DAILY CATHOLIC - THURSDAY, January 29, 1998    volume 9, no. 21


Installment Fifty-six

Wake-up Call to all Catholics the thirtieth clarion

installment fifty-six

Beware of False Prophets in the American Church - part seventeen: Restoring Faith in our Faith through Education
"Even so, it is not the will of your Father in Heaven that a single one of these little ones should perish."

Matthew 18: 14
     In honor of "Catholic Schools Week" we devote this installment and next week's to what's right and what's wrong with our Catholic Schools system. This would have been a mute point thirty or forty years ago. As obedient Catholics we belonged to a parish which we supported through ours or our parents' tithing. By this membership in the parish it also entitled the children to attend a Roman Catholic school at the parish, usually first through eighth grade. The costs were minimal compared to today. Why? First of all, cost of faculty. The administrators and teachers were the parish priests and the order of dedicated nuns assigned to the parish. Living on parish grounds in a sizeable convent, they committed their day to the children. They were tough because they believed in the addage that a "tree needs a lot of wind to make it grow strong and tall." They were tough because they knew the importance of instilling a solid faith in the children. But most of all, they were fair and loving in giving of their time and talents. They didn't have to worry about politics, they didn't have to deal with parental pressure or special group blocs or political correctness garbage. The Church said it, they believed it and taught it, that settled it! Vocations flourished as young girls visualized doing the same as Sister Honorata or Sister Josephine. Young men saw themselves doing the same things as young Father Joe or someday being a pastor like Father William. So what happened to this idyllic setting?

     The answer is the end of the age of innocence which ushered in an increase of divorce, two-parent employment, abandonment of the faith by the young people once they reached the collegiate years, and a rebellion within the ranks in the aftermath of Vatican II. Religious orders relaxed their rules and where once nuns obeyed without a whimper, now they challenged everything. They tasted worldly things and shed the habits and veils of their commitment, opting for dresses, blouses, hairdoes. They started to be concerned about money, the time they put in to their "jobs" of teaching as infringing on their free time. What they willingly gave of their heart before Vatican II, now the sisters and many priests begrudgingly ministered to their flocks while keeping one eye on the clock, not wanting to miss some of their new-found freedoms of the world. As this attitude began to permeate through the rank and file members of the Church, tithing decreased. Why should we support them when they're not giving as much time as they used to? hard-working parents would rationalize. As divorce and modernism came more into vogue in the seventies and eighties, religion became less important to them and consequently their children. Why pay twice for an education? They could just as readily send their kids to the public school down the street since they were already paying taxes for it. As this exodus from the Catholic schools continued, more and more nuns grew old with few to take their place. This forced parish administrators to look outside religious orders for teachers. While the Catholic schools had always had fringe lay teachers assisting in certain areas or heading departments such as coaching, science, etc. because of their expertise, now the laity began taking over. But, unlike the nuns who taught without pay because their order supported them in a communal mode, the lay teachers had to be paid. Schools began charging tuition. For many dedicated Catholic parents it was too much. As much as they would have liked to send their offspring to a Catholic school, they couldn't afford it. With the enrollment dwindling, parishes began to regroup, looking for other ways to fill their quota of students. They began advertising to all faiths. No longer, they claimed, was Catholic school just for Catholics but rather for all who wanted a solid education. The money started to pour in as well-to-do children of all faiths, too good to attend public school, began attending Catholic schools. But with the money comes clout and the parents started demanding what should be taught, primarily not the faith for that would offend their children. Never mind it was a Catholic school. Money dictated the curriculum. Slowly but surely statues were removed and crucifixes were taken down since that would be too traumatic on the children. That's a fact. We were told by a teacher at a Catholic grade school years ago where we enrolled our boys in the early grades. Immediately after that revelation we pulled them out and began home-schooling our sons in the true faith. Convents once teeming with vibrant, dedicated nuns became deserted. Parishes turned them into warehouses for storage, extra classrooms, what have you. What few nuns were left were forced to scramble for a nearby apartment down the street. Bishops became more and more demanding of the parishes that they account financially for their schools. When they didn't, schools were closed, parishes consolidated. What once was taken for granted that the parish in your vicinity would take care of all your needs, now became a rare privilege. With the decrease in schools, dioceses began taking over the administration, centralizing the focus away from the parish level to the diocesan level. Government programs came into play and with it restrictions that further diluted the Catholic faith and introduced programs totally alien to the faith.

Next week we will continue this thread as we delve into how State interfered with Church and greatly hurt the Church on the primary, secondary and collegiate levels.

To review all past installments of this on-going series, go to Archives beginning with the inaugural A CALL TO PEACE internet issue in January 1996. volume 7, no. 1.

January 1998