30 DECEMBER 1882, Page 9


THE remarkable article contributed by Cardinal Manning to the December number of the Nineteenth Century appears to us to have received less of public attention than it deserves. It may be presumed that the Cardinal is, in this paper, speaking as the representative of the whole Roman Catholic community in England ; and if this be so, the views which he expresses, and still more the demands which he makes in its name, extraordinary as they are, are entitled to respectful examination. The argument set forth in the Nineteenth Century may be thus summarised :—There can be no religious teaching without definite dogmas and formularies. The Education Act forbids the use of dogmatic formularies in Board Schools ; therefore, the teaching in Board Schools is irreligious, or at least non-religious and secular. The large majority of the people of England, including all Catholics, Anglicans, and Nonconformists, desire religious teaching, and therefore the Board-School system does not satisfy the convictions or the needs of the majority. That system is satisfactory only to secularists, who are few and unimportant. Yet the Education Act has specially endowed this insignificant minority with the School-rate, and so has placed all Christian people at a disadvantage. " The educa- tion formed under the Act of 1870 falls entirely into the hands of those who desire to exclude religion from the educa-

tion of the English people secularists who had not zeal and self-denial enough to found Voluntary secular schools " before the passing of the Act. And the Cardinal proceeds to claim for the Denominational schools larger public subsidies, and as complete an exemption from the need for voluntary subscription as is now enjoyed by the Board Schools.

A very few considerations will show the untenable character of this curious argument. It rests on two perfectly gratuitous and unproved assumptions :-1. That in the Board Schools no religion is taught, 2. That Catholics, Anglicans, and Non- conformists are unanimous in disapproving of Board Schools. It is not denied that in Board Schools the Bible is read and explained, and " the life and words and works and death of the Divine Saviour of the world" are taught. "But this," says the Cardinal, " is not the teaching of religion," for "religion without doctrine is like mathematics without axioms, or triangles without sides." Now, though this mode of stating the case has a decisive and logical look, a more mis- leading metaphor could scarcely be introduced as a premiss into a serious argument. The children in Board Schools learn to read the Bible, to understand its story and its language, to know the facts of the Gospel narrative, to commit to memory some of the words of the Divine Master, and to be acquainted with some of the simpler moral teaching and poetry of the Scriptures. Whether this be religion or not, it is as much of it as the great majority of Christian parents who are not Catholics think appropriate for the period of childhood, and as much as they are in the habit of giving to their own children. The distinctive dogmas by which one section of the Christian Church is found to differ from another do not, as a rule, form any part of the instruc- tion given to the children of Protestant parents, either in the public school, 'the grammar or boarding-school, or in home tuition. It is true that many leaders of thought in the Pulpit, the Senate, and the Press are accustomed to insist, in the case of schools for the poor, on the need of more definite dogma than they apparently desire for their own sons. But within the walls of the elementary school-room, the practice is not found to harmonise with this theory, and it cannot be truly said that the theory itself is held by the majority of English people. Nonconformists, when they maintained elementary schools of their own, never taught catechisms and formularies in them. The schools which they wero accustomed to establish before the Act of 1870 were " British " schools, which, in regard to religious teaching, were precisely the same as the modern Board Schools. So satisfied is the whole body of Nonconforming Christians with the religious teaching of the Board School, that, with the exception of the Wesleyans, they have almost ceased to maintain any schools of their own. And even in Wesleyan schools the religious teaching is mainly Biblical ; there is, we believe, rarely a catechism, and never any enforced chapel attendance or religious observance. A Wesleyan school is often maintained as a useful, interesting, and very inex- pensive appendage to a Wesleyan chapel, and is largely attended by the children of members of the congregation ; but in its theo- logical teaching it, is not distinguishable from a Board School. The same may be said of a far greater number of so-called Church schools than is generally supposed. The staple of the religious teaching is precisely the sort of uncontroversial lesson on the Bible and its history which is to be found in the Board School. No Sunday attendance or religious practice is, as a rule, enforced, or even required ; and the one element in the teaching—the Church Catechism—which nominally dif- ferentiates the National School from the Board or the British School is universally admitted to be the least intelligible and effective factor in the school instruction, and practically receives less and less attention every year. Un- doubtedly, the supporters of Roman Catholic schools have formed a very different conception of their duties. In a Catho- lic school, every child is taught the distinctive dogmas of the Catholic faith, and what is more, is brought under distinctly Catholic influence and discipline. By means of church attend- ance, and divers enforced practices, a very real propaganda is carried on in every Roman Catholic school. But the mistake of Cardinal Manning arises from the assumption that what he and his co-religionists mean by religious teaching, i ,e. , a system definitely designed to attach the scholar for life to a particular section of the Christian Church, is also what is meant under that phrase by other bodies of Christians in this country, or what Anglicans and Nonconformists actually practise or care about. He speaks repeatedly of the Board-School teaching as secular teaching, and as only approved by secularists, The Board School is in fact no more a secular school than one of his own. In both, secular teaching must be given during certain hours, and in both the same time is assigned to religious exercises and instruction. The character of the religious teaching permissible in a Board School has been determined, not by a sect of secularists, but by the representatives of the whole nation in Parliament. The children of all denomina- tions use the Board School freely, and the parents make no complaint of the inadequacy of the religious instruction. In the administration of the School-Board system Clergymen, Catholic priests, Nonconformist ministers, and Christian laymen, are found in all parts of the country loyally co-operating in order to carry out the intentions of the Act. In professing, there- fore, to protest in the name of the entire Christian public of England, as distinguished from the secularists, Cardinal Manning is speaking wholly without authority. He is, in fact, the mouthpiece solely of the Roman Catholic community, to whom, it may be admitted, the use of the primary school as an instrument for special theological teaching and discipline is a matter of vital importance, if the men and women of the next generation are to be kept within the fold of the Roman Catholic Church at all.

