“The advantage of the outsider!”

I received a thought provoking e-mail.  The author is a professor in a Catholic university.  I’ve anonymized it.

I’m preaching at a first mass on May ___: a young man who gives hope amid the desolation hereabouts. He would be a natural for St. Agnes (in St. Paul).  Product of a public high school, ___ , the same school that produced a senior I taught last year who is currently in the first year college-seminary program.  You tell me.  Hundred of millions of dollars spent on the Catholic high schools of ____ , and it’s the public schools that give us our meagre vocations. 

In the same vein: a Barthian Protestant who teaches in our department took his class to France over the Spring break to visit a number of monasteries.  After their return, the professor featured a guest appearance by a former monk, still a priest, who contended that monastic life is psychopathological and attracts "sick" people.  A dozen or so Catholic kids listened in silence; the one Protestant student, who is also in my class, rose up to denounce the disparagement of what she had relished seeing for the first time, suggesting that the interlocutor was expressing his own inner turmoil rather than offering a true picture of the life he had abandoned.

The advantage of the outsider"! 

This get’s me going…

– A parish like St. Agnes in St. Paul (MN) can produce some 30 vocations in as many years, but scores of others in the same place….?  Zippo.  You’ld think people might take notice and make adjustment, right?  But no….

- Think of the millions, billions, squandered for the ridiculous experimentation we have endured.  Will it ever end?  It is so unjust to the people of God who are simply expected to cough up more money for programs that don’t work and wreckovations they never asked for. 

- I am really tired of a bunch of failures foisting their ’60′s etc. baggage of sour grapes on the rest of us.

Thus, I end my little rant. 

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23 Responses to “The advantage of the outsider!”

  1. Jon says:

    Hmm…sounds like it’s long past time for John Zuhlsdorf to fanangle an evening of pilsner und schintzel at “the Palace!”

  2. gravitas says:

    Finally Father, the righteous indignation I’ve been waiting for!

    Forget the beer, drink some firewater and have at it again! Amen.

  3. swissmiss says:

    Dear Father Z:

    I hope your rant is just beginning. As a St. Agnes parishioner, I was proud to tell a gentleman who called asking for donations for their orders’ seminarians (Franciscans), that I was sending my money to my parish who, at the time, had two handfuls of vocations.
    I was a product of the public schools, but attended a local Catholic university where a professor asked our class if we believed man was born good, neutral or bad. I was the only one who said good. The rest of the class was split between neutral and bad. Of course,
    the profressor tried to enlighten me about the errors of my ways. Even this poorly catechized public school kid knew man was made in God’s image and his nature was good.

  4. techno_aesthete says:

    ‘a former monk, still a priest, who contended that monastic life is psychopathological and attracts “sick” people’

    Hmm, that sounds like the same former (Carthusian) monk, still a priest, who was present for a Q&A session after Into Great Silence was shown at the Film Forum theater in NYC. It is so sad. (A recording of the Q&A session was posted on the Film Forum Web site, so I’m not making public something that was private.)

  5. Carolina Publican says:

    Bravo, Father.

    Nice to hear you say what you truly feel. It makes me wonder… does the Pope read blogs? It would be cool to see him post a comment to this post.

    I wonder if he listens to the Podcazts??

  6. ray from mn says:

    Father Bill Baer, Rector of the St John Vianney College Seminary in St Paul, has stated that the Archdiocese has 13 Catholic high schools with about 9,000 students. He has said that about one-half of one percent of those students enter the seminary. He added that If the Catholic Church were in the business of training doctors, lawyers, engineers, or even architects, and only one half of one percent of their students would decide to pursue degrees in those subjects, everybody would agree that the schools were failures (he didn’t use that word). He used the word “outrageous.”

  7. Northern Cleric says:

    The last three priests, myself included, to be ordained from my home parish were all products of the state (public) high school system.
    Many of the practising teenagers in parishes I have served in didn’t have the ‘benefit’ of being at Catholic High School.
    I’m afraid that when people ask me if they should send their offspring to Catholic High Schools I ask them to think very carefully.

  8. WRiley says:

    Bravo Father!

  9. andrew says:

    Ray, the purpose of Catholic High Schools isn’t necessarily to be Seminarian factories. Also what percent of the 9000 students is female, probably around 50%.

    45 Seminarians for a 4 year period doesn’t sound all that bad.

    “Back in the day,” young men would be entering seminary High School if they felt any bit of a call. Now if only .5% of those fellows went on to seminary, there would be a problem.

