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Eric Hester

Eric Hester was a young graduate when the Second Vatican council opened in 1962 and is now retired after a long career in Catholic schools which included 24 years as a head master. He is now editor of Mentor an independent periodical for Catholic schools, teachers, parents and governors.


Vandalism can be towards words as well as buildings and the worst vandals are those who, without any ecclesiastical authority, are vandalizing our hymns.  The opening verse of “Faith of our fathers” has not yet been changed to “Values of everyone’s parents and guardians living still, in spite of sincerely held different belief stances” but when it does, remember this warning.

Many great hymns have been desecrated.  Fr Faber is one of the greatest of English poets, let alone hymn writers.  One of the greatest of his hymns is “O, come and Mourn with me a while”.  It contains the wonderful lines: “have we no tears to shed for him while soldiers scoff and Jews deride?”  “Jews” was seized upon by the thought-police and it had to become “while MEN deride”.

Even that was not good enough: you see, it mentions “men” which is not allowed.  The new ecclesiastically correct version in Liturgical Hymns Old & New is (I am not making this up):  “While soldiers scoff and PEOPLE SNEER.”  Now, apart from how ludicrous this sounds, it does not rhyme.  Faber, a genius with words has the “ide” rhyme going though the second line of each of the seven verses of this great hymn.  The vandals do not care about that.  They have no ear and no brains.

Do not think that a name as great as that of Newman will be spared. Can you believe that Liturgical Hymns, Old & New has the temerity to alter “Firmly, I believe and truly”?  In the second verse, Newman actually wrote, as Elgar famously set to inspired music in The Dream of Gerontius: And I trust and hope most fully/in that manhood crucified;” these feminists know better than poor old Newman and we have the second line changed to “In the Saviour crucified.”   Out goes “manhood” even though Newman gives it a precise theological meaning as follows from what he wrote in the first verse.

The spoilers are not prejudiced against old hymns: they will ruin modern hymns just as freely.  Nor do they hesitate to correct the words of Our Blessed Lord Himself.  One of the best modern hymns is “I am the bread of life”.  We all know the first verse: “He who comes to me shall not hunger/ He who believes in me shall not thirst/ No one can come to me/ Unless the Father draw him.”  Well we can all hunger and thirst now because this hymn has been politically-corrected: “I am the bread of life/YOU who come to me shall not hunger/AND who believe in me shall not thirst. / No one can come to me/unless the father BECKONS.” (Celebration Hymnal for Everyone). 

Among many hymns with ruined words are these: “I’ll sing a hymn to Mary” (can’t have wicked MEN blaspheming); “Come, come, come to the manger”  (Christ cannot be the saviour of MANKIND);  “To Jesus Heart All Burning” (the Sacred Heart is forbidden from burning with love for MEN).  Any hymn is likely to be changed if it upsets the mad feminists and dares to contain the word “man” or any variant thereof.   The last verse of “The First Nowell” has been despoiled.

These latter-day book-burners censor many hymns simply by omitting entire verses, as they do, for example, the verse about Purgatory in  “Lord for tomorrow” or, better still, from their point of view, entire hymns.  We must not now ask God to bless the Pope, though that hymn is perhaps the most loved of Catholic hymns to the English and Irish; nor do the hymnbooks to which I have referred contain a single hymn about the Holy Souls.  Copying “Faulty Towers”, these hymn-spoilers seem to have as motto: “Don’t mention purgatory.”  Modern hymns are not spared.  “We are One In the Spirit” has been struck out – all that about “man’s dignity” and “man’s pride”. 

