Emily’s Bombshell: Extinguishing Catholic School Identity in the Name of Enhancing It
Imagine this scene in a typical Catholic family home one weeknight. Emily, the oldest daughter of a Mass-going suburban family comes home from school and announces, “Today my teacher told our class that faith in the idea of an eternal God is really a bad thing; we are being ‘fundamentalist’ if we cling to the idea that Je-sus is true God and true man because it leads to a ‘ghetto mentality.’ My religion teacher said he has been told to ‘recontextualise’ what he teaches in class, to take away any fixed beliefs, like Mary’s Immaculate Concep-tion, that might be un-acceptable to non-believers.”
Mum and Dad might begin to shift in their seats in front of the TV at that. Then if Emily then goes on to say, “O, and by the way, even if I don’t believe that the Eucharist is really Jesus Christ I am still a believing Catholic you know,” they might become even a little more uncomfortable
Dad might even reach out to turn off the TV remote if their daughter goes on to say, “My teacher has just done a course at the Catholic education office where he learnt that no one can have a direct relationship with God. The people running the course said that people can only be in contact with a distant God through symbols and mysteries. So, I guess, it’s silly to pray to him. My teacher says we can never be completely certain or fixed about anything the Church teaches. He says we should always question and challenge Catholic teachings again and again.”
If Emily’s teacher is saying that there is no such thing as religious certainty, that faith is illogical, and that what we believe doesn’t need to be reasonable or to make sense, is he professing a new religion?
Chances are, that Emily’s school is involved in a project that is being taken up by a number of Catholic School Systems in Australia. It’s called the Enhancing Catholic School Identity Project (ESCIP). It is the lega-cy of the ”interruptive” theologian Lieven Boeve, professor of Systematic Theology at the Catholic Universi-ty of Leuven in Belgium.
He argues that the Catholic religion can no longer be believed as literally true, and that anyone who thinks that our faith has professed sure and certain truth over the ages is wrong. He says: “Christianity as a master narrative has also lost much of its credibility … Christianity, however, has no future as an all-encompassing me-ta-narrative.” Boeve argues that the Catholic faith must be “recontextualised” or re-interpreted to make it more acceptable to today’s anti-Catholic world-view.
The representatives of the Leuven team in Australia, Prof Didier Pollefeyt & Jan Bouwens, explain just what recontextualising faith and nurturing post-critical belief means: “A recontextualising school environment challenges people to give shape to their personal identity in conversation with others, against the background of a dialogue (and sometimes also a confrontation) with the Catholic tradition.” Click here for a link to the full Pollefeyt article.
Note how the student’s ‘personal identity’ is pitted against the Catholic tradition. Somehow, the student becomes the judge of this or that Catholic teaching. Christ is no longer the centre of faith; the personal identity of the student takes His place. It should come as no surprise to learn that the Leuven ECSIP project actually encourages teachers and students to be in open contradiction with the beliefs of Catholicism.
It is difficult to imagine how such a pattern of organised disbelief and confrontation of Catholic belief could ever enhance the Catholic identity of teachers, students and schools. How will Emily’s faith be affected by such a program?