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In the Church

I. The Christian Church

By virtue of her Divine charter, "Going, teach ye all nations", the Church is essentially a teaching organization. Teaching is included in her task of saving souls. Primarily she was instituted to dispense the means of salvation, and to teach the truths which are necessary to salvation. These truths are spiritual and moral, and her catechumenal schools were instituted for the purpose of teaching them. Truths which are not of their nature spiritual, truths of science, of history, matters of culture — in a word, profane learning — these do not belong intrinsically to the programme of the Church's teaching. Nevertheless, they enter into her work by force of circumstance, when, namely, the Christian youth cannot attain a knowledge of them without incurring grave danger to faith or morals. They enter also into the Church's task by reason of a pedagogical principle which she has always recognized in practice. Religion being the supreme co-ordinating principle in education, as it is in life, if the so-called secular branches of knowledge are taught without reference to religion, the Church feels that an educational mistake is being made, that the "one thing necessary" is being excluded, to the detriment of education itself. Therefore she assumes the task of teaching the secular branches in such a way that religion is the centralizing, unifying, and vitalizing force in the educational process. Whenever there is positive and immediate danger of loss of faith, the Church cannot allow her children to run the risk of perversion; whenever religion is left out of the curriculum, she tries to supply the defect. In both cases she establishes under her own control schools which are called Catholic and which, in the vicissitudes of historical development or from the particular circumstances of their foundation, scope, or maintenance, are specifically known as catechetical schools, monastic schools, cathedral schools, chantry schools, guild schools, parochial schools, etc.

II. Catechetical Schools

These flourished about the middle of the second century of the Christian era. They were brought into existence by the conflict of Christianity with pagan philosophy. They were, consequently, academies of higher learning. Out of them grew the first great schools of theological controversy and also the schools for the special training of the clergy, although there were, almost from the beginning, schools attached to the household of the bishops (episcopal schools) where clerics were trained, We have reason to believe that in some instances, as in the catechetical school of Protogenes at Edessa (about 180), not only the higher branches but also the elementary branches were taught in the catechetical schools. Schools of this type became more numerous as time went on. In the Council of Vaison (529) the priests of Gaul are commanded to take boys into their household and teach them to read "the Psalms , and the Holy Scripture and to instruct them in the Law of God ". From these sprang the parochial schools of medieval and modern times.

As the conflict between Christianity and pagan philosophy gave rise to the catechetical schools, so the more general struggle between Christian and pagan standards of life gave rise to other provisions on the part of the Church for safeguarding the faith of Christian children. In the first centuries great stress was laid on the importance of home education, and this task was committed in a special manner to Christian mothers. It is sufficient to mention the Christian matrons Macrina, Emmelia, Nonna, Anthusa, Monica, and Paula, mothers of saints and scholars, to show how successfully the home under the direction of the Christian mother was made to counteract the influence of pagan schools. There were also private schools for Christian youth, taught by Christians, for instance the school at Imola, taught by Cassian.

