On this blog I have harped incessantly about Catholic identity. I have proposed that a primary aim of Pope Benedict’s pontificate is to revitalize our Catholic identity. If we don’t know who we are and what we believe then we will have no impact on the world around us as Catholics. Western civilization is on the ropes, partly because we don’t know who we are and, as a result, we have not been making our indispensable contribution. We have experienced devastation for the last few decades. Pope Benedict in engaged in a “Marshall Plan” for rebuilding.
Lately we have seen dramatic results of the loss of Catholic identity. People who still call themselves “Catholic”… better “catholic”… place themselves in direct conflict with the Church and the Church’s Magisterium as exercised by her legitimate teachers. I dubbed one of the most obvious of these dissident forces the “Magisterium of Nuns“. They and their camp-followers and supporters (the Catholic Healthcare Association, the editors of the National Catholic Reporter, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, etc.) seek to replace what is Catholic with what is “catholic”. They are not merely trying to force the Church to conform to the world and its trends. In some instances they are also trying to provide for the business of abortion.
I saw a story on CNA which illustrates something of my point.
Consider as a backdrop the conflict in Phoenix over the Catholic character of a once-Catholic hospital, a labor group’s statement that a Catholic college’s self-describing literature demonstrates that the school can’t claim a religious identity in order to avoid unionization, the upcoming closure of many Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York.
My emphases and comments:
Weakening of Catholic identity contributes to school enrollment decline, cautions professor
Denver, Colo., Jan 18, 2011 / 06:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the wake of the Archdiocese of New York recently closing 27 of its schools, conversation on the sharp decline of Catholic school enrollment has once again been ignited. One education expert says a weakening of Catholic identity is a primary factor in the school closures.
Dr. John J. Convey, who holds the title of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Professor of Education at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., also explained that a lack of school-aged children and waning pastoral leadership have also significantly contributed to school closures.
Enrollment in Catholic elementary schools has dropped 15 percent nationwide since 2001-02 school year, reported the National Catholic Educational Association. In 2006 and 2007 in the U.S., 212 Catholic schools were closed or consolidated.
In a Jan. 17 e-mail, Dr. Convey, who co-authored the 2009 book “Weathering the Storm: Moving Catholic Schools Forward,” weighed in, saying that numerous factors have contributed to enrollment decline.
He noted that dwindling demographics, what he called an “insufficient number of school-age children,” is a large underlying problem.
The National Center for Health Statistics reported last August that the steadily falling birth rate in the U.S. fell 2.7 percent in 2009, an all time low in the last 100 years.
Dr. Convey also said that “weak leadership” on the part of the principal or the pastor, including the “unwillingness of the pastor to support the school or to promote it to the parish” as another factor.
“This problem is exacerbated if diocesan leadership is not strong or is unwilling to act to rectify the leadership problem,” he added.
Perhaps most disconcerting, Dr. Convey cited a “weak Catholic identity” on the part of Catholic schools either based in actual fact or simply perceived as such by parents.
He said that many families today believe that a Catholic school is not strong enough in the “value-added” component that would make it different from a public or charter school. [Disaster.]
The education expert added that families without sufficient income to afford tuition can be a problem which is “exacerbated if adequate tuition assistance is not available.”
“In some cases, money is an issue; families can’t afford the tuition and insufficient tuition assistance is available to help them. In other cases, parents are unwilling to pay for a Catholic school if they perceive that the public schools, charter schools or other private schools in their area are adequate.” [If there isn't any difference between the Catholic school and the public school, then why pay the extra substantial cost, given the fact that you are already paying taxes?]
Dr. Convey also noted that accusations of sex abuse by clergy have “had an impact on diocesan budgets from huge legal settlements.”
Lastly, he said parents often “don’t sufficiently value Catholic education” and would rather “have their children educated in the public school even though they could afford to send them to a Catholic school.”
Dr. Convey explained that in order to combat plummeting school enrollment, the “Church and each individual Catholic school needs to be more vocal about the importance of the schools and their effectiveness in both the academic and religious formation of the students.” [Do I hear an "Amen!"?]
I would be interested in the comment of readers with children who have at some point made a decision whether to send their kinder to public school or to a Catholic school.
Why did you choose what you chose?
Was the “Catholic identity” issue a factor?
What needs to be done?