Catholic institutions are failing because of failing “Catholic identity”

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?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Torkay says:

    My kids went to 2 different Catholic schools: one where I had to request the removal of a Hillary Clinton poster and where the PP was a discreet homosexual; the other where the parish was so unfriendly as to be almost hostile – though more orthodox than the first parish. Eventually we opted for public school because we could no longer afford Catholic – and at that point, I was not a raving traditionalist as I am now.

    As for what can be done, the lack of Catholic identity starts with the Novus Ordo, which has been stripped of Catholic identity, while pretending/appearing to be Catholic.

  2. traditionalorganist says:

    Well, I think having nuns teach is a good start. And the nuns should not charge a salary for their work. Their apostolate should be teaching, and not doing so for a price on top of what is necessary. When nuns become “professionals,” they aren’t serving.

    Secondly, I’ve heard that in the past in some places, if you belonged to a parish with a school, you didn’t pay to attend that school. Somehow, that school was able to run. If a parish has a stake in the education of their children, they will make it run. When the diocese and the government get too involved, things crumble. I guess the point is, we don’t need to spend millions upon millions of dollars to educate properly.

  3. TNCath says:

    While I am not a parent, I am a Catholic teacher in a public high school, and I am very aware of the Catholic students in my school. Thirty-five percent of my students are Catholic, half of whom attended either Catholic elementary schools before coming to our school. The primary reason most of their parents give for choosing to send their children to public high schools is that the education offered in the Catholic high schools isn’t worth the exorbitant tuition charged in these schools for the poor religious (and sometimes even secular) education the students are receiving. While most of the families attend Mass regularly and are active in their parishes, their children are exposed to the last vestiges of 1970’s Catholicism such as the CYO and “Search for Christian Maturity” retreats, which is pretty much the sum total of their religious education after elementary school.

    Personally, I think the key to the revival Catholic schools is a revival of Catholic identity, whereby schools become unquestionably and unapologetically Catholic, with a solid religious curriculum with teachers who are thoroughly committed to the Faith. Perhaps as some of the religious orders such as the Nashville Dominicans and others faithful to the Church continue to grow, they could take the lead in restoring our Catholic school system.

  4. Supertradmum says:

    I chose home schooling through high school. Many of my friends have done so as well. Other traditional Catholics I know have chosen charter schools over the local Catholic school, rather than have heretical or at the least, bland “catechesis” thrown at their children in the so-called Catholic schools. The local Catholic school hires non-Catholic teachers! And, in the town where I lived until August in Missouri, the pastor openly stated that he did not want to “offend” the non-Catholic students and parents with too many Catholic devotions and straight catechesis. My friends pulled their children from this nominally Catholic school. This is the problem. Political correctness and bad curriculum choices, including secular textbooks, or even worse, Calvinist or other heretical textbooks, chosen by those who do not know their Faith, combined with weak pastoral leadership has led to a decline in real Catholic schools.

    The head of the diocesan education department here introduced sex education in third grade. Again, the best parents pulled their children out of the system.

    Until the USCCB takes a strong stand on curriculum, teachers, and textbooks, this problem will not change. I can only recommend private schools, such as those affiliated with NAPCIS. I have a Master Teacher Certification from NAPCIS and the coursework included a complete review of Catholic doctrine, Catholic history, history of Catholic education, Papal encyclicals and saint’s writings on education throughout history, etc. That course should be required of all teachers who teach in Catholic schools. Most of the Catholic schools in our state do not require the Oath of Fidelity and the Profession of Faith required by most NAPCIS schools. Those documents should be the minimum for all Catholic teachers in all Catholic schools. Until the bishops get involved, nothing will change at the diocesan level. Personally, I think the rot set in when the dioceses took over the schools from the waning orders. Until then, each parish in our area was in charge of its own school, working with nuns or brothers from teaching orders. Those days are long gone, and the laity has not been prepared properly.

    I started to get a teaching certification for a Midwest state. I had to take diversity training, multiculturalism classes, group dynamics and other nonsense. The Catholic schools do not need teachers who have been indoctrinated by secular university programs, into social engineering as well, which train teachers. This is a huge problem. That is why I got the NAPCIS certification, as it is Catholic, not secular.

  5. I have been homeschooling my children for four years, but they attended a public school previously. The local elementary “Catholic” school is exorbitantly expensive, and has (to my knowledge) no Catholic identity other than the students being required to wear the familiar plaid uniforms and the fact that the school is attached to a parish. I don’t even know if there are crucifixes in the classrooms any more. The state board of education has final say in what textbooks are used in this school, because the school participates in the free lunch program and is also part of the county school bus transport system. So basically I guess it’s a public school with uniforms.
    I choose to homeschool so that I can teach my children that Catholic is not just the Church to which you belong, it’s who you are. I don’t think students at many Catholic schools get that any more.

  6. Steve Girone says:

    We took our two eldest out of the local Catholic school to homeschool. We are now homeschooling 4 children. Certainly part of the reason for homeschooling was the lack of Catholic identify at the school. It’s not a good situation when our children tell us that whenever a subject had to be skipped for any reason….you guessed it, it was always religion.

  7. KAS says:

    I wanted my children to know their scripture, Church teaching, Catechism of the Catholic Church, the writings of the Church Fathers, encyclicals and documents of the Church, canon law, the writings of Saints…. I wanted them to get the background on the scientists they studied (like Mendel always portrayed as a monk–was also an ordained priest–try and find THAT in most textbooks!)

    Science and History are full of people worth reading about–but I had to find the books myself because the textbooks out there sure don’t do much.

    Then there is pure academics. Learning how to learn, how to reason, how to question and how to discover the answers to questions are all part of education.

    It comes down to church teaching–I am the main person responsible for bringing up my children. The Church is supposed to help but if the local parish permits heresy to be taught either through ignorance, stupidity or deliberate malice toward church teaching–I am obligated to remove my children from that influence and teach them myself.

  8. vmanning says:

    Welcome to New Jersey, where the highest property taxes in the nation support up to 80-90% of the budget of the government schools, and where the teacher’s union spends,literally, millions of dollars each election cycle to keep it that way.The fact that no reasonabvle peno reasonable person with a CHOICE would send their child to the classroom warzones in Camden, Newark and Asbury Park highlightsthe strabglehold public emplyee unions have over representattive government. I have 5 kids. They are all in Catholic schools. I sit on the school board of a Catholic k-8 school Fundraiser after fundraiser after fundraiser is wearing parents out-then,why let’s just pay this abused former student a few million dollars because Father Noname couldn’t keep it in his pants and his bishop got his values from the 1960’s. Catholic identity is all there is left, and even that is at risk as the parochial schools take on the “public” flavor to keep and attract kids whose parents struggle to keep afloat. There’s money in the diocese to help keep tuition down, but the “Peace and Justice” budget along with the rest of the nonsense these “leaders” engage in precludes that. And when the Catholic schools are gone, where will we be? Relying on CCD to pass the faith on? Not a chance.The biggest complaint the kids have is how thr CCD students trash thier classrooms. Ever speak to a CCD ibnstructor? Well intentiojned, all. But ask them about the real prresence, orfasting,the perpetual virginity of Mary.Most of them conflate the Immaculate Conception with the Nativity.The DRE-aging hippieswhose values, like the bishops, were formed in the ’60’s and they are full of the spirit-of Vatican II.You think you can rant, Father Z? Don’t even let me get started

  9. vmanning says:

    Ranting leads to too quick typing and too little editing. I apologize, but stand by every correct word posted. And I’m morethan willing to “engage” with anyone who disagrees with any of it.

  10. KAS says:

    You won’t get disagreement from me. My AGNOSTIC husband is better at explaining Catholic teaching than most of the good people teaching.

  11. Jenny says:

    1) I am stunned to hear that there is a public school in Memphis that is 35% Catholic. Really? I never would have dreamt. Now Nashville is not Memphis, but I did attend Nashville public schools and we never had more than a handful of Catholics. Maybe 5%, but that seems a bit high.

    2) Given that I do live in the South, there are really not that many Catholic schools around. The closest Catholic school to my house has to be 40 miles away. We do have the Dominican school in Nashville that is run by the sisters, but that is 10K in tuition (and also 40 miles away). I would love to be able to send my children to Catholic schools, but they are all so far away and/or expensive. All that being said, there are definitely schools in this diocese that fall into the “why bother” category.

  12. cblanch says:

    We are planning to homeschool, unless we move to an area like Ann Arbor, MI. I have personally visited Spiritus Sanctus Academy there which is run by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Excellent school! The sisters wear habits, there’s a crucifix in every room, pictures of the Saints line the hallways, daily Mass and I’m pretty sure that Adoration is part of the kids week, as well.

    I currently live a few hours from Ann Arbor and will not be sending my kids to the Catholic school in my area unless some radical changes take place in the next two years when my oldest will be ready for school. They will get a better Catholic education at home.

  13. Titus says:

    Our first child is still a few years away from being school-aged, but the intention of my wife and myself is to home school her and her future siblings instead of sending her across the street to the local parochial school. I frankly wouldn’t send my child to a public school in this state, or likely any other, for all the tea in China. I’ve heard good things about the parochial school across the street, but I remain unconvinced. There are several reasons for my inchoate decision in this regard:

    1. Bad Methodologies After spending a thousand years educating children of all ages according to the Church’s own standards, the people who run Catholic schools seem in recent decades to have decided that they actually don’t know what they’ve been doing. So instead, they’ve punted to the secular education establishment. They depend on secular accreditation institutions. They adopt the secular teaching establishment’s newest fads in methodology. They use secular textbooks and materials. Even if the school has a rigorously orthodox religion class—which is a crapshoot at best—it’s still like putting great icing on a stale cake, given the wholly secular direction of the school in toto. Especially given what a bang-up job the secular education world has been doing recently, why would I ever send my children somewhere to be educated according to those principles?

    2. Bad Liturgy This isn’t a problem everywhere, but the parish across the street, the parish to which I technically belong by virtue of my residence, is a liturgical train wreck. Not an all-day-on-CNN trainwreck, but still not good. I got a life-time supply of warbly guitar music and “I Am the Bread of Life” during my own parochial-school education. I have no intention of inflicting the same on my children. The liturgical life of the Church is an important part of our identity, tradition, and life as Catholics. I should be able to have my children educated in the liturgical life of the Church at a level concomitant with their education in other subjects as well.

    3. Content There’s just a lot of stuff that children won’t be taught at even a relatively good school. At the same time, there’s quite a bit that they will do that will be, in a word, pointless. I wish that I had spent every hour of gradeschool that I devoted to cutting out and pasting together some seasonally appropriate arrangement of flora and fauna instead learning Latin, Greek, history, rhetoric, or just about anything else. No parochial school will teach my children Latin from an age early enough for them to acquire real fluency. No parochial school will devote the primary-education years principally to education instead of to an endless array of cute but pointless arts and crafts projects. The list goes on and on. It’s only that much worse for non-Catholic schools.

    4. Intangibles Here, add things like “pace”: the average grade-school teacher, not to mention the average grade-school student, frankly just isn’t that bright. I will bet dollars to stale doughnuts that my wife—or almost any wife not weighed down by thirty kids—can teach more material in the same amount of time more effectively than a teacher in a school. Also, consider “bureaucracy.” Just as parochial schools have abdicated their uniqueness in teaching, they’ve become ossified in bureaucratic models borrowed from public schools, with stupid rules driven by liability fears. You can also put “identity” here, although it could probably use its own category: I’ll make the same dollars-to-doughnuts bet that most parochial schools are still using the nauseating “God is a big happy flower” catechitical materials that laid waste to my generation, or at least something not much better. Maybe the students go to Mass during the week, maybe they’ll get taught their prayers, but they won’t be learning anything that makes being Catholic, especially being Catholic in the robust and every-day manner of our ancestors, compelling.

    I really wish it were different. I really wish I could feel comfortable sending my children away to be educated in a Catholic school. I just can’t.

  14. I sent my oldest two to a Catholic school until my daughter finished the 2nd grade and my son completed kindergarten. We now homeschool our five kids. Why did I pull my two oldest out? I volunteer taught Spanish that last year and was dismayed to find only two Catholics out of the 10 who taught there. The rest were Methodists, Baptists, etc. Everyone, INCLUDING the Catholic teachers, kept asking me why I was having so many kids (I was pregnant with my fourth). I was just learning the faith myself after growing up in my archdiocese learning nothing in the way of actual and true teachings of the church. Since the teachers at that school obviously knew less than I did, I decided to school them at home. A few of us have started a homeschooling coop, and we hope and pray that it will become a full fledged school under the direction of the FSSP.

  15. JohnE says:

    So far, for our 2nd grade son, we have chosen a public charter school whose focus is on “talented and gifted” learners. The main factors for choosing the charter school is distance and cost. The closest schools would be two 40-minute round-trips to drop off and pick up our kids — not to mention the potential for additional trips for sports or other activities. Knowledge of available carpooling options from our area would help to alleviate that concern. Vouchers or some sort of tax write-off for the per-pupil expense of public school would help with the costs.

    I think the way we fund education needs to change so that parents are enabled to choose the education they think is best for their children and have it at least partially publicly funded, without the worry of excessive government control. As long as the education received effectively contributes to the public good, then religious instruction being part of a school’s focus should not be a consideration. Unfortunately people are used to having few options for their children’s education. Limit the brands of most any product they could buy and people will complain. Limit the more important choices for education and many don’t seem to mind.

  16. Supertradmum says:

    If Ex Corde Ecclesiae was seriously implemented by the USCCB, the high schools and elementary schools would have to follow suit. [I need to start asking for shorter URLS… tiny or embedded.]

  17. ejcmartin says:

    My eldest son, now in grade three, attended kindergarten at our small city’s only Catholic school. We liked the school in many ways but the Catholic identity was weak (a lot of “social justice” and not a lot of catechesis). Given our limited financial resources we could not justify spending several thousand dollars per year for just a private school education. We (or more correctly my wife) now homeschool my son using a solid Catholic program at a fraction of the cost. Thanks to my wife my son, and soon my younger boy (he of the Wyoming choo choo fame), is getting both a solid classical (3R’s) and Catholic (big C) education.

  18. Leonius says:

    Once upon a time it was rightly taught that our primary duty as parents was not to ensure our children got the best education to make them a worldly success but to do all we could to help our children save their souls-and leading on from that, not sending a child to Catholic school was a mortal sin for which a parent would have to answer to God for on our day of judgment.

    My Irish grandmother understood this, my uncle could have went to what was then in England called a grammar school for free due to his intelligence, she refused on the grounds that she would not hand her son over to be taught by atheists,my uncle is in his sixties now and has been a Catholic all his life. He also spent most of his life working down a coal mine, working in a coal mine has not harmed the chances of making it to heaven, exposure to teachers who mock the faith could have. What good would it have done for him to have gained the whole world and yet lose his soul.

    For a Catholic the Catholic school should have a “value added” that cant be found anywhere else, access to the sacraments during the week for their children.

  19. Joe Magarac says:

    My wife and I are sending our kids to our parish grade school here in Pittsburgh. The cost is an issue; my parents paid almost nothing to send me to Catholic school years ago, because the nuns who taught me worked for peanuts, whereas our kids’ school is staffed almost exclusively by lay teachers who get paid (and deservedly so) for their efforts.

    Because we live in the City of Pittsburgh, where most of the school-age kids are poor and raised by parents who don’t value education, parish schools like ours often attract parents who are looking to avoid the public schools, as opposed to actively seeking a Catholic school. When our daughter started kindergarten, she was one of only two kids in her class of 28 who knew how to say the Our Father and the Hail Mary.

    That said, I have to credit the pastor and the principal for ensuring that kindergarteners learn to say those prayers and are otherwise taught the Catholic faith that comes to us from the apostles. Here is a snippet from the school’s website:

    As a Catholic school, our primary purpose is to form students in the values of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Catholic Church. Catholic schools are distinctive religious education institutions operated as programs of the Catholic Church; they are not private schools but are administered and supported by the sponsoring parishes and the diocese. Attending a Catholic school is a privilege, not a right. While academic excellence and involvement in extracurricular activities, such as sports, clubs, etc., are important, fidelity to the Catholic identity of the school is the fundamental priority.

    All in all, we’re pretty happy with the school, though we realize that ultimately it’s our job as parents to teach our kids the faith; the school just supports us as we do that. Neither of us feels any inclination toward home-schooling, and I wish parents who did home-school were a little less critical of those of us who support parish schools.

  20. Mike says:

    I teach at an independent high school that is Catholic.

    My kids go there. From what I see in our parish school (CCD), and from three visits I have made to other Catholic schools for Middle State Accreditation, I have observed the following:

    1. Catholic identity, drawn from the Magisterium, and the intellectual tradition of the West, is largely AWOL from my local CCD program, and the three schools I visited.