III. Monastic Schools

Monasticism as an institution was a protest against the corrupt pagan standards of living which had begun to influence not only the public life of Christians but also their private and domestic life. Even in the fourth century, St. John Chrysostom testifies to the decline of fervour in the Christian family, and contends that it is no longer possible for children to obtain proper religious and moral training in their own homes. It was part of the purpose of monasticism to meet this need and to supply not only to the members of the religious orders but also to children committed to the care of the cloister the moral religious, and intellectual culture which could not be obtained elsewhere without lowering the Christian standard of life. At the same time episcopal schools, though instituted primarily for the education of clerical candidates, did not decline to admit secular scholars, especially after the State schools of the empire had fallen into decay. There were parochial schools also, which, while they aimed at fostering vocations to the priesthood, were expressly commanded not to deny their pupils the right to enter the married state as soon as they reached the age of maturity ( cum ad œtatem perfectam pervenerint ). The explicit enactment of the Council of Vaison (529) in this matter is important because it refers to a similar custom already prevailing in Italy. It remains true, however, that although the episcopal and presbyteral (parochial) schools thus contributed to the education of the laity, the chief portion of the burden of lay education in the early Middle Ages was borne by the monasteries. The earliest monastic legislation does not clearly define the organization of the "internal" and "external" schools. Nevertheless, it recognizes the existence in the monastery of children who were to be educated, not for the cloister, but for the world. In Ireland, as Archbishop Healy says, the monks, "taught the children of the rich and poor alike" ("Ireland's Ancient Schools and Scholars", 102), and to Ireland went not only clerics but laymen from England and the Continent, to receive an education. On the Continent also the education of the laity, "gentle and simple", fell to the lot of the monks. It is difficult to say when the distinction between the "internal" school ( schola claustri ) and the "external" ( schola canonica, s. externa ) was first introduced. We find it in St. Gall, Fulda and Reichenau in the ninth and tenth centuries. In the internal school the pupils were novices, future members of the order, some of whom were offered up ( oblati ) by their parents at a tender age. In the external school were the children of the neighbouring villagers and the sons of the nobility; many of the references to this class of pupils in the monastic code lay stress on the obligation to treat all with equal justice, not taking account of their rank in life. There was a similar custom in regard to the reception of young girls in the convents, as appears from several enactments of Bishop St. Cæsarius of Arles and his successors. At Arles, moreover, according to Muteau (see bibliography) open schools ( écoles ouvertes ) were held by the nuns for the benefit of the entire neighbourhood. The curriculum of studies in the monastic schools comprised the trivium and quadrivium, that is to say, grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and the theory of music. Besides, the monks cultivated the science and art of healing; they devoted attention to agriculture, building, and the decorative arts. They took pains to transcribe the Classics as well as the distinctly ecclesiastical works that had come down to them; and in doing this they developed the art of penmanship and that of illumination to a high degree of perfection. They were annalists also, noting down year by year the important events not only in the life of their own community but also in the Church at large and in the political world. Finally, by example and precept they dignified manual labour, which in pagan Rome was despised as fit only for slaves.

The head of the monastic school was called magister scholœ, capiscola, proscholus, etc. By the end of the ninth century, however, the usual name for the head of the school was scholasticus. His assistants were called seniores. The method of teaching was influenced largely by the scarcity of books and the need of handing down without diminution the heritage of the past. The master dictated ( legere was the word used to signify the act of teaching), and the pupils wrote not only the text but also the master's explanation or commentary. Of the many textbooks in use the most popular was the work by Marcianus Capella (about 420) entitled "Satyricon, seu de Nuptiis Mercurii et Philologiæ". That the instruction given to the laity in the monastic schools was entirely gratuitous is evident from the decree of Bishop Theodulf of Orléans in the eighth century, and from other documents. When, at Tours, the external school was frequented by a number of wealthy pupils, whose voluntary gifts to the monastery put the poorer students in a position of apparent inferiority, the bishop of that see, Amalric, gave a generous donation to the monks to be used in the maintenance of poor students. The Carlovingian revival of education affected not only the internal schools of the monasteries but also the external schools, and, during the reign of Charles's successors bishops and popes by a number of decrees showed their interest in the maintenance not only of schools of sacred science, but also in schools "for the study of letters". The external school had by this time become a recognized institution, which the sons of the farmers in the neighbourhood of the monasteries frequented not by privilege but by a right freely acknowledged. We know that before the end of the ninth century both boys and girls attended the schools attached to the parish churches in the Diocese of Soissons . As time went on the establishment and maintenance of schools by the Church was made a matter of express canonical enactment. No document could be more explicit than the Decree of the Third Council of Lateran (1179): "That every cathedral church have a teacher ( magistrum ) who is to teach poor scholars and others, and that no one receive a fee for permission to teach" ( Mansi, XXII, 234).

IV. Cathedral Schools

The cathedral schools sprang from the episcopal schools which, as has been said, existed from a very early time for the training of clerics. Chrodegang, Bishop of Metz, 742-66, is said to be the founder of medieval cathedral schools, but only in the sense that he organized the clergy of his cathedral church into a community, and ordained that they undertake the conduct and management of the school attached to their church. The bishop himself was to have control of the school and under him was to be the immediate superior of the school ( magister scholœ ). In the cities and towns where there was no cathedral, the canons of the local church were organized after the manner of the cathedral clergy, and conducted a "canonicate" school. In both institutions there came to be distinguished;

  • (1) the elementary school ( schola minor ) where reading, writing, psalmody, etc. were taught; and
  • (2) the higher school ( schola major ) in which the curriculum consisted either of the trivium alone (grammar, rhetoric and dialectic ), or of the full programme, namely the seven liberal arts, Scripture, and what we now call pastoral theology.

