Words to Live By

Wednesday, March 18, AD 2015

 

 

One of many reasons for our current problems in this country is that many of the schools, both public and religious, are a mess.  Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco is trying to change this.  His efforts are being met with all the venom that the secular and Catholic left are famed for.  He has not buckled.  Here is his letter to the teachers:

 

Thank you for the work you do to help our young students learn, mature, and grow in the Catholic faith. Know of my gratitude for the energy, expertise and devotion that you bring to this wonderful and most critical enterprise.

This enterprise involves a two-fold endeavor, since, for a Catholic high school to attain excellence, it must be at one and the same time an excellent institution of secondary education and a truly Catholic institution. Changes in our secular society over the last few decades have brought new challenges to this endeavor in both senses, as we now face both increased difficulties in educating our students well in an array of academic subjects, and unprecedented challenges in forming our young people with a deep and strong Catholic identity as well as a knowledge and practice of the Catholic faith.

The Second Vatican Council, in its declaration on Catholic education Gravissimum Educationis, insisted on Catholic schools assisting Catholic parents in their primary duty of educating their children in virtue, holiness, and their ability to evangelize others in society (see especially nn. 3 and 8). Picking up on this theme, the U.S. bishops have affirmed that “Catholic elementary and secondary schools [are] invaluable instruments in proclaiming the Good News from one generation to the next” (see Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium, US Conference of Catholic Bishops [2005], p. 2).

As one means of fulfilling this most serious responsibility, all of our schools currently have programs to help teachers give more effective witness to the Catholic faith. I support these programs. However, I also see a need to provide more clarity for our teachers. For this reason, I have developed a document that clarifies Catholic issues in our Catholic schools. At the outset, though, I wish to state clearly and emphatically that the intention underlying this document is not to target for dismissal from our schools any teachers, singly or collectively, nor does it introduce anything essentially new into the contract or the faculty handbook.

Many Catholics are at Variance with Church Teaching

At the same time, we need to face the current reality in society and the Church honestly, seriously and frankly: many people have opinions directly contrary to the natural moral law and the teaching of the Catholic Church. Furthermore, many Catholics themselves have beliefs at variance with Church teaching. This is simply a reality of our modern society. This reality stems in great part from the tremendous pressure the contemporary culture places on everyone to conform to a certain agenda at variance with, and often aggressively so, our Christian understanding of the human person and God’s purpose in creation. This pressure is exerted relentlessly in the media, in entertainment, in politics, in academia, in corporations – in short, in all of the influencers of popular culture. This problem in society in general is already serious enough, but when people in Catholic institutions endorse such views it creates a toxic confusion about our fundamental values among both students and others in society at large. As teaching institutions, therefore, Catholic schools have to be very clear about what constitutes the true teachings of the Catholic Church. They owe that to the teachers, to the students, and to the parents of the students.

Confusion on Sexual Morality and Religious Discpline

Confusion about the Church’s stance is prevalent in areas of sexual morality and religious discipline. For this reason, the statements for inclusion in the faculty handbook focus on these two areas. This focus does not imply lesser importance to Catholic teachings on social justice, which in fact are widely accepted and well interpreted in Catholic educational institutions. The areas requiring clarification are in Catholic teachings on sexual morality and religious practice.

Having clear statements especially about “hot button issues” related to faith and morals is important to teachers for two reasons. The first is that a forthright statement of the Church’s position on these issues helps teachers provide good perspectives to their students who often struggle in these areas.

The second reason is that candid formulation of Church doctrine protects those teachers who don’t agree with the statements. That sounds counterintuitive, but it is indeed the case. In a society in which confusion reigns about Church teachings, highlighting the controversial issues alerts teachers to avoid contradicting Church teaching on these issues either in the school or in some public way outside the classroom.

Dissenting from Catholic Teaching does not Promote Holiness

All teachers are expected to contribute to an atmosphere of holiness, virtue, and familiarity with the Gospel. How can this occur if not all teachers agree with Catholic teachings?
The way to assist teachers who distance themselves or privately oppose some Catholic teachings is to alert them to sensitive issues. Because the school fosters holiness, virtue and evangelization, teachers not knowledgeable about the precise contours of Catholic teaching have to be cautious about what they say in the school and what they do in the public sphere outside the Catholic school. Honest mistakes do happen, and when they do, reparation can be made. This is not in and of itself a cause for a teacher to be punished. At the same time, teachers and staff at Catholic high schools have to strive to present Catholic teachings as consistently as possible. Dissenting from Catholic teaching or the natural moral law in a Catholic high school does not promote holiness, virtue and evangelization.

Finally, it is important to note the careful use of language in the document. In front of many statements of Catholic teaching in the faculty handbook come the words “affirm and believe.” This is a statement made on behalf of the institution, not all individuals in the institutions. Our Catholic high schools try to hire people who do believe what the Church teaches, but in our schools we have good teachers who belong to other Christian faiths or to no faith at all. They are members of the school community. The language “affirm and believe” acknowledges the good activity of the entire corps of faculty and staff by making this claim on behalf of the institution. That is, in the first instance, “affirm and believe” refers to the Catholic high school itself, and, secondly, to many faculty who identify with the Catholic teachings behind which the high school as a whole stands.

My hope is that the document on Catholic faith and morals that is becoming part of the faculty handbook in our Catholic high schools will help the schools better fulfill their mission, and also highlight for teachers true Catholic teachings that are contested by many people in secular society today.

Sincerely in Christ,
Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone

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10 Responses to Words to Live By

  • b…bu…but… Question Authority man! This sounds mean, not nice, y’know?

  • So hoping and praying he does not back down in face of the hurricane of hatred coming his way from all sides… well, except from the few just men left in Sodom and Gommorah San Francisco.

