When 60 members of the House of Representatives — all of them baptized Catholics — issued their ultimatum last week demanding access to the Eucharist despite their pro-abortion politics, it became apparent how little they know about the Catholic faith and Christ’s invitation to communion with him.
The signers clearly hope to turn the bishops’ appeal for “Eucharistic coherency” into a partisan issue, even though it impacts Catholics of every political stripe. But regardless of which party these politicians belong to, what most concerns me is the fact that prominent Catholics displayed such ignorance of the Church’s fundamental teaching and practice concerning the Eucharist. Which made me wonder: how many attended Catholic schools and colleges?
In the past, I have lamented the number of pro-abortion members of Congress who graduated from Catholic colleges, mostly Jesuit institutions. Often they are celebrated as successful alumni, despite their flagrant opposition to the Church’s reverence for the sanctity of all human life.
The bewildering fact is that half of the 60 who signed last week’s letter received a Catholic education. Of those 30 representatives, at least 15 attended Catholic high schools and 22 attended Catholic colleges, 16 of them Jesuit institutions.
What does this say about Catholic education in recent decades? Perhaps these politicians received a good education and later turned away from the Faith — that certainly is possible. But given the abundance of evidence of the poor catechesis of Catholics, widespread dissent on abortion and contraception, and weak Catholic identity in many schools and colleges over the last five decades, the Church likely bears some responsibility for failing to properly form these men and women as saints instead of obstinate sinners.
On the other hand, the fact that 31 never had a Catholic high school or college education (I was unable to find much information about their elementary schools) also raises serious questions about the lack of adequate formation for most baptized Catholics. The consequences are clear: too many people claim to be Catholic but lack respect for the Eucharist and are unashamed of their support for abortion, same-sex marriage and other obvious moral evils. They should be ashamed — and so should we — for not doing everything possible to ensure a faithful Catholic education for every Catholic child.
We must do better. And if we do, the impact on society and the Church will be something wonderful to behold.
A version of this article by Patrick Reilly, president and founder of The Cardinal Newman Society, first appeared at the National Catholic Register.