How should we fight back against these vandals?  First, our bishops should insist, as they used to do and as Canon Law requires them to, that all hymnbooks carry an imprimatur.  This would give them a chance to review whether some of these changes, as well as being idiotic, are also heretical.  Parishes who have been saddled against their wishes with politically-correct hymnbooks should demand their money back from the publishers.  This can certainly be done, under the terms of the Trades Descriptions Act.  If you advertise a book as containing “hymns old” and then alter the words of the old hymns, you are deceiving the public which is entitled to have its money back.  Any decent publisher, if he (or she) must alter the words of hymns, ought to warn people prominently of the changes.  When ordering new hymnbooks whoever is responsible should insist that all hymns contain the proper words.  Insist, too, on “God bless Our Pope” and at least one hymn for the poor forgotten Holy Souls.  Some Catholic schools, like Stoneyhurst and the London Oratory, have their own hymnbooks to get round the problem of having to insult their pupils’ intelligence with the feminist versions, but why should schools have to do this?  It is not my intention to publicise one particular book, but I observe that The Catholic Hymn Book has the proper version of all hymns and contains “God Bless our Pope” and Newman’s “Help Lord the Souls”.  Published by Gracewing (44 (0) 1568 616835) it is only £7 though it contains the music as well as the words and has a stiff cover.  It is used by the Brompton Oratory, which may itself be sufficient recommendation.  As for the poor Catholic in the pews, simply refuse to sing the crazy versions.  Where you remember the proper version, sing it at the top of your voice.  Do pray to Our Blessed Lady that we will keep the best words to honour her and her Son. 

These freaky feminists who corrupt the words of our hymns deserve their own hymn.   My suggestion is: “Dear peer and parent of humankind forgive, please, please, forgive their foolish ways.

This article is based on one originally published in The Universe newspaper in 2002.

Catholic schools

Two  strange things happened recently when there was a call for parents not to send their children to Catholic schools.  The first strange thing is that this call was not from the National Secular society or similar gangs of tin-pot atheists.   The call was made by a lady who is most experienced in Catholic education and is a Catholic of the Catholics.  The very reason she gave was that Catholic schools can actually damage the faith of children.

The second strange thing was that no one in Catholic education wanted to respond to the call for parents to take their children away, not even the Catholic Education Service, which, when it was called by its previous title of the Catholic Education Council, would have thundered to defend Catholic schools from any slight, like a husband defending his wife’s honour.  Why the silence?  Is the good lady so obviously right that no one will spring to the defence?

First, I think that Mrs Daphne McLeod is right in most of her diagnosis of the problem.  Mrs McLeod, a head teacher and teacher for 40 years, says:

All the RE schemes produced in this country over the last 35 years have presented teachers and pupils with a travesty of the divinely revealed truths of the faith.

I agree that this is true.  The central truths of the faith are not properly presented in Weaving the Web, Here I Am and Icons.  There have been many detailed examinations of these texts to prove this, not least by Mrs McLeod herself.  However, I should just like to mention three vital and central Catholic ideas that are missing.  There is, first of all, no sense given that the individual has a soul which he or she must save in order to go to heaven to all eternity and to avoid the horrific alternative of hell.  The word “soul” itself is actually difficult to find in modern RE texts.  Next, the concept of Christ’s redemption is not fully explained.  There is no proper mention of sin, let alone original sin, and so no explanation of the sacrifice of Calvary.  Many other items are omitted but the final one I should draw attention to is that there is no sense of The Catholic Church as being the Church of Christ and, therefore, being the only one possessing the full truth.  Papal authority is hardly mentioned, let alone infallibility.

The present holy father has devoted much time and energy in his pontificate to try to put right the teaching of the faith to the young.  In his great apostolic exhortation, Catechesi Tradendae, he insists on the following:

"In order that the sacrificial offering of his or her faith should be perfect, the person who becomes a disciple of Christ has the right to receive the word of faith not in mutilated, falsified or diminished form but whole and entire, in all its rigour and vigour.  Unfaithfulness on some point to the integrity of the message means a dangerous weakening of catechesis and putting at risk the results that Christ and the ecclesial community have a right to expect from it."