  • God bless him and give him strength. He sure doesn’t seem to be backing down one little bit.

  • I just can’t get over his name: Savior Lion-Heart. Every bishop should be named Savior Lion-Heart.

  • Government will use Archbishop Cordileone’s stance against us in this way. Government will say that just as Archbishop Cordileone has stated that Catholic School Teachers are not permitted in their public lives to dissent from Catholic teaching on the right to life and the sanctity of marriage, so also employees in government and government regulated industries (such as mine in nuclear energy) are not allowed to dissent from a woman’s reproductive rights and from the civil right of same sex marriage. Just as Archbishop Cordileone has said that the private life of a Catholic School Teacher remains private, so also will government say that our right to worship as we please remains private – and must forever remain private and not in the public square.
    .
    In other words, soon it will be impermissible for a government employee of an employee of a firm regulated by the government to espouse views on Facebook, Google blogger, Word Press or whatever, that are contrary to the government’s position on advocating reproductive rights (abortion) and gay marriage. We will be told, “You can hold your views within the four walls of a Church, but if you espouse them on Facebook or Goggle Blogger, then we will have you fired from your job.”
    .
    That is going to happen, folks. Then will follow law suits, incarceration, torture and execution. It always happens that way. That’s what Democrats do (communists by any other name). That is who and what they are.
    .
    Now all that said, Archbishop Cordileone is 100% correct and we should NOT back down even in the face of government eventually doing what I have described above. The point is that the Church is going to go through persecution. Romans 11 – the pruning that God will do – comes to mind.

  • [S]oon it will be impermissible for a government employee of an employee of a firm regulated by the government to espouse views on Facebook, Google blogger, Word Press or whatever, that are contrary to the government’s position on advocating reproductive rights (abortion) and gay marriage. We will be told, “You can hold your views within the four walls of a Church, but if you espouse them on Facebook or Goggle Blogger, then we will have you fired from your job.”

    We’re a few votes shy of the Supreme Court carving out that broad of a “hate speech” exemption to the First Amendment.
    .
    What’s more likely is the continuing encroachment of you can’t say that! political correctness in the name of “tolerance.” The result of which will be that the government won’t have to coax or coerce your employer into firing you –because it wouldn’t occur to him or her to not fire you.

  • People choose Catholic schools because of athletics or academics. Anything regarding development of Catholic moral character was kicked out a while ago.

  • Ken: Time to bring Catholic education to the respect for God and man for which it is established. We need good teaching sisters and nuns. A few good priests too…

  • And right on cue, Instapundit provides the evidence for my the government won’t take away your free speech until you demand that it makes you give it up thesis, sort of alluded to above:

    WHAT’S SAD IS HOW MANY PEOPLE THINK THIS WAY: <a href=The First Amendment Should Never Protect Hatred. “One of the most admirable things about Europe is that most (if not all) of the right-wing rhetoric that you hear in the US is explicitly against the law there. For example, attempting to link Islam with terrorism, saying that gay marriage isn’t really marriage, or saying that trans women aren’t really women would get you charged with discrimination and/or incitement to hatred. Numerous European public figures have been charged with hate crimes for implying that large-scale immigration is connected to higher crime. In fact, a politician in Sweden was prosecuted for hate crimes for posting statistics about immigrant crime on Facebook. Assaults on the human dignity of Muslims are simply not tolerated in Europe, and Europe cracks down hard on any attempts to incite hatred against Muslims. In a notable example, a woman in Austria was convicted of a hate crime for suggesting that the Islamic Prophet Muhammed was a pedophile. Recently, a man in Sweden was charged with incitement to ethnic hatred for wearing a T-shirt saying “Islam is the devil.” Nobody in Europe believes that these laws interfere with their sacred, guaranteed right to freedom of speech. Rather, these laws protect freedom of speech by ensuring that it is used responsibly and for the purposes of good.”

    .
    I think I need to come up with a catchier title for my thesis.

  • article linked in quoted bit above.

A Vision of Catholic Education (From the Front Lines)

Monday, April 16, AD 2012

There are many interesting parallels between military operations and the operations of the Church Militant. One such area where I have some personal experience is in the area of Catholic secondary education- with 6 years of National Guard experience giving me a taste of the military. One of the biggest issues that makes genuine reform difficult is the “dog and pony show” syndrome whereupon the politics of assessing the true situation and implementing the right reforms becomes corrupted and confusion and/or bitterness sets in. The foot soldier, those closest to the direct action often have excellent insight into the immediate problems, but the chain of command- which is set up to run a smooth line of good intel to the top levels of authority- may get bogged down or corrupted by those with imperfect motives or general incompetence.

On the subject of what is wrong with our Catholic schools- or framed positively what is a proper Catholic Education Vision- I have been on the front lines. For over a decade I have been a Catholic religion teacher in American Catholic high schools. I have also taught overseas in Catholic and secular teaching assignments. What I have put together is a short Vision of Catholic Education based upon my own study and direct experience in classrooms and professional meetings.

