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Monday, February 11, 2008

An Enormous Appetite

I may not be able to predict presidential elections, but when it comes to the Faith, my track record is quite a bit better.

In my book, Designed to Fail: Catholic Education in America, I point out that the Catholic parochial school system, as it has always been implemented in the United States, is an essentially contraceptive system. That is, it is inadvertently designed to undermine the sacrament of marriage. It destroys the spiritual fecundity of Catholic parents and is an essential contributor to the culture of death.

As you may imagine, this thesis has been condemned as essentially heretical by a number of different groups who venerate the Catholic parochial school with a fervor generally only reserved for the Eucharistic Presence.

However, the polling data in this election (and several previous elections, now that I think about it), demonstrates that I'm not off the mark. The areas of the country with the heaviest populations of Catholics are identical with areas that are most pro-abortion. Abortion is the main fruit of the contraceptive mentality.

The Northeast states, New York Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware are heavily populated with Catholics and are overwhelmingly pro-abortion; California is in the same situation. Sixteen Catholic senators and about 65 in the House of Representatives are pro-abortion.

The bishops from these states - schooled in the same parochial schools which produced the politicians - refuse to follow Canon Law and publicly excommunicate them for their public dissent from the truth.

These areas are, of course, also the areas which have historically had the highest concentration of Catholic parochial schools. In fact, even now, the states with the highest Catholic school enrollment are New York, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, Florida, Louisiana, Texas and Missouri. The total enrollment of 1.4 million in those 10 states is nearly two-thirds of the entire U.S. Catholic school enrollment.

In that same book, I also predicted that the entire parochial school system would collapse under the weight of its own dissonance from Magisterial teaching.

The structure of the system violates the documents concerning how the Faith is to be transmitted. The very curricula, the books being used, the teachers employed, the mix of students in the classrooms - everything about the American parochial school system is in violation of Magisterial teaching.

For this reason, there is no point in attempting to save the American Catholic parochial school. The changes that need to be made are so enormous that any successful implementation would result in the total destruction of the present system.

That assumes the bishops would actually implement any changes, which is, of course, absurd. A bishop who can't even find it within himself to discipline a publicly dissenting Catholic politician is certainly not going to go up against the entrenched hierarchy of the Catholic school system.

So, the schools will be eroded away by the culture and entirely disappear, as every invention of man eventually does. More evidence of this appears before us every day, as this latest bit of news demonstrates.

According to the National Catholic Educational Association, enrollment in Catholic elementary schools has dropped 15 percent nationwide since 2001-02, and more than 212 U.S. Catholic schools were closed or consolidated during the 2006-07 school year.
A fifteen percent enrollment drop in roughly five years is not particularly good news, and the news will only get worse.

One might argue that this merely demonstrates a demographic shift as Catholics move out of the urban inner city and into suburbs, but the numbers don't add up. From 2006 to 2007, 36 new schools opened in the suburbs while 212 consolidated or closed.
“No matter how one looks at it, the fact is that, left untreated, the present condition of our schools will very soon lead to there being no Catholic schools in our diocese,” wrote the Most Rev. Joseph F. Martino, bishop of Scranton, the third largest diocese in the state. “Eventually, I will be presented with a plan which will establish a new governance model for our schools and will determine which schools we should maintain given all the circumstances.”

... “Certainly, we know the baptism numbers are down, so the initial pool is one factor,” the diocese’s superintendent of schools, Joseph Casciano, said.

Mass attendance is only about a third of registered parishioners, said Mr. Genello.
When parents aren't taught about the evils of contraception, they will contracept. When Catholic politicians aren't publically called on their pro-abortion stance, Catholics will abort.

Oddly enough, when you kill your children, you find it difficult to baptize them and even more difficult to enroll them in Catholic schools.

So, the very bishops who decry the erosion of the Catholic schools - the Catholic schools that through their very structure taught Catholics how to contracept - are merely reaping what they sow by their inaction. And what else can it be called when, in every country of the world, the "majority of Catholics have never heard a Catholic priest or bishop speak out against" it?

Evil consumes itself.
And it has an enormous appetite.

Update: You have to read it to believe it.


Patrick said...

