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Not totally unexpected, Archbishop Léonard’s comments about the quality of religious education in Catholic schools in Belgium trigggered criticism from teachers and school officials. He is accused of wanting to convert people and of being unwordly. Two days ago he commented on his critics:

“The reproaches made to me recently in the media are based on statements made by me in Rome on Friday 7 May, and which have been taken out of context. Just like my fellow bishops I agreed at the time with the various education plans for the religious education classes at the schools. Those plans – rightly – consider the religion classes as a course given to students and not as a catechism which must strengthen the faith of the pupils. Those Catholic education plans invite the teacher to make a connection between the course and the pupils’ own world, but at the same time the plans require that, just as in all other courses, they are handed a package of objective information about the Catholic faith, the Bible, the life and message of Jesus, the history and organisation of the Catholic Church, et cetera.

In a multicultural society in which many baptised pupils no longer have an active bond with the parish, religious classes are all the more useful for the pupils in community education who chose the course or for those who chose a Catholic school. Religious education classes offer the pupil the opportunity to discover the Christian message in a rational way, with all due respect for his or her personal convictions. At the very same press conference in Rome I underlined that the bishops of our country value and support the important work of the religion teachers. In the near future I hope to be able to continue the dialogue with them in personal contact and attentive policies, instead of via the media.”

The statement is chiefly a reminder that it is not very constructive to continue a dialogue via the media, when it is just as easy, perhaps even easier, to do so face to face. The archbishop also underlines his previous statements: religious education is not some social studies course, but must offer “a package of objective information about the Catholic faith”.  When I consider the situation in the Netherlands (which, I admit, is not the same as in Belgium, where Catholic schools are much more in evidence), religious education courses attempt to offer a comprehensive overview of anything that could be considered religion or life philosophy. Consequently, the content of those classes becomes generalised, since there is not time to go into much detail. Added to that is the perceived notion that there must be a pastoral element in those classes too, and so there is an overlap with the work of priests, deacons and pastoral workers.

There is a need to keep an eye on the quality and content of religious education, especially if it falls under the authority of the Church. This may seem indoctrination, as one critic called it, or meddling or whatever you want to call it. In reality it is a case of the bishops taking responsibility: they are shepherds of their flock and it is their duty to make sure that the faithful in their dioceses know and understand their faith for what it is, objectively.


Father Ray Blake gives 12 reasons in favour of ad orientem celebration of the Mass (and a pile of kittens), some of which may be useful to priests (the reasons, not the kittens). Should the spiritual reasons not be good enough for their congregations, that is.

I am not facing you because I have come to realise I am amazingly ugly and will frighten small children therefore ….
A dear little pussycat has moved in behind the altar to give birth to her kittens so I’m staying this side to avoid disturbing her, therefore….
We have dry rot the other side of the altar, it is not safe therefore…
I have become claustrophobic therefore…

Read the other reasons in Fr. Blake’s blog.

About this blog

I am a Dutch Catholic from the north of the Netherlands. In this blog I wish to provide accurate information on current affairs in the Church and the relation with society. It is important for Catholics to have knowledge about their own faith and Church, especially since these are frequently misrepresented in many places. My blog has two directions, although I use only English in my writings: on the one hand, I want to inform Dutch faithful - hence the presence of a page with Dutch translations of texts which I consider interesting or important -, and on the other hand, I want to inform the wider world of what is going on in the Church in the Netherlands.

It is sometimes tempting to be too negative about such topics. I don't want to do that: my approach is an inherently positive one, and loyal to the Magisterium of the Church. In many quarters this is an unfamiliar idea: criticism is often the standard approach to the Church, her bishops and priests and other representatives. I will be critical when that is warranted, but it is not my standard approach.

For a personal account about my reasons for becoming and remaining Catholic, go read my story: Why am I Catholic?


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Netherlands License.

The above means that I have the right to be recognised as the author of both the original blog posts, as well as any translations I make. Everyone is free to share my content, but with credit in the form of my name or a link to my blog.

Blog and media

Over the years, my blog posts have been picked up by various other blogs, websites and media outlets.

A complete list would be prohibitively long, so I'll limit myself to mentioning The Anchoress, Anton de Wit, Bisdom Haarlem-Amsterdam, The Break/SQPN, Caritas in Veritate, Catholic Culture, The Catholic Herald, EWTN, Fr. Ray Blake's Blog, Fr. Z's Blog, The Hermeneutic of Continuity, Katholiek Gezin,, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter, New Liturgical Movement, NOS, Protect the Pope, Reformatorisch Dagblad, The Remnant, RKS Ariëns, Rorate Caeli, The Spectator, Vatican Insider, Voorhof and Whispers in the Loggia.

All links to, quotations of and use as source material of my blog posts is greatly appreciated. It's what I blog for: to further awareness and knowledge in a positive critical spirit. Credits are equally liked, of course.

Blog posts have also been used as sources for various Wikipedia articles, among them those on Archbishop Pierre-Marie Carré, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Archbishop Sergio Utleg and Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki.

Latest translations added:

1 December: [English] Archbishop Stephan Burger - Advent letter 2014

29 November: [English] Bishop Frans Wiertz - Homily for the opening of the Year of Consecrated Life

29 November: [English] Bishop Gregor Maria Hanke - Advent letter 2014

27 November: [English] Bishop Johan Bonny - Advent letter 2014

27 November: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Toespraak voor het Europees Parlement.

25 November: [English] Bishop Gerard de Korte - Advent letter 2014.

17 November: [Dutch] Paus Franciscus - Toespraak voor de conferentie over de complementariteit tussen man en vrouw.

10 November: [English] Pope Francis - Letter to the Church of the Frisians.

22 October: [English] Bishop Gerard de Korte - The doctrine of the Church must always be actualised.

9 October: [English] Godfried Cardinal Danneels - Intervention at the Synod.

Sancta Maria, hortus conclusus, ora pro nobis!

Sancte Ramon de Peñafort, ora pro nobis!

Pope Francis

Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Province of Rome, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, Servant of the Servants of God

Bishop Gerard de Korte

Bishop of Groningen-Leeuwarden

Willem Cardinal Eijk

Cardinal-Priest of San Callisto, Metropolitan Archbishop of Utrecht

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