CATHOLIC PewPOINT for Friday-Thursday, October 20-26, 2000
Parish Home School Curriculums are the answer!
First of all, I want to thank all those whose prayers have meant so much during my recovery period. This is the first editorial since before I went under the knife for prostate surgery back one month ago on September 20th and I can't extend my sincere gratitude enough for your care, concern, e-mails, Masses, Rosaries and prayers. They were answered. The cancer is completely gone, the bladder is working well and the scar is healing. In other words, folks, I may be back to my feisty self sooner than expected. But Cyndi, my loving bride and nurse, has been sitting on me, holding me back and under her and my doctor's orders I still need to pace myself. Now I know what a stallion goes through standing in his stall. He wants to get out and race with the wind. I will, but in God's time. His healing process is going splendidly so all I can say is get that saddle ready.
Michael Cain, editor
The theme of this week's editorial could very well be "Catch 22" in both a very good sense as well the omen of what the phrase means. First of all the good: How many have caught the significance that on Sunday, October 22nd His Holiness Pope John Paul II will celebrate the 22nd anniversary of his formal elevation to the Throne of Peter. That's not only a "catch 22" in the most noblest of terms, but his golden day of being 22 on the 22nd in 2000. It's surprising how few realize the Holy Father has two anniversaries each year - the day of his election on October 16, 1978 and the day of his formal installation in St. Peter's on October 22, 1978. For more, see 22nd Anniversary of John Paul II's Installation. It's also interesting that he is the first non-Italian Pope since Pope Hadrian VI who was elected in the 1500's. The year, why of course 22!
That's the good side of the phrase "catch 22." Now for the middle: One of the issues that really has not been discussed very much by the presidential candidates this year, though it was referred to in the last debate this past week is school vouchers. Here in California it is on the ballot as Proposition 38 in which, if passed, it would provide a $4,000. credit for parents to send their child to the school of their choice. The reason for it is excellent. Rather than pushing through uneducated students to meet quotas, rather than teaching at levels that are truly embarrassing and ridiculous, rather than letting ensconsed teachers continue their own mediocrity, what this referendum would do is give the power back to the parents. That's where it belongs for they are first and foremost responsible for the education and welfare of their children.
Consider also that our parents paid taxes for public education and still made the sacrifice to pay for our tuition at parochial schools. Of course, in those days tuition was affordable compared to today. In those days the parish and parishioners made it a point to place the parish school in the top priority. Volunteers came out of the woodwork because parishes were family and they watched out for each other in every way. Bingo helped defray costs and it was fun and uniquely Catholic...that is until the bigger gambling interests abused the privilege and even innocent churches were put on alert as government once again poked its insidious head into Church affairs. Yet, oh, how dare the Church do that to the government! But that was before that likewise insidious "spirit of Vatican II" slithered into the parish scene and dismantled these bastions of preparation for good Catholic living by defrocking the nuns, hiring lay teachers, ex-nuns and ex-priests, many who were bitter with the Church and were going to get their way come hell or highwater. An aura of resistance replaced the strict, loving discipline of the good consecrated sisters whose sole purpose in life was to help souls get to Heaven. As a product of twelve-plus years of solid Roman Catholic education, I can attest to the fact that a few well placed eraser or chalk shots, a wooden pointer on the knuckles or an hour cleaning erasers not only did no harm, but alerted me to the fact that if I wanted to make anything of myself in life, I had better get with the program; a program that was solid and the best one for creating the leaders of the Church today. But religious orders began to relax and once they did, goodbye habit, hello world. With this the exodus began and more and more the identity of a nun became extinct. Today I still have a very difficult time addressing a nun by the affectionate and reverent name of "Sister" if she is not wearing a habit, even a modernized one. I beg to ask the question, were they ashamed to wear the habit? Were they ashamed to let the world know they had taken the evangelical vows of poverty, chastity and obedience? By discarding the habits, they were discarding the "armor of God" as the Apostle Paul refers to in Ephesians 6: 11-17.
