I’ve decided not to go along to the interview at the Catholic school tomorrow. This may not be as big news to you as it is in my head, but it will nevertheless raise eyebrows and possibly even see a few brickbats swung my way. After all, I’ve been noisy about my desire to change job for a few years now and this job was at a great school with a significant reputation. The fact that I turned it down due to it’s Catholic ethos (and I’m not going to lie about the fact) should effectively upset 

  • The at least 3 practising Catholics and at least 2 lapsed Catholics (ie Irish) among our small school staff
  • Those who deem religion a waste of time and merely a charade for the sake of tradition… they will now see me as borderline insane for taking it so seriously
  • Those Christians who see Catholicism as a valid part of the church community and would see my views as arrogant and divisive.

Do they have a point? My brother-in-law works in a Catholic school and seems to reap nothing but benefit as a result – there is an agreed Christian morality, a forum for open prayer and a daily declaration that God is real. Am I being, well, stupid? Let’s look at my reasoning and find out.

  • It would be unfair to parents at the school for me to work there. This is not just a nominally Catholic school; after applying I read that it’s ethos is explicitly designed ‘in accordance with the Canon Law and teachings of the Catholic Church’ and that its syllabus, in particular it’s religious education, ‘is in accordance with the rites, practices, discipline and liturgical norms of the Catholic Church’. Indeed, overall, ‘at all times the school serves as a witness to the Catholic faith’. A parent who chooses this school does so on the basis of this promise. I can’t get on board with that and would therefore be representing the school under false pretences as a member of staff. By way of application, if a lad in my class was to ask about the Pope’s special status and I answered that he was a sinner like anyone else, not to be idolised, then parents would have every right to complain about me. That’s not what they signed up for. But I can’t in good conscience answer any other way. Therefore I shouldn’t be at the head of his class. Admittedly the idea of such subversion does appeal, but I’m not sure it’s the time or place.
  • It would require me to regularly attend, and presumably participate in, ceremonies troubling to my conscience. I don’t want to overplay this – I’m sure I nightly sit through TV programmes and songs that offend more than the Mass. However, it is different when my mouth issues the words, and I don’t want to ascribe any aspect of God’s glory to Mary, saints or the Pope – each of them idols if seen as above the rest of humankind and each of them saved only by the work of Christ.
  • History is a particularly sensitive subject to teach. A standard Year 8 curriculum sees teaching of the Reformation and Luther’s role, of Henry VIII’s ‘Great Matter’, of ‘Bloody’ Mary’s burnings, of the Spanish Armada, the Gunpowder Plot, the English Civil War, the Puritans, Cromwell in Ireland and the Glorious Revolution. Imagine navigating your way through that lot whilst staying onside with the Catholics!! As it is, I aim to teach without overt bias, but I do honestly report as a starting point that Luther rediscovered the teaching of the Bible, particularly regarding justfication by FAITH. Perhaps I am doing my would-be employers a disservice, but I should imagine they’d want things depicted somewhat differently…
  • If I know I’m going to turn down the job then it’s dishonest to my current employer to take a day off for the interview (particularly given I’ve been off the past two days due to a spectacular burst of sickness!), not to mention the staff who must cover me and the students missing a proper lesson at this crucial stage of the year.

Now, I’m aware, on prior performance, that I may well not have got the job. However, we’ll now never know. Am I right to bail? Would there have been any merit in my witnessing as an employee within the Catholic community? What do you reckon?? (Always risky to end with a question as I look silly if no-one answers… if no-one has, presume they’re letting me know in person!!)


3 comments so far

  1. Phil C on

    Your reasoning makes sense to me. But I might go to the interview and raise the points explicitly just to see what they say…the reality is often different from what’s on paper. If they are totally happy with it, and with you expressing x, y, z, and not participating in a, b, c, could it work?

  2. lynda on

    I completely see your point, and know that you would have wrestled with this for ages before coming to your decision. Well done for sticking to your reasoning despite wanting so badly to move on.. you’re a stronger one than me! Will actually be praying this time (!)

  3. Tom Stanbury on

    You have made the right decision. I think you would end up ‘raging against the machine’ on a daily basis.
    Although I don’t think evangelicals understand the 21st century Catholic church. I say this on the basis of many discussions with Catholics. Often I have presumed they have believed things which they don’t.
    Don’t worry I am not saying we abandon reformation truths of ‘sola fide’,’sola scriptura’,’solus Christus’, sola gratia’ and ‘soli Deo gloria’.

    I would be keen to know what the school would think of your evangelical faith.

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