The method employed in the cathedral schools was identical with that of the monastic schools.

V. Chantry Schools

The chantry schools were similar in character to the cathedral and canonicate schools. Indeed, they may be said to be a specific kind of canonicate schools. The chantry was a foundation with endowment, the proceeds of which went to one or more priests carrying the obligation of singing or saying Mass at stated times, or daily, for the soul of the endower, or for the souls of persons named by him. It was part of the duty of the incumbents of a chantry foundation to "teach gratis the poor who asked it humbly for the love of God ". (See "Catholic University Bulletin," IX, 3 sq.).

VI. Guild Schools, Hospital Schools, and City Schools

The last beginning with the thirteenth century, shared the work of education with the cloister, cathedral, and chantry schools. The guilds and hospitals were ecclesiastical foundations, were guided by clerics, and engaged in the work of education under the direction of the Church. The city schools at first met with opposition from the teachers in the monastic and cathedral foundations, although they also were under the control of ecclesiastics. Kehrein in his "History of Education" (see bibliography) mentions a Decree of Alexander III which prohibits any abbot from preventing any magister or scholasticus from taking charge of a school in the city or suburb "since knowledge is a gift of God and talent is free". Towards the end of the Middle Ages the task of the ecclesiastical teacher became so important that communities of clerics were founded for the express purpose of devoting their lives to the duties of elementary education. The best known of these communities is that of "The Brothers of the Common Life" founded by Gerard Groot (1340-84) at Deventer. It soon extended to Windedheim, Agnetenberg, and other towns in Holland and North Germany. To this community belonged Thomas à Kempis, the author of "The Imitation of Christ ". That these various provisions for the education not only of the clergy but also of the laity -- monastic schools, cathedral schools, canonicate schools, chantry schools, guild schools, hospital schools, city schools, and special educational institutions--met the educational needs of the times, and were adequate as far as the circumstances of the times would allow, is the verdict of all historians who view without prejudice the educational career of the Catholic Church. Allain (see bibliography) has told the story of primary education in France ; Ravelet (see bibliography) has gone over the whole question of primary education in medieval times ; Leach has told part of the story (see bibliography) as far as pre-Reformation England is concerned. It is impossible to give more than a summary statement of the facts which these writers have accumulated. Those facts, however, justify the assertion that, far from opposing or neglecting the education of the masses, the Catholic Church in medieval times provided generously for their instruction in the elementary branches, as well as in the department of higher studies, whenever and wherever the political, social, and economic conditions were not so adverse as to thwart her educational efforts.

Both the particular and the general councils of the Church, imperial capitularies, and episcopal and papal decrees show that bishops and popes, while concerned primarily for the education of future members of the clerical body in the sacred sciences, were also at pains to encourage and promote the education of the laity. For instance, the Council of Cloveshoe, held by Cuthbert, Archbishop of Canterbury in 749, prescribes that abbesses as well as abbots provide for the education of all their households ( familiœ ). A Carlovingian capitulary of 802 enjoins "that everyone should send his son to study letters, and that the child should remain at school with all diligence until he became well instructed in learning". Theodulf of Orléans in 797 decrees that gratuitous instruction be given by the priests in every town and village of his diocese, and there cannot be the least doubt that education of the laity is meant. The Council of Châlon-sur-Saône in 813 legislates in a similar spirit that not only "schools of Sacred Scripture " but also "schools of letters" be established. The Council of Rome, held in 853, directs the bishops of the Universal Church to establish "in every episcopal residence [ in universis episcopiis ] among the populations subject to them, and in all places where there is such need" masters and teachers to teach "literary studies and the seven liberal arts ". These and similar documents lay stress on the obligatian which rests on the parents and godparents to see to the education of children committed to their care. By the middle of the ninth century the distinction between external and internal monastic schools being clearly recognized, and parish schools having become a regular diocesan institution, the testimonies in favour of popular education under the auspices of the Church become clearer. In the tenth century, in spite of the disturbed conditions in the political world, learning flourished in the great monasteries, such as that of St. Gall (Switzerland). St. Maximin (Trier), and in the cathedral schools, such as those of Reims and Lyons. The greatest teachers of that time, Bruno of Cologne and Gerbert of Aurillac (Pope Sylvester II ), taught not only the sacred but also the profane sciences. In the eleventh century the school of Chartres, that of Ste-Geneviève at Paris, and the numerous schools of rhetoric and dialectic show that even in the higher branches of learning, in spite of the fact that the teachers were invariably clerics, the laymen were welcomed and were not denied education of the secondary kind. That, as historians have pointed out, the references to popular and elementary education in the local councils of the Church have not always been preserved, is explained by the fact that elementary Church schools were now an established fact. Ecclesiastical authority intervened only whenever some abuse called for remedial legislation. Thus, the decree of the Third Council of Lateran already referred to (n. III) aimed at abolishing the custom of exacting fees for instruction in the cathedral schools. There were, naturally, details of arrangement to be determined, such as salary of teachers and supervision or personal instruction on the part of the pastor. These were provided in decrees, such as that of the Diocesan Synod of St. Omer in 1183 and that of Engelbert II, Archbishop of Cologne, in 1270.