    2. The feminization of the Church is very much a part of this problem–at my parish, 90% of the EMHC are ladies; niceness tends to win the day from the pulpit; the musics is nearly 100% corn syrup. And this kind of parish is running a school!

    3. I also live an in area with excellent public schools. Some of in the top 100 in the US. However, this stats, it seems to me, is largely a result of the socio-economic backgrounds of the parents. The curricula of these schools is largely lacking in substance.

  21. Titus says:

    1) I am stunned to hear that there is a public school in Memphis that is 35% Catholic.

    I’m trying to think what school this might be. Nothing is really jumping out at me. But my impression is that there are a lot more Catholics in Memphis than in Nashville, based on having grown up in Memphis and living in Nashville now.

    And Jenny is right, here in Nashville we do have the Nashville Dominicans, who can be counted on to avoid some wackiness. But even there, some criticisms undoubtedly remain, along with the additional one of “price.”

  22. Mike says:

    Pardon my shoddy syntax!

  23. yatzer says:

    I began sending our first 2 children to a Catholic school in 1980. It only lasted a couple of years. The kids were taught basically nothing about the faith; 1st communion was in 2nd grade and 1st reconciliation was in 4th. The priest hardly ever visited or celebrated Mass with the students. Meat was on the menu on the Fridays of Lent. I know it wasn’t required of their age group, but it was another negative example. We had a very good township school practically in our front yard and it was a sacrifice to use the Catholic school. I had had fond hopes of my children being taught the beauty and richness of the faith, but mostly the staff apologized for it. I finally gave up and sent the kids to the public school, where they were taught essentially the same things as in the Catholic school. It seemed to me that the parents at the Catholic school just wanted their children kept away from the “riffraff” and didn’t even care that their was nothing much Catholic about the Catholic school. Things may be better there now, I don’t know, having left that parish a long time ago.

  24. Joseph-Mary says:

    My oldest son was psychologically abused in the second grade and it started the first week. I had to pull him out of that ‘catholic’ school. Thanks be to God! My children have no Catholic friends; the ones that came through that ‘catholic’ school lost their faith. My son lost his desire to draw after the bad experience and it was about a year for him to recover. But in the public school he has a Catholic teacher who was kind and liked him. It made all the difference.

    Living in a dissenting diocese at the time, I had to petition to let my son have his first confession only a year after his First Communion. And since they would not allow confirmation before age 18 which meant that some years there were no confirmandi, I became a catechist and taught them at home and got permission from a neighboring bishop to have my children confirmed in another diocese. I homeschooled a while too.

    There was at least one renegade ‘religious sister’ at the school. One who, for a time, performed an alternative liturgy during Mass and came in for Communion. And there were some so called ‘peace and justice’ types who brought no peace and no justice. If I had not taught my children myself, they would have had no Catholic teachings to speak of. They have not seen a real live nun in a habit, by the way.

  25. Supertradmum says:


    If the school is really Catholic, the sacrifice is worth it. If the school is nominally Catholic, it is not. How would you feel about grades 4,5,6 being taken on a field trip to visit Buddhist Monks, who explained their beliefs to the students, when most of the children did not have a basic understanding of their own Catholic Faith? That happened in a local Catholic school last year, 2010. Also, please be aware that some of the Catholic schools allowing non-Catholics in no longer have Catholic prayers, but “moments of silence” in order not to offend the Muslims or Hindus in the school. I wish these things were stories, but too true. When I tried to teach the rosary at a Catholic High School of known repute, the parents’ had a meeting and asked the principal to have me stop doing this, as Mary was no longer important. This was in 1998. The most vocal were the non-Catholic parents who were upset with the emphasis on Mary. When I re-introduced May Crowning, with the permission of the principal, someone the day after, ripped up the crown on the statue and smeared it with peanut butter and jelly. That is where some of our Catholic schools stand. Some Catholic high schools have sex education, which does not make any moral judgments on homosexual or lesbian relations, contraception or even abortion, along with school nurses at the high school level who push birth control, because the school gets aid from the state. Also, some high schools allow weird television programs into the classroom in order to get free televisions from the state-agreeing to let the kids watch disturbing images common in the culture, even with MTV. This is why home schooling has risen to the numbers we now see in the United States. That is where parents are now sacrificing.

  26. scarda says:

    I tutor children whose parents have avoided the local Catholic schools because school sports teams trump all other interests: moral, educational, and societal. Cheating, stealing, bad character, bad grades, and other serious deficiencies were winked at by the administration so long as the athletes were winners. This policy is apparently acceptable to the local bishop. My tutees are now taking a few public high school courses for advanced placement because the parents would rather deal with the secular school than with hypocrisy.

  27. Supertradmum says:

    PS, The priest-chaplain in one high school where I was for a year, took Jesus off of all the crucifixes in the school (2,000 students) so as not to emphasize suffering. Helping out with the sophomore and junior retreats, I was told I was not allowed to mention sin or Confession. When I objected, I was told that the principal wanted the students to feel good about themselves, that he wanted a “youth event” not a retreat. Many of the students, mostly a school of upper-class kids, were into pre-marital sex and some were doing drugs. Yet, I got in trouble for talking about conversion. The priest did not want to be involved in the retreat, as he felt uncomfortable doing so. I had to ask a local parish priest to come in and hear Confessions for those who wanted the Sacrament. He was very obliging, but few students took advantage of the opportunity. After the two horrible experiences I have mentioned, I decided that diocesan high schools were not for me, and I only taught in private schools for awhile, before going back to university level teaching, which is much less stressful for a trad Catholic.

  28. nasman2 says:

    I was speaking with a fellow Catholic this morning about this. He has the means to send his children to Catholic schools. It requires that both parents work. Certainly there are situations where this can be done. My wife and I decided long ago to live on one income, and because of that there are certain things that can or cannot be done. Unfortunately a primary Catholic education in Catholic schools is one of those things that economically cannot be done, especially when considering a high school education. Catholic identity, however, is the primary reason for choosing not to send our children, even if it was affordable. There simply is no trust in the local Catholic schools to properly educate children in their faith. We understand the exhortation in DIVINI ILLIUS MAGISTRI (Paragraph 10-15) that the family cannot fulfill all aspects of an education. However the first encyclical we had read on the issue was Pope Leo XIII’s RERUM NOVARUM which clearly puts the responsibility on parents for the education of their children. I interpret DIVINI ILLIUS MAGISTRI as giving an explanation for the means on how this is to be accomplished (my very uneducated interpretation).

    There are many parents that feel that many of today’s Catholic schools do not live up to the charge the Church has given them in DIVINI ILLIUS MAGISTRI. We do not give allegiance to the word ‘catholic’, there should be solid Catholic teaching at any school that we allow to teach our children. We know that if our children do not learn their Faith, at our judgment we will not be allowed to say “But we sent them to Catholic Schools!”.

    So we home school. It’s hard. Its not the best option out there, be we feel we have no choice. The local Catholic schools have let parents down in regards to education and no amount of my complaining to them is going to fix it.

    Some day, maybe in time for my children to educate their children, that trust will be restored. In the meantime we pray and assist, when possible, in restoring Catholic identity in primary Catholic education.

  29. kat says:

    I thank God daily for the gift of our tiny K-12 Catholic school, which has no government funding and struggles yearly to make it financially; but we rely on St. Joseph, and have made it 21 years so far…tuition does not cover expenses, and many families simply cannot afford it; but it doesn’t cost more to teach another child, once textbooks and teachers are paid for anyway; so they come too. Yes, there is lots of fundraising and sacrifices, but our children get a superb Catholic, classical liberal arts, no-frills education.

    If this choice were not available to me, I would homeschool, or at bare minimum, put them in a small charter school where at least uniforms and discipline help make it more bearable. But being a certified teacher, I would probably just homeschool; that would not be my first choice.

    There is no way I would put them in the big parish school closest to me, which, as has been stated enough above, is nothing more than the Public School program with uniforms and a little bit of Religion thrown in. Most of these schools have very little choice in their curricula, once they accept government funding.

  30. I have two (soon to be three) children in Catholic elementary school right now.

    The presence of the faith is clear, obvious, and clearly taught. I wish there were nuns, and pray each day that some order will move in, but even as it is, it is very very Catholic. With good, orthodox priests involved with the school and the children.

    It is an enormous financial burden for my family – requiring three jobs just to keep positive cash flow. The academic environment there is outstanding, but still it would not be worth the expense if it were not a Catholic School. We are foregoing college savings in exchange for a good solid foundation in the faith and a good basic education – both of which should serve my daughters well throughout this life and the next!

  31. SAC says:

    My children go to a public school since we do not have a “local” parish school in our town. I would love to send my kids to the nearest Catholic school. We are also two working parents and the closest Catholic school doesn’t have before/after care options. So what do we do? Our kids go to CCD and are being taught our Catholic faith at home.

    I am generally a lurker, but I am surprised and saddened by all of the negative responses.

    For those that don’t like the environment of their local Catholic school or the lack of CCD education being taught, PLEASE GET INVOLVED. How else will it change, if it doesn’t start at the grass roots by parents?

    It seems to me the problem with the lack of Catholic identity has to doing with being apathetic and not getting involved.

  32. KAS says:

    I disagree that home school is not the best option. When the ignorance of the faith is such that you harm the souls of children by sending them to school, and when you home school you can choose a solidly Catholic curriculum (I like Seton Home School materials but there are others that are also excellent and CATHOLIC–like Our Lady of the Rosary for example) then home school becomes the best option.

  33. Eoin Suibhne says:

    My wife and I live in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, and had been intending to homeschool our children. (Despite the many good priests here, the schools still are run by typical “catholics”.) However, our solidly orthodox pastor gave us the rare opportunity to assist in the founding of a parish Montessori school. We jumped at the chance and have been deeply grateful that we have a truly Catholic parish school to which to send our children. It is an elementary school only, and we plan to homeschool our children once they’ve finished the elementary program.

    What needs to be done? Catholics need to embrace the faith and bishops and priests need to teach it! What frustrates me most are the constant accommodations made by bishops and priests to “catholics” and non-Catholics; the faith is constantly watered down and it is the faithful Catholics who are told to “deal with it”.

    Early in his papacy, Benedict XVI said that that Church was going to become much smaller. I interpreted this to mean that she will begin to adopt a truly Catholic identity — an identity that many in the Church will reject. Like the disciples who abandoned Christ after His hard teaching on the Eucharist, these “catholics” will be allowed to go. The sooner the better. Let the Catholics be Catholics. Perhaps then some of the “catholics” will finally see what they were missing and return to the fold.

  34. Papabile says:

    My wife and I sent our first child to Kindergarten at a Catholic School in the Diocese of Arlington (a very orthodox diocese). What did we get?

    We got a school where they had split the parish we lived in and forbid the new parish to have a school…. hence, we had non-parishioner tuition which amounted to: 1 child $5600 – 2 children $10,00 — 3 children $15180…… We have five children…. not really affordable.

    We got a school where the teachers looked at us like we were crazy for having 5 kids.

    We got a school where they had a “Hip-hop education day” for the children and introduced them to Nas. (– an artist famous for being “crucified” in a video — )

    We got a school that promised “no whole language, no whole math” that then taught these subjects by those very principles.

    We got a school that was obsessed with constant fundraisers because the parish delinked the school as much as possible from it.

    We got a school where the kindergarten teacher referred to the Confessional as a “scary box”.

    We got a school where we had to stop a fundraiser for an outside organization that supported embryonic stem cell research.

    Eventually we found an independent school that was actually Catholic with daily Mass and rosary with Diocesan Priests based on the Trivium and Quadrivium approach to educating the whole person. I washed my hands of diocesan schools forever.

  35. Denise says:

    We are a military family–nearly 30 years now. Every military move required an assessment of where to school the children. My first choice was always to find a Catholic school. However, the school had to offer an authentically Catholic experience. Over the years, my children have attended Catholic schools, secular private schools, and public schools. When the school had a strong Catholic identity, the experience was always worth the money and sacrifice. We moved to Northern Virginia when my youngest was still in grade school. We registered with the parish and immediately began offering both talent and treasure to the parish. It was at a time, however, when the grade schools were bursting with students. There was no room for my youngest in the parish school. I was told by the principal that because we were a transient military family, we had no roots in the parish and would not be considered for enrollment. Several non-Catholic students attended the school. Within two years the tide had turned and the school was begging for students. At that point, I had no desire to disrupt my son’s school environment and have him change schools.

    The local high schools that were available at the time were incredibly expensive and offered very little in the way of a Catholic environment. The Washington Post reported some of the 2009 March for Life Pro abortion protest activities were led by a student from a local Catholic school who had been given the day off to participate. You know you have to be inclusive. I could not justify this expense for my older children. The CCD was very rigorous and orthodox and combined with steady catechesis at home provided a very good Catholic education. There is now John Paul the Great High School in the diocese. The Nashville Dominicans are doing a tremendous job of providing a truly Catholic high school experience.

    Too often, the Catholic high schools become little more than college prep academies and sports academies. I know of several non-Catholic athletes who were given full tuition scholarships to local Catholic high schools in order to garner athletic awards for the school sports teams. Academic excellence is touted while Catholic practices are hidden when the school advertises for students.

    Bottom line is Catholic identity is paramount. If the school actively supports me in my efforts to raise a saint, I will support the school. If my job as a Catholic parent is hampered by the school, I have no use for it. If the only difference between it and the public schools is that the girls where plaid skirts, why bother?

  36. Margaret says:

    Seven of my nine children are school age. Up until this year, all have been educated through the public system. While cost was certainly a factor, had there been a vibrant, orthodox, Christ-centered Catholic school available, my husband and I would have made whatever sacrifices were necessary to pay for it. Sadly, in Silicon Valley, our Catholic schools are really just “private” schools, with a cross on the front of the building. There is just enough watery religious education to inoculate the students against the real meat and potatoes of authentic Catholicism.

    Instead, my kids go to public school knowing full well they are walking into a place where most of the people don’t share their faith or outlook on life. And while the kids do attend the one outstanding CCD program in the area (orthodox, taught by energetic young nuns, required memorization, etc. etc. etc.) my husband and I view it purely as a supplement to the formation we’re giving them at home.

    So far it’s working. Our only variation has begun this past year– one boy gained admittance to the local Jesuit (!!!) boys’ high school. He’s pretty aware of the issues in the church, and even on his “shadowing” day before enrollment, he caught one or two slightly flaky statements from the religion teacher. As with the others, for now it’s working. We’re keeping a close eye, leaving some eye-catching supplemental reading lying around (which is more likely to be read when Mom doesn’t say anything) and making sure he continues attendance at a young mens mentoring program run by Opus Dei.

  37. benedetta says:

    I think the question that needs to be seriously investigated by Catholics when considering a school (if, and that is a big if, it is affordable) for their children is: will the practice of our faith by our family be undermined by it (by bad example, false teaching, school culture which embraces the baser aspects of popular society in media and politics)? If the answer is yes, then other options must be seriously considered. If the answer is no then there may exist a framework which a faithful, practicing Catholic family can work with even if the teaching and practice of the faith are not displayed consistently and immediately as optimally vibrant and in its fullness. In some areas of the world the practice of the faith in and of itself suffers from a malaise which is beyond the control of faithful Catholics so that a vibrant faith is not typically encountered. If the authentic practice of the faith is seriously undermined, the practice of religion by the family contradicted, at a school, regardless of affiliation, then it is not worthy and will likely prove damaging to the health, well-being, character and the long-term academic accomplishment of the child.
    Would only note that Christian evangelical schools seem to be doing quite well, with more opening (not being closed) and these often display serious commitment to the faith as well as the instilling of leadership skills, character education and morality to allow students to contribute in a healthy and engaged way in the world. Students there are not shamed or made to feel embarrassed for openly practicing their religion, endeavoring to learn more about their faith or the broader issues of the day, or for making a mature commitment to try to practice it and grow in it.
    Homeschooling is of course a great option and works best when diocese is supportive of building authentic Catholic culture and embraces homeschoolers’ contributions to it. With commitment, even without that it can still work very well.

  38. everett says:

    One of the few benefits of the decline in catholic education has been a renewal in a number of organizations large and small that promote catholic home education. It has also sparked an increase in independent Catholic schools such as those accredited by NAPCIS, as mentioned above. While less than ideal how the need for these types of entities has arisen, it is a blessing that these options are available.

  39. biberin says:

    My kids attend the parish elementary school, which has no official cost for parishioners. That’s the only reason I can afford it! It’s always been a decent school, but bringing in a religious sister for principal, and a pastor who gets involved, the Catholic identity is being strengthened, and honestly, the non-Catholic families at school appreciate it! They see what kind of community it produces and they shell out big bucks to send their kids.

  40. TSmurf says:

    This is a “soapbox” issue for me. I’m part of the “administration” of a “catholic” high school in the South. However, I honestly don’t consider the school to be “Catholic.” (hence the small ‘c’) A public school with some basic class on comparative religion would be similar to us.