Though I agree in general, I have to say that the numbers are a little misleading. In my area, for every three schools closed, they were replaced with a single new school that housed the children from the old school in a more centralized area with newer, easier to maintain facilities. I know several metro areas that are also doing this, because the cities are giving huge, long-term tax and bond incentives that they would not offer to the old facilities. So we shouldn't necessarily take the school closure numbers as an indication of the size of the problem. This isn't to say that population isn't dropping, because it certainly is. However, so is general church attendance numbers worldwide and the number of people who will go to church AND faithfully follow its tenets. According to one newspaper poll, the number of Catholics who don't know they aren't following church teachings when using things like contraceptives is now considered nearly half the church-attending population.

Further, "...Catholics for Choice conducted a poll asking self-described Catholics in the United States, Ireland, Mexico, the Philippines, and Ghana to agree or disagree with the statement 'using condoms is pro-life because it can prevent the spread of AIDS.'
79 percent of 1,009 United States Catholics surveyed agreed with the statement. The respondents in other countries who agreed with the statement numbered 90 percent in Mexico, 86 percent in Ireland, 77 percent in the Philippines and 59 percent in Ghana.
The nearly 4,500 respondents were also asked whether church teaching on condoms should change. Sixty-three percent of U.S. respondents said yes and 22 percent said no. Majorities agreed in Ireland and Mexico. In Ghana, 63 percent assented to the current teaching, and Filipinos were divided evenly.
In all countries, majorities said they had never heard a Catholic priest or bishop speak against the use of condoms." (

If your parents were poorly instructed in their faith and the local parish and bishop have few serious resources aimed at education in the local parish, the problem will only grow. At least with Catholic schools, there was an attempt (no matter how poor) to address this issue in some manner. I further believe that the drop in religious personnel from the countries in question goes hand-in-hand with the problem. Thank goodness that both Africa and Asia still have the opportunity to save the faith from itself. However, the faith's light from the future certainly is dimming.

Anonymous said...

I struggled with how I would comment on these opinions shared by Mr. Kelllmeyer. Part of me wants to limit my comments to this particular blog post, but my comments really are stimulated by Mr. Kellmeyer’s larger views on Catholic schools.

I will agree that there are significant problems with some Catholic schools in the United States. I am not willing to say there are significant problems with many or most though without well-researched, non-anecdotal evidence to support those claims. I applaud Mr. Kellmeyer’s courage and convictions. At the very least, it reminds us that while we are God’s people, we can never rest; we must remain steadfast in our vigilance to ensure that our children come to know and love God.

Unfortunately, I cannot accept blanket characterizations of the entire Catholic school system in America. I think of Abraham, pleading with God not to destroy Sodom if he could find ten innocent people in the city, and God telling him, “’for the sake of those ten,’ he replied, “I will not destroy it.’”

I fear that the almost personal vendetta-like attacks on the entire Catholic education system in the United States is little more than hate-filled prejudice, under the pretext of preventing others from being harmed. I hope that it is not.

I am a converted Catholic. In fact, I can tell you that I was very anti-Catholic when I was growing up. I cannot tell you where I got the strange ideas, other than through the twisted logic of an ignorant teenager. I did not have the benefit of a Catholic education. Maybe that is good. However, I can tell you, that my education did not lead me to the Church. Rather, God and His people led me to His church – in spite of my best intentions.

My children do have the benefit of attending Catholic schools, starting with pre-K to high school graduation. There are things that I wish were different. But there are beautiful, wonderful people in the schools that genuinely care for our children and work hard to help them know their faith. Sometime I am concerned that they only have an academic understanding of our faith. But there are those moments that I see their profound love for God and our faith that tell me that in spite of my own personal failings, they have a relationship with God.

I could attack the government school system with as much vengence as Mr. Kellmeyer; any government sponsored system that actively prevents the expression of religious beliefs while actively supporting the espousal of distorted anti-Christian, anti-life views sickens me.

However, would those attacks make any difference? Would my actions demonstrate my faith? Would people view me as another person from the extreme religious right who want to encroach on their personal freedom? While I might feel better, I doubt if it would do much good.

If there are problems in our Catholic school system, the answer is not an attack on the entire school system. In fact, the issue is much bigger than our schools. While we are members of one universal and Holy Catholic Church, we do not have a universally held belief within our Church. Go to Mass. Look around. Is there full and active participation by the majority of the people in your parish? In a parish of 4,000 families, are there more than 30 people going to confession every week? Is there anything in your parish or in your life that doesn’t represent God’s truth?