The history of education in England before the Reformation is the story of the efforts made in monastic, cathedral, chantry, and parish schools for the education of the laity as well as of the clergy. In the narrative of the suppression and confiscation of these foundations Leach (see bibliography) gives abundant documentary evidence to justify his assertion that "Grammar schools, instead of being comparatively modern, post-Reformation inventions, are among our most ancient institutions, some of them far older than the Lord Mayor of London or the House of Commons" (p. 5). He estimates the number of grammar schools before the reign of Edward VI to have been "close on two hundred", and these he considers to be merely "the survivors of a much larger host which have been lost in the storms of the past, and drowned in the seas of destruction" (ibid.). There were, he maintains, not only schools connected with the cathedral churches, monasteries, collegiate churches, hospitals, guilds, and chantries, but also independent schools, in one of which "an old man was paid thirteen shillings and fourpence by the Mayor, to teach young children their A B C" (p. 7). Lincoln, Chichester, and Wells were the principal cathedral schools. Beverley, Chester, Crediton, Ripon, Wimborne, Warwick, Stafford, and Tamworth had important collegiate schools. At Evesham, Cirencester, and Lewes were the principal monastery schools at the eve of the Reformation, while at Oxford, Cambridge, Eton, and elsewhere were thirty-one college schools of grammar before the reign of Edward VI, The number of schools in proportion to the population of the country was relatively very great, and as far as it is possible for us now to judge the attendance, that, too, must have been relatively large. The history of education in Scotland before the reformation is told in the first part of Grant's "History of the Burgh Schools of Scotland ". "Our earliest records", says that writer, "prove not only that schools existed, but that they were then invariably found in connection with the Church " (p. 2). He quotes documents for the foundation of schools in 1100, 1120, 1180, 1195, and cites in many instances papal approval and confirmation of educational establishments in the twelfth century. He is convinced that these institutions were intended not merely for clerics but also for young laymen (ibid., p. 12), and he concludes his summary by admitting that "The scattered jottings collected in this chapter show our obligation to the ancient Church for having so diligently promoted our national education --an education placed within the reach of all classes" (ibid., p. 72).