    I’m fortunate enough to have a graduate level background in theology. One thing that has struck me in my current position is that no one above me on the school’s food chain has more of an education in theology than I do. At most the rest have just 1-2 classes. So what sets them apart from the administrators of the public school or non-Catholic private school down the street? Absolutely nothing!

    That said, how can we expect “Catholic” schools be be truly “Catholic” when the people running them do not have any more of a theological background than the administrators down the street? It has been my personal experience that a key reason my school is not truly Catholic is because the Administrators do not even have a solid Catholic background.

    They laugh when I mention that I’ve been reading anything out of the Vatican. How sad is that?

    In addition, periodically throughout the year I write pieces that go in publications for parents. I make it a point to bring in Church teaching on the topic. However, every single time those lines seem to magically disappear between my computer and the publication. How can we have anything close to a Catholic identity when staff cannot communicate Church teaching to parents?

    I’ve been working in various Catholic schools for +5 years, and I can safely say it is getting harder to continue. It increasingly seems like the goal is to compete with other schools, at the expense of trying to be a solid Catholic school. At the same time, becoming less and less Catholic by the minute. It’s increasingly hard for me to justify staying in a Catholic school, when public schools follow some Church teachings better than the Catholic schools do.

    If our parents truly knew what was going on, I’m sure there would be riots.

    As for my kids…while they are not yet school age, I absolutely cannot allow them to go to a Catholic school because they are so poor and out of line with Church teaching. I think there are some great new organizations designed to support those of us who cannot send our children to Catholic schools.

  41. Ralph says:

    I have 5 children, three of whom are school age. They attend parochial school which is prk – 8th grade. It costs a family of 3 + students about $10,000 per year. (They cap the tuition for large families which is a blessing.) It is a sacrafice for us to send them, but the funds always seem to be available when we need to write the check, praise God.

    Why do we send them? It’s not for the education. Our school does have great education. The public schools where we live are not good. But, a few miles down the road they are excellent. Open enrollment is allowable, so we could get them into a great public school. There are charter schools in the area that are also quite good, one of which BASIS is often listed in national rankings as one of the best schools in the US. So we could get a great education for free.

    Our class sizes are about 26-30 children. The public schools max at 22-25. The charters are at 15-20. So it’s not the class size.

    Our school is 25 miles from our home. The public schools offer bus service that stops right in front of our house. So it’s not the convenience.

    Our school teaches religion each day. Our school recites the Rosary in class each day. Our school has a Mass with the children once a week. Our school has a cross in every room. Our school prays to open the day. When there is a pressing need in the community, the principal may break in on the intercom and pray with the students again. The public schools never mention religion, except perhaps in the context of social studies. The public schools may have a moment of scilence after the pledge in the morning. The public schools are careful to have no signs or symbols of religion, except perhaps during christmas if you count a christmas tree and a kwanza candle. This is why my children attend Catholic School.

    I want my children to be at a school that reenforces the teachings they get at home. I want a school that proclaims the Gospel openly. I want a school that teaches the children about Jesus. I want a school where the little children aren’t afraid to openly proclaim the Christian Faith for fear of teasing or worse. There is a time for defending your faith, but elementary school isn’t it.

    Our Catholic school is not perfect. It has some problems. But it’s the best choice we have in this difficult world. And we thank God that we have the resources to attend it.

  42. Ralph says:

    I should have said my wife and I have five children. I sure didn’t have them all by myself!

  43. Katherine says:

    We have homeschooled our children – 2 now in solidly Catholic colleges and the others hopefully will follow. We live in a small town with a few public elementary schools, one jr. high and one high school. It did not even cross our minds to send our kids to public school. We homeschool because there is no Catholic school in the area. If there were a good one we might think of sending our older children. I prefer keeping my children with me and teaching them when they are younger, but I definitely could see a benefit to having someone else take over when they are older. If money were no object, my ideal would be to have a few private tutors!
    I have relatives and friends who either head or teach in independent Catholic schools – schools not connected with any parish or diocese, usually started and run by parents. The challenge almost always is funding. Teachers, especially those with families, need to be paid a living wage. Young, single teachers don’t usually provide the stability (nor experience) that a school needs. Tuition naturally can’t cover the whole cost and a lot of stressful yearly fundraising has to be done. I’ve seen a lot of great good come from these schools despite the difficulties.

  44. My wife and I – each products of 12 years of Catholic schooling – decided early on that we were not sending any of our 5 kids to public school. I would frankly rather they were truant for 12 years than subjected to the tender ministrations of the graduates of our schools of ‘education’.

    Unfortunately, we also realized we couldn’t send them to the local Catholic schools, either. Even the one parent-lead school that strove for a real Catholic identity was still buying into the awesomely anti-Catholic notion of graded classroom instruction. How, exactly, does one promote the unity of the Body of Christ by dividing people – even little people – up into arbitrary buckets called ‘grades’? Grades are for lumber and eggs, not people.

    So, we joined a few other families and founded our own school, realizing that the Catholic part of their education had to take place at home. (As much as we’d like to pretend otherwise, that’s what is happening 99% of time no matter what kind of school we send our kids to. YOU raise your kids in the faith, or it is unlikely to happen)

    The results: all our kids go Mass with us, every Sunday, with no griping (except for the 6 year old – we expect him to get over it) and often join us for daily Mass. Our two oldest are in college now, and are showing every sign of becoming good Catholic adults. God’s work, not ours, for sure, but at least His grace helped us stay out of the way.

    So far, so good.

  45. cheekypinkgirl says:

    We live on one income, so paying for Catholic school of any type for our son is difficult. Still, in two years when he is done attending K3 and K4 at our local parish school, we will be making the ultimate sacrifice in the financial department – as well as a 45 minute commute each way – to get him into a wonderful charter Catholic school. (It’s Aquinas Academy in Menomonee Falls, WI, a suburb of Milwaukee.) Quite frankly, we are THRILLED that this Catholic school isn’t under the direct jurisdiction of the Milwaukee archdiocese and that it was started by former homeschool parents who believed that an authentic Catholic school was possible.

    The problem at our parish school is that while we have a fairly orthodox priest, he is not able to rid the school of non-Catholic teachers and the non-Catholic principal just because he might want to; there are laws, and besides, he feels that some of these teachers offer a better Christian testimony than some Catholics. Still, he has said that his dream is to get those nuns from Ann Arbor, MI, into our school to teach, but let’s face it, that’s a pipe dream. And with “term limits” of 12 years in the Milwaukee archdiocese parishes for priests, that’s a dream that he won’t be around to accomplish, even if he could. Ann Arbor can only pump out so many nuns so fast. That goes for everyone, everywhere, who want those nuns teaching – don’t we all!

    Be that as it may, at least where I live, another problem is that there are too many non-Catholic or watered-down Catholic kids attending the Catholic schools because the local public schools have an attrocious educational record, as well as being filled with violence due to inner-city issues. Thus, parents just want their kids in the Catholic schools to get them out of the public schools, which waters down the Catholic identity and agenda from the word go. We have about 7 or 8 Catholic parish-run schools in our town of 80,000 people and the best we can say about ours is that it’s the least of all evils simply because the parish priest doesn’t stand for nonsense and will generally honor and respect the requests of more orthodox-leaning parents if something becomes an issue.

    I wish everyone could visit Aquinas Academy and see what a “real” Catholic school looks like. Quite frankly, the fact of this school is what will be freeing us from homeschooling, for which I am grateful. When my son gets there, he will be taught by teachers who are truly practising Catholics (many having graduated from schools like Steubenville and Christendom), and joined by other students who all come from authentic Catholic homes. Everyone is on the same page.

  46. rakesvines says:

    — I enrolled my son to a Catholic school this year. He’s in 6th grade.

    Why did you choose what you chose? — To shelter him from bad influences and protect his innocence thus assisting him in his Christian life specially during his tender years.

    What the “Catholic identity” issue a factor? — Yes. There is a Christian school across the street from our home but we still choose the Catholic school because of soundness of doctrine and practice.

    What needs to be done? — It would be helpful if the voucher program is promoted at our state.

    FYI, here’s a video about the nuns who support abortion and Obamacare.

  47. Nathan says:

    In our experience, the Catholic identity part of parochial schools has been the matter of tremendous stress for pastors, administrators, and teachers. Like many of those posting here, we live in the Diocese of Arlington. Years ago, when I chatted with my pastor about my concerns with boys in the school not having any inkling of charity, which seemed to me abetted by the administration at the time, he told me that there was a big conflict between faithful priests and educators and some parents (on one side) with the parents who saw a Catholic school as an “inexpensive private school” (on the other).

    I’ve seen that battle first-hand now for nine or so years. The priests and principal and teachers use the Ignatius Press religion series, take the school to Adoration, pray well, and all in all make a good faith effort to teach Catholic identity. Their reward is endless complaint and bickering (and actual threats of lawsuits) from parents because their little darlings are being taught to question the parents’ priorities about the world and the role of their religion in it.

    My daughter’s favorite teacher came under tremendous pressure to quit from parents (and she left) because “she spent too much time on religion–” every day my daughter came home and would shout “WE PRAYED THE ROSARY.” At a recent parent meeting for Confirmation candidates, a number of parents obnoxiously threatened both a priest and the religious education director because of a requirment for the children to verify that they had been to Sunday Mass by a five minute writeup of where they went, who celebrated, and what was the topic of the homily. Parents (room parents) will organize junior high social events away from the school so that they can expose the children to the most offensive popular music and rap without having to worry about those pesky teachers and administrators. I admire my parish priests and school staff for doing what they do in light of the abuse they receive daily from the school parents.

    I may not agree with everything my parish school does (and it turned out not to be right, for other reasons, for some of my children), but as far as Catholic culture goes, any teacher, principal, or pastor who tries it in our current cultural environment is going to earn a dry martyrdom.

    In Christ,

  48. o.h. says:

    Simply, we had a child profoundly mathematically gifted, and the parish school could offer her no more appropriate education than the local public school. We had no choice but to homeschool, and thus living on one income there was no possibility of affording the parish school for the other children.

  49. Randii says:

    To be sure I live in very progressive diocese. T

    Yesterday a co-worker told us she had removed her son from a parochial school and put him into a public school. The Catholic school was very progressive and this person is very religious. Though she seems to be moving towards converting to evangelical Christianity.

    She is Fillipino and also told us that the school she removed her son from is rumored to be closing next year.

    At a time when locally there is population growth from immigration and a mini-baby boom, public schools are crammed to the rafters, Christian schools are opening – my co-worker hopes if the parochial school closes the property will be sold to a Christian group – Catholic school are closing here.

    BTW, I know of several Catholic families who have enrolled their kids into Christian schools because the local ones are good academically and they fell more confident their kids will keep their Christian faith in a Chrisitan school than in a Catholic school.

  50. Sister H. says:

    So many comments to which I’d like to respond, but so little time!
    I MUST respond to this:
    “traditionalorganist says: Well, I think having nuns teach is a good start. And the nuns should not charge a salary for their work. Their apostolate should be teaching, and not doing so for a price on top of what is necessary. When nuns become “professionals,” they aren’t serving.

    Secondly, I’ve heard that in the past in some places, if you belonged to a parish with a school, you didn’t pay to attend that school. Somehow, that school was able to run. If a parish has a stake in the education of their children, they will make it run. When the diocese and the government get too involved, things crumble. I guess the point is, we don’t need to spend millions upon millions of dollars to educate properly.”

    If the nuns don’t charge a salary, how will we survive? We have to have food, shelter, transportation, medicine, and healthcare just like every other person. We pay our own way in society, nobody pays for us. Having said that, I would LOVE to see more Sisters in the classroom, but we have to have our basic needs met. I certainly know that I & the Sisters in my local convent are NOT making lots of money…around $20,000. We also pay rent (X dollars PER PERSON per month)to live in the parish convent. So many people are under the false notion that the parish & their weekly contributions “support the nuns” & that we get free rent, etc. – UNTRUE. Later, you mention “not charging more than what is necessary” – I believe that is what we are doing (at least the Sisters in my house). We would be more than willing to teach for free IF our rent, food, medicine, & healthcare were paid for…we could not survive otherwise.

    Next, I consider myself “professional” – I have a good education- all because I want to be the best I can be for Christ, & for my students…they & the parents & grandparents paying for their education DESERVE IT! Besides, I’ve never met anyone who says they wish their Priests & Sisters were uneducated…you rely on us to be educated professionals, and that is, indeed, necessary.

    In regards to the parish schools where student parish members attend for free, there is usually a system in place to allow for this. At my local parish, to get free tuition, you must tithe to the parish…for most folks, this would amount to more than the tuition would cost. I know that the old pastor let children attend for free without tithing…he and the nuns who ran the school worked their toes off to raise enough money to keep the place going…this practice stopped when the post-vatican II era trained priests came into the picture. They certainly were not going to pour every moment of theirs lives into work – they had to have days off, plus MANY paid lay people to do all of the things that the parish priest used to do. Now, the average family can’t afford to send their children to the average parish school.

    Sadly, today it seems that the schools run by the Orders of teaching Sisters are VERY expensive, even more than the parish school. And the Diocesan high school in our town…you can’t touch it for less than $9,000. My family could never afford to send their children to most Catholic schools.

    A few of us Sisters constantly speak out on the need to make our parish schools affordable for families. So, guess what they do? Hire a bunch more lay people, not hire qualified Sisters for substantially less salary, lower the nuns’ pay, and then raise tution a bit more. What is wrong with this picture? It seems that the “lay power” movement is contributing to the demise of our schools as much as anything.

    Please don’t always blame the nuns.

  51. Paulo says:

    I will start my contribution to the thread by stating that my brothers and I, and some uncles and great uncles before us, attended the Marist school in my hometown in Brazil, from elementary to high school. For some of the same reasons stated in the CNA’s story (low enrolment due to a perceived lack of “value-added”; lack of money), the school was closed in 2009, after 105 years in town.
    Now, since I have been living in various parts of North America for the past 19 years and have settled in the Metro Vancouver area, where my wife and I raise our family, I will answer the questions from a Canadian perspective, and very briefly:
    (1) We chose to send the kids to a French-language public school. The main factors were the education in French, which is an asset in Canada, and, of course, the cost. Their religious and moral education is done both at the parish school (catechism) and at home. (2) At the time we made the decision to enrol the children in the public system, we were definitely aware that it would be up to us, the parents and godparents, to ensure that the kids grow-up with a sense of their Catholic identity. (3) The rise of the “politically correct”; the exponentially-growing rate of secularization of Western society; and an Orwellian change of the perceived meaning of the word “tolerance” (from “I will put up with your stuff, but I don’t have to like it” to “You do your stuff and I will look the other way, pretending I don’t see it”) are the main evils to be fought: they have eroded the prevailing Christian characteristics of Western society, and a lesser preference for a Catholic education is just another side of their effects.

  52. Sister H. says:

    Catholic identity! Absolutely! I’ve left Catholic schools (as a teacher) because two staff members (myself included) had to beg, plead, argue, etc. just to try to get the religion department to teach what is actually Catholic teaching.

    I’m now at a school where we have daily Mass (we have Jesuits, Augustinians, Legion of Christ, and a few diocesan priests without parish schools…sometimes we have to go a few hours away to find a priest, but, thanks be to God, they’ve always come through! These are some of the good ones…some are even in their upper 80s…God bless them!). We also have daily prayers before & after Mass. I have prayer at the beginning and end of each class. We have weekly adoration, monthly Benediction, Catholic devotions…we definitely earn the big “C” for Catholic identity. We are by no means perfect, but I certainly wish we could export the Catholic identity, daily Mass, etc. to all of our local Catholic schools. We also have the lowest tution in the diocese!

    I think parents, Sisters, Priests, and as many people as possible need to band together & INSIST that their Catholic schools once again become truly & unapologetically Catholic! Get rid of the wishy-washy “Jesus loves you, let’s make a collage and blow kisses” religion books (how on earth does this stuff ever get approved? Yusk!). Get rid of the nonsense that tries to teach your children to become good Buddhists and New Agers (indeed, these “approved” text books are actually out there (in more ways than one!). Demand that good, solidly Catholic people be hired from the top down. Let’s take back our schools and our Faith! God is waiting for us to do so.

  53. ckdexterhaven says:

    Homeschool Mom here. When I first moved to this area, the closest Catholic elementary school was in a parish where the priest, how do I say this? Well, he had issues, and seemed to have hostility toward traditional minded (not TRADS) Catholics. The principal he hired was a Baptist. Now, the priest of the parish is a gift from God. This priest is a young(ish) guy, but he’s old school. Think Spencer Tracy or Bing Crosby in Bells of St. Mary’s. A lot of non Catholics and parishioners left the school b/c it became “too Catholic.” The only reason I don’t send my kids there is b/c it’s not rigorous enough. I want my kids to have an education that the Jesuits used to give! In today’s world, I don’t know if parents today can handle the discipline that would be required of their kids.

