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how easy is it to covert to Catholicism?

(35 Posts)
giddywithglee Thu 22-Oct-15 11:06:44

this is a long one, sorry!

3 years ago they restructured the education system in our town. This meant that the school that is on our road, that I had always assumed my children would go to, became completely oversubscribed with siblings, to the point that this year they had to take 37 children into the reception class to accommodate all the siblings (if anyone who knows me can identify me from this please don't give me away!).

Anyway, my son started reception this year, and obviously couldn't get into that school. My first choice was the school he was at nursery at, but he didn't get offered it on allocations day (unsurprising as it's over a km away as the crow flies so plenty of kids in between - our town has a lot of people packed into a small geographical area). But we were offered a place at the Catholic school which is also on our road and Ofsted outstanding, and which has historically been ridiculously hard to get into. We were delighted, accepted and took our son off continued interest for our other choices. He has settled in really well, made loads of friends and is very happy.

BUT I've got nursery applications coming up for DS2, which has made me look at their admissions policy, and I've realised that siblings of non-Catholic children already in the school come way down the pecking order below Catholic non-siblings who live out-of-town. So now I'm panicking (not about nursery, but Reception when the time comes).

There doesn't seem to be any way of finding out if the lower take-up of places by Catholic children this year is a blip or part of a continuing trend, so now I've got massive uncertainty about whether DS2 will get a place when the time comes, which means that I'm now faced with the very real possibility of my children going to different schools.

I've been trying to work out what I can do, and the way I see it I've got 3 options:

1. Wait and see. Apply to the Catholic school and the nearest school (which ironically will have resolved its siblings issue by then) and potentially have the children at different schools.
2. Convert to Catholicism. I'm christened CofE but my kids aren't. My FIL is Catholic and my mum's massive Irish side of the family is too, so it's not entirely alien to us and not something I'm completely opposed to. It just feels a bit drastic (although talking to a lot of the mums in the playground I gather that I would not be in the minority for doing this!).
3. Put DS1 on the waiting list for the next nearest school which is only a 10 minute walk away, and see if he gets a place before I do the Reception application for DS2 (in which case sibling rule applies).

I know it's not the end of the world for them to be in different schools but they're really close, and I hate the thought of them not having shared school memories, no combined school photos, no DS1 looking out for his baby bro in the playground...

Anyway, what would you do in my position? It's daft but it's making me really anxious and I keep changing my mind about what to do!

ReallyTired Thu 22-Oct-15 12:52:05

In your situation I would put your oldest on the waiting list for the nearest school. You could try attending the Catholic Church, but I think you would find that a catholic school would expect baptism before 12 months especially if it's over subscribed.

C of e and catholic are not that far apart. I don't think you are unreasonable converting to Catholicism. They are both Christian.

SomedayMyPrinceWillCome Thu 22-Oct-15 12:55:51

As PP says, most admission policies would expect the child to have been baptised within the first 6 months of life, and for secondaries to have received the Sacraments at the appropriate age too.

giddywithglee Thu 22-Oct-15 13:13:43

The admissions policy says you need a supporting certificate from the priest testifying that you attend regularly including holy days of obligation, plus your child's baptismal cert. There's nothing about when the child was baptised. Having spoken to other parents, it appears many of their children were baptised and started attending church when thoughts turned to school admissions!

However, it seems like an enormous step to take for a school place.

If they attend different schools they would both be on the same site - the schools are next door to each other and there is no boundary between the grounds.

I'm nervous about moving DS1 again - he moved between pre-school and nursery, then to a new school, and now he's happily settled in I feel guilty even thinking about moving him for a third time in 2 years!

No134 Thu 22-Oct-15 13:19:46

To be received into the Catholic church you have to do an RCIA course, which in most parishes is about 6-9 months of teaching/discussion sessions. You will also, unsurprisingly, be required to state that you believe the teachings of the Church, and take part in a formal (and public) baptism/reception/confirmation Mass. Expect to get highly unfavourable reactions if it is obvious that you don't believe, and are only going for school admissions purposes.