And what is the remedy proposed by the Cardinal for the alleged grievance? To understand this aright, it is necessary to bear in mind that an elementary school derives its income from three distinct sources,—the fees paid by the parents, the Government grant, and the subscriptions or the rates contri- buted by local managers and those whom they represent.

When this third item in the revenue is provided out of the rates, the law requires that the appointment of the teachers and the whole control and management of the school shall be in the hands of a body elected by the ratepayers, but the character of the religious instruction must be within the limits prescribed by the Act of Parliament. When, however, the local contribution is furnished by a voluntary body, that body is at liberty to exercise the entire control and manage- ment of the school, to appoint and dismiss teachers, and to determine the character of the religious instruction. In fact, the administration of a large school gives so substantial an amount of religious influence, both direct and indirect, to the congregation of any church or chapel, that all over the country, people who value such influence have shown them- selves ready to contribute money in order to secure it. Such contributions are a very good measure of the religious activity of the several Churches, and they furnish the only trustworthy evidence of the reality of the demand for denominational teaching. If the friends of the Voluntary system did not care enough about it to provide subscriptions, it would be in the highest degree unreasonable and impolitic to entrust them with the administration of public funds, or with the management and the regulation of the religious instruction of the schools at all.

Yet this is what Cardinal Manning gravely proposes that the nation should do. There are, according to the returns in the last Report of the Education Department, 152,642 children in Roman Catholic Schools in England and Wales, and they are educated at a total annual cost of 4237,381. Of this sum, £2,036 is provided from endowment, £68,020 from the children's pence, £52,028 from voluntary contributions, and £114,461 from the Imperial grant. That is to say, the general taxation of the country already contributes nearly half, or 15s. 5id. per scholar, to the maintenance of schools which, as to their religious character and discipline, are entirely under the control of Cardinal Manning and his clergy. For voluntary contributions of £52,028, the managers of Catholic schools obtain the administration of a total fund of £237,381, or more than four times as much, for the purposes of exclusively Catholic education. How thankful would the clergy of France, of Belgium, or of Italy, be if the State in any one of those Catholic countries would deal thus liberally with the Church! Yet Cardinal Manning is not satisfied. He would actually desire that this sum of £50,000, now contributed by the faith- ful of his own flock, should also become a charge upon the public funds. The ratepayers, he thinks, should relieve the voluntary subscribers of their present burden ; and while, we suppose, the management of the schools, the conduct of the religious teaching, and the appointment of the masters and mistresses are to remain in the hands of the Catholic Clergy, the whole cost of maintaining the schools, so far as it is not provided by the fees of the parents, should fall upon the public, either in the form of imperial or of local taxation. The simple statement of a proposal like this, which would not be entertained for a moment by any Government in Europe, will suffice to show its absurdity. To do them justice, no other religious communities in England, Anglican or Dissenting, have ever formulated so preposterous a demand, although the Cardinal professes to speak on behalf of the non-Catholic portion of English Christians. He urges the appointment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry on the subject. Can he seriously suppose that any conceivable Royal Commis- sion would serve his purpose, either by declaring, in spite of the plainest experience to the contrary, that Board Schools are non-religious and secular schools.; or by recognising as the managers of public elementary schools the nominees of religious bodies who, as such, contributed nothing to their support ?