    This diocese has a large high school that is known for partying and drugs. I think a lot of wealthy parents send their kids there hoping that something will rub off by osmosis? And I’m not impressed with the priest at this high school. I’ve been at a Mass at the Cathedral in DC, and he was openly yawning during the consecration, I’ve seen him do that at another Mass that was being concelebrated. He’s a young guy, so maybe that’s why the school has him there?

  54. Sister H. says:

    To cblanch – depending on which direction a couple of hours you are from Ann Arbor, I know of some excellent schools. If you feel comfortable in doing so, let me know what town you are in and I may be able to give you a few suggestions (even affordable ones!). God bless!

  55. kat says:

    My aunt (RIP) was a Sister of St. Joseph out of Kalamazoo, MI “back in the day” . My parents were educated by the Sisters; Mom went to schools run by the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, MI. My aunt told me that the way it was back then, many girls actually entered the order at a young age; some even finished high school in the novitiate. They then would begin working in the classrooms, and going to college and getting their teaching education in the summer (and maybe night school?). So as they progressed through the novitiate and their education classes, they were getting hands-on training in the classroom. The Motherhouse took care of the Sisters’ needs; the parish supplied for those who lived and worked in their parishes/schools. Thus the Sisters did not need a salary, and the schools were cheaper.

    Could it be because the Convents and Motherhouses are more empty, and there are not enough Sisters anymore, that that is the reason for the life of today’s Sisters, and their need for salaries and paying their own way? What a shame.

    But it’s a vicious circle too, isn’t it? Without good Catholic schools, it’s hard to get vocations to the religious life. Without good Religious, it’s hard to have good Catholic schools : (

  56. cothrige says:

    We live in a parish with a school, but it is so expensive (no difference between being a parishioner or not) that we cannot consider it. I think we just need to face reality. Working class families are very unlikely to be able to afford to send their children to very pricey private schools, and that is what Catholic schools are.

  57. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    I would never send my children to school in the archdiocese of Boston. The erosion of Catholic values in these schools is virtually complete. Recently, the chancery issued a directive that no child can be discriminated against. Sounds good and holy, but… There’s a long and troubling history there. Last year a pastor got into trouble for suggesting to two lesbians (who immediately notified the Boston Globe!) that his parish school might not be a good fit for a family ostentatiously defying basic Church teachings. For that he was virtually hung out to dry. Two articles give background:
    [I don’t like looooooong urls. Please post short/tiny urls or embed them. Thanks. PS… this is aimed at everyone.]

  58. Katherine says:

    All my children to Catholic school including university. We need to do more to support Catholic education.

  59. michael-can says:

    Sister H, I know your pain, I grew up in missionary school with the Irish Millhill Brothers, Catholic to the bone, some months ago, I help a group of Franciscan Missionary Sister move, why? because the house in which they had been living was given by a parishioner 40years ago be, is going to be exchange for a parcel of land by the local bishop, they now have to find a home by themselves ( no support by the Diocese) tears was in their eyes, one sister told me that the good soul that gave this place for them would be turning in her grave!!!
    My wife and I cry because our two children was brought up in Catholic school and both had loss their faith, at first we could not understand, both of us were missionary school product, our parent trusted the Catholic school, so as we believe that we have no issues what so ever sending of two children, many warning red flag, but we were too busy as new immigrant to Canada, such as the Virgin Mary was not who the Church said, the Holy Scripture were the writing of men, we were too simple and too trusting, we thought that the religious teacher would set them right, not until we found out that all those misleading poison came from the religious teacher and not one but many. Here I want to tell my story, Fr. Z, how could we ever trust our Church, how could we trust our own Churchmen, how could we trust our Catholic school, yes my good priest told me that true faith begin at home, but step into our shoe please, as immigrant 23 years ago, our life were up side down, trying to put life together were indeed purgatory by itself, educating ourself, while working and put food on the table and same time teaching our children at night was of great exhaustion, at that point we trust the Catholic school without any doubt, and sorry today we think they are a bunch of protestant living in catholic skin, somebody should unmasked those wolf, most religious teacher are divocee, some marry as many as four time. Today we just pray daily for their salvation, that is our last hope, our children we love so dearly had completely loss their faith, we pray the rosary together at night when they we young, I just hope that faith will return, as far as I am concern, our Catholic Church is ruin, get worst by the day, I called it PETER HAS LOST HIS KEY, PAUL WHERE ARE YOU! WE NEED YOU PLEASE COME QUICKLY, THIS CHURCH HAS LOSS IT IDENTITY. Are we protestant or are we full of protestantism, the best word I could think of exclusively DIABOLIC DISORIENTATION!!!!!!!

  60. Supertradmum says:

    One thing which has not been mentioned in this excellent discussion, and I am one commentator who reads all the comments, is the fact that for the vast majority of Americans, education is not a priority. This culture has been anti-intellectual since prairie days and remains so. Except for the many good people on this blog who value education, the many in the pew do not really want academics, but babysitting, after day care, cheap fees, and no homework. I remember one Catholic school which stopped sending home work because the parents complained that the children had too many extra-curricular activities in the evening. What they really meant was that sports activities were more important than academics.

    I have found that anti-intellectualism in our trad community when another mother and I wanted to start up a home schooling help school, teach Latin, and other good things, but no one was interested. I live in the Midwest, and grew up here. I grew up in a very intellectual family, where ideas were discussed. This habit went back centuries, as even my great-grandfather had a doctorate in Theology. With four generations of PhDs, it is easier to stress academics, than in some families were books and studies do not matter. But, Catholics have a fantastic religion, based on Faith and Reason.

    It seems here that the majority of parents here are absolutely wonderful and I would love to have had their children in my classes. God bless you all, whether you are sacrificing to send children to expensive schools, or home schooling. God bless.

  61. Supertradmum says:

    where not were. I think I need new glasses and to clean my laptop, as I spilled juice over the keyboard.

  62. Tantum Ergo says:

    Well, 10 yrs. ago we TRIED to send our kids to Catholic school; then the Sex Ed hit us in the face. the Bengenzer books were used, starting in 3rd grade with a wishy-washy definition of what makes up a “family.” (In 5th grade, there were graphic entries in the Benzenger books.) We elected that our son “opt out,” and he was treated like a leper (they wouldn’t even let him pray his Rosary while he was waiting for class to be over. We played nice and discussed the matter with the principal and the pastor, but we were told “You’re the ONLY ones who have complained (not true.) To make a long story short, we homeschooled our four kids (Seton) and I assure you, there is no question now of their Catholic identity.

  63. CMCath says:

    My child is almost 5 and enters Kindergarten in September. My wife and I debated the issue quite a bit. First, we were not going to send our child(ren) to the regular public school. Any school that pretends God doesn’t exist, or pulls the old separation of Church and State deal, is not an education, or rather, it teaches our children that we can ignore God sometimes (like whenever we’re not in church). So this narrowed it down to our church school, homeschool, or a charter school. Our church school is a good one for the most part, but a bit of a drive (45 minutes). There is some influence from popular culture, but the doctrine is sound. Mind you my church is an independent chapel not associated with the diocese. Of course, if it was, it would be worse than the public schools because there would be non-sense in it as opposed to just ignoring God. And this is not said lightly. The Catholic school system is in utter chaos, and the good schools are few and far between. (And I imagine that most of the good ones are not completely good in every class with every teacher.) We ultimately chose homeschooling through a public charter school. This was chosen because we had the freedom of homeschooling with the funds from the charter school. It also doesn’t require us to keep God out of our curriculum (just don’t by religious books!). We are testing the waters and may switch to plain homeschooling or our church school. Time will tell.
    As for “Catholic identity”, I would say yes. Yes! If it ain’t Catholic, it isn’t education in my opinion because there is some blind spot in the teaching. Some people can compensate for that, but it is a deficient curriculum.
    What needs to be done? The Church needs to end this absurd and destructive détente with the world before we are faced with having to flee under the boot of the Antichrist. God help us!

  64. AnAmericanMother says:

    Well, we were Episcopalian then — but we did send the kids to an Episcopal school (our parish school) for elementary and middle school. High school they went all sorts of different ways because of the kids’ individual needs.

    We did see the whole traditional/’contemporary’ Catholic thing play out in our neighborhood, from the sidelines. A group of parents (including some of our neighbors) felt that the local Catholic elementary school was getting “too reactionary”. There was a lot of hoorah, including several lawsuits, and a bunch of parents left and started a “nondenominational Christian school” — which seems to be what they wanted all along. The Catholic school is doing very well, it now goes through high school and has won a number of awards. It is, however, mind-bogglingly expensive – although not as pricey as the top flight private prep schools here.

  65. Jenna says:

    Here in the Garden State, my annual property taxes are 20k per year. Add 1500 to your mortgage every month, and you can understand why very few middle and upper middle class New Jerseyans send their children to Catholic elementary schools (which average 3500 per year per child). We had two children in our parish school for a few years but it didn’t seem worth it. When Catholic schools are not an option, or only an option for Wall Street banker’s children, the parish CCD program improves. I take offense to those who trash CCD teachers here. I must be the best Catholic I can be in my world, which includes being a CCD teacher and being involved in the public school. This is where God has put me.

  66. cblanch says:

    @Sister H: I live in Northwest Ohio about an hour south of Toledo. My email address is Thank you.

  67. Sister H. says:

    Kat – I absolutely LOVE the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth!! They were the BEST! Who was your Aunt?

  68. momoften says:

    I initially chose the local Catholic School. After years of fighting with them over their religious curriculum, I left. It wasn’t Catholic, and it still isn’t…just private. They were not teaching religion basics or even improving the curriculum in religion. It wasn’t that I didn’t try. I talked to administration, and even was able to get on the school board to try to bring some ideas. The one idea I had was to test the religion curriculum…they hated it, the priests hated it…everyone hated it, until they found a test that just tested attitudes and behaviors -NOTHING of core Catholic Beliefs. I was disappointed. Eventually I pulled some of the younger students and homeschooled them. The older ones went to public schools. I will NEVER send any to the public schools again…it is a disaster morally and THE PARENTAL APATHY….grrrr. I have come to the conclusion that in the case of our local catholic schools…we have a lot of lay people that have poor religious education/as well as religious practices themselves that are teaching it- that the major benefactors of the schools think their children have a GREAT religious education and they have GREAT influence on what is going on. The administration still has no clue on what their students don’t or should know. I would STILL like to see a standardized test come out of the Bishops conferences to measure basic facts and review them and review curriculums that are not working…The apathy of parents and priests MUST change. Have you noticed in the years since Vatican II there has only been one ok Religion Book Series, Faith and Life that has been published? (personally I don’t care for the book,I use an older book…) What does that tell us? Our kids need more than fluff taught, or they will have a difficult time being a good Catholic.

  69. kiwitrad says:

    It’s even worse here in NZ. I taught in a Catholic school for 25 years. Of the 21 teachers only 4 of us were practising Catholics. Several were ‘lapsed’ Catholics and the several more were non -practising ‘other denominations’ and at least 5 were not Christian at all. One was actively anti Catholic, in fact antiChristian.
    Only small minority of the families were practising Catholics. As I was in charge of the First Communion programme I knew that the large percentage of the First Communicants would never go to Mass again after they had made their first Communion. One ‘Catholic’ mother approached me and said she wanted her daughter to “Do that thing where they wear a white dress and veil at Church”!
    She was allowed to! My principal (a nun) told me the child was baptised so we couldn’t stop her making her making her FHC.
    The Catholics schools here are a wilderness. Catholic Identity. What’s that?

  70. benedetta says:

    It is interesting how similar our experiences have been. Perhaps the answer to renewing Catholic culture and identity is not best addressed at this particular moment in history at the level of school but is rather a more pressing work best accomplished through the domestic Church, regardless of whether our children are being educated in school or not.

  71. pop says:

    Oh that every parish had a school and that every child in those parishes attended that school, wouldn’t all be grand?
    Schools are a very expensive proposition and as such, they take a very significant part of the parish budget. In so many cases it is only a fraction of the children of a given parish that attend the school. Cost and seating capacity are two reasons why only a fraction of the children attend.
    Because of the budgeted amount dedicated toward the school, often there is very little left over for other catholic issues.
    One of the impacted issue is CCD. For the most part, the majority of children receive their catholic education via the parish CCD staffed by, for the most part, volunteers. CCD has in so many places become a free 45 minute baby sitting. Confirmation usually signals the graduation from CCD!
    For the sake of a figure let me say that I am aghast that 90% of the parish resources go for 10% of the children of a given parish.
    As far as I am concerned it is high time we place the education, and the passing on of tradition of the catholic faith as a high priority. We should establish centers where all our children will learn catholic thought, catholic morals, decision making skills and so on and so on. These centers will be staffed by properly trained and certified teachers who will receive compensation in line with catholic moral teaching. Although I suppose we can not mandate attendance, parents should be encouraged to send their children to these facilities. Unless of course little league, dance classes, band practice, scouts and so forth take up all their time ?

    Unless and until we take education in the faith as a priority, it will not be a priority!
    10% of our children go to catholic schools…… 90% get the crumbs

  72. Katherine says:

    Supertradmum, you hit the nail on the head. On the whole education is not valued in the US. I’ve seen some situations where parents were behind on tuition paymetns, yet bought a big new truck, remodeled the house, bought expensive tickets to a sporting event or went on an expensive vacation. Education, especially if it calls for sacrifice, is not as important as other things. It really frosts me when I hear people saying teachers (whether religious or lay) should work for peanuts because teaching is an apostolate. What they really mean is “it’s not that important.” They never say that about their doctors. Isn’t the soul more important than the body?

  73. GregH says:

    Sorry but Fairfax County public schools are the best on the face of the earth. No Catholic school can compare and why would I want to pay $10,000 a year for John Paul the Great high school? Not so great. Plus, how are we supposed to have a large family and afford that ridiculous sum of money for just one child? Hey Bishop Loverde, can you include me in your Bishop’s Lenten Appeal? I need some dough brother!

  74. We homeschool our children until High School, at which point they can decide whether to continue homeschooling or attend the local public high school. I have one boy in the local public high school where he is excelling both academically and socially, and no he has not lost the faith. In fact, he introduced his whole freshman history class to the Traditional Latin Mass by doing a project and in class presentation. Now, would he have been able to do a project and in class presentation on the Traditional Latin Mass at the average Catholic high school? He probably could if he wouldn’t mind being failed for it.

    The Catholic High Schools in this area are out of the question. It is hard enough to teach children the faith. That shouldn’t have to be exacerbated by having to counter what is being presented as “Catholic” by people who claim to teach for the Church, but in reality they often teach things that are completely at odds with the Catholic faith.

    If some teacher at the public high school tells my son that Our Blessed Lord committed sin, he already is suspect of the source. However, when a teacher at a Catholic school told my daughter the exact same thing, it was hard to explain to her and the rest of the kids how some “Catholics” are anything but. That episode actually did happen, and for our family it was the last straw. Parochial Catholic education is dead in the water.

    This is a shame because homeschooling is far from the Catholic ideal. Catholic education needs to be done both in the home and outside the home, at institutions erected for that purpose. Today devote and faithful Catholics are forced to homeschool their children or send them to public schools to avoid the nonsense in our parochial schools.

  75. Papabile says:

    For the sake of a figure let me say that I am aghast that 90% of the parish resources go for 10% of the children of a given parish.

    When the Priests, parishes and laypeople begin to believe there is a future, then there will be an increase in attendance. Functionally, most parishes have a contraceptive mindset in the sense they have no faith that there is a future and refuse to transmit that which they have received and to educate for the future.

  76. Papabile says:

    Hey Bishop Loverde, can you include me in your Bishop’s Lenten Appeal? I need some dough brother!

    My favorite part about the lenten appeal for Arlington is that it’s a 10 month long appeal, totally disconnected from Lent, and education.

  77. skellmeyer says:

    I wrote a whole book on this subject – Designed To Fail: Catholic Education in America ( It traces the course of Catholic education from the Ascension to today, just to give a little context to the current situation.

    All of the problems listed above are documented in the book – I have e-mail transcripts every three or four pages from various parents around the country who remark on all of the above, plus some other problems.

    I’ve worked in parish schools, parish DRE programs, chancery offices. Everyone thinks the problem is recent, but it isn’t. The problem goes back to industrialization.

    By the mid-1850’s, events in Europe had started running the Catholic education system throughout Europe and the US off the track. By the time Vatican I got called, many bishops throughout the industrialized world had a distinctly WRONG impression of the duties of parents in regards to education of their own children. Indeed, I strongly suspect God allowed Vatican I to get pro-rogued precisely BECAUSE that council was originally called to treat on marriage and the duties of parents, and the Fathers of the Council were on the cusp of getting it wrong.

    In any case, bringing the nuns back – even if they could do it for free (and they can’t) – won’t help. It isn’t the missing nuns that is the problem.