Why do I ask these questions? I say that if you cannot find universal faith within one small parish, then how can we expect that every teacher, every professor, every administrator have the same views on our faith? We can’t. And that is why the Catechism and the full Magisterial teaching tells us that parents are responsible for raising our children in the ways of the faith so that are children can come to know and love God.

Enough of the problem; are complaints are passive, lazy meanderings of bitter people. Our faith is expressed in our actions at a personal and community level. We must be involved with our local schools. We make the difference. We need to listen to what our children are learning. When we lear of a real, specific issue, then we address it. We do not lament that our schools are not orthodox enough, or not liberal enough. No, that does not help. We do not condemn the world because it is filled with evil. We do not condemn Catholic schools because there are problems. If there is a problem, address that problem. Vague, general accusations do nothing more than stir up ignorant emotions, create a mob mentality, and worse, attack good people who are giving of their time, talent and treasure to help our children.

Catholic schools’ teacher salaries are typically less than 75% of their government school counterparts. Is it because they are incompetent and can’t get a better paying job in the publicly funded school system? No. The ones I know are exceptional educators, and are frequently recruited by the public school system with the allure of more money. Many teachers in our Catholic schools are there because they want to make a difference in the lives of our children and believe strongly that school is not just academic learning, but spiritual formation.

A highly acclaimed teacher with 30 years of experience in one of the local school districts joined our school to teach 1st graders. I asked her why she made the career change. She told me that after 30 years, she felt that she owed God the gift of her talents to help our children. She is part of the Catholic educational system in the United States. Who can condemn the woman who now makes 65% of what a teacher with five years of experience would make in a public school?

Our school works hard to keep tuition low to ensure that the school doesn’t become a school only available to the wealthy. Unfortunately, the teachers are impacted the most by lower tuition. Most families volunteer many hours to help with everything from the lunchroom to organizing field trips. Such selfless dedication to our children is a reflection of our Catholic beliefs.

Claiming that Catholic schools teach our children to be atheists or that the Catholic school system is an essential contributor the culture of death is not a reflection of our Catholic beliefs.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

According to the documents of the Catholic Church on Catholic education, a school is not Catholic unless the following conditions hold:

* Baptized children are not being taught in the same classroom as unbaptized children,

* Girls are not being taught in the same classroom as boys,

* All the teachers are active and practicing Catholics,

* All the textbooks and all courses are endowed with at least basic elements of Catholic theology and outlook,

* Adult formation is the pre-eminent form of education taking place in the parish and all children's formation - including what is happening in the parish school - is modeled on the adult formation processes.

So, any Catholic school that does not follow these MINIMUM guidelines is a parody of a Catholic school and not truly a Catholic school at all.

Indeed, Pope Pius XI expressly condemned all schools "whether neutral or mixed... which are open to Catholics and non-Catholics alike... [or] in which the students are provided with separate religious instruction, but receive other lessons in common with non-Catholic pupils from non-Catholic teachers." (On Christian Education, #79).

Worse, Pope John Paul II also pointed out, "for catechesis to be effective, it must be permanent, and it would be quite useless if it stopped short just at the threshold of maturity, since catechesis, admittedly under another form, proves no less necessary for adults." (emphasis added)

So, even if you find a school which doesn't fall under the ban, everything done in it is QUITE USELESS if the child's formation stops with his graduation from high school. Those aren't my words, that's what the Popes teach.

Now, if you can find a school which doesn't fall under the ban, God bless you. I haven't seen one nor heard of one. Have you?

And even if you have, if you - as a parent - are not ready to make sure the child's formation continues into adulthood, then all the time spent in that most excellent school is a complete waste.

I'm just passing on the teaching of the Church. A lot of bishops and priests aren't interested in pointing these things out. Rocks the boat, don'cha'know. It makes parents paying good money very upset.

But what else am I supposed to do? Lie?

proud2bcatholic said...

Thank you for posting this because it's finally a great opportunity to be able to expose you to the St. Francis of Assisi community, the Diocese and Fort Worth as well as the 910am Quadalupe radio station. I will make sure to attach several of your horrible columns and believe me, it is our goal that, whatever it takes, you'll be doing your preaching on the corner before you will ever represent our parish, our community, our diocese and our faith! Good luck with your book...that is what it's all about isn't it? Making money on that book?