In Scotland, the late Cardinal Winning admitted the problems before the Synod of European bishops referring to "the catechetical desert" and admitting that "teachers (my italics) and parents are now being asked to pass on a faith which they barely know themselves."  There has been no admittance of any failings in England and Wales.  In Catachesi Tradendae, the Holy Father asks the following question:

"What kind of catachesis would it be that failed to give their full place to man's creation and sin, to God's plan of redemption and its long, loving preparation and realisation, to the Immaculate One, the Mother of God, ever Virgin, raised body and soul to the glory of heaven, and to her role in the mystery of salvation, to the mystery of lawlessness at work in our lives and the power of God freeing us from it, to the need for penance and asceticism, to the sacramental and liturgical actions, to the reality of the Eucharistic presence, to participation in divine life here and hereafter, and so on?"

The Holy Father's question is rhetorical but he almost describes Icons.  Yet Icons is endorsed by, it seems, just about every RE adviser of every diocese in England and some take dictatorial measures to try to prevent the poor teachers even looking at other material.  When the Holy Father last met the bishops of England and Wales, he specifically told them of what ought to be included in religious education. The current recommended RE texts do not obey the Hoy Father’s orders.

The recent dispute, where the Director of the Catholic Truth Society publicly complained that a new series of books for schools by that organisation had been banned in some dioceses, even though it is personally endorsed by his Grace the Archbishop of Birmingham, shows what a bad state we are in.  This is just the approach of those who used to forbid the real teaching of reading – forbid anything but the versions approved by the bureaucrats.  If a book, is good, of course, then teachers will want to use it and need not be threatened and forced to use it.  Even the inspection of Catholic maintained schools, which does not actually address whether children know the faith, has been used to try to force teachers to use the official material, which so many teachers know to be of little use.  In one diocese, a letter from the diocesan advisor stated that RE inspectors would be checking to see that Icons were used.  Interestingly, if an OFSTED inspector had tried to insist on the use of a particular book, the inspector would have been sacked.

I agree, therefore, entirely with Mrs McLeod’s diagnosis but would have some differences about her remedy.  Should conscientious parents take their children away from Catholic schools? I do not disagree entirely, but I would argue for more discrimination.  There are Catholic schools and Catholic schools.  I agree that some would actually damage the faith.  However, many, despite, the poor RE materials imposed upon them, still manage to teach the faith.  I should make a comparison with the teaching of reading in primary schools.  For years, schools were forced to use hopelessly inadequate materials.  Yet good schools, while paying lip-service to using the official methods which did not teach children to read, quietly taught the children about the sounds of English and helped them to read.  Similarly, I agree that a Catholic Secondary school which relied upon Icons would never teach children the faith, but I know schools where, for example, a good Chaplain with his proper approach to the sacrament of Confession has done amazing real teaching.  Many Catholic teachers by the example of their own lives actively teach the real Catholic faith daily, despite the poor official materials.

I should not, therefore, recommend home-schooling, with all its attendant difficulties, unless the local Catholic school is very bad.  I hope I am not guilty of prejudice if I state that Mrs McLeod’s experience has been mainly in the South of England and mine mainly in the North.  I find that sensible head teachers and their staff, together with a good input from parish priests with common sense can overcome the undoubted deficiencies of the official RE programmes, which most parish priests, in my experience, deplore.  Nor would I personally nowadays  recommend the local state school as an alternative.  Some of the teachers there are good people, but they are completely under the thumb of the local education authority and, apart form other considerations, the sex-education programmes alone would render them entirely unsuitable for Catholic children.  A good independent non-Catholic school is a different matter.  Most independent schools take the teaching of Christianity very seriously.  It is often the case that there is a daily full assembly, which not all Catholic schools have, perhaps in a beautiful chapel.  Independent schools often have a chaplain and he is almost always very sympathetic to Catholic children.  However, now that the government has ended the assisted places scheme which used to help those of lower incomes to attend independent schools, this alternative is not available to many parents.  Incidentally, Catholic independent schools are very, very good, usually in their RE teaching as other areas not because they are richer – some are, some aren’t – but because they have their freedom.  They are not subject to the Catholic version of OFSTED inspection and do not feel themselves obliged to follow the dictates of diocesan bureaucrats.  Many of them  make their own good material for their RE teaching.  Much of their good material could be used in other Catholic schools to great advantage.

