Catholic schools

Catholic schools

Fr Brendan Dillon PP

With reference to John Morrissey's article (June AD2000), he and your readers may be interested to know that the forum addressed by Bishop Peter Elliott was arranged by myself. I contacted the bishop because I had been told there were many parents allegedly forced into home schooling as a result of so-called widespread abuses in our schools on the part of some teachers - abuses that were inconsistent with Catholic doctrine and practice.

With the generous response by Bishop Elliott, I was able to give parents an opportunity to be heard here at St Leonard's. I felt this was a matter of justice, even though I had some real doubts as to the extent of the problem.

I did make a point later in the evening that home schooling had the disadvantage of depriving children of important social interaction, and, as John Morrissey records, I stressed the fact that children from solid Catholic families can give good example to those who come from uncommitted families in a school environment: Baptism calls all of us to do just this.

But John then wrote in the next line: "Who can blame the passionate response from some home schoolers present, seeing the souls of their own children as their first concern?" That's fair enough. However, why would he not mention the fact that I challenged one of the "passionate" mothers with the question: "If the Catholic school near you had a reputation for being thoroughly orthodox, would you be prepared to send your child there?" Her answer was a flat "No."

The invitation sent out emphasised that this was an opportunity for dialogue with the bishop "to discuss your concerns regarding the Catholic school system in Melbourne." It was never intended to be an evening to debate the merits of home schooling as against Catholic schools, but this mother - there may well have been others - had no interest in using a Catholic school no matter what steps Bishop Elliott may take to alleviate some of the concerns raised! I'm surprised John didn't see this as a significant moment in the evening's proceedings.

With regard to Michael Gilchrist's article on the retirement of Bishop Morris as Bishop of Toowoomba June AD2000), it was not mentioned that Bishop Morris was denied the opportunity to read the report made by Archbishop Charles Chaput following his investigation, during which, according to Bishop Morris (who found him to be very friendly), the Archbishop wanted to (and did) spend more time observing the animals and wild life.

How can it be claimed: "The report of that visitation led Rome to conclude the Bishop was indeed 'unfit for his job' and therefore needed to be removed." From what document is this being quoted? Has the writer of this article seen the Archbishop's report? Bishop Morris hasn't seen it. What is meant by "Rome"? Was it the Curia? For all we know Archbishop Chaput's report may not have recommended his removal at all.

In prayer and doctrine the Catholic Church places a heavy emphasis on justice. According to his ABC Compass interview, Bishop Morris was told that "there is no process for bishops". That is a denial of natural justice, and a situation which destroys the Church's credibility in telling others to "get their house in order."

The secular world looks on in disbelief at the fact that there is no process of justice for any bishop, in this case Bishop Morris. Even footballers, jockeys and trainers, rate-payers, etc, can get a hearing in the secular world.

It was a desire to see justice being done that prompted me to ring Bishop Elliott to ensure that those parents would be heard! Let's pray that the Australian Bishops, when they visit the Pope later this year, are not all talk, but do in fact put up a courageous stand to insist that the Bishop still has a basic right to a "dialogue" on this matter, not the "monologue" he received some five years ago.

FR BRENDAN DILLON PP
Glen Waverley, Vic

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