I am one of those orthodox Catholic adult converts, if it is taught in the Catholic Catechism I believe it, and I will teach it without objection. My own conversion came about after a heavy dose of study of Papal Encyclicals- it was essential for me to see how the thread of Scriptural wisdom continues operating to this very day. I buy into what my favorite professor, Dr. Scott Hahn, said about the Catholic Church being either True or a spiritual dictatorship- not much wiggle room in my estimation. With this understanding of my perspective as a Catholic, it is my contention that the Catholic Schools problems begin with the reality that these schools are often run and operated by individuals who are either lapsed, lukewarm or dissenting in their own Catholic beliefs. Unfortunately, religion departments are also often bastions of dissent- with views on the ordination of female priests and the Church’s teachings on homosexuality being two of the biggest fronts of opposition to orthodoxy. I understand what Mark Shea, noted Catholic author/blogger, says about the striking difference between many cradle and convert Catholics- for me, as a convert, I simply don’t get Catholicism without loving adherence to Doctrine. With that being said- here is my Vision:

I have recently been reading Yves Congar’s book, The Meaning of Tradition, and I ran across a couple of passages that seem to speak to the situation of Catholic education as well as to the idea of Sacred Tradition in the Church:

“Education does not consist in receiving a lesson from afar, which may be learned by heart and recited, thanks to a good memory, but in the daily contact and inviting example of adult life, which is mature, confident and sure of its foundations; which asserts itself simply by being what it is, and presents itself as an ideal; which someone still unsure and unformed, in search of fulfillment and in need of security, will progressively come to resemble, almost unconsciously and without effort. A child receives the life of the community into which he enters, together with the cultural riches of the preceding generations (tradition!), which are inculcated by the actions and habits of everyday life.” P.23

“But all teaching aims at reaching the ‘heart’ of those to whom it is given, that is, at going beyond an intellectual understanding of an academic or scientific explanation to reach the conscience- that level of intimate appreciation and feeling, inseparable from our moral personality itself. It is in this sense that a milieu is educative. It forms a certain spirit in us, or rather it forms us, starting with our most elementary reactions, and guides us in a definite direction.” P.24

My own thoughts on how to lead a Catholic school most effectively begin with the insight that “You can’t give what you don’t have”. I love teaching, and it is because I love to teach, that I feel that I may have some qualities of leadership. I also love my Catholic faith and the orthodox theology that articulates the love and truth collaboration that is our Church and her teachings/worldview.

I believe that the biggest task for any Catholic administrator is to assemble a team of teachers, administrative staff, support staff (even janitorial staff), that have that combination of specialty competence AND a genuine enthusiasm/passion/love for serving Christ and His Catholic Church. If one feels called to service in a Catholic school setting then it should be expected that they really and truly love the Church and young people. There should be no question that a professional Catholic teacher would already be interested in reading the latest Papal Encyclical for their own personal edification, and any insights that may be applicable to their classes.

Developing and enriching an authentic Catholic identity should be at the very top of any administrative agenda- I have thought of some ways to help achieve this goal and I will give you some short summations to consider:
• Catholic Identity is #1- Teachers and staff should see the school as their Catholic mission field, passing the torch of Christian discipleship to the “little ones”. I like to say that my being “in love” with my wife and kids makes it easy for me to talk about them all day long. And it is the same with God, Christ, and His Church- when you are in love, it just comes naturally to share and bear witness to that love in all kinds of ways. There are tough times, and dry patches in our spiritual lives, but love never quits. We have to have teachers and staff in place who will reinforce the ‘real love’ aspects of being truly and authentically Catholic. I would also lobby for textbooks that better reflect our Catholic identity across subject area curriculums. For example History texts could have elements of Church history embedded, and Literature texts could feature Catholic authors. We need to help our teachers who sincerely want to bring a Catholic identity/Worldview into their specialized disciplines.

• Spirituality- Attentiveness to the need for everyone on campus to be cultivating a personal call to holiness. Praise/worship must have a primary place in a Catholic school to re-energize the faith on a daily basis. I would like to pipe in contemporary Christian music between classes and during lunch to provide inspirational energy and counter some of the secular music that continues to pull teens in with dubious lyrics and messages. A Eucharistic-centered spirituality would be encouraged by bringing in guest speakers who can give personal testimony to the youth on the value of this great Sacrament. Theology of the Body instruction would be the cornerstone of our enabling Catholic youth to combat the negative pressures in the mainstream related to human sexuality and body image.

• Social Doctrine Promotion- Reading the Papal Social Encyclicals played a huge role in my own personal conversion, and it should be a major concern in a Catholic learning center. It is part of the evangelizing mission of the Church, and it should be appealing to young people to know that they can play a key role in building a “civilization of love” at every level of society. We should have a high-energy pro-life presence as a school, and a student body that comprehends even the intricate teachings relating to bioethics. We can invite Catholic Relief Services to bring their many Fair Trade opportunities to the entire school community and beyond. If we understand the social doctrine as an interconnected corpus of teachings and worldview, we can promote something better than the narrow human ideologies which presently dominate our American political landscape. Loving our neighbor is made much easier and more efficient when we draw upon our rich Catholic social teaching tradition. I would call upon the experts in social doctrine from the Diocese, Catholic Conference of Bishops, and Pro-Life leaders to be regular fixtures on campus.

• Catholic schools as economic/environmental models for community- Like the monasteries of old and new (see lasermonks.com), Catholic schools can do better at offsetting tuition increases by developing endowment funding, and also being creative in other pursuits. If we can develop consumer products for market, we can give our students real-life experiences in business rooted in our Catholic moral approach to economics. We can also look for individuals and companies to partner with us to bring renewable energies to our schools. We could find donors for solar roofing, wind, and other sources of safe, clean energies, and use these as laboratories for the students to learn more hands-on lessons in the scientific realms.

• All-Boy/All-Girl Schools- I have taught at all-boy schools in the past (American Samoa, Hungary). I think that this type of approach may be popular with parents who are properly concerned over the over-sexualized culture we live in. Distractions related to boys and girls are nothing new, but there are advantages to be considered as we look to market Catholic schools to Catholic parents, who are looking for the best ways to protect their beloved children. This concept of boy/girl separation could also take the form of classes being segregated by gender, as opposed to whole schools.