The one occasion where I agree that children should be taken away from Catholic schools is where the school has a sex education programme that is likely to corrupt the child.  At the very least, the parent must insist that the child is withdrawn from all such lessons.  On the day of judgement, a parent could expect harsh words and actions if he or she knowingly allowed a child to be corrupted.  Most Catholic schools do what the Catholic Church has ordered – there is no sex-education at all in primary schools (all Church teaching is most insistent on this) and at secondary level, any teaching must be completely, in every detail, in accordance with Catholic teaching.  A good test of this is the attitude to homosexuality.  A Catholic school should teach Catholic teaching – that any homosexual acts are objectively disordered and gravely sinful, “Crying out to heaven for vengeance.”  If the school is so forgetful of its Catholicity as to invite a homosexual into school to talk about his sexuality, then such a school is corrupting Catholic children and should not be supported.  Unfortunately, in some dioceses, the diocesan bureaucracies are the very ones trying to force Catholic governors and heads to go against what the Church insists on and, for example, have primary sex-education programmes, something specifically forbidden.  Parents should work with the schools to resist this.  Why those in charge of RE teaching in dioceses are often the very ones who are against sound teaching is a subject for another article and it explains much of the steep decline of the Catholic Church in England in the last thirty years.  Since this kind of statement has people rushing to write letters, I ask those who question what I have  written to affirm that they will state on oath that every RE advisor in England upholds every item of Catholic doctrine.  

For most parents, then, I recommend the local Catholic school.  Apart from anything else, parents can support the school which probably wants to escape using bad material and to be allowed to choose some of the excellent material produced in America and Australia.  Of course, parents can add to the teaching by doing extra teaching at home, as parents do in those schools which do not teach arithmetic properly.  Just as parents taught children the multiplication tables in those schools where the bureaucrats would not allow the teachers to do it, so parents can teach their children the faith at home to counteract insufficient RE lessons.  I recommend the use of the new Catechism, The Catechism of the Catholic Faith, alongside the old penny catechism which is still quite brilliant and not at all superseded as Cardinal Ratzinger himself said.  In addition, I recommend very strongly a series of tapes called What We Catholics Believe – the Timeless Objective Truths of the Catholic Faith.  They are inexpensive and can be obtained by telephoning – 44 (0)1328 864447.  And the author of these tapes?  A great defender of authentic Catholic teaching, a stalwart supporter of the rights of children to have the faith taught to them properly, one of the most loyal and faithful Catholics and an expert on Catholic education – a certain Mrs Daphne McLeod.  Let us pray for our schools, especially to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

This article was originally published in The Universe newspaper.

The Second Vatican Council

Do you want to win a sure-fire bet?  Take the average Catholic over fifty - and the average Catholic is over fifty - and ask her (the average Catholic is “her”) which of the following were ordered by the Second Vatican Council:

  • that Latin should stop being the normal language of Mass and the sacraments.
  • That pop hymns should replace Gregorian chant as the music of the Church.
  • That there should be fewer prayers and less honour to Our Blessed Lady.
  • That the Blessed Sacrament should be moved away from the main altar and hidden away.
  • That statues should be removed from our churches.
  • That it is all right to celebrate the life of saints but we must not ask them to pray for us. 
  • That the name of the Sacrament of Penance should be changed to Reconciliation so that we can be “reconciled to our neighbour and to living with ourselves.”
  • That artificial contraception and even abortion are not really wrong.
  • That nuns should no longer wear their habits but should wear ordinary clothes and lipstick and have expensive hairdos.
  • That there should be no more Benediction.
  • That Catholic should join CND and be in favour of unilateral disarmament.
  • That devotion to the holy angels should be played down and all hymns concerning the angels should be removed from our hymn books.
  • That there is nothing much wrong with remarrying after divorce and those who do so should be able to go to Holy Communion.
  • That all religions are much the same.
  • That no one goes to hell any more but at death everyone goes straight to heaven. 
  • That the purpose of a Requiem Mass is to celebrate the life of the one who has died not to pray for the soul of that person.
  • That you should not pray for the holy souls in purgatory.
  • That men and women are identical and everything possible should be done to minimise differences.

