Education culture wars are coming for ‘reawakened’ Catholic schools


Jhe culture wars over critical race theory, gender theory and coronavirus protocols that sparked a nationwide movement of parenting activism have spread beyond public education.

Once seen as a refuge from militant public school teachings and pandemic closures, Catholic schools are in the midst of their own internal struggles over whether to engage in landmark cultural debates or stick firmly to the teachings. religious.

“The reality is that these are very troubling times, inside and outside the church,” Bishop Thomas Daly of the Diocese of Spokane said in an interview with the Washington Examiner. “[It’s a] challenge when we have Catholic schools, Catholic bishops, religious orders and institutions within the church which, quite frankly, have “awakened”.

“When the church sets out on the path of ‘revival’…we are unfaithful to the mission of Christ which he gave to the church… [and] we chat [great] harm.”

Catholic cultural tension reached a tipping point last month, when Bishop Robert McManus, prelate of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts, banned his diocese’s School of the Nativity from identifying itself as a Catholic school. . The Offense: Displaying Gay Pride and Black Lives Matter flags on school grounds.


The rebuke was unusual, Patrick Reilly, president and founder of the Catholic education watchdog group the Cardinal Newman Society, told the Washington Examiner.

“It’s rare for a Catholic bishop to publicly criticize a Catholic school, and it usually happens because the school first went public with the dispute, not the bishop,” Reilly said. “No school can call itself Catholic without the approval of the local bishop.”

The incident at the School of the Nativity, he said, is another example of how “everything in the surrounding culture finds its way into Catholic schools, through students or teachers “.

“To some extent this is inevitable,” said Reilly, “but it is a bigger problem today, when fewer Catholics are well trained in the faith and a growing proportion of students and d “teachers are non-Catholic. The Cardinal Newman Society has been very concerned about the infiltration of critical theory of race, gender identity and cancel culture into Catholic schools.”

The presence of “harmful agendas” is something that Catholic parent Mary Miller says should remind parents to “use due diligence” when moving to a Catholic school.

Miller, a private school advocacy associate with the activist parent organization Parents Defending Education, noted that in the summer of 2020, following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, “many Catholic schools responded in the same way as public schools” by apologizing for systemic racism and pledging to “fully embrace diversity, equity and inclusion.”

“What we’ve seen over the past two years is that this has tended to affect hiring and admissions policies,” Miller said. “We’re looking to change board policies, the program is much more identity-focused, drawing critical theories, and more support for after-school clubs like the Gender Sexuality Alliance, GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education of network-type clubs) which may come in the guise of a community party.”

One such community celebration was held in January at Carondelet High School in Concord, Calif., a Catholic school for girls in the Diocese of Oakland. Students from the school had the opportunity to make pronoun buttons at a craft table and listen to a presentation on the various pride flags denoting different gender identities.

“Parents put their kids in these Catholic schools because they want to avoid a lot of things and they don’t want politics in the classroom,” Miller said. “When anti-Christian ideologies like BLM, embracing homosexuality…when those ideologies are falsely presented under the veil of euphemisms, such as social justice and equity as Catholic social teaching, parents and to children that this is all part of inclusion. It is deeply worrying for parents because they see their tenets of Catholic faith being hijacked for a very anti-Christian and anti-Catholic ideology.”

The state of Catholic education troubled Daly, who is the chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Education.

In a wide-ranging interview, Daly said that what is taught in Catholic schools is barely distinguishable from lessons in a public school and has created a kind of “parallel church” within the Catholic education system.

“Catholic schools are one of the ministries of the church for the salvation of souls,” Daly said. “But you see these schools that have turned into kind of a nice private school with Christian trappings…and they have to be called because they’re not really Catholic schools anymore.”

“It is essential that those who lead the Church do so with courage, perseverance, fidelity to Christ and to what the Church teaches,” the Bishop continued. “[We] it must always be done with patience and charity but never… deviate from the truth. There are certain religious orders and universities in this country that have caused great harm because they have confused students through what is being taught. »

While the divide in Catholic education may be under the radar, a much more public divide in the Catholic church has embroiled U.S. bishops in the question of whether Catholic politicians such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D -CA) and President Joe Biden should be allowed to receive Communion. while pushing for the expansion of the legality of abortion, which the church views as an intrinsic evil and its possibility as a mortal sin. Catholics who are in a state of mortal sin should abstain from receiving Communion until they have asked for forgiveness through confession.

For Catholics in public life, the Church teaches that support for intrinsic evils such as abortion must also be publicly renounced in order to avoid scandal – an action that can lead others to sin.

Daly was one of many U.S. bishops to back San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s recent public decision to bar Pelosi from receiving Communion because of his support for legal abortion. But he also noted that “some members of the hierarchy” like to have “warm relations with pro-abortion politicians who call themselves good Catholics.”

“We can’t do that,” he said. “The problem is not the church in the world, it’s the world in the church.”

Offering a more diplomatic assessment of the cultural state of Catholic schools, Sister Dale McDonald, vice president of public policy at the National Catholic Education Association, said Catholic schools across the country have weathered the cultural controversies engulfing their public counterparts better. in “trying to be faithful to our mission [and] by promoting harmony among everyone in the school.”

“We’ve had a few schools where there’s been controversy about [critical race theory]McDonald said. “I think what most of our schools try to do is avoid the political jargon that polarizes people.”

McDonald noted that Catholic schools saw a surge in enrollment last year due to their willingness to offer in-person instruction while many public schools remained closed and saw emerging controversies over the curriculum.

“Parents who never knew what we were talking about, they came, they saw it and they liked it,” she said, “and I think that’s how we got over it. some of those controversies is that we have a commitment to our mission.”


Bishop Daly urged schools to stay true to the faith.

“We live in this throwaway culture,” he said. “Catholic schools, when they focus on Jesus Christ and what he taught, [provide] hope. And hope is…based on faith that redemption is always possible and there is truth.”

“Catholic schools, now more than ever, are especially needed because there is so much confusion and so much dishonesty in the culture,” Daly added. “We need our Catholic schools, but they must be faithful Catholic schools.”


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