Academic journal article Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society

The CCD Movement 1880-2000: Religious Education for Catholic Children Not in Catholic Schools in New South Wales

Academic journal article Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society

The CCD Movement 1880-2000: Religious Education for Catholic Children Not in Catholic Schools in New South Wales

Article excerpt

In 1988 Father Richard Dixon, a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine [CCD] leader in the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney in the 1980s and 1990s, published an article exploring the parish-based nature of the CCD movement, the provision of religious education for Catholic children not in Catholic schools. He acknowledged that the national picture is 'complex and diverse ... and had not yet come into focus'. (1) He provided some anecdotal observations on the CCD movement in the local context noting the 'absence of an interpretative model' adequate for description of the 'unique situation of operation' of the CCD. (2) A model, when articulated, would 'set the CCD undertakings within the pastoral mission of the Church' and state the catechists' sense of purpose in 'pastoral, educational and theological terms'. (3) Dixon concluded that the CCD undertakings were a practice seeking a model.

To provide the essential background material for the interpretation of the place of the CCD movement in the pastoral mission of the Catholic Church it was necessary to develop a coherent documented account of the history of the provision of religious education for Catholic children not in Catholic schools in New South Wales. This would address an identified deficiency in the historical record of Catholic education, specifically Catholic religious education in New South Wales. This paper provides discussion of some findings from a doctoral research study that developed this documented historical account.

The study identified five distinct periods in the history of the CCD movement between 1866 and 2000: 1866-1905, historical prologue; 1905-1955, the call for catechetical renewal and the response; 1955-1966, reestablishment of the CCD in NSW; 1966-1971 a period of expansion and growth; and, 1972-2000, a movement from mission to maintenance.

Historical Prologue

The first period, 1866-1905, was a period in which Colonial governments including New South Wales, introduced free and compulsory schooling and withdrew previous funding arrangements for Church-run schools.

From 1872 to 1895, all six colonies enacted legislation aimed at creating structured and comprehensive educational systems that were able to respond the needs of Australian society. Colonial legislators withdrew state-aid to non-government (denominational) schools. All colonies faced the problem of the place of religion in schools that were 'free, public and secular'. Around the common premise, 'religion would not be entirely excluded from Government schools' (4) the individual Colonial responses varied significantly.

In NSW, the Public Instruction Act (1880), made no attempt to alter the religious education provisions established in the 1866 act. Education in Government schools included 'general religious teaching' (unchanged from the previous legislation [1866]) and 'special religious instruction' where visits by religious teachers were possible for "not more than one hour per week. (5) The Roman Catholic Church strongly opposed this decision.

In 1879 the Bishops of NSW issued a Joint Pastoral, Catholic Education, condemning 'the principle of secularist education and those schools founded on that principle'. (6) O'Farrell noted that 'at the heart of what was to become a long and bitter debate in Australian society was the preservation of the religious, political and social status of Catholics--Catholic separatism provided security for Catholic interests--Catholic schools became a symbol of Catholic unity'. (7)

The ecclesial and political decision of the Catholic Bishops to maintain existing Catholic schools and establish new schools as an ecclesial priority had far-reaching effects.

In 1882 17% of Catholic school age children in New South Wales were attending Government schools. (8) Catholic parents who sent their children to Government schools were to be refused the sacraments. Catholic clergy were not allowed to enter government schools, despite the provisions of the 1866 Public Schools Act (Section 19) and the 1880 Public Instruction Act (Section 17) permitting children of any one religious persuasion to be instructed by a clergymen or other religious teacher of such persuasion for not more than one hour each day. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.