Catholics move with the times

22nd April 2005 at 01:00
In her article "Holy Father, forgive me for my criticisms" (TES, April 8), Jennifer Baker presented a view of Catholic education which I felt failed to reflect the experience of many pupils and teachers.

I was educated at Catholic schools myself and like Ms Baker learned nothing about contraception. But I did learn a great deal about faith and justice and that being a Catholic meant standing up for those who were oppressed.

I also learned about liberation theology and began to understand that my narrow experience of what it meant to be a Catholic educated by nuns in Lancashire did not reflect the experience of Catholicism worldwide.

Perhaps if Ms Baker were to return to Catholic education now, she would see a difference to her experience in the 1980s.

Until recently, I taught in inner-city Preston. There, Catholic schools were trying to open up to a wider faith community, embracing the many cultures and faiths of the city.

In my primary school we desperately tried to equip the young people with the knowledge and skills they would need as adults while we tried to engender in them a sense of caring for our community and "loving your neighbour". In an area of racial tensions I believe what we did was valuable, as children recognised what was the same in all of them rather than focusing on what was different.

Though I have not worked in Catholic secondaries, I know they try to offer children realistic personal and social education, which includes teaching on contraception within the context of loving relationships.

Catholic education is taking tentative steps into the Third Millennium, trying to move from being an institution of the Catholic Church to being a servant of society. I agree that homosexuality, the role of women, and paedophile priests are just some of the issues that Catholic education needs to address better, but please, Ms Baker, don't condemn Catholic schools out of hand. Do they need to change? Yes, but as Cardinal Newman said: "To live is to change".

Nancy Walbank Preston Lancashire (full address supplied)

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