I’m not sure where all of this advice fits in with your current mission, but perhaps it can help in making longer term strategic plans. If you would like to discuss this in more detail, I am pleased to be at your service. I will add one last item- I am exploring the market for secondary religion teachers at present for next school year. If you or someone you know shares the Vision I present here and want to explore a professional collaboration in teaching, administration in-training, ministry or organizational work- please contact me personally at [email protected] I have my M.A.’s in Education and Theology- Theology was studied at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

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8 Responses to A Vision of Catholic Education (From the Front Lines)

  • I am a 1976 graduate of an (at that time) all-male Jesuit prep school. We were taught a little about Jesus and less about the Church but a whole truckload of wishy-washy 1970s feelgoodism.

    My German teacher, one of the Jesuit priests cloistered on campus, was a leading proponent of Liberation Theology, and even took field trips with selected students to Nicaragua and El Salvador during the summers. “Selected” meant “sons of local Democrat-party bigwigs who could both foot the bill and bless the intent for the trip.”

    He once told his German class, (and this is a close to a quote as 37 years of sleep and other distraction will allow,) “The human body is ugly. There is nothing about it that should be admired.” Of course, Jesuit education being what it was, one never knew whether a well-founded reposte would get you a commendation for critical thinking, or, in the case of this particular person (who would later go on to become Dean of Students) a slam up against some lockers and a Saturday “Jug” for insubordination.

    Hence, the scar on my tongue from where I barely summoned the might to not reply “So God is ugly, too, since we are made in His image?”

    I wish I’d had the courage of conviction then that I have today. I’d have taken the slam, and the Jug, and then given the man reason to take me before the Disc board. That would have been an interesting conversation, I’m sure.

    All that aside, my greater wish is that the environment you describe had been extant instead of the one I knew. It was still a vastly superior education to the public alternatives at the time, but when placed on the bigger scale of “what could have been,” I think I feel a little cheated.

  • This article really struck a chord for me, something that’s been on my mind the past few months but that I’ve never been able to articulate until now. The distinction between church employees and ministers has bothered me. A parish office manager has as much responsibility to represent the Faith as the pastor. In your example, a janitor as much as a teacher. When did we give up on that notion? Each level of employment in the Church has a different role, but they’re all ministerial, properly understood.

  • Mr. Shipe—-I haven’t been so pumped after reading an article since a memorable pre-race speech by an esteemed college coach nearly 39 years ago. Your excitement and passion is inspiring on many levels, not the least of which is that your “Vision”, honed on the ‘front lines’ and clearly nurtured by Gifts of the Holy Spirit, offers Hope. I am curious and it appears fitting to ask but some like me, at the tail end of a career and thinking of ‘getting out’ of the law business, may be curious about transitions to such more important and Godly work, ie teaching. Your thoughts or insights are appreciated.

  • My humble advice kind cthemfly is advice I am now giving myself- make sure you present yourself and your vision very clearly to any school you approach to teach for- if you don’t have an environment where you and the school’s powers-that-be are on the same page- you will be isolated and made to feel that something is wrong with you because you are orthodox and on fire. So- be clear in your resume, your interview and open in discussions with colleagues so that if you are hired you can have higher hopes that there is a team concept at work which you are going to be empowered to be part of- you can’t do it alone- Catholicism is all about teamwork- a team with many competing visions is going to be rough going and the students will have influences that take them all over the spiritual map but ultimately away from the clarity of the orthodoxy. I am in the midst of looking for a school or organization that has the type of Vision I have put forth here- I don’t want to have useless conflicts with fellow Catholics in an educational setting- they only serve to confuse the youth who really need and deserve solid guidance from Catholic elders and educators alongside their own parents. So- if you know of any schools that are all about this Vision- let me know and maybe we’ll both sign up to teach there and we will share our passionate love of our Catholic Faith! My own Vision has grown and solidified along with my personal life witness- so now I am looking for the right environment to personally and professionally thrive.

  • A perceptive old priest once remarked to me that Catholic education was often like inoculation: you got just enough of it to keep you from catching the real thing.

  • Pingback: Reader Tim Shipe writes…
  • I’m a “revert” and a product of 12-years of Catholic school. I have 4 kids – 2 have completed 12 years of Catholic “education”; the other two are currently in our parish elementary school. The way I see it is that at some point parents – my self included – relegated the the teaching of the faith to the nuns (and a few priests that were still teaching in the high schools). As long as the kids came home once in awhile and had to memorize the beatitudes or the corporal works of mercy or somethign else they were familiar with it was assumed that they were being taught by orthodox teachers. As a result we now have multiple generations of Catholic-school-educated people who haven’t a clue as to to what the Church really teaches and why they teach it.

    Just the other night I found myself arguing with my 73-year-old mother, who also had 12 years of Catholic schooling, about whether or not hell exists! You should have seen the look on her face when I told her not only does hell exist but most people go there according to Jesus’ own words. The timing of the discussion was interesting becasue I am reading Ralph Martin’s, “The Fulfillment of All Desire” and had just read a section where he describes how the saints often spend alot of time meditating on the “narrow gate” in Matthew 7.

    Keep fighting the good fight!!

The Future of Catholic Schools

Tuesday, April 26, AD 2011

With the discussion relating to Catholic homeschooling last week, I was strongly reminded of this (very good) article on the future of Catholic schools in the spring issue of National Affairs which a good friend pointed me towards a while back. As the article points out, the issues facing Catholic schools are many, though perhaps the biggest are:

  • Public schools are no longer the explicitly Protestant institutions they were back in the 1900-1960 era
  • The teaching orders whose virtually free labor made Catholic schools relatively affordable in their golden age virtually ceased to exist in the decades following Vatican II
  • Changing demographics have moved Catholic populations away from many of the schools already built, and in this day and age building new ones is vastly more expensive

    This has left many dioceses struggling with whether to shutter schools, and many of the continuing urban Catholic schools serving students who are mostly not Catholic.