    The problem is not Catholic identity either.
    The loss of Catholic identity is a fruit, a symptom, not a cause.

    The cause is the failure to implement subsidiarity in the Catholic parochial school system. The Catholic school system is collapsing and home schooling is mushrooming because parents are taking up the tasks that subsidiarity requires of them. They are doing this DESPITE the pastors, not because of them.

    I don’t mean to argue that all Catholic parents have to homeschool. That isn’t true.
    But the book DOES lay out what is missing in the current situation.
    Until the missing subsidiarity elements are supplied, the schools cannot be saved.

  78. MissOH says:

    I live on the other side of the Potomac from the posters from the Arlington diocese, but it has crossed my mind to make the trip to the small independent big-C Catholic school that is in VA.
    My son went to a catholic school in the mid-west and being a convert, I did not realize that just because a school says it is Catholic that means it is really teaching the faith. There was a small independent school that I considered, but they did not have a kindergarten which meant my son would have gone to one school for kindergarten then would have changed schools. Had I known then what I know now I would have made the change.

    I do have to work full time unfortunately, so home schooling is not an option. Our daughter is at a Catholic pre-k and there are some aspects I like and they do emphasize many aspects of a Catholic identity (prayer lead by the 8th graders over the intercom every day, mass once a week. the school grew out of the charismatic renewal so the masses are exactly the opposite of the TLM we attend Sundays. The dress code indicates skirts are to be knee length which is routinely ignored by the older girls. After I saw a skirt embarrasingly short on one of the older girls I spoke with the principal and was told they were just glad that they did not have any students sneaking off campus to smoke or drink. During my tour I spoke with the teacher who teaches art and music and asked him about the songs he teaches for mass and if they learn chant and I was told he did not teach chant or Latin as it it was too hard for children to learn (um, Ward method?)

    I do need to see what texts they use for religion, but there is an independent school that would be about an hour drive in the opposite direction of my office, but they have daily TLM masses and pray the rosary every day in addition to being the only Catholic school I have found anywhere near me that teaches based on the classical trivuum. I am praying that the Ann Arbor sisters are able to open a school in this area or can start teaching at a school on our side of the Potomac since they are trying to move into what is now the JPII Cultural Center.

  79. Tony Layne says:

    For reasons I don’t want to get into now, I was pulled out of my parish’s school halfway through fourth grade and put into a Montessori-like private school. Other than my freshman year at a Jesuit-run high school (“Danger, danger, Will Robinson!”), the rest of my “formation” was through CCD. In the mid-’70s. I saw first-hand many of the problems already mentioned here; the vast bulk of what I know now about my faith—and I still don’t know enough—I learned in the last 8-1/2 years.

    I’ve been reading and hearing anecdotal evidence throughout the Catholic blogosphere that there are signs of slow-but-sure improvement, much of it through grass-roots efforts of the laity and much through the priests ordained in the last few years. Our bishops are beginning to show more backbone, taken as a whole; nevertheless, I believe they need some nudzhing from the laity in this area, because a lot of the focus is on “catholic” colleges and universities rather than on the “catholic” parochial and high schools that are supposed to feed them students.

    Catholic identity is a MUST! About three months ago I posted a rant on recapturing the Catholic “brand”. In part: “As distressing as it is for me to sully the argument with profane marketing terms, it comes down to a matter of defining and preserving the Catholic ‘brand’. … We’re now just beginning to see that orthodox, traditional Catholicism has an intrinsic appeal, especially as other Christian denominations begin to slide, along with the rest of Western civilization, into the stifling tar pit of relativism, subjectivism and materialism. Paradoxically, Catholicism rebels against the rebellion by affirming the goodness of family, community and willing submission to authority even while it maintains the intrinsic dignity of the individual human; its adherence and bold proclamation that there are eternal truths pull human attention toward it. The truer the Church remains to its tradition and beliefs, the more effective it is as a sign of contradiction. Whoever thinks that the Catholic Church must become more like the world outside it to become more attractive is precisely wrong, and pushing a ‘marketing campaign’ destined to fail.”

    The sisters used to say, “Give us your children and they will be ours forever.” McDonalds built a world-wide empire by targeting children as their main marketing tool. If we’re going to rebuild the Church “brick by brick”, the foundations have to be in the formation of our children. Without doubting the value of homeschooling in the least, I still believe we have to reconstruct the parochial school.

  80. Leonius says:

    There is no reason why several homeschooling families in one parish couldn’t eventually join together and start a school, personally I belive that is were the future of Catholic education is going to come from.

    Many of the current schools are unsalvageable imo because they are simply to big compared to the number of children from families who hold and live the Catholic faith.

  81. kat says:

    Sister H. says:
    18 January 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Kat – I absolutely LOVE the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth!! They were the BEST! Who was your Aunt?

    Sister H, my aunt was Sister Odilla Tschirhart. She died in 1997. I loved her too! Wish I could’ve heard lots more stories from her!

  82. Lillian says:

    We have had our children in an academic blue ribbon school (there was no Catholic school), until we moved, then a Catholic school. Within 18 mo. we pulled both children out and I gave up my practice to homeschool.

    In my humble opinion, schools should provide the basic tools to read, write, mathematics, history, science, literature, but above all, they should assist children in learning to think critically. A Catholic school should do this in a Catholic envirnment, incorporating all with a true Catholic perspective, and catechetical teachings. Unfortunately, this is a very rare thing these days. Too many parents have become detached from their children’s education and many from their children in general. We, as a society, have forgotten that the Catholic schools are not responsible for the education of our children nor for the lack of our Catholic identity. We are.

    We have the duty, and by the grace of God, the ability to pass on the deposit of the faith to our children, to create a Catholic identity in our homes. We can put holy water fonts by doors, pictures and statues of holy things, celebrate the traditional feasts, even if the local parish does not. We can and should teach our children not only the faith but to think and make decisions based upon what we believe God’s will is, not our own. We should pray together, practice small penances, teach and practice virtue, and raise our children as if each and every child is called to religious life. Then let God take it from there….

    Homeschooling is not the soluton for everyone, nor is a Catholic school (given the current state), a public school, or a private academic school. We must do the best we can with all that we have been given and according to our circumstances. However, we all can work towards establishing a firm Catholic identity in our homes, hopefully it will remain and continue on with our children.

  83. Jenna says:

    I read your book a few years ago and I found it intriguing and spot on in it’s assessment of the Catholic school system in the U.S. Can you elaborate on the principle of subsidiarity?

  84. Why did you choose what you chose?

    We chose to homeschool for the simple reason that we are sure we will provide a more complete education than our children would get in either public or private schools. As parents, it’s our duty to see to the education of our children, not just in mundane things but also the Catholic faith. We didn’t see that happening at either the public schools or the nearest Catholic schools.

    What the “Catholic identity” issue a factor?

    Definitely. My wife and her siblings had attended the schools we would have sent our kids to (private), and their experience wasn’t very impressive. Of the 5, only my wife still practices the faith. Formation was severely lacking, and the schools seemed to be little more than private schools loosely associated with the Church, not Catholic schools.

    With no real Catholic identity to the “catholic” schools, we chose to homeschool, where we get to integrate Catholicism into every facet of their education. Spelling words include “tabernacle”, story problems relate to the faith (circle the verbs: “Johnny hears the Church bell ringing. It is time for Mass! He stops playing and runs to Church. Mass is much better than pretending to be a boat captain.”), and so forth.

    What needs to be done?

    It’s actually getting better here. Talking with several people involved with the schools, it’s clear that the Archdiocese is focused on bringing the Catholic identity back to the schools. I’m delighted to hear that they are promoting frequent utilization of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, for example. That needs to continue, along with an even more firm grounding in the roots of our faith.

    Additional things that would help:
    1. Parents. This is key. My wife’s family is mostly fallen-away in part because her parents left education in the Catholic faith to the school (and that catechesis was seriously lacking in the 80s), and didn’t get involved beyond what was required (the school requires that parents basically have “service hours”). Parents need to be deeply involved in their children’s education, no matter where that education takes place. They also need to live their faith, not only for their own salvation but as the primary role models for their children.
    2. Preferential admission for parishioners first, other Catholics second. It’s hard when less than half of the students in the Catholic school are actually Catholic. Where is the Catholic identity when most of the student body isn’t Catholic?
    3. Catholic educators who are faithful to the teachings of the Church. We teach what we believe. This doesn’t mean that those who have sinned can’t teach, but those in open opposition to the clear teachings of the Church should not continue in their role as educator at a Catholic school. Again, where is the Catholic identity when the teachers aren’t Catholic?
    4. Daily Mass. When my father was in school the classes were on an alternating schedule for going to daily Mass, so that each grade went at least twice a week (for logistic reasons, they couldn’t all fit in the chapel). It doesn’t take long, and makes the right worship of God a part of their everyday schedule. It stresses the importance of Mass and focuses the children on God.
    5. Real discipline, with parental support. Follow the rules or face the consequences. Parents need to support the schools in this, and not fight against any suggestion that Little Johnny might have done something wrong.
    6. Fail students who need to be failed. Too often kids are just passed up the grades, and they learn that it doesn’t really matter if they do the work or not.
    7. Clerical/Religious involvement. Priests, deacons, nuns, brothers…they need to be present and available to the kids, and clearly identifiable.
    8. Prayer. Fasting.
    9. Teach the Faith. Not just what we believe, that’s fairly simple and the basics can be covered by the Nicene Creed. Actually teach WHY we believe it, WHY the Catholic Church teaches what it does. One complaint from my parents about their education is that they were taught the right answers (Q: “Why did God make us?” A: “God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in heaven.”) but they were never taught a full and deep understanding of the words. Getting back to something like the Baltimore Catechism (which we use with our kids) is a good start (the question/answer format is good for the kids), but it’s only a start.
    10. Respect for authority. Parents need to respect the authorities at the school, not bad mouth them. The children will follow suit either way. Students need to respect the authorities at the school. And the authorities need to demand/require/deserve respect. That means they need to present themselves as authority figures, not as “pals”. Father Buddy frequently doesn’t inspire a high level of respect. (Some priests can pull off “call me Fr. Ben” while maintaining their position of authority, but many can’t.) Same goes for staff…Mr. Coach, Mrs. Counselor, Sr. Teacher, Fr. Principal, not Tom, Mary, Jane, and Fred.

  85. Papabile says:

    MissOH says:
    19 January 2011 at 12:19 am
    I live on the other side of the Potomac from the posters from the Arlington diocese, but it has crossed my mind to make the trip to the small independent big-C Catholic school that is in VA.

    There are actually more than a couple out there in Virginia. My kids attend Holy Family Academy in Manassas ( The school is an absolute joy and it’s K-High School, though the High School classes are smaller.

    Seton School in Manassas ( is also another independent Catholic school that’s fairly good…..

    Then, of course, there are the Opus schools…..

  86. Liz says:

    We had our kids in a good Catholic school and it was actually affordable. We pulled them out and decided to homeschool (which is not for everyone, I agree. A lot of days I think it’s not for me either, but that’s just the devil. Nevertheless, it really is not possible for everyone.) I think what I find really hard is fighting the culture. You can have the best school with like-minded faculty, good and holy priests etc. and when other children come in from rough situations it drags everyone down. And what do you do about this? I am not sure. Pray hard, I guess.
    Sr. H., I very much appreciate the good teaching sisters. Thanks you! (I love all sisters. I think if it weren’t for the cloistered ones the other orders would not be growing nor would the traditional liturgy.) I never thought that they ever worked for free, but just a lot less that others, making it possible for schools to run on less money.) I am so excited when I see the growth of wonderful orders. I am so hopeful when I receive a mailing from the Dominicans (I’m sure there are others, but they are the ones I’ve seen) and watch how they grow. I am impressed by how well educated they seem to be too. The Faith can only spread with such good orders. I once (about 6 or so years ago) heard a traditional priest after an ordination say that the only thing missing was the sisters. (Their were priests and seminarians in cassocks, large families, a beautiful cathedral and mass etc.) Now I am so happy to see the beautiful sisters in habits. It fills me with a lot of hope.

  87. “You can have the best school with like-minded faculty, good and holy priests etc. and when other children come in from rough situations it drags everyone down.”

    Well, that at least is not new. Every Catholic educator and parent ever has had to deal with that. Stories about Catholic parishes from the 1800’s and early 1900’s often dealt fictionally with this, and Catholic newspapers and journals talked about it nonfictionally. These situations come into the stories of saints’ lives and work, all over.

  88. Marcin says:

    Sorry but Fairfax County public schools are the best on the face of the earth. No Catholic school can compare and why would I want to pay $10,000 a year for John Paul the Great high school?

    So they are in Montgomery County. My son goes to a Catholic grade school in DC. I realize that academically it may not measure up to the best of PS in my county, for various and complex reasons that other commenters already spelled out – definitely not due to lack of will and effort, which we appreciate very much. Although I must say that I really can’t even reliably compare them by talking with PS parents – commuting from suburbs to DC (that for both my wife and myself) cuts down heavily on our social life. Of course, we have had second thoughts, and have them every day. They really intensify when I draw a check for yet another year of his education, and after every failed interview to get a better paying job. But the warm atmosphere of a small parochial school, it’s balanced discipline, structure and attention to each and every student is irreplaceable. The religious education is quite solid and orthodox, I am happy to report.
    The time of choosing a high school draws near and believe me, Catholic high schools on the other bank of Potomac are (much) more expensive that JP2 HS. I don’t think we can realistically afford any but one or two, and that would be a lower tier academically. Now, those high tier HSs are run by Jesuits, and I’m not sure whether it helps or not. During my open day inquiries I took much interest in religious education programs in local Catholic HSs. When asked about Church Fathers the teachers proudly answered “yes, Thomas Aquinas” or at best “we talk about some early Fathers at philosophy classes”. They won’t get good grades from me for such answers. Or, in a Jesuit run school, there is a semester of “Ethics” as a part of religious education, but no Moral Theology.
    On the other hand I think that the best Catholic HSs in the area give a great academic foundation, on par with the best of the public system, but they can’t afford to meet the same wide range of possible academic interests.
    Curbside pickup and thousands of dollars saved are darn strong incentive…

    (BTW, if anyone on this list has or considers to have an experience with DC area Catholic HSs for a boy, I would be very happy to talk and share thoughts.)

  89. skellmeyer says:

    According to subsidiarity, responsibility should be borne by the lowest level capable of bearing it.

    When it comes to families, that means parents are primary educators – this is what all the documents say.

    Take, for example, confirmation preparation. According to the Rite of Confirmation, #3, “Parents normally prepare their own children for confirmation.”

    Do you know ANY parish or diocese that treats parents like adults?
    Do you know ANY parish or diocese that really treats parents as primary educators, that treats the DRE or the Catholic school as assistants to the parents, instead of vice versa?

    Until the parents are given the respect due them, the Catholic schools will fail.
    That means Catholic schools should STOP doing sacramental prep – that prep is the parents’ duty, not the schools’ duty, not the parish duty.
    Parents have the responsibility for sex education – not the schools, not the parish.
    Schools and parishes assist parents, not the other way around.

    When schools and parishes “take” the children from the parents, the parents respond by not getting involved. If I get no respect, then I’m not going to play the game. The result is a loss of Catholic identity for the school and for the parish because the Catholic parents aren’t being respected as Catholic parents.

    What about derelict parents?
    Just as a parent can’t celebrate Mass just because Father is missing or terminally liberal, so schools and parishes can’t take over for parents when parents fail to do their job.
    Parents, like priests, are irreplaceable.
    That means the school and the parish can’t replace their function, and should stop trying.

    Catholic schools have been screwed up since they were implemented in this country – that’s since the mid-1800’s. It just took a century for the fruits to show. The bishops, while rightly demanding respect for themselves, and for reasons that were somewhat understandable, failed to respect the responsibilities and duties of Catholic parents when they set up the Catholic parochial school systems in their respective countries.

    Indeed, I would argue that the perceived need to call Vatican II was a direct result of the failure of the Catholic school system in every industrialized country (all of them were set up in the mid-to-late nineteenth century). The evidence for this statement is presented in the book.

  90. Peggy R says:

    When our children were theoretical and we lived in NoVa as do many readers, they would have had a Catholic education. The clergy were very orthodox. It was an awesome parish. The public schools in Alex are a train wreck, we saw first hand when we received some Pre-K services. I could go on a long time about that. Thus, the parish admitted non-Catholic families who wanted to avoid that train wreck, and it was packed. I wasn’t sure if our kids could get in under those conditions, though they should.

    Well, the children turned out to have special education needs due to harm they incurred as infants in their home country, and we decided we wanted to raise our children out of the chaos of DC; so we moved near family in the midwest in a milque toast parish. I have enough battles w/the public school to get their needs met. I’d hate to have to battle the parish on liturgical blech that are school masses and on the social justice, enviro-wacko teaching during school. The same principal has been running the school since the mid-70s. He seems to be stuck on civil rights issues. He implements ‘tolerance’ type exercises proposed by Southern Poverty Law Center. We are NOT south of the Mason Dixon.

