Sunday, 11 March 2012

Catholic Universities in England - are they really Catholic?

Having had a bash at the schools last week, a subject I intend to return to, I thought I should take a look at our Universities, I think that's a plural!

St Mary's Strawberry Hill I used to know well, it was the focal point for Diocesan school sports events and many's the 100 metres I have streaked shambled over in those pre modernist years.

I knew that I would be unlikely to discover a hotbed of Catholic fervour, of religious imagery and reverence and, to my amazement.....I was right!

Am I being unfair?

Is this, in fact, a Catholic University?
It used to be a teacher training College but I guess it morphed into a Uni along with all  those excellent Ploytechnics, post 1993.

I assume it is still a Catholic institution, it does have a Chaplaincy and, on further investigation I uncover just about enough info to convict them of being so.
In June 2010 they recruited a new Principal. Philip Esler, a well respected academic hailing from, where else but Australia.

However, they rank 94 in the Times Good University Guide Tables, that places them, err, in front of......umm.....not too many others.
But they do lay claim to being  fifteenth in terms of London Universities (that must mean that they come last after all the others?).

If I was their Marketing Director, I think I might leave that statistic out of any prospectus information.
And, incidentally, the contact details for their marketing person give their designation as "Marketing Manger" (sic) - yes, we all know what they mean but for an educational organisation to get that wrong is, well, really pretty poor.

Reminds me of the ad for a college which read:

Come to St B-----'s College for a Quality Eduction

But I digress. As I stated earlier, you only know that St Mary's is Catholic when you dig a bit deeper into the various click buttons and then it's there, from time to time in the body copy.

They have the (by now) intensely boring and fatuous mission statement:

St Mary’s prepares its students for flourishing lives, successful careers and social commitment through excellent, research-enriched teaching in a strong community of mutual respect based on our Catholic ethos and identity.

Oh, No! Catholic ethos and identity - again! Meaningless gobbledygook unless backed up with real Catholic ethos and identity.

Do they have a crucifix in every classroom?
Do they stop for the Angelus at mid-day every day?
Does their teaching reflect the teachings of HMC and does a framed photograph of the Holy Father meet you in the reception area?

No? Well it ain't got no Catholic ethos and identity then.

Now, I hasten to add that I have not been able to determine whether the above statements are correct or not but I'll happily donate £50 to SPUC if someone proves me wrong.

I skimmed over the events calendar only to note that, on 14th March an American Professor, one Dr Colin Barr from Ave Maria University, Florida, gave a lecture on Cardinal Newman.

Here is an extract from the preview blurb:

Dr Barr commented, “In recent years, John Henry Newman has become an exemplar of orthodox piety, and a gay icon. His most famous book, The Idea of a University, is by common consent, one of the most influential treatises ever written on the philosophy of higher education. Yet it too suffers from anachronistic, political, and wildly conflicting interpretations.

If I was a Principal of a Catholic University I would not give the stage to someone who wished to talk about Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman as a "gay icon".

Perhaps that says it all.
There is a lot of talk about Fairtrade, Ecumenism and more but not too much on what I would wish to see from a 'Catholic' place of High Education.

More to come on other allegedly Catholic institutions during the week.


  1. Best of luck, Richard. I imagine SPUC will be waiting for a while for that particular £50.

  2. Ttony......I sometimes think I must have Scottish blood......I would like to be proved wrong though, it would be worth 50 quid.

  3. There are some very good people at SMUC, and I doubt Dr Barr is a flaming liberal if he's at Ave Maria.

  4. Little Donkey - that's not the point, the fact is it does not have a Catholic ethos as far as one can tell.

  5. You should do a post on what Catholic ethos means/represents Richard. Truly, you ought to. Because as far as I know, it would mean the creed.

    Maybe that is what catholic ethos means of course, but it would be nice to have it confirmed, for those of us who went to non-catholic schools and were never properly catechised. My catechism was done for a few months at 'saturday school' and for a few months on a Tuesday evening in the seventies. Apart from that, it has only been from being on blogger and listening to all the different posts.

    Sad, yet true.

    My kids all went to Catholic School. I didn't.

    I love my Jesus though and I will bash anyone who says I don't.

    1. jesus is great i'm going to catholic university
      god first and everything is next

  6. Ros....very good points. I need to pray for some intellectual input for that though.
    The Creed is the basis of what we believe in but ethos is a bit more difficult to pin down. It is about how we express our faith (I suggest)....must give it more thought.