    The Archdiocese of New York, for example, reported in 2008 that, among its inner-city schools, nearly two-thirds of students lived below the poverty line and more than 90% were racial minorities. In Washington, D.C., as of 2007, more than 70% of students attending the lowest-income Catholic schools were non-Catholic. In Memphis’s inner-city “Jubilee” Catholic schools, as of 2008, 96% of students lived below the poverty line and 81% were non-Catholic. In fact, over the past 40 years, the portion of minority students in Catholic schools overall increased by 250%, and the share of non-Catholic students increased by 500%.

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    20 Responses to The Future of Catholic Schools

    • Either way, however, what you get is Catholic schools which are run by Catholics, and to some extent for Catholics, but which do not have imparting the faith to students and maintaining an explicitly Catholic culture as a primary mission. And as this ceases to be the case, many of the parents who are most serious about their children’s faith (and thus who are most likely to provide lots of support and volunteer hours to a school) will start to wonder if it’s really worth making major financial sacrifices in order to send their children to a Catholic school.

      Well, it’s what you get, not what I get.

      I’ll leave to another day the larger discussion that many conservatives seem to exclusively speak to the more affluent and white collar element of society (If the President proposes raising taxes on Americans with incomes over $1/4 mill “They are going to raise your taxes.” Or “Young Catholics are becoming more orthodox and traditional,” citing a survey of college students. And of the 3/4ths of Catholics who do not go to college? )

      And I’ll accept your analysis of suburban Catholic schools. I don’t have any experience there. But I do believe in the value of the Catholic inner city schools that I have experience with. We do a great job in imparting the faith to students and maintaining an explicitly Catholic culture as a primary mission. The baptisms and confirmations of parish school students at the Easter Vigil gave witness to that.

      Some of our school parents try but few contribute much to the school financially or in volunteer time. They are mostly low wage, often working two part time jobs, or they have never met their child, in prison or on drugs.

      Left to my call, I would close the parish before I would close the school. As for the suburban schools, maybe it is time to give up on them.

    • I’ll leave to another day the larger discussion that many conservatives seem to exclusively speak to the more affluent and white collar element of society (If the President proposes raising taxes on Americans with incomes over $1/4 mill “They are going to raise your taxes.” Or “Young Catholics are becoming more orthodox and traditional,” citing a survey of college students. And of the 3/4ths of Catholics who do not go to college? )

      Hmmm. Interesting opening here.

      – I am not clear that conservatives speak exclusively to the more affluent and white collar element of society — any more than that progressives all engage in armchair sham solidarity with “the poor”. Both are exaggerations which people use when they want to make a point about people they don’t like.

      – It is true that conservatives do not tend to take a “don’t worry, they’re not coming for you right now” approach to tax increases. We tend to dislike them in general.

      – Unless you’re seeing very data than I have ever run into, I have no idea where you get the claim that 3/4 of Catholics do not go to college. Overall, more than 60% of American high school graduates take at least some college, and I’ve seen little to suggest that the figures are so diametrically opposite for Catholics as for the rest of Americans.

      And I’ll accept your analysis of suburban Catholic schools. I don’t have any experience there. But I do believe in the value of the Catholic inner city schools that I have experience with. We do a great job in imparting the faith to students and maintaining an explicitly Catholic culture as a primary mission.

      If so, that’s certainly great, though the article I linked to talks in depth about DC inner city Catholic schools, and talks about the tendency to de-emphasize specifically Catholic elements of the curriculum in order to appeal to the 90% of parents who are not Catholic in these neighborhoods.

      Now, providing alternative sources of education (especially when the union-influenced Democratic party establishment is so set on quashing vouchers in DC) is absolutely an activity worthy of the Church’s efforts, but as the article discusses, I think it’s important that if schools have decided that their mission is to provide alternative education venues to poor non-Catholic families, that they frame that subject that way when putting the issue to donors. Right now, urban Catholic school systems are still structured around the idea that a parish school is for educating the children of the parish and should be supported primarily by the parish — yet the actual parishes for many of these urban schools have withered away for lack of Catholics.

      If schools want to re-mission themselves as primarily a missionary or social service institution providing quality education to children who could not otherwise afford private schools, that is absolutely outstanding and should be supported. But it needs to be proposed as that, not as somehow being a continuation of the 1950s model of parish schools in which tuition and that parish’s weekly collection made up the expenses.

    • 84.7% of graduates from Catholic high schools go on to attend four year colleges as opposed to 44.1% of graduates from public schools according to the National Catholic Educational Association.

      http://www.pacatholic.org/catholic-education/catholic-school-students-graduate-go-to-college-at-higher-rates/

      I have never seen any evidence to suggest that three-fourths of Catholics never go to college.

    • In some areas Catholic school are booming. Including one Diocese where the Catholic parents pay no tution and they are building more. However I have been in the Catholic Church long enough to realize that some of these Dioceses could be on the moon and know one will attempt to go there and find out how it works

      http://richleonardi.blogspot.com/2008/04/tuition-free-catholic-schools.html

    • I am not clear that conservatives speak exclusively to the more affluent and white collar element of society

      Not all. I’m just struck by the many occassions where I hear comments made in a general forum by political conservatives but use the term “you” to speak of white collar or affluent people.

      If so, that’s certainly great, …

      I think it is. For me, its one of the brightest spots in church life. That’s why inner city Catholic education is the major focus of my charitable giving.

      though the article I linked to talks in depth about DC inner city Catholic schools, and talks about the tendency to de-emphasize specifically Catholic elements of the curriculum in order to appeal to the 90% of parents who are not Catholic in these neighborhoods.

      In my experience, I think respectful accomodations are met. I’m sure our environment does not meet the standards desired by many of the parents who get their children’s book from Igantius Press. But I have not found any of those folks willing to live in the neighborhoods we serve. It is a religious environment that does not deny our Catholic principles but seeks to serve as we can.