    I think my head would explode if I had to homeschool my kids. I threatened to do so if some needs were not met. Bing! got what I want. The district wants its money. They need my kids to be there. [I realized that the public district curriculum is about training the kids to perform very well on timed standardized tests so they can get their funds to do this to the next kids. I am grateful that my kids being SpEd are largely exempt from this trained monkey exercise.]

    PSR is busting at the seams, while the parish school is struggling to continue. I suspect many families I know COULD send their children to the parish school. [But we do pay high taxes and have a ‘good’ school district.] We are involved in PSR at the parish. I teach middle-schoolers. I teach the faith clearly and truthfully. My kids are also students. My beef with the Benziger books are the modernist photos depicting sacraments and masses. Some vocabulary is weak, too. I don’t let it prevent me from teaching with clarity and truth. The thing I like about the parish are that the PSR students are not forgotten. There is no separation of PSR and day school students for sacraments. The priests come to PSR in Advent and Lent to provide confession for students. The pastor occasionally visits the classrooms too. But it is a weak expression of faith in many regards.

    I think Catholic HS is unreasonably expensive and would take away a college education option for a child in most families.

    The Legionaries announced they are leaving STL where they started Gateway Academy to provide an authentic Catholic education. The LC, being a mess, have left a mess. Abp. Carlson has sought to help those families adjust and will wait to see whether the school will become a diocesan “Catholic” school. Abp. Carlson and my Bishop Braxton have both spoken about Catholic identity at diocesan schools.

  91. Marcin says:

    I can’t agree more with the Catholic school decalogue of yours.

    To comment just a few:

    1. Parents. This is key. Absolutely. In my school parents’ involvement used to be purely voluntary, but we ended up with a small group of always the same parents that run everything. And the group is not really an exclusive one in itself, although situation like this is a vicious circle. The new principal introduced a mandatory service hours requirement (a really nominal one). The rest of parent have to move their bottoms, an circulus vitiosus has to be broken. It was a good change, although it too can degenerate.

    2. Preferential admission for parishioners first, other Catholics second. It’s hard when less than half of the students in the Catholic school are actually Catholic. Where is the Catholic identity when most of the student body isn’t Catholic?
    I don’t know frankly the admission policy of our school. The student body is about 50% Catholic. The school has Catholic identity, although much can be improved. I don’t think however that a high fraction of non-Catholics is an impediment. It’s rather an opportunity to evangelize by immersion. We had some cases of conversion to the Faith, as far as I know.

    4. Daily Mass. Yes. If not daily, than weekly. Not just Days of Obligation. It is never a waste of academic time. This I consider a failure in our school. Same goes for Confession. It should be available for Catholic students on a monthly basis and strongly encouraged. Not just once or twice a year (another failure).

    7. Clerical/Religious involvement. Priests, deacons, nuns, brothers…they need to be present and available to the kids, and clearly identifiable.
    The pastor and other clergy should visit often, not just to supervise but to be engaged with the students. Often visits to lead a morning prayer.

    8. Prayer. Fasting. The recent change by a principal to pray _with_ the students, not over their heads via intercom was a great move. Still, it’s just a foundation on which to build a Catholic prayer life of the school. Way to go. Fasting/Abstinence – we have a catered lunch program at school. The children like it very much and it’s not junk food. But why on earth, in the Catholic school Friday lunch menu has meat even on Lenten Fridays? It should be fish or veggie on Fridays _throughout the school year_ (with katalysis for Eastertide and maybe Christmastide). I know, it’s not longer mandated, but they have fish once a week anyway!
    Identity, Identity!

    9. Teach the Faith. Not just what we believe, that’s fairly simple and the basics can be covered by the Nicene Creed.
    Amen! I don’t think that teaching religion by a classroom teacher is such a good idea, even if with the best intentions and effort. It should be an orthodox clergy, religious or a qualified solid catechist. A knack for work with children of course helps.
    Actually teach WHY we believe it, WHY the Catholic Church teaches what it does. That goes also for preaching at Mass. I too often hear WHAT TO DO from a pulpit, yet rarely WHY TO DO. That’s why I go to the Melkites.

  92. Supertradmum says:

    Again, as I mentioned way up the line of comments, all the teachers should and must take the Oath of Fidelity and the Profession of Faith before signing the contract to teach in a Catholic school. If they cannot, they should not be hired. Period. I your local Catholic school does not require this, do not send your children there.

    Secondly, those priests in charge of either elementary or high schools must be exemplary. In one of the nightmare high schools where I was attempting to teach the Catholic religion-I was one of the two teachers of Catholic Religion on the staff, the president, a priest, fought us on basic Catholic teaching. He was best friends of a bishop who was removed for pedophilia-a national case. Now, being friends with a criminal does not necessarily make one a criminal, but a good fssp priest said to me one time, if a priest does not love Mary, there are probably hidden sins.

    Lastly, the biggest problem in Catholic education are the parents, hands-down. As a teacher, I was harangued by fallen-way Catholics, Catholics in bad marriages, Catholic heretics, Catholic lesbians, etc. who had their children in the schools. Why these people insist on putting their children in Catholic schools has been a mystery, but I can only believe it is to cause trouble and change the Church’s teachings on sexual issues. In one case, one of the parents had a peachy job at the state university doing embryonic stem cell research. As a teacher, I was basically told to shut up and not see this as a problem. How can one teach in an atmosphere of hostility? It is impossible. The good Catholic parents were stymied in each case by the administration.

    After many, many years of helping NAPCIS schools, I am convinced that the first demand would be the Oath and Promise. The second would be holy administrators, and the third, a clear understanding of the stance of the school regarding non-Catholics in the school, whose parents must support the school as it is, and not want to change the Church.

  93. Supertradmum says:

    Does anyone know who to clean a laptop keyboard that has had juice spilled over it and the keys are sticking? Need some help here.

  94. everett says:

    I’m glad skellmeyer brought up the principle of subsidiarity, which is something that is largely missing from Catholic consciousness. The parent is the primary educator of the child, and it is their absolute duty to work to determine how best to educate their child, both formally and informally. For some this may be a parish school or other independent catholic school, for others home schooling, for others public schools. The key is that a parent must fight for the education of their child, doing what they deem necessary, often requiring significant sacrifices. Sometimes this has meant coming together with other parents to form their own school, usually out of their pocketbooks. Other times it might mean forgoing any number of luxuries to send a child to the right private school. Other times it might mean a parent giving up a career to stay home and home school.

    As someone who works with a home schooling organization, one of the really interesting things is that in the last few years, with the economy, I’ve seen some interesting trends. One of these is that more parents are pulling their children out of private schools and moving to home schooling as it is often more affordable. Another is seeing groups of home schoolers coming together into more than co-ops and really beginning their own small schools. I’ve also seen parents whose children were attending a school that has since been closed work together to create their own school. One of the commenters above was really on to something pointing out that at this time in history, the solution to many of these problems will have to come from the domestic church.

  95. We too are a military homeschooling family. Several times during the past 8 years of homeschooling I have wanted to put the children into a Catholic school so I could stay sane, focus on the babies… but every time I looked into the local Catholic school (5 moves now, so 5 schools) I was flabergasted by the tuition and the lowering of academic excellence they currently receive from Seton Home Study School. We have attended the TLM and so never qualify for the “parish rate” and with little to no discount for siblings, we were looking at $12,000-20,000 per child in costs, and we currently have 4 school age children and 2 more on their heels. I did get a tour of a Catholic school near DC and found that despite a great priest at the parish, the “Catholicity” or Catholic culture was just lacking. Of course how can they compete against Seton’s texts that all incorporate Catholic teachings and stories of Saints, academically rigorous study in grammar, mathematics, and literature analysis, and Latin. There is just no way we could afford monetarily or academically to send them all to Catholic school. So despite my wish that there was a lovely Catholic school just down the road that I could send them to of the Bells of St. Mary’s sort, we will continue to get out our books every morning and attempt it on a smaller scale at home.

  96. randomcatholic says:

    This is a very interesting post Fr., and a very interesting discussion.

    My background: I am a father of 3 (so far!) wonderful children. We are open to having more should God allow it. We have made the choice to homeschool. I am currently a public school teacher, but I spent several years teaching at a Catholic high school.

    Here are my observations. None of this scientific of course, but rests on solely on my experience.

    Every male friend I have in education who is a “faithful” Catholic (believes what the Church teaches and lives things like Humanae Vitae) teaches in the public as opposed to Catholic schools. Some of us used to teach in Catholic schools, but as the fiscal reality of having growing families sets in, Catholic schools can’t support us.

    Every female friend I have in education who is a “faithful” Catholic has left the classroom to raise kids, or pursued a vocation.

    Thus my perception of Catholic schools: there are not enough vocations, and the teachers left in the Catholic classroom are largely unbelieving lay Catholics, or non-Catholics. Faithful Catholic men have to leave Catholic schools to support growing families, and faithful Catholic women leave to raise those families. Thus those that remain are too often dissenters. That is what my personal experience teaches me (for what little that is worth of course).

    When deciding where and how to educate our children, we looked at the local Catholic schools. They are prohibitively expensive for a family on one salary, especially a teacher’s salary. When I went to the open houses I was impressed with the curriculum, which seemed exactly like what we were doing in the public schools. But why pay $4000 per child (that is a LOT of money for us) for the same curriculum available elsewhere.

    But the religion curriculum is what made me run away. The textbooks weren’t heretical. But they did NOT teach the whole faith. They used the most mundane version of prayers to teach the kids. Everything seemed “dumbed down.” The religion texts were just abysmal to my mind. My kids knew more already. They were going to get bored and turned off by the faith. I could just feel it!

    We enrolled our kids in Catholic that summer because we were facing lots of from those who felt homeschooling was not a positive thing. In the end, we couldn’t bring ourselves to go into ever increasing amounts of debt to send our kids to a school where the curriculum was EXACTLY like the public school’s, and the religion classes were just like the local CCD program. It wasn’t sufficiently Catholic to pay for. So we homeschool. If we didn’t homeschool we would chose Charter school or traditional public school. The only way I would cough up the money for Catholic school is if it were a deeply faithful Catholic school, and such an animal does not exist for an affordable price in my area…. anywhere.

  97. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    Wow, this is quite the topic. Sad to see and say, but it seems as if in many cases, the only viable solutions are in best order: 1) homeschool 2) charter/private school run by traditional orders or priests with fortitude and tranditional leanings 3) Big “C” Catholic School (rare). If that is the case, I say let it happen. The bishops and dioceses and school boards will only get this message when they have to close schools and see dropping enrolment that “this ain’t going to cut it”. While I may be a bachelor still, I’m definitely considering charter school/homeschoolin for any future kids I have when I’m older. I won’t send them to any separate board Catholic school.

    MatthewSiekierski, Excellent points! The only weakness though is No. 7. It will be quite a few decades till the next generation of young (and supposedly more orthodox) priests and nuns will be able to be churned out in higher volume than currently to retake the schools. Even so, the seminaries and nuneries need bodies! More efforts need to be made with the kids in the first place to get them to even think about a vocation when the secular world tells them “Money is the only way to live in North America, Australia, England etc. kiddo.”

    I’m not a parent but rather someone who graduated from a private catholic school, St. Michael’s College School as of 2002, so it wasn’t so long ago. I am proud to say I received an awesome education from this school and there were numerous supporting features that made it worthwhile: 1) This school was run by the Basillians even though few priests still teach there 2) Chapel with daily (but abridged) mass during the 50-minute lunch periods, though after I graduated it now alternates between two lunch periods every other day. 3) Excellent teachers who are positive role models and do live out their faith. You can tell, especially the Religion teachers when they teach their faith (I also happen to see a few of the school’s teachers at mass as they go to my parish so it is a truth!) 4) They offer classical Latin! I had to take mandatory Gr. 10 Intro latin at the time and I even chose the 2nd course to fulfill a language requirement (due to it being my the highest grade vs. Italian and I dropped French). 5) St. Michael is the school’s patron saint. Who better than the One who smite Hell’s army to lead us!

    Part of that was the excellent religion curriculum given to me at the school. We didn’t use the series of textbooks recommended by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. Rather the school has its own curicculum. Sadly I came before the Gr. 7-8 addition to the school, but the High school program has not deviated from when I went there, save one change due to Ontario quashing of Gr.13/OAC to be like the other provinces. I’ll list the texts I used and whatever new texts they use currently that I know of. Perhaps these can be suggestions for the homeschool parents or one’s personal library:

    Gr 9: Biblical Study. Bible was the NAB translation which is what is listed on the Vativcan. Now its changed to NRSV translation which is what Canadian parishes mainly use. The main Textbook for my year was Mark Link, S.J. Path Through Scripture. I still have it and I think it was an old 1st edition because the school phased it out through us (it was weird. We paid $20 to the teachers on top of what we paid for our new edition of the textbooks and we got the old as permanent keepsakes.) Now they use Michael Pennock’s Discovering the Promise of the Old Testament and Living the Message of the New Testament.

    Gr. 10: Church History with Sacraments. Still using the same primary textbook: Catholic Church : Journey, Wisdom and Mission by Carl Koch. After I graduated, two books have been used for the Sacraments: Pennock, Michael. Living The Message of the Sacraments and The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth.

    Gr. 11: Theology/World Religions. The theology textbook I used was part of the Priory Press Dominican Series. The first volume was used “God Calls You” by Fr. Richard Butler. It did have a couple of controversial statements about Islam, though I didn’t care at the time. I forgot the world religions book I used. Now they use Pennock’s “This is our Faith” a Catholic Cathechism for Adults and the world religions book: Brodd, Jeffrey, World Religions: A Voyage of Discovery.

    Gr. 12: Moral Theology. Best Course Ever. Of the books we used, We used Peter Kreeft’s Making Choices (Sadly removed from the curiculum), and read the encyclical Humanae Vitae, and often the catechism provided the basic starting material before the teacher expanded upon topics like the Natural Law, the seven deadly sins and their counter virtues, the principle of double effect, and hot button topics like abortion and euthanasia and just war doctrine. We also had to do two major essays, the first semester based on course material up to that time, the second as an independent study project taking on the Church’s viewpoint on a particular matter which required reading of encyclicals and other Church Documents.

    Now removed Gr. 13/OAC: We had the choice between philosophy and a non-credit seminar course. Being scientifically minded I took the non-credit course. There topics were re-discussed from earlier courses but also new ones like Grace and the kinds of grace, existence and being, The fall and its consequences, and a host of other topics. This all came from either my Gr. 12 moral theology teacher or the Basillian priest who taught most of the sections. There was no textbooks but plenty of handouts like one from the Knights of Columbus “Grace: Without it you are Dead.”

    For those curious about the Latin course, we used Cambridge (university?) Latin Course series. We just used the textbook only but after scoping out Chapters/Indigo, there’s a workbook that goes along with it and even teacher’s manuals. Just make sure before buying you match up editions (E.g. 2001 text with 2001 Omnibus workbook).

  98. Supertradmum says:

    I like the Cambridge and the Oxford courses for Latin, using both in my home school. We managed to get through three years of Latin through those courses. My son ended up with five years of Latin, counting two at TAC. Some of my home schooling parent friends have actually done six years of Latin at home.

  99. Tantum Ergo says:

    Fr. Z,
    There is SO MUCH ANGER and FRUSTRATION revealed by these comments. If Catholic schools are failing, there’s the reason: (demographics, the economy, etc.) and then there’s the REAL reason: (Loss of Catholic identity.) Why would anyone pay for a bread sandwich?
    Would that every bishop, principal, and pastor would read what these folks have to say!

    [I have been told by more than one bishop that quite a few bishops read this blog. However, I suspect they don’t have time to read all these comments. Every diocesan bishop needs an official “Guy” who can keep track of things and then let him know what to give his time to when it comes to these things.]

  100. nasman2 says:

    Thank you Skellmeyer! Homeschooling is the best option because sometimes it’s the only option. We do for ourselves what isn’t available to us. I dearly would love to have my children attend good Catholic schools. To those who say ‘get involved’ need to understand that sometimes local parish schools are just happy with what is going on, and if you try to change anything they pull the ‘we’re the trained professionals’ bit on us.

    I’m still at a loss on how to wrestle control of the schools away from those who are steeped in Godless social engineering exercises left over from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. I attended those schools as a child and it still makes my skin crawl thinking about it. It’s funny how children can smell a rat when presented with naked untruths…… you just know something isn’t right. I will spare my children that experience.

    I continue to pray and hope things will change soon.

  101. Supertradmum says:

    How about a visitation from Rome? One of the problems is that the United States parochial system is almost sui generis in the world. Also, very early on, the entire system was infected with the heresies of Americanism and Modernism, is an effort, sadly, to control, or supposedly fight Jansenism. When the clergy is disobedient, and the education mediocre, what can one expect. Except for the few, these schools deserve to fail and close, as these are causing scandal and training yet another generation of “cafeteria Catholics”.

