This is a variation of my article in Catholic Life - July '14 issue. The published version has the full names - I have abbreviated them here.
I have come to see Daphne McLeod who, at 85, is stepping down as chairman of “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice”, after a phenomenal 21 years. Although born and brought up in London, she lives in a quiet part of leafy Surrey. Her son Michael lets me in - he is looking after Daphne while she recovers from a hip operation. The house has a calm and orderly feel - a beautiful antique crucifix is on the wall. Michael kindly makes some tea while we sit in the sitting room.
At 85 Daphne’s mind is razor sharp and she looks at me seriously, “We are going through difficult times”. she says. Daphne McLeod is a courageous woman who has fought for Catholic education since the latter 1960s. In a nutshell the Catechism was ditched in favour of trendy methods to teach the Faith. The worst aspect of this, is that the changes were not at all called for by the Second Vatican Council! The changes were therefore illicit - resulting in a 96% lapsation rate of all baptised Catholics. Daphne has spent the last 3 decades exposing this, which is what the “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” (PEEP) is about.
Before we go into that I ask her a little about her background and how she got into teaching. “I was brought up in South London, my mother was Irish and my father had Irish grandparents. I was a cradle Catholic and we were well taught. Religious Instruction in Catholic schools was utterly superb”. Daphne has a dislike for the way “Religious Instruction” became “Religious Education” - there is a subtle paradigm shift in meaning. The former is precise - whereas the latter is vague.
Anyway, Daphne loved her Faith so much that all she wanted to do was teach it, so in 1948, she graduated from Southampton Catholic Training College with a first class Catholic Teacher’s certificate and has never stopped teaching even in retirement. She says, “In those days we gave a religious lesson every morning - the bishop expected it! Then we, Catholic teachers had an annual exam to make sure we were teaching the Faith correctly. I ask her if Southampton Catholic college is still there? “No, Bishop Konstant closed them all in the mid 1990s”. He was chairman of the Catholic Education Service. He just felt it was a good idea to close the hugely successful Catholic training colleges, even though the Catholic Directory statistics showed only a lapsation rate of 10%. She looks at me sadly, “ The young are just not in church - the little ones come with their parents yes, but the teenagers are absent. She blames this on the lack of catechesis in Catholic schools - they simply aren’t taught the Faith, so they don't have enough backbone to live Catholic lives.
As well as teaching Daphne trained as a speaker in the Westminster Catholic Evidence Guild under Dr Frank Sheed and his wife Maisie Ward. This was in the early 1950s when Catholic speakers would stand in Hyde Park and on London street corners addressing crowds on various aspects of Catholicism. After a few years Daphne was made a Squad leader and trained other speakers. In 1958 her future husband was one of her audience and he tried to persuade Daphne to give up Catholicism! Daphne politely suggested that he became a Catholic. Not long after he was baptised with Daphne’s father acting as his godfather. They married in 1960. Sadly they lost their first child in 1965. But happily, in 1969 they were blessed with baby Michael. Daphne’s husband - a severe diabetic had to give up work so he looked after Michael while Daphne returned to teaching. This woke her up! She was shocked to find that the religious instruction had changed beyond recognition into woolly classroom discussions. Daphne was amazed that the bishops approved these text books.
At the age of 50 Daphne was appointed Headteacher of St Joseph’s Infant school, Norwood and promptly imported orthodox Catholic materials from America. After 10 happy years she had to retire and care for her very sick husband.
Daphne then devoted her time to writing letters to the Catholic press, about the modern catechetics. As a result, she was invited to join “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” and a year later, in 1993, she was chairman. She started the newspaper “The Flock”, which has 2,800 readers plus those who read it online, which has global appeal - as far away as Taiwan! Daphne started conferences in London, called “Faith of our Fathers”. Choking and with tears of joy in her eyes she tells me the first conference miraculously got the exact money to fund it - £2300. Mother Angelica of EWTN was the guest speaker - it was a huge success.
Her latest expose is of the new RE course “Come and See”, which Daphne has listed all the errors in the latest newsletter, “The Flock”. She sent the list of errors to every bishop. The Bishops Conference voted to implement this new course in all schools - although one very brave bishop wrote to Daphne saying he wouldn’t touch it! Unfortunately the Bishop’s Conference has resulted in democratising the Church and individual bishops are ostracised if they don’t agree with the other bishops. That was never supposed to happen - in fact Daphne met Cardinal Arinze and he said each bishop is in charge of his own diocese!
Daphne also met Bishop Patrick O’Donohue - now retired. He wrote the CTS “Fit for Mission” series for Catholic schools. It was so good that the Vatican hailed it as a blueprint for all Catholic schools. However, Bishop O’Donohue said he had no idea of the enmity he would meet from his brother bishops. He said they all stood against him.
Daphne says she understands the reason behind the growth in Catholic homeschooling - parents who are aware of the lack of sound Catholic teaching in schools, go down this radical path - in some cases they join cooperatives, where the parents band together to help eachother out with different subject specialisms. Alternatively Catholic parents are choosing non-Catholic schools and they teach the Faith themselves at home.