      In raw numbers it is an intake with 90% non-Catholic and an out-take with no less than 20% Catholic. I think the Opus Dei school that relocated from the affluent part of DC to the far suburbs has a 90% Catholic in-take and a 70% Catholic out-take. I’m betting most other suburban Catholic schools are in the same ballpark.

      But we make no apologies for not measuring sucess by how many non-Catholics we get to the baptismal pool. Of the majority who neither come in nor leave Catholic, many of them are quick to witness that their experience has made them better Christians or caused them to become Christians, even though of another community. The alumni newsletter of one of our inner city schools recently profiled a star graduate who proclaimed that his faith was exhanced by the school to the point where it led him to enter the ministry in the Baptist Church (the powers that be however, did decline my suggestion that he be tallied as a vocation from the school).

      These schools I speak of are probably no better academically than the public schools. While it is our mission to give kids a good education, it is not our mission to give them an academic alternatives to the public schools. We work to help enhance their love of God and neighbor and showing them our love of God and neighbor.

      And the parish, including the childless and those who send their children elsewhere are tremendous supporters of this mission.

    • I’m just struck by the many occassions where I hear comments made in a general forum by political conservatives but use the term “you” to speak of white collar or affluent people.

      Most people, absent some reason to do otherwise, assume that their audience in any given conversation is like themselves. Similarly, most people online are by some definition of the term “white collar” though often not “affluent”. (Blue collars as simply not that common these days, as manufacturing work has become so efficient as to need relatively few workers.)

      I’m sure our environment does not meet the standards desired by many of the parents who get their children’s book from Igantius Press. But I have not found any of those folks willing to live in the neighborhoods we serve…. But we make no apologies for not measuring sucess by how many non-Catholics we get to the baptismal pool.

      Following on the above point: like most other people, I tend to address, by default, people in a position similar to my own. In this case, parents with lots of young Catholic children who, if they are going to pay for a Catholic school, want to know that it is serious about teaching the Catholic faith and living out an authentically Catholic environment — not a vaguely Christian one.

      Now honestly, I would have no problem also supporting (to the extent possible given my extant commitments to my parish and diocese and other Catholic organizations such as Food For The Poor) schools run by Catholics for the purpose of providing a free or highly subsidized Christian education to children living in poor urban neighborhoods. I think that kind of work can make some of the biggest differences in people’s actual lives.

      But that seems to me a very different mission than the one which parish schools are typically pitching themselves as fulfilling.

      Also, it’s probably worth noting:

      – It seems odd to fault people who have other options for not wanting to live in poor urban neighborhoods, given that most of the people who do live there would probably rather live somewhere else given the choice too.

      – While it may seem, from your political point of view, like a worthy object of snark, the religious education texts put out by Ignatius Press for elementary level Catholic schools and parish religious education programs really are first rate. Having seen many of the heavy handed and triumphalist reprints from the 30s through the 60s which some homeschoolers use, and the watered-down-to-the-point-of-insanely-dull mainstream texts put out by publishers such as Macmillan and Silver Burdett — the Ignatius Faith & Life texts are very good resources for parents and schools. (I know several “normal” catechists who use them simply because they’re more interesting and less fluffy than a lot of other texts.) I’m not sure why Ignatius Press itself would be considered a particular target of mockery just because they put out solid books, whether CCD texts or the Pope’s works.

    • Most people, absent some reason to do otherwise, assume that their audience in any given conversation is like themselves. Similarly, most people online are by some definition of the term “white collar” though often not “affluent”.

      Yes, I was mostly referring to statements I read or hear conservatives making on television or in the daily newspaper. I confess that my personal interactions tend to be more with working class people than white collar. But I understand your point.

      Following on the above point: like most other people, I tend to address, by default, people in a position similar to my own

      That is why dialogue is so wonderful. I guess I would tend to do the same, but through dialogue both you and I have opportunity for a broader exposure. That’s a good thing, I think.

      Now honestly, I would have no problem also supporting [such schools]. I think that kind of work can make some of the biggest differences in people’s actual lives.

      I appreciate that. Thank you.

      But that seems to me a very different mission than the one which parish schools are typically pitching themselves as fulfilling.

      I guess what you find typical and what is typical in my life is back to the discussion earlier. I don’t think I have ever stepped foot into a suburban Catholic school. I trust your judgment on them.

      It seems odd to fault people who have other options for not wanting to live in poor urban neighborhoods

      I don’t fault such people, but I am a great admirer of those who intentionally live among the poor. Here there must be a dozen “intentional communities” as the kids call them of young Catholics aflame with the Church’s social teaching living among low income people. This movement rarely gets the attention it deserves but I think is one of the great lay apostolates of our time. And they are complemented by many Catholic individual or families doing the same because of their faith and Catholic Social Teaching. It harkens back to the 1930s when Catholic “social justice types” with advanced degrees took jobs in factories to be among the workers.

      I’m not sure why Ignatius Press itself would be considered a particular target of mockery

      I didn’t mock them. I noted they are not successful in getting their publications into the hands of inner city residents who are in need of evangelization. Maybe they tried and failed, maybe they have not tried, or maybe that is not their “market” (sorry to use an entrepreneurial term). I don’t know and I didn’t speculate.

    • I guess what you find typical and what is typical in my life is back to the discussion earlier. I don’t think I have ever stepped foot into a suburban Catholic school. I trust your judgment on them.

      Well, as someone who’s read a certain amount about the actual history of the Catholic school system, I can assure you that it really is the case that parish schools were originally built to serve primarily Catholic children who lived in the parish — not non-Catholic children looking for an alternative to inner city public schools.

      It was as many Catholics left these neighborhoods that the schools re-purposed themselves to serve non-Catholic students.

      This is not a matter of your experience versus mine, it’s simply a matter of history. Among other resources, the article which I linked to above describes the history of the Catholic school system in the US.