But separately from that, given that you were allocated the school rather than choosing it, you could legitimately argue that the normal sibling criteria shouldn't apply, and your second child should be given priority as a sibling irrespective of faith. REad the admissions criteria carefully, and see whether you could make an application under the 'pastoral or other special circumstances' criteria that many Catholic schools have. You might even be able to get the parish priest onside to support your application - I think you do have a strong moral case, and I'm sure most priests would prefer to help you with an honest application rather than have people asking for reception into the church for the wrong reasons.

Might be worth seeing if one of the admissions experts on here can advise on the legalities.

systemusername Thu 22-Oct-15 13:29:12

A Mum of one of my dc friend is doing this for her youngest boy.
She has attended preparation sessions herself then got her boy age two baptised. She did not have Catholic godparents needed but managed to find someone to step in she vaguely knew plus people from the church. She I fine now to get into the primary school (no twelve month rule here)

Slightly different with us but one of my dc converted. She attended preparation, did confirmation with her class (our area do things in a different order now) then Holy Communion with younger children then confession with her class. This would have been enough to get her into the very oversubscribed Catholic secondary school although she chose elsewhere.

Lurkedforever1 Thu 22-Oct-15 13:41:44

As far as our local Catholic schools go, getting baptised Catholic, even if you attend weekly between now and ds2's application it really wouldn't cut it. So possibly worth speaking to whoever knows the full details of the religious criteria and finding out whether just being a baptised catchment sibling will be enough, or if it's a case of who attends church the most.

TalkinPeece Thu 22-Oct-15 15:12:46

My local Catholic School has Sikh kids in the prospectus grin

namechangedtoday15 Thu 22-Oct-15 15:33:00

One more thing to add before you make a decision - does it have any bearing on senior school admissions? We have single sex Catholic grammar schools in our area that are fantastic but if you are not baptised Catholic and / or attend a catholic feeder school, you don't stand a chance of getting in. A boy attending a catholic school 20 miles away would be higher up the over-subscription criteria than my baptised C of E son who could walk there in 5 minutes.

We have had quite a few families convert in the last couple of years of primary to get a place at the Catholic grammar schools - so it can be done but its fairly lengthy. FWIW, I've never seen criteria setting out when a child has to be baptised, only that they are.

It also depends on how much movement there is at the other school 10 mins away - how likely is it that your DS1 would get a place there before DS2 starts reception? I would perhaps give them a ring to ask.

Zodlebud Thu 22-Oct-15 16:15:09

I think I know the schools you are referring to. If the non-catholic one has a colour in it's name? If so we were in the same boat in the same year as you even though it's our closest non faith school. I like the other school but was just not prepared to "do" the whole religion thing to go there. If it is the same town then remember there are several other C of E schools nearby which increased their intake at the same time so religious schools for non Catholics is very well catered for.

Another thought - one of the very highly popular secondary schools in the next town is Catholic and is very much in demand.

My personal thoughts are though that you should only do religion if you have an interest in it. If it is the school I think it is then having your children at two different sites is really not going to matter as they are right next door to each other!!!!

P.s. I couldn't be doing with all that stress of not getting the school we wanted so went private........

bodenbiscuit Thu 22-Oct-15 16:24:05

I disagree that Catholic and C of E are similar. Although I only have the two churches in our town to go by. My daughter went through a phase of wanting to become Catholic, so I allowed her to go to mass for some time. I do like some aspects of the Catholic Church but I have to say that I was rather concerned about some of the clearly anti women messages which came through from the priest during the sermons. And there is the question of contraception. Practicing Catholics believe it's wrong to use contraception. At our local church there are many families with 6,7,8 children. I personally couldn't reconcile myself with this view and it certainly differs from c of e approach. I think you must consider it carefully.

giddywithglee Thu 22-Oct-15 19:04:50

Think we're living in the same town, Zodel. We're not religious at all, although I did go to one of the CofE schools in town growing up, however I want my kids to go to a close-by school (private is not an option). We have the added complication that my DH teaches at the non-Catholic school on he road (which will now completely out me to anyone who knows the school or us) so DS1 may have something to say about DS2 going to Daddy's school!

giddywithglee Thu 22-Oct-15 19:08:09

Also to add that the Catholic school in nearby town is apparently experiencing issues, whereas our local 'comp' is Ofsted Good and apparently awesome (well, I know quite a few leaders in their fields who went there with me I'm the 90s!)