Daphne says she can’t understand why the bishops aren't panicking about the lapsation rate - surely they can’t be happy with this statistic! She tells me of her visit to Archbishop Nichols - at his invitation. Daphne took a shopping trolley of good Catholic RI schemes to show him. She says it started out quite pleasantly with tea and cake by the fire and he listened to what she had to say. He said that he understood her concerns, but that he could not go against his brother bishops - who liked the ‘trendy’ methods. Daphne simply said, “You are putting unity above Truth”, which he did not deny. She says the bishops find her “annoying” and try to shut her up - but unlike clergy the laity have more freedom to expose problems.
But if Vatican 2 didn’t mention religious instruction or catechetics why did it all change?
All that was said at Vatican 2 was that Catholic universities were to be promoted - nothing wrong with that. And in 1964, Cardinal Spellman said, “We have never before had such a well instructed laity”.Vatican 2 therefore did not want anything to change in the field of catechesis as the existing methods were working so well!
So how and why did catechesis change? Daphne has written about what happened as she was living through the changes. On 6/1/66 (spooky date!) - a progressive priest called Monseigneur H decided to change the way catechesis was taught. He was a keen modernist. Mgr H set up a committee and invited Fr R (who incidentally was sacked from the seminary in Westminster). This committee organised “study weeks” for Catholic teachers. Daphne went to these meetings and discovered that Revelation, that is God’s revelation in the Bible, was being “rubbished”. What they said was that the new theology was “God speaking to you individually in your heart”. This is protestant teaching, which is based on subjectivism. So these meetings basically re-defined the magisterial teaching on Revelation. This alone destroyed catechesis, as it says we can all make up our own revelation - what is right for one, may not be right for another and so forth. This had led to touchy feely airy fairy theology, which denies Objective Truth. It is disastrous as it leads to unbelief.
Daphne was teaching at the time and she was required to go to college to learn the “new religion” - she thought it was going to be about better teaching methods, and certainly not about destroying the content of the Faith. Every Catholic teacher in England and Wales, plus priests, had to attend the courses at the new Corpus Christi college of RE. What they were being taught made her ill - “I couldn't eat I was so upset”. She was very much alone and was called arrogant by other good Catholics. These fellow teachers and nuns lapped up this modern theology - which was nowhere mentioned in the Vatican 2 documents!
From 1966 the “new theology” filtered into the schools, which means we have people now in their late 50s who were not taught the Faith! Disastrous. At the time of the “new theology”, Cardinal Heenan was sure it would produce good results but he realised that it was a mistake. Another bishop - Healy (d.2002), who Daphne knew, was heartbroken about the new catechetics and told her that there was a war going on and that they were losing.
She says - the problem with the new catechetics, is that Original Sin is not taught, and if that isn’t taught then how can children understand the Immaculate Conception, or the need for a Redeemer? She says she came across one course book which teaches that Jesus Christ came to save us from people that threaten us! If you omit Original Sin, baptism and sanctifying grace don’t get taught.
I ask Daphne if she has time for hobbies? She looks perplexed at this question - “I don’t have time for hobbies - this is my life!” Although she is handing over the chairmanship - she will still remain a committee member of PEEP, certainly for the time being.
Daphne also had papal audiences about her work - she went to see Pope Benedict. She was rather surprised that although he was very charming and sympathetic, he really wasn't too bothered about the bad catechesis in schools. This perplexed her! It has perplexed me too. So much so, that I decided to read what the late Father Luigi Villa - fighter of freemasonry had to say. It blew my head off! I am still reeling. Go to Chiesa Viva website. Email Dr Franco Adessa, who worked for Fr Villa to send you the English articles on Pope Benedict. Be prepared to be shocked. My head is out of the sand.
On a happier note, Daphne told me about her remarkable cure from a nasty form of breast cancer, which she is convinced was down to the prayers of Mother Anima and her order of nuns - “The Incarnate Word”. They are a missionary new order who study St Thomas Aquinas. Father Beula, an Argentinian, started the order. They have a traditional seminary. Daphne got to know this order as she had given talks to them. They were all praying for her and she made a full recovery from cancer.
EWTN also asked Daphne to do a series of talks called, “Discovering Our Glorious Faith”, which can also be purchased in DVD form. She was flown out to Alabama to record the series. She has also made a CD-Rom called, “What We Catholics Believe”. The talks are available to download free from www.proecclesia.com. Daphne’s other booklets include “What every Catholic Child should know about the Faith” - which is downloadable free from the website - http://www.proecclesia.com/what209.pdf
really worth reading! The other very important booklet is, “Will your grandchildren be Catholic” - which is a detailed account of how the teaching of catechesis was changed in England and Wales, naming those responsible. All available via the website.
I ask her what she wants to happen in Catholic schools. She is very clear. The bishops must implement proper text books like the “Faith and Life” series by Ignatius Press, which systematically teaches all the doctrines that one must know to be saved. After all - what is the Catholic Church here for? It is to get souls to heaven! No other reason.
The doorbell rings and a lovely cheerful nurse arrives to take Daphne for a walk to get her new hip working. She sees all Daphne’s literature and DVDs on the table and asks what it’s all about? “Oh I’m a Catholic” she says breezily. Daphne offers her a CD-Rom which the nurse is delighted to accept!
Catholic Life magazine is now available in App form and an app copy is £1.99. It is also available in hard form at £3.50 per issue.
Father Luigi Villa - pray for us!