      It’s not a matter of urban versus suburban, nor does it require parsing according to different people’s experience. While there have been mission schools of various sorts intended to serve non-Catholic students, the parish schools were built to serve Catholic children from the parish. I’m kind of surprised that someone who generally knows as much about the history of the institutional church in the US as you do would consider this a matter of dispute or opinion.

      Also, just as a side note: I remain unclear why it is that you seem to consistently equate “suburban” with “affluent”, the two do not necessarily correlate at all. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the regions of Los Angeles at all, but San Fernando is a very solidly working class to lower middle class area. It’s not Watts, but it’s no Santa Monica either.

    • I can assure you that it really is the case that parish schools were originally built to serve primarily Catholic children who lived in the parish

      In the case of my Washington, DC parish, that would be WHITE Catholic children. Black Catholic children of the parish were not allowed in the school until those pushy liberals forced the issue.

    • In the case of my Washington, DC parish, that would be WHITE Catholic children. Black Catholic children of the parish were not allowed in the school until those pushy liberals forced the issue.

      Ummm… Okay. I’m not really clear where you’re going with that.

      Obviously I think it’s appalling that DC area parishes behaved that way. Or is this a “see who can associate the other with worse events that happened before I was born” contest?

    • Kurt,

      Do you get paid by the word, or for each accusation you level at the conservative, evil, rich white devil?

      Regards,

      T: one of them

    • Pingback: WEDNESDAY MORNING EDITION | ThePulp.it
    • “Changing demographics have moved Catholic populations away from many of the schools already built”

      I’m hoping to change one small aspect of this problem. It’s actually against federal law to place a housing advertisement that mentions whether a church or religious institution is in the neighborhood. It’s considered a covert signal of intent to discriminate. (Ridiculously strict, I think.)

      Liberalize housing laws like these, and realtors and their clients can more easily form the kind of neighborhoods that support Catholic schools in an organic way.

      “Intentional communities” are probably overrated and require too much work for most people. At the same time, there’s nothing stopping Catholic families from deciding to re-colonize an old urban parish with a high-potential school. These efforts seem more realistic to me than Ave Maria Town-type endeavors.

      Of course, this assumes that the old urban parishes can be safe enough. And I’m not sure this is possible.

      My grandparents had lived in a thriving urban parish neighborhood. But crime increased, Catholics moved away, and they were struck by an arsonist twice in the twilight of their days. Their son still lives in the city only because he’s in the same working-class neighborhood where many police live.

      The anti-suburb mentality ignores these tragedies. It expresses disdain for those who fled for fear of their safety, when we should disdain the authorities who failed (refused?) to provide effective protection.

      Even the anti-racist mentality probably shackled authorities’ hands and guaranteed the destruction of these Catholic neighborhoods. “White flight” was caused by sticks as well as carrots.

    • This is another of those interesting examples of how you never know, when you write a post, where the discussion thread will go. It seemed to me that the interesting story here is how to fund and organize Catholic schools (or if so many Catholic schools are even required) in the Catholic Church in the modern US.

      In the framing of this, the National Interest story seems to provide a pretty compelling example of the issues at play, with Archbishop Wuerl of the Diocese of Washington DC having a dozen inner city Catholic schools which the diocese could no longer succeed in keeping afloat financially turned into secular charter schools so that they could continue their mission (with much of the same staff) albeit with all religious identity stripped away as required by the charter school system.

      What came up as a discussion topic instead, however, was another area in which Catholics have strong opinions about each other.

    • Ummm… Okay. I’m not really clear where you’re going with that.

      Obviously I think it’s appalling that DC area parishes behaved that way.

      I have absolutely no doubt you find that appalling. However, you overlooked that very real and significant historical fact in your accounting of the situation. That’s all.

    • I have absolutely no doubt you find that appalling. However, you overlooked that very real and significant historical fact in your accounting of the situation. That’s all.

      I said that the parish school system in the US was built for the purpose of providing Catholic schooling to the children in the parish. You tell me that in your parish, this was true to an extent, but that prior to a certain point (the 50s or 60s, I assume?) the parish only allowed the children of white parishioners in.

      That doesn’t really change the point that parish schools were built, and their funding mechanisms were design, to provide schooling for Catholic children of families in the parish, via the means of largely free clerical and religious teachers. As parishes have emptied and religious orders with the mission of providing education have dried up, this mission has changed and the structure has in many cases proved unsustainable (as shown by the fact that Abp. Wuerl recently had to secularize a dozen full inner city Catholic schools.)

      I’m not sure what the segregation point brings to the matter — other than that it allowed you to associate yourself with “those pushy liberals” who advocated for the change and by implication to associate conservatives with the racists in your parish.