Etc, etc, etc. 

What is the correct answer to win your bet?  Not one of the list was ordered by the Second Vatican Council.  Most of the above are the exact opposite of what the Council actually said.  Here is the Council on Latin:

Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

Here is the council on music:

The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as proper to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services….  The texts intended to be sung must always be in conformity with Catholic Doctrine.

Here is the Council on family life:

The children, especially the younger among them, need the care of their mother at home.

The Council on artificial contraception:

sons of the Church may not undertake methods of regulation procreation which are found blame worthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law.

Here is the council on relations with other churches:

It is, of course, essential that doctrine be clearly presented in its entirety.  Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false conciliatory approach which harms the purity of Catholic doctrine and obscures its assure genuine meaning.

One could go on and show how idea after idea attributed to the Council is the opposite of what it actually said.  Why have the laity been cheated over all these years?  Cardinal Heenan, present throughout the Council, was clear that there had been deliberate deception.  In his autobiography, A Crown of Thorns, he wrote of “theological anarchy” and said:

Chastity and obedience were derided, priests and nuns forsook their vows, doctrines opposed to the fundamental teachings of the Catholic religion were taught by theologians who nevertheless refused to leave the Church.  They were guided by a self-made magisterium.  Priests and laymen without qualifications set up as theologians.  Everyone except the Pope became infallible… People blamed the council for all these unattractive features of the post-conciliar scene.  The fact is that the Council was not responsible for their misery – as they would have discovered if they had only read its decrees.  Unfortunately, few Catholics read the decrees of the Second Vatican Council.  That is why they so easily accepted as due to the Council (‘The spirit of good Pope John’) the onslaught on Catholic doctrine and devotion by authors of whom not a few later renounced the priesthood, the religious life or the Catholic Faith.

Later, after he had seen a demonstration of the new Mass that replaced the Latin one in Rome in 1967,Cardinal Heenan uttered very prophetic words to the Synod of Bishops:

At home it is not only women and children but also fathers of families and young men who come regularly to Mass.  If we were to offer them the kind of ceremony we saw yesterday in the Sistine Chapel we would soon be left with a congregation of mostly women and children.

We have had the new Mass and, sadly, the late Cardinal’s words have come true, though there are not all that many children now.  Sadly, too, the general situation has not improved since Cardinal Heenan’s death but has, in many ways, become worse.

Another great error forced on the laity was the idea that the Second Vatican Council had changed everything and that, in particular, doctrines taught as eternal truths were to be discarded.  Disregard false views and listen to the words of Pope John XXIII himself in his opening words:

The greatest concern of this Ecumenical council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously…In order that this doctrine may influence the numerous fields of human activity, with reference to individuals, families and to social life, it is necessary first of all that the Church should never depart from the sacred patrimony of truth received from the Fathers.”

So there we have the “greatest concern” of Pope John.  How he would have grieved over the distortion of his Council! 

We are nearly forty years from the opening of the council in 1962.  We could use the anniversary to study the actual council texts and to throw out all the distortions.  It will be a long job.  The Pope himself has said that the Church is in a state of crisis.  But those of us who are laity must not allow ourselves to be cheated of our true Catholic Faith.  What is the best way?  I have no doubt that the best practical way is to renew devotion to Our Blessed Lady.  One of the greatest distortions of all is to pretend that the Council lessened devotion to her.  The Pope has asked all bishops in the world to consecrate their dioceses to Our Blessed Lady.  The Bishop of Leeds has already responded to this plea of the Holy Father.  Let us ask all our bishops to make the consecration.  Let England once again be The Dowry of Mary and we will recover the faith through recovering the real meaning of The Second Vatican Council.

This article is based on one originally published in The Catholic Times newspaper.

©; Eric Hester 2003

This version: 28th March 2003

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