The educational institutions founded and supported by the Church in France, Germany, Italy, and other parts of Europe before the Reformation have, in part, been mentioned in the general account of monastic and cathedral schools. Specht (see bibliography) has produced documentary evidence to show the extent to which laywomen were educated in the convent schools of the ninth and the following centuries; he has also shown that daughters of noble families were, as a rule, educated by private teachers who, for the most part, were clergymen. The assertion so frequently made that, during the Middle Ages, learning was considered out of place in a layman, that even elementary knowledge of letters was a prerogative of the clergy, is not sustained by a careful examination of historical records. It is true that there are passages in the popular literature of the Middle Ages in which the ignorant layman, who is well versed in the art of warfare and in the usages of polite society, affects to despise learning and to regard it as a monkish or ecclesiastical accomplishment. But, as Léon Maitre (see bibliography) asserts, "such ignorance was by no means systematic; it arose from the conditions of the times". "Knowledge", says a twelfth-century writer, "is not an exclusive privilege of the clergy, for many laymen are instructed in literature. A prince, whenever he can succeed in escaping from the tumult of public affairs and from [the confusion of] constant warfare, ought to devote himself to the study of books" (P. L., CCIII, col. 149). The number of distinguished laymen and laywomen, emperors, kings, nobles, queens and princesses who, during the medieval era, attained prominence as scholars shows that the advice was not disregarded. The calumny recently reaffirmed that "the Church was not the mother, but rather the stepmother, of learning" is easily asserted, but is not so easily proved.

The destruction of this vast and varied system of ecclesiastical legislation is a fact of general history. The schools, as a rule, disappeared with the institutions to which they were attached. The confiscation of the monasteries, the suppression of the benefices on which the chantries were founded, the removal of the guilds from the control of ecclesiastical authority, the suppression of cathedral and canonical chapters and the sequestration of their possessions by the State, were the immediate cause of the cessation of this kind of educational activity on the part of the Church at the time of the Reformation and afterwards. In Protestant countries these events took place in the course of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In Germany, a compromise was reached in some States by the recognition of both Protestant and Catholic "confessional" schools and the division of school funds, an arrangement which lasted until the beginning of the nineteenth century; in France the work of confiscation began with the French Revolution ; in Italy, Spain, and Portugal the suppression and spoliation have taken place within the last half-century and are still going on. Apart from the question of elementary justice --the question of violation of a strict right to their own lands and funds, which the ecclesiastical corporations possessed at the time their property was seized and their schools suppressed--there arises now the question of the right to teach, the right of the Church to found and maintain private schools, and the alleged exclusive right of the State to educate.

VII. The fundamental principles of canon law

Those principles bearing on these questions may be stated as follows:

  • (1) The Church, being a perfect society, has the right to establish schools, which, although they may be permitted by the civil law merely as private institutions, are, of their nature, public;
  • (2) By natural law, the obligation lies primarily with the parents of a child to provide for his education, as well as for his physical support. This is part of the purpose and aim of the family as an institution. If no provision is made by any other institution, the parents must provide education either by their own effort or that of others whom they employ;
  • (3) When the parents neglect their duty in the matter of education, the State, in the interests of public welfare, takes up the obligation of teaching. It has, therefore, the right to establish schools, and, consequently, the right to compel attendance, in so far as the principle holds good that public welfare demands a knowledge, at least, of the elementary branches of education.

From the interaction and conflict of these fundamental rights arise the following more particular principles:

  • (1) The Church has the exclusive right to teach religion to Catholic children. Neither the parents nor the State can exercise this right except they do so with the consent (as parents do) and under the supervision and control of the ecclesiastical authorities .
  • (2) The Church cannot approve schools which exclude religion from the curriculum, both because religion is the most important subject in education, and because she contends that even secular education is not possible in its best form unless religion be made the central, vitalizing, and co-ordinating factor in the life of the child. The Church, sometimes, tolerates schools in which religion is not taught, and permits Catholic children to attend them, when the circumstances are such as to leave no alternative, and when due precautions are taken to supply by other means the religious training which such schools do not give. She reserves the right to judge whether this be the case, and, if her judgment is unfavourable, claims the right to forbid attendance (see Letter of Gregory XVI to Irish Bishops, 16 Jan., 1831).
  • (3) In all schools, whether established by the Church or the State, or even by a group of families (so long as there are pupils received from different families ) the State has the right to see that the laws of public health, public order, and public morality are observed, and if in any school doctrines were taught subversive of public peace or otherwise opposed to the interests of the general public, the State would have the right to intervene "in the name of the good of the general public".
  • (4) State monopoly of education has been considered by the Church to be nothing short of a tyrannical usurpation. In principle it overrides the fundamental right of the parents, denies the right of the Church even to open and maintain schools for the teaching of religion alone, and in its natural effect on public opinion tends to place religion below considerations of mere worldly welfare.
  • (5) The Church does not deny the right of the State to levy taxes for the support of the State schools, although, as we shall see, this leads to injustice in the manner of its application in some countries. The principle is distinct always from the abuse of the principle. Similarly, the Church does not deny the right of the State to decree compulsory education so long as such decrees do not abrogate other and more fundamental rights. It should always be remembered, however, that compulsion on the part of the State is not the exercise of a primary and predominant right, but must be justified by considerations of public good.
  • (6) Finally, the rights of the Church in the matter of religious teaching extend not only to the subject of religion itself but to such matters as the character of the teacher, the spirit and tone of the teaching in such subjects as history and science, and the contents of the textbooks used. She recognizes that de-Christianized teaching and de-Christianized textbooks have inevitably the effect of lessening in the minds of pupils the esteem which she teaches them to have for religion. In a word her rights are bounded, not by the subject of religion, but by the spiritual interests of the children committed to her care.
VIII. The present status of the Church and State in regard to education: A. In Germany