ReallyTired Thu 22-Oct-15 22:28:39

If your children are five years apart then it should be just about doable having one at the Catholic school and one at the nearest school. Many children do walk home by themselves in year 5 (aged 9 to 10) provided there are no major roads to cross.

Zodlebud Fri 23-Oct-15 08:05:15

Then I would say don't do it. They must surely get a place at either of the schools and if you have no interest in the Catholic secondary school then converting for the sake of a few metres seems silly. Being taught by your father though. Hmmmmmmmmm.

TalkinPeece Fri 23-Oct-15 18:27:42

I find the crass hypocricy of this thread frankly scary

cariadlet Fri 23-Oct-15 19:15:54

I understand your frustration, but I do think that the title of the thread is misleading.

You don't really want to know how easy it is to convert to Catholicism, because that would mean that you had doubts about your current faith/lack of faith, were attracted to the Catholic doctrine and/or ritual, want to attend Catholic services and be accepted as part of the Catholic community

What you actually want to know is how can you convince a Catholic school that you are a Catholic in order for your child to be admitted to that school.

They are completely different things.

Clavinova Fri 23-Oct-15 20:36:45

I don't believe the op needs to convert to Catholicism herself if she wishes her dc to be baptised in the Catholic Faith. Canon law only seems to require 'consent' of one parent and 'the reasonable hope that the child will be brought up in the Catholic Faith.' If the op's dc attend a Catholic junior school for 7 years then I would suggest that there is every reasonable hope they will emerge the other side as Catholic as the other dc in their class.
As for having 6,7,8 dc - I suspect that the majority of Catholics in this country use regular contraception.

No134 Fri 23-Oct-15 23:42:46

Clavinova - how do you imagine a child can be brought up as a Catholic if neither parent is a Catholic? hmm

Most parishes will require proof of parental baptism before they will baptise a child, and many schools require a parental baptism certificate as well if you are applying under faith criteria.

Faking or acquiring CAtholicism is not easy, and not recommended even if you can get past the cynicism involved (which is a tough call).

As I said downthread, you don't need to convert or fake it, you want to get your child admitted to a catholic school, which you can probably do legitimately, given that your older dc was allocated the school rather than applying under faith criteria.

howtorebuild Fri 23-Oct-15 23:51:12

I think Jesus would love your children to be baptised, I don't think he would approve of you joining Christianity for a school place.

namechangedtoday15 Sat 24-Oct-15 00:01:28

I think the reality of the situation is that the vast majority of parents will do whatever they can, legally, to get a child into a sought after school. Whether it is morally right to do that is a different question.

Clavinova Sat 24-Oct-15 13:15:55

No134 'Clavinova - how do you Imagine a child can be brought up as a Catholic if neither parent is a Catholic?'

That's an easy one to answer - in the same way that millions of dc around the world are brought up in a particular faith entirely through instruction at school/friendship groups and the attendance of church/temple on social/special occasions with no continued religious instruction at home whatsoever.

There are estimated to be between 4 - 5 million baptised Catholics living in England and Wales and yet only about 1 million attend mass. How many 'lapsed' Catholics (plus C of E and other religions) baptise their dc more for tradition/social reasons/don't want to break the connection/feel that they have a vague belief in God but not strong enough to worship type of feeling?

What about the thousands of Catholics married to non-Catholics? How does Mummy explain to her dc that she and they are Catholic but Daddy is not (or vice versa)? Not to mention the question of how many Catholics avoid going to confession or choose artificial birth control.

The op's dc was allocated the Catholic primary school by chance (or was it God's will No134?) and she has Catholic relations in the family. If the op is happy that her dc receive a Catholic education (where prayer and spirituality are an every day part of school life) then there is 'reasonable hope' that they will be brought up in the Catholic faith. If she is serious (and having her young dc educated in the same school and the same religion is a pretty good reason in my view) then she should approach a 'friendly priest' with a view to baptising her dc but not herself. This is possible as I know several families in a fairly similar situation (not talking about London Oratory/Coloma type schools of course).

