It is and has been, from her beginning, the belief of the Church that she has an obligation to provide an education for her children by which their whole lives may be inspired by the spirit of Christ. (cf. GE paragraph 3).
A Catholic school is not just an environment for providing a series of lessons; it operates out of an educational philosophy, which aims to meet the needs of the young people of today in light of the Church’s faith in Jesus Christ. (cf. RDECS paragraph 22).
The Second Vatican Council declared that it is the religious dimension that makes the Catholic school distinctive. This religious dimension can be found in (a) the context in which education is delivered, (b) the means by which the personal development of each student is achieved, (c) the relationship established between culture and the faith of the Church in the message of Christ, (d) the fact that all knowledge is informed by and derives its ultimate meaning from the faith within whose context it is pursued. (cf. RDECS paragraph 1).
As the Church develops her response to the command from Our Lord Jesus Christ to proclaim His message, she strives to make more effective the means by which people come to know Him and about Him and by which people are formed to become more completely human. The Catholic school is one of these means, and its specific task is to bring faith and culture together, keeping the freshness of the challenge of Christ’s message to human living today while, at the same time, respecting the autonomy and methodologies proper to human knowledge. (cf. RDECS paragraph 31).
It is very important to realise that the Catholic identity of our schools is not exclusively related to religious instruction and the integration of academic studies into a unified whole. The Catholic school has a single Christian vision, an integrated concept of what makes a fully authentic and mature human being. The educational process is not confined to the curriculum, nor to the academic, technical, artistic and sporting achievements of the school. The Catholic school should be seen as offering the possibility not only of exploring the mystery which God is, but also of demonstrating the Gospel in action. It must be consistent throughout and in every aspect reflect the Christian faith, which is its soul, its inspiration and its justification. (cf. FCS).
The curriculum, in all its aspects, must reflect the fact that the person of Christ, and the message, which the Church has received from Him, is the foundation of the whole educational enterprise in a Catholic school. Although it may be convenient to speak of the ‘religious’ curriculum and the ‘secular’ curriculum in the Catholic School, as though these were separate and distinct, in the reality the curriculum as whole, and every part of it, is religious, since there is nothing which does not ultimately relate to God. For the school to be truly Catholic, this vision must be shared by all connected with its work. (cf. EDNCS Introduction (page 8).
All discovery and research are an exploration of the mind of God; all knowledge is a share in the infinite life of God. In all that is true, good and beautiful the mind glimpses a marvellous reflection of the reality, which we call God. It is fundamental to our religious tradition to regard all reality as God-given and therefore to rule out in advance any possibility of contradictory truths. Religion and knowledge of every kind can never be in conflict. There is an important consequence of this vision of a single, God-given, creation. We have a moral and social responsibility for the way we treat the world around us. It is a concern that is rooted in our theology of creation and should be an intrinsic element in Catholic education. (cf. FCS).
Throughout the whole of the curriculum, topics arise which raise specific moral and religious issues for which an adequate response will need to be planned in the light of the teaching of the Church. The response should ideally be given within the context of the particular curriculum area, since the underlying values and attitudes should be present in all we do. (EDNCS Curriculum page L-35).
[The key concepts set out in this statement are elaborated in the Diocese's publication Our Catholic Schools, their Identity and their Purpose, known as the 'Red Book', which is now available in a revised third edition.]
This statement is based upon quotations from the following documents:
'Gravissimum Educationis' – Document of the Second Vatican Council on Education. 1965. (GE).
'The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School.' The Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, Rome. 1988. (RDECS).
'The Future for Catholic Schools.' Address by Cardinal Hume to Catholic Headteachers at London Colney, 19 September 1988. (FCS).
'Evaluating the Distinctive Nature of the Catholic School.' Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, 1999. (EDNCS).
Our Catholic Schools: their Identity and Purpose, was first published in 1988 and a revised edition produced 1996. Its distinctive red cover earned it the name the ‘Red Book’, and it became a familiar sight in the Diocese. It was given to all newly appointed Foundation Governors, and many schools gave copies to members of staff on appointment as well.
Following many requests, the Red Book has now been fully revised and updated, including references to important new Church documents that have come out over the past decade.
Schools are recommended to make Our Catholic Schools widely available. A copy has been sent to every Head Teacher and Chair of Governors. It is recommended that all existing governors and members of staff are given a copy, as well as new members of staff on appointment. The Diocese will, once again, be giving a copy to all new Foundation Governors on taking up office.
Please order your copies of the Red Book now using the Order Form below. The price is £2 per copy.
'I welcome this third edition of what has become known as the ‘Red Book’, because it gives the Catholic community the opportunity to set out clearly what we mean when we say that Catholic education is at the heart of the Church’s mission in the Diocese of Westminster.'
Archbishop Vincent Nichols
Click here for the order form.