Nowadays, lay teachers predominate in Catholic schools throughout the English-speaking world. Yet, for over a century the Catholic teaching force was heavily influenced by the presence of the religious orders. The turning point was the mid 1960s and the opening up of the Catholic Church to the modern world as a result of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). This opening up resulted in large numbers leaving the orders, a major drop off in new recruits and a consequent need to employ ever-greater numbers of lay teachers.
This book is concerned with the period 1922-65. The focus is on the situation prevailing in the United States, England and Wales, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand from 1922 to 1965, whereby Catholic schools were used to maximise the possibility of recruiting new members to the religious orders and to minimise temptation to leave the religious life amongst those who had already joined. Four major practices are examined in this regard. First, Catholic schools deliberately set out to encourage pupils to join the ranks of the religious. Secondly, they replicated within the schools the authoritarianism of the religious life. Thirdly, they worked continuously to marginalize lay teachers from decision-making. Finally, they were ever vigilant in their opposition to co-education and sex education.
The contribution of the religious orders to Catholic education is recognised in the final section of the book. However, consideration is also given to the darker side of what sometimes took place, namely, the child abuse, both physical and sexual, in which members of various religious teaching orders engaged. Finally, the book closes with a brief consideration of changes in Catholic education with the demise in the presence of the religious orders in the schools. In particular, it focuses on the new role of the lay teachers and the changes in the Church’s attitude towards them.