Or perhaps Catholicism is an exclusive club where outsiders aren't welcome?

No134 Sat 24-Oct-15 15:04:05

I'm not sure why you're quite so cross with me, Clavinova - the OP asked for advice on Catholic schools, and I was trying to be helpful on the basis of my experience of being catholic (yes, with a non-catholic husband) and having had four dc in a range of Catholic schools.

As I suggested upthread, the fact that OP's dc1 was allocated the school rather than applying under catholic criteria is highly relevant, and there might even be a legal or admissions code case for prioritising dc2 as a sibling regardless of faith criteria. That would be worth checking with the school and LEA. Failing that, I would suggest that she would have a strong case for arguing that exceptional/compassionate/pastoral circumstances apply for her child to be admitted regardless of faith, and I imagine most priests would be sympathetic to a non-Catholic approaching them for support in this.

What most priests would not be sympathetic to is someone approaching them to be received into the church and/or to have their child baptised purely for school admissions purposes. You may think that it's routine for dc to be brought up as Catholics without one or both parents being Catholic, but it really isn't - the whole catholic education system is predicated on the child living in a CAtholic family -the quote that's always wheeled out is a line from the bishops' conference about 'parents are the first educators of their children'. Schools do undertake RE, but sacramental preparation and Mass attendance is the responsibility of the family in the context of the parish to which they belong.

Many schools frame their admissions criteria in terms of 'Catholic child living with one or more catholic parents', or 'catholic child from a practising catholic family' and it's not uncommon to require proof of parental baptism at the admissions stage. The same principle would apply even more strongly to people approaching a priest seeking baptism for the child - if you're not known to the priest in the sense of being a member of the parish community they would generally require proof of parental baptism, and also want the parents to attend a baptism preparation course and have been attending Mass regularly before carrying out a baptism. It's not about being an 'exclusive club' - you can be as poor or uneducated or working-class as you like, it's about the church being a faith community based on, well, faith.

Obviously OP is free to test this hypothesis by approaching priests to see if they will baptise her child anyway, but I stand by my opinion that most priests would not consider baptising a child where neither parent was a catholic in the absence of very special circumstances such as a child unable to live with their natural family.

OP would be much better off constructing a strong argument based on the fact that her dc1 was allocated the school, and therefore faith criteria should not apply to subsequent siblings.

ReallyTired Sat 24-Oct-15 23:10:18

"Most parishes will require proof of parental baptism before they will baptise a child, and many schools require a parental baptism certificate as well if you are applying under faith criteria. "

It is illegal for schools to assess parents when selecting children. I doubt that many parents could get their hands on a baptism certificate. My children are baptised c of e and have a candle rather than a certificate. It would be interesting if they had to produce a certificate as an adult.

I think Jesus would love your children to be baptised, I don't think he would approve of you joining Christianity for a school place."

The op is Christian as she is c of e. Catholics recognise c of e baptism. It is not really that great a leap going from c of e to Catholic. I know people who have swapped between the two for various reasons. (That aren't school related.)

No134 Sun 25-Oct-15 00:14:09

Look, I'm only trying to explain how Catholic Church baptism and school admissions work, you don't have to believe me, but it seems a bit daft for people who are not Catholics to tell me I'm wrong.

When you are baptised in the Catholic Church you get an official baptismal certificate with the parish stamp, which is a copy of the relevant entry in the parish register. You can request a duplicate certificate at any time through the parish. I have done this, 40 years later and from another country. The certificate arrived in the post, albeit after several weeks and a few emails. Assuming their country of origin is not in a war zone, any Catholic will be able up do the same, although it might involve a bit of bureaucracy.

When you present a child for baptism, the priest will wAnt to see that certificate for the catholic parent. Some schools (secondary schools mainly, but I've encountered it for primary as well) require you to present the baptismal certificates for the child and the catholic parent at the time of applying, along with the birth certificate and the council tax bill.

You don't have to like it, but that's how it works.

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