  10. Fr. John Pecoraro says:

    Fr. Z
    I too am a product of the public school system. I’ll offer a sad but, in my assessment, a true statement from a fellow priest: “Catholic Schools have fantastic sports programs, good academics, but make lousy Catholics.” I think that from what I have seen I must agree.
    Regarding programs, programs will not save sagging vocations, programs will not enliven the faithful for long,programs will not make us better Catholics, faithfulness to who we are and, whose we are will. To realize this we need bishops and priests who are more concerned with being Shepherds than diplomats, men who love the faith rather than ones who try to manage it, men who will face issues rather than wriggle out of the way to keep from being unpopular.

  11. Fr. John Pecoraro says:

    Fr. Z
    I too am a product of the public school system. I’ll offer a sad but, in my assessment, a true statement from a fellow priest: “Catholic Schools have fantastic sports programs, good academics, but make lousy Catholics.” I think that from what I have seen I must agree.
    Regarding programs, programs will not save sagging vocations, programs will not enliven the faithful for long,programs will not make us better Catholics, faithfulness to who we are and, whose we are will. To realize this we need bishops and priests who are more concerned with being Shepherds than diplomats, men who love the faith rather than ones who try to manage it, men who will face issues rather than wriggle out of the way to keep from being unpopular.

  12. I am the product of the Catholic school system of Canada. I am just finishing my final year of High School, and I can tell you that Catholicism is essentialy dead in my school. There seems to be a real hatred of the Church in fact. There was an incident involving this several days ago, and you can read about the details in a little rant on my blog that I wrote right after that happened (and I assure you, what I mentioned is just the tip of the iceberg)- http://deusvultcath.blogspot.com/2007/04/ranting-about-my-catholic-high-school.html.

  13. Zach says:

    Bravo Father. It’s too bad that the bishops of the world are still looking at the emporors new clothes so to speak.

  14. Yet, the parish of St. Agnes (MN) is in danger of closing its
    high school due to declining enrollment and a serious deficit.

    They have until May 8th to raise money, encourage enrollment and decide what to do.

    Why is this happening in an orthodox parish?

    Things are tough ALL over.

  15. MikeJH says:

    As a parishioner of St. Agnes in St. Paul MN, please pray for St. Agnes High School: http://www.rschooltoday.com/se3bin/clientschool.cgi?schoolname=school117

  16. Think of the millions, billions, squandered for the ridiculous experimentation we have endured. Will it ever end? It is so unjust to the people of God who are simply expected to cough up more money for programs that don’t work and wreckovations they never asked for.

    Our mission as Christians is simple: go out and make disciples of all the nations. But it’s a mark of our fallen nature that we always make things a lot harder than they need to be — and in the process, we forget our exceedingly simple mission.

  17. Patrick Kinsale says:

    One must wonder whether there is an effort to denigrate the idea of vocations on the part of modern Catholic educators — as well as parents themselves, of course. Our suburban parish has, I’d say, 5,000 families registered. But it can hardly scrape up enough altar servers. They briefly flirted with having three at each Sunday Mass, but now it is just two, and sometimes none show up.

    Our kids attend a relatively new school run by a relatively conservative order of priests who are very much into vocational recruitment (some say, too much so). Many students go on to explore the consecrated life after school.

  18. I have had teachers actualy discourage vocations- except for one who promted the girls to fight for female ordinations. Needless to say, my school is quite pathetic.

  19. swmichigancatholic says:

    I taught for years in a Catholic school–high school chemistry & physics. And while it is true that Catholic schools often offer good math, science content and so on, they often don’t do much for the students’ religious beliefs. This is because the so-called theology teachers are part of the “Spirit of Vatican II” crowd, almost exclusively. Thus, they are not interested in passing on the faith so much as getting the students to “explore” religion with the usual result–agnosticism or worse. My lab was next door to the so-called theology room and I heard a lot of it through the wall and from the kids. He had them drumming in there. Heh.

    This so-called theology teacher used to try to talk me out of fasting Ash Wednesday every darned year (like clockwork), arguing that it was optional, foolish, old-fashioned, etc. Catholicism is full of shallow, corrosive people like this and the schools are no exception. One has to wonder what the real goal for them is.

    Also many of the kids come from families that are not so much reinforcing the faith as engaging in other things:
    a) Many people think the Catholic schools are a sort of prep school, which in many respects they are. Often that’s all they are–cut rate prep schools for people who want a nice atmosphere, an upscale educational expectation, a better chance at Harvard or what have you. These people have NO religious intentions whatsoever, NONE.
    b) Some people, being not very observant themselves, think the Catholic school is teaching their kids religion, which neither the parents nor the Catholic schools are.
    c) There is an atmosphere of peer pressure inside Catholic high schools which often makes piety a sort of worse-than-nerd attitude. Few kids will admit to being pious in the sort of atmosphere many Catholic schools have. Now, I’m talking about the usual diocesan run Catholic schools, not the ones run by the Legionnairies and such. I think it’s a tad more respectable to believe in God there.
    d) The Catholic schools often serve as the school of last resort for more than a few kids who’ve gotten thrown out of everyplace else. Daddy pays and terrorizes kid to get through because he’s not yet 16 and daddy doesn’t want to talk to a judge again.
    e) Similarly, there is also a small population, separated from the rest (usually by tracking) of kids who have a disability and whose parents do not want them “labeled.” To them, it is worth $5000 or whatever it costs now to avoid that “label.” Is it moral and good for the kid? Probably not in many cases.