After the Reformation in Germany the primary schools in Protestant provinces passed over to the control of the local civil authorities . In Catholic communities the ecclesiastical authorities did not yield so readily to the aggression of the State. All through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries councils (Cologne, 1536 and 1560; Salzburg, 1569; Breslau, 1592; Augsburg, 1610) withstood the encroachments of civil authority on the parochial schools and, as a rule, a modus vivendi was reached satisfactory to the bishops. By the end of the eighteenth century however, the notion of State jurisdiction in educational matters was firmly established. For the most part the foundation of private schools was the solution. These were recognized by German law as belonging to the jurisdiction of the Church. Early in the nineteenth century the so-called "simultaneous schools" began to be the ordinary solution of the problem. In these there were children of various denominations, each denomination having, in theory, the right to care for the religious instruction of its members. On several occasions the bishops of Germany or of some German state protested (e.g. at Würzburg, 1848; the Bavarian bishops, 1850) against the restrictions of the rights of the Church. At the present time the simultaneous schools are obligatory in a few provinces and optional ( facultativ ) in others, while in Bavaria, the Rhine Provinces and elsewhere, "confessional", i.e. denominational, schools are the rule, and simultaneous, or mixed, schools, the exception. Throughout the empire the supreme control of all elementary schools is vested in the government, the local ecclesiastical authorities being granted a greater or less amount of supervision and control according to the different circumstances in different localities. The teacher of religion for Catholics is of course always a Catholic, almost always a priest, and is a regularly qualified and salaried teacher, like the instructor in other branches. The attitude of the bishops towards the contemporary educational system in Germany is set forth in the decrees of the Council of Cologne (1860).

B. In Austria

Until the beginning of the nineteenth century the conditions were similar to those existing in Germany. The legislation of Joseph II had been distinctly hostile to religious influence in the schools. However, the enactments of 1808, 1868, 1885, etc. give a measure of authority and control to the local clergy which make the conditions in Austria to be as a rule more favourable than in the German Empire. The question of language has of course complicated matters in many provinces of Austria, and local conditions, the personality of the government official, etc. have much to do with the actual status of religious teaching in the public schools. The decrees of the Council of Vienna (1858) contain the views of the hierarchy of Austria in regard to the present condition of religious education in that country. The Letter of the Archbishop of Vienna to the Papal Nuncio (22 Oct., 1868) is also an important declaration. See also articles 5-8 of the Concordat of 1855 (AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN MONARCHY, p. 130).

