joining them," he complains.

Father Leo believes that Catholic toffs should go to toffish schools for Catholics - such as his north Yorkshire college. Known as the Catholic Eton, it charges Pounds 4,680 a term.

The Catholic independent sector has suffered in recent years, with the number of schools dropping from 385 to 199. Belmont, another Benedictine school in Herefordshire, closed in 1994, the year that also saw the end of the school at Buckfast Abbey, Dorset. Ampleforth has survived better than most.

The latest Tablet also features a counterblast from Eton, keen to assure the readers of its spiritual credentials.

The chaplain, David Forrester, says the school is "Christian not only in its foundation but in its daily functioning". Catholics are offered daily mass, plus special lessons in doctrine and trips to Lourdes.

"It is certain that Catholic parents, in the interests of what they see as the good of their children, will continue to send their sons and daughters, " he writes. "Should these parents be supported or, as some believe, somehow be penalised or be made to feel guilty?"

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