In light of the terrible scandals confronting the Church in recent days, may we (once again) propose a key part of the solution to widespread infidelity, dissent and scandal?
We propose the renewal of faithful Catholic education.
The Church has been repeatedly wounded by the predatory, criminal and obscene abuse of innocent boys and men by trusted leaders, including former Cardinal McCarrick and those who enabled him.
How can we still be in this situation? After the 2002 scandals, the faithful stood with the bishops and trusted them to end not just the sex abuse scandals—which we were assured were all in the past—but also to work to rebuild and strengthen Catholic identity across the Church’s institutions.
But here we are 16 years later. Church attendance is plummeting, young people are abandoning the faith, and heterodox Catholic colleges, leaders and organizations have persisted in dissent and scandal without consequence or public correction.
If you wonder how we got here, Anthony Esolen’s article on the McCarrick scandals at the Newman Society’s website is a must-read. McCarrick, he points out, was one of the signers of the infamous “Land O’ Lakes Statement” in 1967, which paved the way to outright dissent and academic opposition to Humanae Vitae a year later.
Esolen rightly finds that the Cardinal’s behavior—and the apparent tolerance for that behavior by other bishops—had much the same cause as the decline of Catholic education.
And it can be corrected, if all of us in the Church demand fidelity and true Catholic formation in our homes, our schools, our colleges, and our seminaries.
But this will be easier said than done. In many corners of the institutional Church, we seem to be rushing to meet the (fallen) world where it is, instead of boldly and confidently proclaiming that true happiness is found in Truth, in the Way of Christ. Just look at the agendas, marketing materials and speaking lineups of the upcoming World Meeting of Families and the Synod on Young People.
More than ever, what our families need… what the Church needs… what all the world needs, is a revitalization of truly faithful Catholic education.
Still, in too many Catholic elementary and secondary schools, we find the influence of the utilitarian Common Core and secular textbooks and curricula, often embraced by well-meaning but apparently poorly catechized educators. The Newman Society’s Catholic Is Our Core project exposed the inadequacy of the Common Core, and thankfully many dioceses have abandoned it. A number of them have embraced our faithful Catholic Curriculum Standards. But there is still so much more to be done.
With regard to Catholic colleges, it is well past time for the Church—the bishops, the clergy and religious, and parents—to publicly reject those that undermine fundamental Church teachings while claiming a Catholic identity! This scandal has done enormous damage to souls.
The most heterodox of the Catholic colleges serve as incubators for practically every bad idea in the Church today. Dissident educators and their college leaders bear direct responsibility for leading young people astray—and yet we cannot ignore the painful fact that the Church’s continued endorsement of these institutions leads many Catholic families to send their sons and daughters to be corrupted by sin and relativism.
More than a quarter of Catholic colleges allow overnight, opposite-sex visitation in student bedrooms! What effect do you suppose that has on students and their faith? Where are Church leaders and Catholic parents on this? Why are they not demanding that it stop?
This is just one example of how the Church’s silence on public scandal and the collapse of Catholic moral formation have fostered infidelity and dissent.
The good news is that there is a renewal of Catholic education underway: at Newman Guide colleges; at Catholic Education Honor Roll schools, including lay-run independent Catholic schools that get too little support and attention from the Church; in the exploding Catholic homeschool community that also gets too little support and attention from the Church; and in lay Catholic organizations like the Newman Society, FOCUS, ICLE, the Augustine Institute, and so many others.
Thanks be to God for this!
And thanks also for those orthodox and holy priests and bishops who faithfully live their vocations and proclaim the Truth of Christ. We have met and worked closely with many of them, and they need our prayers and support more than ever.
We need the entire Church, both clergy and laity, to demand fidelity from every Catholic and every institution which claims a Catholic identity. It’s an expression of the greatest love to uphold Truth, Beauty and Goodness in Catholic education and throughout the Church. May we love our young people and fellow Catholics more deeply and fervently in these times of dissent and confusion.