Catholic schools in Australia are at a crossroads, according to a policy document released last week by the bishops of New South Wales and the ACT, a document which is focused mainly on retaining Catholic identity and improving the standard of religious evangelisation in Catholic schools.
But perhaps there are forces at work that the bishops would rather not talk about. Ever since the 19th century the Australian bishops have fiercely guarded the autonomy of their parish schools, but these days, more and more socially disadvantaged Catholics are being forced out into public schools because they can’t afford the fees; while more and more middle-class, non-Catholics, are enrolling.
Well the Secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Education, Archbishop Michael Miller of Canada, has just been in Australia to speak at a conference on the future of Catholic education. He says that if Catholic children are being forced out of Catholic schools because they can’t afford the fees, then there’s something wrong with the funding arrangements. In fact he thinks Catholic schools should be fully funded by the government, with no school fees.
I asked Archbishop Michael Miller what made for a successful Catholic school.