And today their achilles heel is showing. Opponents for school vouchers go out of their way in Michigan and California specifically to say that these private schools (read Catholic schools because there are so few parochial schools of other faiths) won't have to have accountability for how they spend the money. They are trying to cleverly and maliciously claim that the tax credits will go right into the Vatican vault. In two centuries we still have not elevated ourselves above the nastiness of Thomas Nast. But they also make another point and it has credulity to it. That is that the private schools will only be able to handle a small percentage of students and only the best will be accepted. That's true. Whose fault is that? The Church in America. Yes, the fault lies there because the dioceses let it decay at the parish level. They closed down the convents, and, rather than refurbishing the schools they either bulldozed them for a new "parish center" where all kinds of social programs could be introduced, or they turned them into storage rooms or shut them down entirely. Some still exist, but very few still operate by the old system of trust and family. How many parishes still have grade schools today where the parish supports it totally? Very, very few. Today many 'catholic' school enrollments go to the highest bidder. Those who can afford the outlandish tuitions get the choice seats. Because of this new pecking order and because so many Catholic institutions have sold their soul to the government for grants and financing, they must open it to all regardless of race and creed. Because of this they have developed a politically correct stance that they don't want to offend anyone. Therefore, they strive to remove anything that offends those who are not Catholic. You know what that means! Out go the crucifixes because Christ on the cross is too traumatic for the little ones. Then get rid of all statues because we wouldn't want non-Catholics to think we were "idol worshippers." Now we can't make the kids go to Mass every morning because that would be infringing on their rights so we'll make that optional. But then that would disrupt the curriculum if some are at Mass, and others aren't so let's just eliminate any need to attend Holy Mass except for special occasions when all attend as a ceremonial, school function to be tolerated.
And speaking of the curriculum, gone are those excellent text books we were weaned on, gone are the excellent methods of teaching. In their place are modern texts that distort history, science, even math; and English grammar, don't even go there! Religion? Well, the watered-down peace and justice agendas that we have seen are a travesty and, in many cases, heretical. But the good, pious and tough nuns are no longer teaching; the pastor is too involved with finances and raising money, a burden placed on them by bishops or their appointed chancery officials to bring in more cash. And what for? For modern edifices that cry out "See, we're not Roman Catholic anymore. We've conformed to the world's standards. Welcome us. Come see us. We'll be glad to compromise our faith by taking out the kneelers, the side altars, the confessionals." For many of these they should put out a sign to bring their bathing suits since the baptismal pools have become large enough to swim in and they have become, through architectural demagoguery, the focus of the churches rather than the Tabernacle where Our Lord resides, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. Why is it in many churches you need a map to find this Treasure?
But back to the subject at hand, curriculum in the Catholic schools. In many liberal dioceses artificial contraception is being introduced and acceptance of homosexuality as a lifestyle is implied in the tolerance creed. Rather than placing emphasis on the Ten Commandments, they are placing emphasis on command behavior to conform to the world. Rather than placing emphasis on the Sacraments, they are placing emphasis on saccharine pundits and "feel-good" psychology. With the the priests loaded down with administrative chores, who is left to teach, who is left to shepherd the little ones? Who is left to take time to hear confessions?
Oh, they'll offer a half hour on Saturday afternoon but no more. It seems that if you ask some priests today to hear your confession they are put out or reprimand you that if you don't have mortal sin on your soul than you don't need to waste their time. They'll even say, if you are in the state of mortal sin, that you can receive Holy Communion by making a good Act of Contrition and confess your sins as soon as you can afterwards. Pardon me, but it would seem they're putting the cart before the horse! Many times they say that because they can't take the time to put on a stole, take the sinner aside and hear their confession and give them absolution. The sinner is even more confused and goes away with a sense of less guilt and less resolve, falsely assuming that mortal sin isn't as bad as they had been taught. Wrong!!!
So you can see the dilemna facing parents today if vouchers pass, and we pray they will. On one hand they will now have the needed additional monies to help defray the cost of a private education, one they can choose; on the other, the competition for these spots are fierce because there are so few slots left because there are so few good Catholic schools left. For College alone there are only eight Catholic colleges Father Bob Levis, who heads up Web of Faith on EWTN, can recommend in all good conscience: Franciscan University at Steubenville in Ohio, Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, Saint Mary's in Maryland, University of Dallas in Irvine, Texas, Magdalen College in Concord, New Hampshire, The Catholic University of America in
Washington D.C, Thomas More College in New Hampshire, and Ave Maria College in Michigan. That's it! Pretty sad. Catholic High Schools are much more plentiful but still very, very expensive and there is a great, great need for more but the costs of building them are prohibitive. If you think we're just whistling "Dixie" about all of this, we urge you read Joseph A. Varacalli's enlightened book "Bright Promise, Failed Community - Catholics and the American Public Order." You can e-mail him for more information at Joe Varacalli. We strongly recommend you read his excellent treatise of why we are where we are today and what we can do about it.
At the grade school level the challenge has been made. If vouchers pass, and we truly believe they will in many states through the grace of God, then it's time to refocus and rebuild. We can guarantee the axiom made famous in Kevin Costner's "Field of Dreams" movie - "If you build it, they will come" holds true here. If, at the grassroots parish level we begin to rebuild the schools, then we can guarantee children will come. But we need to return to the family concept and nourish our own first so they will be strong to reach out to others. We cannot compromise our faith and we cannot compromise our position of strength in the institutions of Catholic learning.