    • Much is usually written about the decline of our Faith experienced by students at the university or college level and, to a lesser degree, Catholic high schools. Rarely are Catholic K-8 schools part of this discussion, though 47% of this year’s new priests attended these schools (a larger percentage than Catholic high schools or colleges). The focus of concern needs to stress this level for many reasons, not the least of these is that by the time a student reaches high school it is already too late for many. Those who don’t have the opportunity to attend a Catholic high school are doomed to only a two-year Confirmation program where there is little grounding in the Faith, but instead Protestant-like feel good group sessions. While some will disagree, Kumbaya sessions are not enough to enable a teenager to defend their Faith when the inevitable challenge presents itself.
      The Faith needs to be introduced at the lowest level and it must be authentic. Most parents are not very well versed in Catholicism (and the reasons are many). Most say they want their children to know what it is to be Catholic and they ruefully add that they didn’t “get much” when they were younger and they hope for more for their children today.
      Learning the Faith is difficult if one only uses a textbook. This is because most textbooks are very “sugar-coated” and do a great disservice to Catholicism and to students. Why? Many of the basic tenets of Faith are glossed over or ignored. So much of our religion and its heritage are not addressed that our students leave for high school ill-prepared (though the high school curriculum leaves much to be desired, as well) and unable to clearly express what we believe and who we are. (Try, “Why did God create you?” and you’ll hear nothing faintly resembling the old Catechism.)
      Another problem is that students don’t see their Faith in action. Parents have sloppy Mass attendance records, teaching and administrative staffs are not entirely Catholic and, worse, many are “barely” practicing. Hardly what anyone would want from any Catholic school system!
      What can be done?
      Obviously correcting what has already been discussed – first. This will not be as easy as it appears. Publishers wield a lot of influence in public and parochial schools, sacrificing content for cost of books is always a potential problem, though the more “conservative” textbooks are not usually even to be considered.
      Staffs and administrators need to be “authentically” Catholic, not of some other religion and not merely giving lip-service to what we believe – pastors and (arch-)dioceses need to listen to parents and their complaints and not be afraid to take action.
      To the horror of many, introduce an 8th grade final exam for Religion (not a bad idea for high schools, either). The dread this causes many administrators is that they are entirely confident that so many will fail! These administrators know that their Religion teachers are part of the touchy-feely crowd (as they are themselves) and they root-out those who actually try to give students a foundation in Catholicism in a variety of ways (it’s sometimes dangerous to teach the Faith, even in a Catholic school!). It is also common for administrators to give only lip-service to religion as a subject because math and science are more important subjects among their colleagues and in high school and college entrance exams.
      Insure that the pastor is in favor of a school. This is not as obvious as it appears. There are many who did not go to a Catholic school growing up so they don’t understand what is happening, except that it’s a financial drain on the parish. Bishops and, by extension, priests are charged with ensuring that every child who wants to attend a Catholic school can do so, but reality often seems to get in the way.
      How many dioceses left the National Catholic Education Association when it became known that Sr. Helen Prejean and Garrison Keillor were keynote speakers? None? What the Church teaches, Catholics believe – not a portion, not a little, but all. To give people – sisters, priests, bishops, whoever –who do not profess a profound belief in our Faith a platform to speak is inimical to Catholic teaching and gives scandal. School superintendents and bishops share a responsibility in determining who their schools associate with.
      Grounding our children in the faith may also be rewarding in an unexpected way: some may also grow up to become sisters, brothers and priests if the groundwork is properly set. The groundwork lies in the very beginning.

    • FYI, Archbishop Dolan of NY had a thoughtful article on Catholic schools in America a few months ago. See here:

      http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=12448

    • Catholic schools ought to be scrapped entirely, unless they can establish an active association with parish led by pastor which includes financial underwriting such that fees paid per family regardless of income are nominal. (Or, in future, depending on politics, the use of vouchers). Fundraising for the school should not be conducted among presently attending families since this fosters favoritism, is unhealthy and leads to scandal. All schools should be required to promote the basic tenets of the faith and families as well as administrators and teachers also should agree to the necessity to receive sacraments regularly, to attend Mass as a family weekly and to embrace Catholic values in the home. Families whether Catholic or non-Catholic should agree before being admitted.

      As presently constituted many Catholic schools undermine the faith or interfere with the basic practice of the faith by families. Many are unaffordable and become the playground of the rich and powerful, regardless of faith affiliation. This is why so many opt for homeschooling or public school where one can encounter a more diverse cross section of society in general.

    • I find mystifying some of the characterizations of Catholic schools that I have read on American Catholic.

      My children go to Catholic school – my son to the parish school and my eldest to an all-girl IHM school. I find their lives enriched by the experience and helping them grasp the subtleties of our faith forces me to read more, consider more, and pray more.

      “(U)ndermine the faith [and] interfere with the basic practice of the faith by families”? What does that mean? Preparing one’s child for Reconciliation or Holy Communion is a pretty “basic practice of the faith” and Catholic schooling is chocked full of such experiences.! And, have you ever actually met an IHM Sister? If ever there was a repository of fiery faith and dedication among merely mortal beings, it rests there!

      I have the greatest respect for those who home-school. Whether it is by choice or due to necessity, the decision to keep at least a step ahead of what your kids have to know at each grade level, in every single subject, throughout their schooling is an extraordinary commitment. Home-schooling isn’t for everyone though. Some of us lack the patience to be formal teachers. Suggesting that Catholic schools aren’t worth the expense because they are little more than secular schools narrows our options to either home-schooling them as Catholics or give them over to Secularism.

      I wonder too if the cost complaints fail to consider the relative costs of such schooling in 1920 or 1950? Many Catholic families in 1950 had four or more children. Only one parent was working and more people held blue-collar jobs. Might it be unfair to suggest that our costs for raising our children as Catholics are unbearable and theirs were not? From the conversations I’ve heard over the years, sending your children to private schools has always been a burden. Maybe the difference is that it was a burden born more graciously in previous generations.

      The short of it is that I love our schools and see them as a critical piece to preserving Catholicism in America. If one’s treasure is where one’s heart is, maybe the things that are being complained of are more a reflection of our hesitancy to sacrifice for something as little valued in the world as a Catholic education. What I mean is that it is easy choose Catholic schools in places where the public schools are poor.

      It is much harder to choose them where the public schools are little less than campuses filled with every amenity and opportunity EXCEPT faith. Many choose to set aside a Catholic education in favor of what they perceive to be a better, albeit secular, education. I believe though that the sizes of CCD classes reflect the decreasing importance of faith within some families who make that choice. How many of the complaints about the cost and quality of Catholic schools are really masks to hide the darker truth – that loss of access to a top tier football team, university quality laboratories, and vacations to Disney World is an unacceptable cost for “mere” reinforcement of faith and values?