Jordan Potter said...

"Whatever it takes," proud2becatholic? I hope you don't mean that literally.

Well, Steve, it seems there are some people out there who intensely hate you and your ideas and wish to shut you up -- pseudonymously, of course. But really now, it's not like your books hasn't been out there for a good while now, and your views haven't been all over the internet for some time either. Why is it only now that proud2bcatholic thinks it's the right opportunity to "expose" you? Anyone so angry about your views and theories could just Google you and/or circulate excerpts from your book, if they thought that could advance the goal of making sure you are "doing your preaching on the corner before you will ever represent our parish, our community, our diocese and our faith!" (That last comment is interesting too -- it's a claim, or perhaps an implicit recognition, that either you or proud2becatholic is not really Catholic.)

Anonymous said: Claiming that Catholic schools teach our children to be atheists or that the Catholic school system is an essential contributor the culture of death is not a reflection of our Catholic beliefs.

Actually the argument that Steve makes in his book are rather more intricate and nuanced than that. He's really only giving a summary of his argument here -- to really see what he's talking about, you'd have to read the book all the way through.

Patrick said...

Everything Steve has written is completely true. I just see too many couples, however, who both individuals have to work to make ends meet or who do not have the mental skills required to homeschool. The failure of public schools show up daily in the news. Catholic schools are weak in teaching Catholic values, but really they are the better of the two choices. I have seen many parents who have tried to get Catholic teachings materials from their local parishes, and what they receive have been less than acceptable for teaching the faith for children much less adults. I think the cry against Catholic schools, though valid, does not quite reach the level of the reality that most people live in.

Jordan Potter said...

My wife and I send our kids to our parish school, and we're quite happy to do so. Homeschooling is just not an option for us, and in his book Steve is clear that he's not at all against parents sending their kids to Catholic schools. As Catholic schools go, ours is a pretty decent one in terms of academics and teaching the rudiments of the faith. But we've seen the religious curriculum materials, and we think it's nowhere close to adequate, not to our satisfaction. But we do our best to live the Catholic faith every day, at home and at church and out in public -- and we do our best to teach our kids the faith at home, as is our duty. We're happy to have the supplementary help of the parish school, but we don't think it's the school's job to teach our kids the faith or to "evangelise" our kids: that's our job, and the parish is there to help.

There are many problems besetting Catholic schools, and Steve argues that the problems are in large part innate, and that one way or another the current Catholic school system is on the way out. That doesn't mean it's wrong to support your school, and it also doesn't mean that Steve is arguing that a parish shouldn't have a school at all. He does advocate some pretty fundamental reforms, though.

The proper response to a difference of opinion in that matter is articulate intellectual discourse, not anger or recrimination or threats to silence someone with whom you disagree.

Anonymous said...

The issue is not how long Kellmeyer has been around or what your opinion is about his books. The issue is that he is the adult formation director at a catholic parish and his views and beliefs are not in line at all with catholic beliefs. That is why he needs to be gone. You can praise hiim and buy his books all you want but I don't feel we need to as a parish.

Patrick said...

Could you point out, specifically, which of his arguments are not in line with Catholic beliefs? You might find the arguments themselves controversial, but I can't find one that is completely unorthodox.

Jordan Potter said...

The issue is that he is the adult formation director at a catholic parish and his views and beliefs are not in line at all with catholic beliefs.

Are you sure about that? Can you support your contention that his beliefs are contrary to the Catholic faith? Perhaps you and he just have a difference of opinion on a matter where Catholics may legitimately hold different opinions.

If you don't think he should be your parish's formation director, you shall have to talk to your pastor and bishop about it, and demonstrate to them just how Steve's views are in conflict with the Catholic faith. As Patrick said, his views on Catholic schools are undoubtedly controversial -- they might even be wrong, and they’re certainly not popular (so much for the suggestion he’s just out to make money and sell his book), but that’s not the same thing as being contrary to the faith.

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve,
Great stuff! I have not read your book but what you have written here is right on. It's too bad that few are really getting the jest of the column.

I have said for years that apathy is the biggest threat to the Catholic Church (and now to Catholic schools). People don't think that God's law applies anymore because it was written so long ago. What folks don't want to comprehend is that God hasn't changed - WE just want Him to so we can live our care-free lives. We have forgotten that we are the ones that should change our lives to please Him, not the other way around.