    Many Catholic school teachers aren’t Catholics and wouldn’t consider being Catholic. The turnover is high. The pay is very low. Administration is often amateurish.

    Thus most catholic schools have a much different student clientele than public schools. And the priorities are many, and most of those priorities are not religious.

    It was a joke around the school how seldom the students went to mass–on weekends but also in school. We had school mass once a month when nothing else distracted us. And we dealt with behavior issues ever single time.

    All in all, I don’t teach in Catholic school anymore. It was either that or become a Protestant. I have hauled more kids out of mass for chewing gum, cutting on themselves or telling jokes to get laughs than anyone else you know.

    The final year I was also shorted on my pay by several thousand dollars, which I didn’t pursue. I just left for better things. Catholic schools are very sad places.

  20. swmichigancatholic says:

    I have the painful opinion that Catholic institutions that don’t produce good working vocations of all the major types–priesthood, nuns, intact families (with lots of kids who know their hail Marys), celibate singles–ought to be shut down, nostalgia be damned.

    This includes non-functioning parishes and yes, Catholic schools that don’t produce what they’re supposed to produce.

    The culture has lots of money. If they really want a “prep-school,” they’ll ante up the money and the hormones (this is the hard part for them) to get it done. [How to be PC, trendy and multicultural and yet not get hurt? Send your kids to Catholic school for the grades, say you're tolerant and snub the religion part. True.]

    Bottom line? WE don’t need to do it for them at a cost of failing to pass on the faith. We need to stop being chumps.

  21. Geometricus says:

    swmichigancatholic: I am a convert and 22-yr. veteran math teacher. I now teach at a new (6-yr-old) K-12 Catholic school in the Twin Cities, Providence Academy. Because we have a board that actually cares about passing on the faith (which includes Fr. Baer from St. John Vianney Sem. in St. Paul mentioned above by ray from mn) we have avoided most of the bad things you mentioned about Catholic schools. Most of our teachers are Catholic, but all of them support the mission of the school: Faith, Knowledge and Virtue, passing on the faith in all its fullness in a winsome, upbeat, attractive way.

    We do have a fair number of people who see the school as a cut-rate prep school (we cost about 30-40% less then the non-Catholic prep schools in the area) but they attend an orthodox Catholic religion class five days a week (which is part of their GPA) and must attend mass once a week (with a Latin introit, kneelers, and no guitars). They can’t say they don’t know what the Church teaches. We are being faithful to our mission and in our short history we have already made not a few converts to the faith. (One of our non-Catholic teachers who has been with us for all 6 years was received into the Chuch this last Easter Vigil!)

    Our cafteria serves no meat on Ash Wednesday or on any Friday even outside Lent. But this is just one of many details you would love to hear about.

    All the bad things you mentioned in your post nip at our heels every single day. We have wise administrators who ward off most of it with bulldog-like tenacity. It is definitely a constant struggle to keep the school Catholic and not acquiesce to the culture.

    We have the unique advantage of being able to start a new school with a big, beautiful, brand-new building and good facilities due to one very generous donor who is the president of the board. We have been extremely selective about hiring faculty, occasionally letting a position go unfilled rather than compromise our mission by hiring the wrong person for the job. We did not have to weather the cultural hurricanes of the 60′s and 70′s which all but ruined the Catholic schools you are talking about. Perhaps the most merciful thing would be to let those school die out and start over again. “Succisa virescit.”

    Perhaps our success (we have grown to over 850 students) can be a model for new Catholic schools nationwide. We got Diocesan approval early on, which I gotta beleive has helped our enrollment, so our model would perhaps not work in some dioceses until the liberal bishops are replaced.

    This Catholic School is not a sad place. Come and visit sometime when you are in the Twin Cities. I’ll give you a tour and restore you hope. (Do you still teach chemistry and physics?)

    http://www.providenceacademy.org/

  22. swmichigancatholic says:

    Geometricus,

    Your school sounds very good. Stay strong! I hope your donor has a long life and you are able to keep it going. The school where I was did weather many years of dissent, yes. And I taught there in the late 90s, when confusion was still very serious. Times are now improving a bit, thank God. Practical change takes time, however, in such sitations.

    Thanks for the invitation. I’m not in the Twin Cities very often though.

    I no longer teach chemistry & physics. I now work for a large company. It’s not perfect by far, but if what I am looking for is employment, it works.