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Lessons from the Secularisation of Catholic Education

Have you noticed how those who come out of the Catholic school system dont seem to adhere to Christian values much more than anyone else? I didnt attend a Catholic school, so my own knowledge of it is limited, but Im not the only one to find it remarkable as though the schools are Catholic in name only. Take these examples from the realm of sexuality; celebrations of Coming Out Day at Notre Dame. Banning the critiquing of gay marriage. A professor at a Catholic university, arguing in the New York Times that homosexual relations can be deemed ok, because following the Bible on all teachings is “theologically unnecessary.” A vice principle discouraging student compliance with church teaching on marriage, and suing his school for not allowing him to violate church teaching. Or students pushing en mass for non-compliance of Catholic teachings. Gay staff in a Catholic university have even been known to point to the Jesuit institution’s Catholic identity as a reason to provide abortion insurance in its employee health plan. Isnt that basically an argument that says because we are Christian we need funding to be unchristian? And Georgetown University, who refer to themselves as “housing the largest campus ministry in the country”, report alarmingly unchristian trends on their campus too. It’s so bad that some Catholics have even begun asking whether it’s best that children dont attend Catholic schools.

How did the Catholic education system become so messed up? Well some have suggested that a desire to join the prestige of ivy league institutions has been a distraction from Catholic foundations. Other reasons have been raised too. Apparently, Christendom College of Front Royal, VA, has recently released a newsletter with some clues. The newsletter, in part, refers to …

“… our nation’s Catholic colleges and universities — where students are more likely to become debauched atheists or agnostics than to become capable defenders of the Faith.

Am I exaggerating? Sadly, no. …

How is this possible? Tragically, most “Catholic” schools aren’t really Catholic anymore. And while there are several reasons for that, one of the most significant has been overlooked: the corrupting effects of federal government subsidies.

It began in 1965, when LBJ’s Omnibus Education Act made millions of federal dollars available to Catholic colleges — in exchange, you might say, for their souls.

Almost immediately, in 1967, a group of Catholic colleges led by the University of Notre Dame declared independence from the Catholic Church, partly to qualify for the federal funds. Since then, hundreds of other Catholic schools have joined them in spirit by accepting federal funding and the compromise it requires.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has ruled (in Grove City v. Bell) that even schools that receive federal funds only indirectly, through federal student loans and Pell Grants, must play by the government’s rules.

Today, in fact, every Catholic college in the United States may be putting its Catholic identity in jeopardy (if it has not surrendered it already) by taking federal funds at least indirectly.”

The newsletter provides these details as background to another point it raises, which I wont raise here. I think this background is interesting enough in its own right! Unfortunately citation I have seen of the newsletter does not include details of what the ‘compromise’ is that is allegedly required by the funding. But memories of news stories of;

  • Obamacare seeking to mandate even Catholic institutions in providing insurance to cover abortion
  • government mandates under coercion of the ACLU, to separate church and school
  • governmental efforts to promote the social sanctioning of homosexual relations

make it easy to imagine what pressures might exist to push these schools into promoting a secular ethos. There are details here of how some Catholic schools who receive public funding have been muzzled by government, on sharing what the church teaches about homosexuality. And there are details here of further threats to dissuade Catholic schools of keeping to a Catholic ethos.

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