  102. cvbreno says:

    When we we became Catholic (converts from evangelical protestantism) in 2008, we transferred our 7th grade daughter into the parish school. Most of the teachers were fine, but after a few months, we had a major problem with her science teacher promoting polygenism and telling the kids that Adam and Eve were myths, and that the first chapters of Genesis and many other parts of the Bible were fiction. There were also problems with the teacher’s inappropriately explicit personal talks about her personal sexual experiences. When we objected to the teacher and the principal, were were told that Humani Generis and the Catechism of the Catholic Church were “outdated”, and were “just guidelines” anyway. They cited various contemporary theologians who had written that polygenism could now be taught. Our pastor and the diocesan DRE completely backed the teacher on this, explaining that the teaching of the church is much more broad and inclusive than just these magisterial documents. The pastor patronizingly explained that he used to think like us until he was “enlightened” during his seminary education (in the 1960s, of course). We put our daughter back in the public school, where at least there is no presumption of religious authority, and we eventually transferred to a different parish where we could trust what our kids were being taught in their confirmation classes.

    Unfortunately, the Catholic high school in our diocese is very liberal and lacking in Catholic identity. It also has serious drug problems, due mainly to the affluence of the students. Several parents told us how their teenagers’ faith was destroyed by the teachers at this school. We don’t see any reason to spend thousands of dollars to have our children’s values and faith undermined by these (CINO) people!

    We are very disappointed to see how pervasive these problems are in the Church, after we have left our family ties, etc. to become Catholic. We love the Church and we know she has the fullness of the truth, but we have been shocked to find virtually no action taken against dissenters and heretics in positions of authority in Catholic schools, universities, hospitals, chancery offices, etc.

  103. vmanning says:

    How about it, Father Z? Has ANY topic generated this much heat and light before ? And can someone distill the problems identified and the solutions suggested into one , readable post in a way that it can be sent off to local bishops?

  104. liberanos says:

    I am a divorced (not by my choice) mother of one (also not by my choice) ten year-old son, who has always been homeschooled.

    We live in a public school district which has lost its accreditation and shows no sign of getting it back any time soon. My parents sweated and slaved for me to attend catholic schools, and I was on my way out of the Church when I was introduced to the TLM and it saved me, so I approached our local parish school with an admittedly jaundiced eye. What I found at the Sunday liturgy sealed it for me: when the ‘catholic educated’ children traipsed up for the ‘children’s liturgy of the Word’, they walked through the sacristy right in front of the tabernacle without nary a look or a pause, yacking and chatting amongst themselves. There were other liturgical abuses, but that one stood out as reflecting very poorly on the school. At a parish function which involved pizza and soda in the gym, my son sat down with his pizza and crossed himself and said grace silently. Two of the school children asked him what he was doing, and when he told them, they asked if he always did that and he said yes, whereupon they mocked him for it. Enough said. My impressions were confirmed a few years into homeschooling when my son’s best friend, who attends the parish school, did a project for his First Holy Communion that contained the sentence: “the Bread and Wine tasted good”.

    I don’t need to tell any parent here that it is brutally difficult, and I probably couldn’t do it at all without the support of my parents. I have made significant sacrifices in nearly every aspect of my life to give my son what amounts to an adequate, but definitely Catholic, education. I believe the very salvation of my soul is at stake.

    What needs to be done? Catholicism. Start with the Liturgy – where the Liturgy isn’t Catholic you can bet the education isn’t. (I also have to back up SuperTradMum about the Catholic vs public accreditation of our Catholic school teachers .) The fruits of good Liturgy are too abundant to number. But people – all of us, from bishop to pastor to parent – need to remember that souls are at stake, and I’m not talking just about the kids’.

  105. skellmeyer says:

    Well, as I say, I’ve written a book on the problems.
    I also have several posts on the subject on my blog, the most succinct being a (somewhat poorly typed) summary of my book that can be found at

    Look, the Catholic schools are dead.
    They existed to serve a particular form of national economy (industrialization) and that form is pretty much gone. They only existed in their current form for roughly 150 years (1870s to present), and their time is drawing to a close.

    Even with non-Catholic students streaming in, Catholic schools are losing population at a rate of 7-10% every five years. Homeschooling, on the other hand, is growing at 8% per year.

    If those rates continue, by 2012 (that’s next year, folks), homeschooling will be the largest private school endeavor in the nation, eclipsing Catholic school attendance. By 2035, more Catholic children will be homeschooled than in Catholic schools, although I don’t personally think it will take that long. The trends will accelerate in both directions for a number of reasons.

    Intact two-parent families will largely return to single-income in order to accommodate their children. Public schools will be largely for single-parents, gays, and otherwise broken “families.”

    Every study shows that the quality of the school depends DIRECTLY on how many intact two-parent families have children attending. The higher that percentage, the better the school and vice versa.

    The warehouse schools will increasingly be more warehouse than school, while the homeschoolers will increasingly be the only educated children on the block. This is going to create or (already has created) an enormous educational chasm within society, a permanent underclass of broken-home children versus intact-home children.

    And we haven’t even touched on the higher education bubble, which is going to pop, probably before my children reach college age. The government-funded bubble in college tuition cannot continue, and when it blows, I really don’t know what’s going to happen to education at any level. I suspect on-line universities will replace brick-and-mortar and tuition will drop like a rock. Most universities are already moving to this model in a tentative fashion – when the government funding stops, it will be a race to be first.

    So, at this point, I’m not just homeschooling my children to improve their education, I’m doing it because they’ll have to do it with their own children. And we have to keep in mind that what they will deal with will not look at all like what we’re doing.

    Catholic grade schools are moribund (high schools will last quite a bit longer – a different dynamic at work there). Public grade schools are obviously warehouses at this point.
    What happens to college is an open question.

  106. Supertradmum says:


    I agree with you, but how long will it take parents to be weaned from sports-idolatry? One of the biggest reasons Catholic schools, especially high schools, exist is for heritage sports teams. I hate this fact, but sports, especially football and basketball, are gods to a certain group of Catholic parents. Even small, excellent, private, orthodox Catholic schools think the sports curriculum is necessary. To me, once a school gets into the sports arena, everything else goes downhill. Practice has to happen on weekends, taking time away from family activities. Games become fights between schools and even parents. Expensive venues must be rented or built, etc. I have personally tried to start both a classical education school and a home schooling support school. The first question parents asked me was “What are you going to do for sports?”

    As to colleges, I have just taught a disastrous semester wherein 50% of my students were not “college material” and should not have been there except for too generous government monies. I think we shall return to the smaller percentages of college-bound and hopefully, a resurgence of real trade schools, which are so necessary in our economy. One of my fellow teachers summed up the problem when she said that she hoped those 50% would fail her “math for nurses class”, as she said they would make horrible nurses. Those did fail. A student who cannot figure out how much medication should go into a syringe because she or he cannot do the math is dangerous.

    We need to think in a more elitist fashion, but I am a heretic of democracy and current educational ideologies for even thinking such a thought.

  107. kolbe1019 says:

    I have said it once and I will say it again…

    The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic faith… THEREFORE… A Catholic Institution that fails to make the Eucharist the source and summit of its life and mission… FAILS at being Catholic.

  108. Great thread. Couple things:

    Supertradmom – it’s very tempting to think the anti intellectualism we see is some ancient, inexorable thing, but, at least in America, it’s not. Tocqueville, for example was very impressed with the level of learning among typical Americans. Also, the Federalist Papers were published in newspapers with fairly huge circulations compared with the population size. And just the general level of learning in the Founding Fathers – all this argues, like monastery ruins in England, for a time when things were different. Up until at least the 1820s, there was a strong thread of intellectualism running through America. It bears noting that this was a period during which education was left up to the family, supported and encouraged by their churches. Schools were results, not causes, of interest in education.

    Second, I’m thrilled by the number of people here who want an authentically Catholic education for their kids, and are not willing to settle for a better version of public school with a CCD class tacked on.

    Finally, many people here have, with greater and lesser enthusiasm, embraced the inescapable: if their kids are going to learn about their faith, and learn to love Our Lord Jesus Christ, they’re going to learn it from their parents. That would be us! The next step would be recognizing that, even if the local Catholic school is wonderful, it’s STILL going to be our job. There’s no way around it.

    Scary, yes – but the Lord pours grace upon those who place their trust in Him.

  109. skellmeyer says:

    I have a whole section on the Gods of Sports and the fact that the parish actually exists to support the parish school football/basketball team (depending on geographic region).

    Those parents aren’t going to change. But, the number of parents who worship at that particular altar is a minority. They can’t support a grade school by themselves. Private grade schools will close. That can’t be stopped.

    Unlike colleges, high schools don’t require a certain grade school GPA so homeschoolers suffer zero penalty for doing their thing at the grade school level. It’s only at the high school level that parents have to make a serious decision about what to do with their kids – send them to public high school, private high school or community college?

    High schools are a different matter.

    Because college’s DO look at HS GPA, high schools are true feeder institutions into colleges. College sports programs depend on high school sports programs, and colleges act as pimps, grabbing the income that the student athlete bodies generate for the schools.

    So, high schools, whether public or private, MUST have sports programs because their customers – the universities and colleges – demand it. So the pagan gods will continue to be worshiped in the high school, whether public or private. That can’t be avoided. There’s too much money at stake.

    If you look at the numbers, Catholic grade schools are closing in droves, but Catholic high school numbers are relatively steady. Those numbers are steady precisely because the high school dynamic is different than the grade school dynamic.

    The high school won’t be eviscerated until the college funding bubble pops – when the government decides it is too broke to fund college tuition anymore, and the colleges go mostly on-line, the first thing that will be thrown into the air is the sports programs.

    Education can take place almost entirely on-line, but sports teams NEED brick and mortar to survive. Brick-and-mortar is really expensive, but sports brings in lots of money. Will the income be enough to offset the expense? That’s unknown. So, how the higher institutes square that circle is unknown.

    If the number of brick-and-mortar colleges start dropping, the number of high schools will drop along with them.

    I suspect the only brick-and-mortar colleges with a prayer of surviving will be those with strong sports traditions – the rest will go primarily on-line. But that means only a handful of brick-and-mortar high schools will survive as feeder schools. The rest will either be warehouse schools for broken people or they’ll be on-line only offerings.

    If the bishops had a clue, they’d be rolling out on-line courses as fast as their little fingers could type. Instead, they’re trying to shore up brick-and-mortar grade schools. That game can’t be won.

    What CAN be guaranteed is the pagan gods of sports will continue to dominate whatever brick-and-mortar high schools remain.

  110. skellmeyer says:

    I should have finished my thought.

    The counter to this is that sports teams need crowds in the stadia.
    As the educational component goes on-line and the student body is increasingly far-flung across time and space, the numbers who show up for a college sports event will likewise decline. Ultimately, even the sports programs aren’t going to save the brick-and-mortar colleges.

    College sports will slowly crumble into dust, much as the practices of hunting and fishing have drastically declined now that upwards of 80% of the US population lives in urban areas.

    It will be a long, slow decline, but the decline will happen.
    In the 1950’s, teen boys were fascinated by cars and sports.
    In the 1990s’s it was computers and sports.
    Now it’s personal electronic devices and sports to some degree, but I think the emphasis on sports is decreasing. I could easily be wrong on that – haven’t researched the numbers – but my apocryphal experience tells me that’s the case.

    The sports gods are a current grade/high school problem, but there will be electronic gods to replace them soon (already have).

  111. Supertradmum says:

    Sorry, Ishmael,

    but I agree with Thomas Sowell, and others, that American anti-intellectualism dates back to the 17th century, as seen in the early conflicts in the churches and the colonies regarding the intellectual elites, such as Jonathan Edwards. In addition, there are many commentaries in ancient Greek and Roman writings about anti-intellectualism as well; see the writings of the Cynic school of Philosophy, for example. A lot more can be said about the early heritage of American and ancient anti-intellectualism.

    As to Christian anti-intellectualism, we only need look at the Protestant Reformation, the greatest movement of anti-intellectualism in Western Culture. Doing away with Tradition and the fantastic Catholic school system of Europe, the burning of libraries, etc. (a trait of tyrants as well), and the emphasis on pragmatism (affecting education, for example, as later, under Bismark, who moved away from the academy system to the pragmatic and government controlled gymnasium system set up to control and create an obedient citizenry-a la social engineering) came from the hatred of Reason, which the Protestants believed was inferior to the Experience of Faith. Hence, the suspicion of Zeal among the early religious colonial leaders, who feared a slip back into barbarity and civil war in the small communities, This was a real fear, as mindless Zeal ruined order and confraternity in England during that terrible time of Civil War.

    As a mini-expert in the institutional history of education in Europe and the U.S. , and the history of classical education, about which I have given many lectures in my lifetime, I can assure you that anti-intellectualism is as old as the eaten apple in Eden. One can also look at the renewal of the seminaries under St. Anselm, the renewal of learning under St. Ignatius of Loyola, etc. The list is endless. Why renewal? Because anti-intellectualism seeped into the various curricula of the seminaries and schools, or even worse, these were closed by sometimes well-meaning people, creating a stupid clergy and an ignorant Catholic community.

    Americans were always susceptible to anti-intellectualism because of the early groups of Protestants who filled our colonies. Jonathan Edwards and his kin were classically educated, and feared the new church groups springing up from emotional hysteria, rather than learning and the assent of faith. This problem of anti-intellectualism created problems for the early settlers, which is why they were so keen on setting up schools and universities. The suspicion of the Eastern elites at Harvard, Princeton, and Yale was based on this anti-intellectualism, as was the suspicion of Americans towards early Catholic leaders in education. The earliest schools for Catholics were not for the industrial immigrants, but preparatory schools for college-bound elite groups of children. Catholics believed in “leadership training” for years in the Catholic schools, until democratic ideals of equality broke down the model. I am an elitist, and firmly believe that educational curricula should not be the same for all students, and that we do damage to the greater good of the community, creating a disservice to the polis and the individual, by pretending we are all equal. But, that is an intellectual position. And, it usually takes me at least a three-day weekend presentation to get through the entire history of Catholic education, if not a semester’s course.

    My ancestors came to America for two reasons. First, some were missionary priests, coming to convert and aid the immigrants; priests then wrote back to my educated relatives well over a century ago to come and set up schools. They did, including a college. Second, they came for religious freedom and freedom of religion in thought and action in education and in politics, as the German system was spreading over Europe like a plague, creating a dumb citizenry leading to the dumb acceptance of anything the Kaiser or Fuhrer would say. This is the same type of social engineering we have today in the public school system, which has infected, like a plague, the so-called Catholic school systems.

  112. Supertradmum says:


    I agree with you, totally. Although I see in the Catholic kids around me a desire for sports. But, the problem is the parents, of course. Remember, I went to Notre Dame, which grows leaps and bounds because of heritage sports. This idolatry seeps down to the little Catholic school of 120 kids, who adore these types of teams. But, I live in the Midwest, where sports rules and where people still hunt. However, the electronic games do take the place for many youth the actually involvement of activity on the field. When parents give up and let the eletronic games win the day, you will see sports disappear to a certain extent. But, what about the money? Perhaps after a real economic depression, when Daddy can’t take the kids to the Bear’s games, or even to the Iowa Hawkeyes’ away games, one will see a shift.

  113. Supertradmum says:


    sorry about the typos…I am concerned about something you have not addressed and that is the growing hostility to home schooling. I home schooled from 1993-1996 and 1998-2006. The environment was more hopeful, politically, although, as you know, some state governments were and have been more draconian in the restrictions or, at least, in their demands for home schooling parents. Now, I think this hostility is growing, as the independence of families is being bombarded by more and more government control in ideology and fact, and the financial fact of an imminent economic depression. I fear the opposite of your scenario. A complete government take-over of all education in the name of “necessity” or “emergency” or “home-grown terrorism” would shut down all private schools and home schooling, as those in power can’t control now what is being taught in the home. Take all the pre-schoolers away and put them into mandatory pre-school, as some states, such as California and Florida want to do, and the happy days of freedom will end.

  114. Supertradmum says:

    error in date, as I started home schooling in 1991.

  115. Supertradmom,

    Thanks. Don’t want to get too far off topic, but I don’t think I disagree with what you are describing, but rather we may not agree on what we call anti intellectualism and how we view it in relation to Catholic schooling. I got the impression from your earlier post that you view anti intellectualism as a constant, obdurate force, one that consistently hinders and opposes attempts at real learning, one consistently expressed throughout history. Is this correct? And, it seems clear, you have a very high standard of intellectualism to uphold.