One of the salvatory factors here is the Catholic homeschooling groundswell, an orthodox approach that is growing by leaps and bounds with parents and children hungry for a good, solid Catholic education. Why can't parishes provide rooms during the day so parents can pool their resources and offer benefits to all homeschoolers? It is through these seeds that the Catholic school system can build a solid foundation and grow again into the great, respected leader it was in the first half of the 20th century. It will take time, much effort, and the cooperation of bishops, pastors and parish officials, but it can be done. From tiny acorns great oaks grow. So also with the renaissance of Catholic education. Let's all put pride and prejudice aside and work within the Communion of Saints to mold the saints of tomorrow!
Wouldn't it be wonderful if, in each parish across these United States, say just 22 children could be taught that way to begin with. Now that's a "Catch-22" we could be proud of! We use that number arbitrarily. It could be ten or one hundred. It depends on facilities. Consider that each family teaches in the living room, a room smaller than classrooms. Each parish has a parish hall and rooms. It can be done. Add to this the social interaction of like-minded students and parents and the plethora of teaching talents the parents bring to the table and you have instant success.
All the pastors have to do is provide space in the parish halls during the day for these Catholic children of the parish. If Proposition 38 passes in California, every child will be given a $4,000. tax credit. Consider what the parent can do with that. First, pay the tuition for the Home Schooling programs which are considerably less expensive than the vast majority of private schools. Then, the parish can set a fee in cooperation with the Home School Administration so that a healthy portion goes back to the parishes in, say, a special fund that the parish sets aside for a school building fund. Remember the tax credit must go to an accredited school. That is why the Home School Administrators are so important. It is a win-win situation. Because of tax credits, they can charge more so that it will cover the extra workload and still provide agreed "donations" back to the parishes. Part of these donations can go to purchasing a dish and large screen television locked into EWTN whose excellent, orthodox programs can be integrated into the curriculum. You don't think Mother Angelica wouldn't be thrilled to cooperate in any way she can? You better believe it! Can't think of any audio/visual help that is better! For the bishops, it's time to bury the hatchet and come together for a common purpose that will edify and enforce a stronger, more solid Catholic education available to all Catholic children. With their cooperation, each parish can serve as a satellite to teach these excellent curriculums from grade one through eight, and in some instances high school. With school costs spiraling out of control today, who would you trust your child with? Teachers with tenure ensconsed in the public school system who, until now, have had very little accountability? Ex-nuns and ex-priests who are bitter and stubbornly are going to force their modernistic mantra on others? or orthodox, loyal Catholic parents who are in union with Rome and seriously concerned about their children getting a solid, right education? It's a no-brainer! The latter is the only way to go. Call it "grass-roots graces!"
Again, we fervently and respectfully ask the bishops of America to seriously consider this motherlode of opportunity and put aside their differences, and do something that will revive not only the Church but America as well. All the bishops preach the Sanctity of Life and the importance of family. Here is a golden opportunity to put it into practice and, after decades of parents having to pay taxes and tuition, now they'll hopefully get a break...a big break! And it would be an even bigger break financially for each diocese. This will be a new-found revenue for each parish and provide a continuing stream of funding to begin building schools again. It will take three generations to bring Catholic education back to the standards of the fifties, but until then such excellent programs as Seton Home School and Our Lady of the Rosary, to name a few, will be more than willing to cooperate with the pastors and parents. The Shepherds of each diocese should look at this as a golden opportunity to provide the necessary, solid Roman Catholic education and be eternally thankful that many of these Catholic Home School programs are already in place. Parents will flock to the parish halls to share.
In the old days most of the nuns who taught didn't have college degrees. So what! A college degree won't get you into Heaven! These dedicated religious sisters weren't contaminated with all the mumbo-jumbo that passes as necessary educational credits today in a bureaucratic maze of malaise. The nuns didn't try to psychoanalyze each student and label him or her, put them into pegs. No, they looked at each student as a child of Christ whose education in the faith and life was the most important agenda they had as teachers. They dedicated their lives - their total lives - to combining the Faith and a good education to develop strong Catholics for the future. But now, they've all died off and the orchards have not been replenished. In the same way Rome wasn't built in a day, it will take awhile to repopulate convents and seminaries, but through this simple grass roots program we propose, we can guarantee many vocations will flourish. Think about it and multiply the numbers. Pray for the passage of school vouchers for it will open the door for new opportunity for tomorrow's Church leaders. It's a natural. There's no question about it, Parish Home School Curriculums are the answer!
For past editorials for the last two years, click on CATHOLIC PewPOINT Archives