C. In France

The Napoleonic decree of 1808 established in principle and in fact the most rigorous State monopoly in education. It met at once with a vigorous protest on the part of the Catholic bishops, who demanded freedom of instruction in the name of the parents in whom, they contended, the right to educate is primarily vested. In 1833 and 1850 ( La loi Falloux ) "free schools" were recognized. No special concession was made to the Church but permission was granted to individuals to open schools. From 1833 to 1850 members of religious orders or priests could teach only in the State schools. After 1850 they were free, as citizens, to open schools of their own, both primary and secondary. In 1886 a blow was struck at free primary education by authorization given to mayors and school inspectors to oppose the opening of any private school on hygienic or moral grounds. In 1888 came another attack in the form of an order of the Council of State, depriving communes and departments of the right to grant appropriations for private schools. Finally in 1904 it was declared that "teaching of every grade and every kind" is forbidden in France to the members of the congregations. This resulted in the closing of 14,404 out of 16,904 "Congregational" schools. Since that time the bishops have tried to reorganize Catholic education by establishing private schools in which the teachers are either laymen and laywomen or secularized members of the congregations. Instruction in religion in the State schools was optional with the parents of the children by a decree of 1881. In 1882 religious instruction in the primary schools of the State was absolutely forbidden, and in 1886 religious and clerics were forbidden to teach in those schools. In place of denominational religion there was introduced first a species of "denominational neutrality" and later, a "scientific religion" ( enseignement critique ). Within the present decade the tendency of this teaching has been plainly seen in the introduction of textbooks which are both anti-clerical and anti-religious, with the result that bishops are at present under indictment in France for daring to warn the people of their dioceses against the use of such books in the schools supported by the people.

D. In Belgium

See BELGIUM; also pamphlet by Cardinal Dechamps, "Le Nouveau projet de loi sur l'enseignement primaire" (Mechlin, 1879).

E. In England

Until the beginning of the nineteenth century there was no government system of primary schools in England, nor were any primary schools in receipt of State aid. It was not until 1833 that government grants were made, and then the schools that benefited by the grants were either schools of the National and British Foreign Society, or, in any case, schools in which the Bible was to be read as part of the regular instruction. The civil disabilities under which Catholics suffered, and the restriction of grants in practice to Bible-reading schools excluded Catholic private schools from State aid until 1848. In 1856 and 1858 the conditions under which grants were given were made more favourable to Catholics. From 1871 to 1903 the basic law of primary education in England was Forster's Elementary Education Act of 1870. This Act, while it did not abolish the voluntary or denominational schools, established the Board-schools. These were to be supported from the rates or taxes, and governed by school boards elected by the people. The Government helped to build the school and, in places where the boards were judged culpably negligent, compelled them to build. In 1876 and 1880 supplementary enactments were passed, called School Attendance Acts, which compel the attendance at either voluntary or Board-schools of all children under ten. The religious difficulty was met at first by leaving the matter of religious instruction to the discretion of the local board. Later the "Conscience" clause and the "Cowper-Temple" clause were added, in order to satisfy the Anglicans and the Nonconformists. These clauses set aside a special hour for religious instruction, attendance at which was to be entirely voluntary, and forbade the use of "any catechism or religious formulary distinctive of any particular denomination". Catholics were able to accept these conditions in some localities. Meantime various enactments, for example in 1891 and 1897, were passed, which lessened the burden of the voluntary schools. The Bill of 1902, which became law in 1903, took the power out of the hands of the school boards, vested it in the town and county councils, and compelled these to take over and maintain the voluntary schools. This brought England in line with Scotland, where a similar law was in force since 1872. The Nonconformists, however, objected because in localities where they were in the minority the religious instruction given in the schools would be denominational, that is Anglican. To meet this objection Mr. Birrell's Bill of 1906 was framed. But, after various vicissitudes, the Bill was finally defeated, and never became law. It would have had the effect of wiping the voluntary schools out of existence and abolishing all denominational instruction, a result which, apparently, would be acceptable to the Nonconformists, but is bitterly opposed by both Catholics and Anglicans. In 1870 the number of Catholic schools in England and Wales was 354, providing for the education of 101,933 children; while in 1906 the number of schools had increased to 1062 and the attendance had reached 284,746. This increase is largely due to the zeal of the Catholic School Committee, now known as the Catholic Education Council.

F. In Ireland

The primary education of Catholics in Ireland is provided for by;

  • (1) Schools under the management of the Irish Christian Brothers and other religious communities, which receive no part of the annual grant for primary education, and are free from government supervision and inspection. In 1901 there were 97 of these schools.
  • (2) Private schools, which are also free, and do not share the annual grant. In 1901 there were 85 of these, but the report does not state how many of these are Catholic.
  • (3) National Schools, endowed by the State, of which in 1901 there were 8569, with an attendance of 602,209. These were established by the Act of 1831 and are governed by that Act and subsequent statutes, authority being vested in the National Commissioners of Education.

The majority of the National Schools are taught by


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The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

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