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Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Solving the Catholic Education problem

Many readers seem to think that the Catholic parochial school solves a problem. The argument is that if we get the kids today, they will be faithful Catholics tomorrow.

It is indeed hard to educate adults about the Faith, but overall, it is easier to educate adults than it is to educate children in such a way that they will be educated adults.

Let me list some of the problems encountered as you try to set up a new Catholic grade school:

You won't be able to pay for it. Catholic schools suck 70-90% of the money a parish generates, leaving nothing for any other activity - including the activity which the entire Magisterium says is the most important thing a parish can do besides liturgy,, i.e., the education of adults.

You won't be able to build a Catholic curriculum, because that requires the trivium and quadrivium, not the Prussian Protestant "subject" curriculum popular in most schools today and required for state licensing.

If you can find a trivium and quadrivium curriculum, you won't be able to find teachers for it, since no one knows how to teach subjects outside of the Prussian Protestant system. Furthermore, there are no universities whose education degrees include coursework showing adult Catholic teachers who know their Faith how to integrate their Faith into integrate the curriculum, no matter which curriculum you use.

Worse, you won't be able to pay these teachers a just wage, so you'll be violating a basic principle of Catholic social justice.

If you can find these teachers, you won't be able to implement the curriculum because the parents will oppose it. It's not how they were taught, and it "doesn't seem to prepare their children for life."

If you can get the curriculum past the parents and actually implemented for a grade school, now you have to do the same thing all over again at the high school level. As anyone familiar with child psychology and child development knows, the ability to reason may be available at an early age, but it really begins to blossom during and after the high school years. That's why the Pope insists that catechesis which ends at the threshold of maturity is quite useless. If the teens aren't re-catechized from the ground up, the grade school instruction will disappear.

So, everything you did to establish a decent grade school and middle school has to be repeated from scratch in the high school, or the children won't retain the Faith. Indeed, it has to be reinforced after they graduate high school (either in university or in an adult formation process) or they will fall away from the Faith.

No matter how good your grade school, high school will undo it if the high school is no good.
No matter how good your high school, college may well undo it if the college is no good.

And even if you manage to build a decent Catholic grade school, high school and locate good colleges, you still have to let the parents do the sacramental preparation, because that's what the Catechism requires.

So, you're building an enormous and expensive structure which has to work perfectly or you'll be faced with the same damned problem you had before you started: the adults don't know the Faith.

The only difference is that you'll have the illusion of having made progress. From this point on until the end of time, the parish can repeat to itself, "Well, we'll get the next generation, Well, we'll get the next generation..."

Did Vatican II happen in a vacuum?

Which is more likely: heretics fell out of the sky and all the orthodox believing adult Catholics suddenly start taking stupid pills in order to bring about the level of lost Faith that we saw after the Council


The adults never knew the Faith to begin with because we spent a century teaching nothing but a children's catechism to everyone.

Is it not likely that all those "orthodox" Catholics of the forties and fifties fell away like leaves in the forest precisely because they had no intellectual grounding in the Faith? They had no adult formation? They were completely unable to identify heretics because they were at a loss by any question which wasn't in the Baltimore Catechism? Was it not the case that this loss occurred because people just did whatever Father said, and when Father said sin was just a psychological problem and not a teaching of the Church, that Purgatory didn't exist, that Hell was a figment of our collective imagination - we all just went along with it?

Was it not the case that the loss after Vatican II merely highlighted a festering problem that no one had addressed: the fact that adult formation had essentially ceased?

Pope Pius XI points out in Divini Illius Magister #80, “...the mere fact that a school gives some religious instruction (often extremely stinted), does not bring it into accord with the rights of the Church and of the Christian family, or make it a fit place for Catholic students. To be this, it is necessary that all the teaching and the whole organization of the school, and its teachers, syllabus and textbooks in every branch, be regulated by the Christian spirit, under the direction and maternal supervision of the Church; so that Religion may be in very truth the foundation and crown of the youth's entire training; and this in every grade of school, not only the elementary, but the intermediate and the higher institutions of learning as well. To use the words of Leo XIII: It is necessary not only that religious instruction be given to the young at certain fixed times, but also that every other subject taught, be permeated with Christian piety. If this is wanting, if this sacred atmosphere does not pervade and warm the hearts of masters and scholars alike, little good can be expected from any kind of learning, and considerable harm will often be the consequence.”

Catholic schools won't solve today's problems because the people who need Catholic education today aren't the children. They are the adults.

If anyone can show me ANY evidence that the early Church established parochial schools, I will believe that Catholic parochial schools matter. Until then, I don't.

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