chapter  2
The field of Catholic education: perspectives from
ByBourdieu and Bernstein
Pages 29

The Catholic school is not a merely sociological category, it has a theological foundation as well.

(p. 46)

The statement itself is a rearticulation of an order of priorities within the Catholic Church when reviewing its educational institutions. Primacy is given to the theological foundations of such institutions, to their ‘fundamental reason for existing’ and to their sacred mission in the world. It is in relation to these sacred purposes that Catholic education can also be described as ‘a merely sociological category’, at work in the profane world. ‘Merely sociological’ is part of the formal discourse of the Catholic Church and encoded in this discourse is not only a relatively low evaluation of sociological concepts and research but also a guarded and cautious attitude to the sociological enterprise in general. That this should be so is hardly surprising. For the Catholic Church, theological matters and the culture of the sacred must always take precedence over profane studies of all types. However, in the case of the social sciences, as with the natural sciences, challenges to sacred truths and to hierarchical authority may result from the outcomes of empirical analysis and enquiry. The outcomes of such enquiry are unpredictable and may have potentially disturbing consequences for the faithful. For this reason, relations between the institutional Church and the practice of sociology have been marked by cultural distance, cultural insulation and cultural suspicion.