    I, on the other hand, see great fluctuations in the intensity of anti intellectualism from age to age, where, in some ages, a person can gain renown and even the respect of the people simply by being a scholar – in other ages, like now, that’s impossible – instead, mediocrities like our current President and the talking heads on both sides are proclaimed ‘brilliant’ on scant evidence. Also, maybe my idea of what constitutes an intellectual is a lot lower than yours. I’m happy to call ‘an intellectual’ anyone who can construct a coherent argument, who listens to and acknowledges ideas he doesn’t agree with without resorting to straw men, who is curious enough about the world to find things out on his own and who is at least aware that this age is not all there is and that ideas these days are not automatically the epitome of thought. I don’t care if he’s ever gone to school or read Aristotle – that guy is, to me, one of us. (And pardon my presumption in assuming *I’m* one of us. I’m just a dad who’s read a lot of books, after all.)

    How does this relate to Catholic schooling? Many of us do not have a vocation to a life of scholarship, but all of us should learn to respect and learn from those who do. Equally, as we see in the lives of the great scholar saints (with the possible exception of that holy crank, St. Jerome), intellectuals should respect their non-intellectual brethren. There’s no room for anti intellectualism in Catholic education, period. So, of course, you have my sympathy in having fought the good fight for Truth – after all, what else is the intellect for? I recognize what you describe, and have had my own little battles with priests and ‘liturgical experts’ and other people who couldn’t think their way out of wet paper bag, but will smugly and condescending tell me how unenlightened I am if I question them or, God forbid, drag out source documents.

    Perhaps I am irrationally optimistic, but I think reading, thinking, arguing, researching are fun, and attractive in themselves, because they are of God. People have to be weaned off of being curious. Catholic schools can convey the joy available to those who seek the truth by having joyful scholars on staff, instead of snuffing out all the fun with endless busy work administered by unthinking, unloving bureaucrats.

    Tall order? Heck yea. But a guy can dream.

    One final though: the problem today, it seems to me, comes largely from the other direction: we have a large number of people – Sagan and Dawkins spring immediately to mind – who use their supposed intellectual superiority to beat on us little people, while at the same time committing horrible intellectual fraud. If these are the sort of people held up as intellectuals, no wonder people hold intellectuals in contempt. So, part of the project is to defend some standards among intellectuals. Benedict XVI – now, there’s your intellectual! And he’s got the joy to prove it!

    In Christ.

    PS – did I read that you have a child at TAC? So do I!

  116. skellmeyer says:

    Antipathy grew towards homeschooling as it became popular – it attacks too many entrenched authorities. The teachers’ unions are under direct assault. The entire Dept. of Education is rendered useless. So are all the employees of the parishes.

    If parents really homeschool their kids, DREs will have a lot less to do. People hate to lose control, especially lay women in parish staffs.

    So, yeah, combat against homeschoolers is a given.
    But there’s no way to stop homeschooling.
    The Internet is too pervasive, and it’s too cost-effective.
    Homeschooling is a political third-rail, much like Medicare/Medicaid. The only way to stop Medicare/Medicaid is to kill off the old people before they collect (thus the end-run we call ObamaCare). A similar end-run would have to be taken on homeschooling – a direct assault won’t work.

    As the schools die, the teachers’ unions will die with them, and the major opponents will be decimated. As long as there are broken families, there will be warehouse schools, so the public school system – even the Catholic private school system – won’t entirely disappear. It’s just that they’ll become irrelevant.

    The people who will run government in 30 years will be either majority home-schooled or substantially home-schooled. Once they are part of the bureaucracy, the whole game changes.

  117. Supertradmum says:


    Thanks for your thoughtful response. (Be the way, I had a son at TAC, as in the past.) I do think there is room for both our interpretations, but I do know that through-out history, there has been an influence which is anti-rational, based on feeling or experience, and therefore, dangerous. The Catholic Church, as you know, has always upheld the great tradition of learning, as in the support and indeed, development of the liberal arts, begun by the Greeks and Romans. Such is classical education, a la TAC. However, the impetus to anti-intellectualism has become institutionalized in our own public school system, through the university level. The institutionalization of anti-intellectualism, I believe, began under tyrants, and specifically grew under the aegis of the Protestant Revolt, as I mentioned before. And here is the danger. When an entire culture becomes so keen on “the emotions”, and becomes so “relativistic” that the Golden Rule disappears, then we have anarchy, or the flip-side, tyranny. What the school systems have done is to squash real learning, destroy the natural desire to know, and the love of learning. The monks kept the love of learning alive in chaotic times and joined it with the love of God. So, Catholic educators should see learning as the pursuit of God in the Beauty of Truth. I am passionate about this, and only a free person, one who has not been indoctrinated either by pragmatism, the ruling philosophy of the American public school system, or by individualism, the death of the vision of the common good, only that person is truly capable of holiness and finding Truth.

    Satan, of course, is behind all this dross in education, as he can watch souls go to hell because they cannot think for themselves, are too lazy to do so, or have lost their will-power to fight and give in. False prophets, like the so-called intellectual Sagan (have you read his stuff-it’s all high school level) and Dawkins are actually anti-intellectuals, because they have cut off from their creative brains the Source of all Light and Truth, God. How ironic that they are considered intellectuals, when in fact, they are more closed-minded than kindergartners.

    People fear real intellectuals, like our present Pope Benedict XVI, not only because he is humble, but he has answers. Answers scare people, because then they have to make a decision and become committed to something. When I hear from my seminarian friends that a class on the Liturgy project is a paper about how they feel about the Liturgy, I want to throw-up. When, in a Pastoral Theology class, the students are asked to give answers to a stupid question about how parishioners would feel about Mexican art in a church building, discuss it, and then write a paper on it, I want to point to the glories of Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure, weeping over lost challenges and opportunities for great thoughts. That is why I think the evil one is the arch-anti-intellectual. He is destroying the Church from within in our education system. Let it die.

  118. everett says:

    If its any consolation while there might be more institutional resistance to homeschooling, I’ve noticed that there’s a wider acceptance of it among the general public, and particularly in regards to colleges. The vast majority of colleges all have systems set up for home schoolers, and many actively recruit/pursue them (they’ve finally learned that on average, these students score 1 to 2 standard deviations above the mean). There are holdouts, usually large state schools (the UC system), some community colleges, and trade schools (I’ve had the most resistance from places like University of Phoenix Online and Devry), but for the most part, very little trouble involved, and many places are eager to get home schooled students.

  119. skellmeyer says:

    The trade schools like U Phoenix and Devry exist to give certificates to the people who barely made it through the public schools. A homeschooled student is a fish out of water there – head and shoulders above the usual student population. It’s embarrassing to everyone involved.

    Community colleges are in much the same boat. Substantial portions of their curriculum are devoted to providing incoming students the education they didn’t get in grade school and high school – remedial everything classes. Homeschoolers mostly go there to get the high school education without the high school atmosphere. It also provides college credits to cut down the amount of time spent on a college campus. CCs allow a student to skip high school.

    Colleges which are looking to get a better reputation want homeschoolers, but those institutions that already have their niche carved out, like the trades and the community colleges.. not so much.

  120. Supertradmum says:


    Not all community colleges are the same. I have taught at Notre Dame, the University of Bristol, Cardinal Stritch University and community colleges in Iowa. I have taught the same classes, Intro to Writing, Composition II, Intro to Literature. Religion and Literature, Humanities, Theological Themes in Great Literature, Seminar in Literature I, II, and III etc, with exactly the same standards. Excellence is excellence. I have not taught any remedial classes. Many of my students use the community college to get their basics out of the way for more expensive places and some of my students are now in medical schools and dental colleges. I have sons and daughters of doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. as well as at risk students. My classes are not high school level at all. My at risk students have to try and make the grade, and some do.

  121. aspiringpoet says:

    Supertradmum, I just want to say that I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts.

    I came into the Church after I read Thomas Aquinas at a non-Catholic (actually, virulently atheistic) liberal arts school. Sometimes when I read Catholic forums, I get the sense that some members (certainly not all) are afraid that thinking (especially philosophy) is dangerous because it can be perverted by the devil. It can be, but usually this happens by getting people to stop thinking fully, as in unquestioned acceptance of relativism, an idea for which I have yet to hear a logical or coherent argument from anyone. Actually it is as you say – the devil is the great anti-intellectual. The intellect, properly used, must always lead us to Jesus, because He is Truth.

    (BTW, I am not suggesting Catholic parents send their kids to virulently atheistic schools in order to study Thomas Aquinas …..)

  122. JMody says:

    Catholic schools had their first big problem with the changing of disciplines after Vat II and the COLLAPSE of the ORDERS — when nuns and brothers left, and had to be replaced by “state certified” teachers, they ahd to offer competitive salary and tuition went way up.
    So an institution adds expense, so some people have to leave.
    THEN, fewer and fewer kids show up – salaries must still be paid, and inflation exists, so tuition goes UP. Some more people leave.
    Then the identity disappears. I went to a Catholic school in the late 70’s and high school in the eighties. I had to teach myself about the devotions to the Immaculate Heart and Sacred Heart (not part of the Carmelite Tradition, I guess). We never heard of Orders as a career vocation. Any excellence in Catholic education I had was almost out of spite to the teachers — for example, a Carmelite brother who was a gifted musician and a passionate teacher and a RAGING Communist taught a class on morality that actually ended up teaching a lot about logical argument and fallacies, just to try to bring him back to a pro-Church, non-seditious point of view.

    My wife and I send our children to the same school. We backstop it a lot, but even there, religion is still accepted as a “normal” part of life, a Crucifix is in every classroom, and, sad to say, because of the money, you know that there is a community of strong values there.


    Parents are responsible for teaching. But faith is still a gift of grace — and people can gain or lose that gift anywhere.

  123. KristenB says:

    @Joe Magarac

    I am moving to Pittsburgh, and I hope that I found the correct school- Sacred Heart.
    Is the parish as good as the school sounds? The Church is GORGEOUS!

    Being the product of a ridiculously poor catholic education at a Marionist high school (where the yearly senior prank was to dress Bl. Fr. Chaminade in drag), I know the pain of what happens. Most of my classmates are nominal catholic at best, athiest at worst. One of the classmates is now a theology teacher at a local Catholic school (they have sisters in habits, so I am giving them the benefit of the doubt), and she lists her political idiologies as flaming liberal. Did I mention that she doesn’t have a degree in Theology? Not even a minor. *sigh* At least she makes a trip to March for Life every year. Oh, and my fav: “I think she [meaning me] thinks I’m a jerk for pointing out how Uber Catholic she is all the time (this coming from the theology teacher at an archdiocesan high school)”

  124. everett says:

    I should clarify my comment regarding community colleges – many/most do not have problems with home schooled students either. Just that they are more likely to have problems than full universities. The most notorious community college system is the New York system, where they make it extraordinarily difficult.

  125. skellmeyer says:

    Oh, I don’t mean to say that community colleges ONLY offer remedial courses.
    Just that they offer a TON of remedial courses – enough for a student to essentially re-take his entire high school career, if he wanted to or needed to.

    Some community colleges use this as part of their niche – there are some that cater to homeschooled students because they know the homeschoolers are going to to “skip” high school either by testing into the real, full credit college courses they offer, or by taking the “remedial” courses to stand in for the high school courses they aren’t taking.

    But, some community colleges don’t like to allow that kind of homeschool two-step around the local high school. It depends on the political dynamic in the particular town. Community colleges are tied to their particular communities – they aren’t trying to (nor are they meant to) attract overseas students or students from out-of-state (unless they live right on the border of a state). So, the local CC is going to pay some degree of attention to what keeps the local high school principal(s) happy. That might mean some rough handling for homeschoolers.

    Colleges and universities tend not to be as affected by the local public high school politics because they consciously try to get a diverse student population from as wide as they can throw their net. They don’t care if homeschoolers are ticking off the local high school principal, so they aren’t going to put roadblocks in the way of homeschoolers. Some community colleges have a similar level of freedom, but not all do.

  126. profcarlos says:

    Down here in Brazil, the situation is terrible. I just took my children away from a “Catholic” school and put them in a public scholl. The “Catholic” school, managed by nuns in full habit, seemed OK, but this year a teacher brought rubber male and female sexual organs to teach the children how to use a condom and, how could I say it? how the organs “fit”.
    I was paying a fairly high price for my children to be in what was supposed to be a Catholic school. Now, in the public school, the same thing will probably happen, but at least I won’t be in debt because of it.
    Oh, yes: homeschooling is forbidden here.

  127. pop says:

    again too many people associate the catholic church with the school. Kind of like the tail wagging the dog!
    Why don’t we identify the catholic church with the CHURCH!
    Again I will state that entirely too much money is dedicated to offering an education in secular subject matter period. Does anyone really believe that sending a child to a catholic church sponsored school is the only way a child will be brought up in the faith?
    It is the responsibility of the parents to be the first teachers of the faith. However, we the community have a responsibility to assist the parents. Indeed, we the faithful have the responsibility to pass the faith on to all people.
    Do we pass the faith on by erecting catholic schools which can accept only a small percentage of our children?
    I suggest what we are in fact doing is we are creating an elitist school mind set where we keep our children from mingling with and having their minds polluted by rift raft…… especially in the inner city school systems. Is that one of our catholic values?
    The cost involved in the operation of a parochial school is a very severe burden on parishes. Far too many parishes have all but abandoned parish based ministries in and to the community, faith based youth ministry, aid to needy parishioners and so many other programs that are Gospel imperatives. Yet the Gospel imperative is the Catholic identity . Look around and observe the super abundance of faith based communities popping up every where. Sure some people flock there for a do good-feel good experience. But upon closer examination, one will observe out reach programs of every sort that are a part of the “LIVING MINISTRY” of these communities. People are DOING WHAT IS BELIEVED and as such they are in fact the LIVING BODY of Christ even though their faith community is not in our catholic view…… the faith handed down by the apostles.

    In the mean time, we are struggling to pay the utility bills. We are closing unsustainable parishes. We are forcing our pastors and or parish managers to call others parishes and twist their arms for past due tuitions. But we are very good at fund raising, operating bingo games, teaching our children how to sell Christmas cards, candies, and whatever? Like it is so sadly but often said” all they do at that church is ask for more money”.
    OH don’t worry about tuition, just send the kids and let the parish pay? ( they have a money tree out back!)

    And while a relatively handful of children “escape those other schools” and attend the school for the elite chosen few?, the majority of children attend parish based CCD squeezed into between masses.

    Can someone please tell me how that satisfies our responsibility to instruct our children in the faith? Our rather caviler approach to passing on the faith via these well intended CCD programs is very much responsible for the loss of catholic identity!

    In terms of your parish budget, what is the percentage of money that goes to support catholic schools? What is the percentage of money that goes for parish based CCD and Catholic Social Services?

    Do yourself a favor: survey your parishioners; ask them how many years of CCD they have received.
    TOO often we see kids at Baptism, First Communion, and MAYBE Confirmation. And then for most, CCD is a thing of the past….. they are confirmed and so they do not need to attend anymore!

    It is incredible that this is reality in many, many a diocese.

    So once again may I suggest we kick around the idea of replacing parochial schools as alternatives to secular schools with a system of regional CCD centers.
    Children and young adults would attend instruction classes at these centers one or two days a week.
    Obviously a system would have to be worked out where-by there are evening and or weekend
    classes. Subject matter would advance with age. Preteen years would find a curricula of a more advanced nature and have an emphasis on catholic moral behavior, development of conscience, and age appropriate decision discussions.

  128. Mitchell NY says:

    My Mom went to Catholic School and when I asked her why she did not send me her answer was simple. “Because they changed everything and it is not what it used to be”. That speaks volumes.

  129. my kidz mom says:

    *Why did you choose what you chose?* Icamethisclose to homeschooling, but husband would not agree. Public school here: every campus has a police presence, and students are disrespectful in word, dress and action. My two teen girls currently attend an all-girl Catholic high school.

    *Was the “Catholic identity” issue a factor?* Definitely, in both the positive and negative sense. I knew going in that half the cars in the parking lot sported Obama bumper stickers, and my husband warned “now don’t go writing the Bishop with whatever issues you find.” And believe me, there are issues – yesterday it was “let’s have the student choose today’s opening prayer,” and we get the Beatles song “Can’t Buy Me Love.” I kid you not. Thankfully, my girls can smell CINOs and heretics a mile away. On the flip side, we have also been blessed with two solidly orthodox young religion teachers – my kids and I think they can walk on water (pardon the pun)!

    *What needs to be done?* Actually, “pop” (the post two above mine) seems to have a good philosophy. Until that comes to pass…

    Do you have a capital-C Catholic priest, nun, teacher, staff? Write/call them with positive support, bring them food, ask them how you can help, do whatever it takes! Do you attend Saint Squishy catholic Community? Vote with your feet. Are you being challenged on your beliefs in the public square or with family, friends and co-workers? Remember you are the Church Militant. Never shrink from identifying yourself as such. Start with your own house, and Be Not Afraid to be joyfully, solidly Catholic.

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