Catholic School Welcomes Children with Down Syndrome

How This Catholic School Welcomes Children with Down Syndrome

When the students and faculty of Holy Family Academy in Manassas, Virginia, attend this year’s March for Life in Washington, D.C., their group will include children with Down syndrome. It’s an important pro-life statement: in the United States, upward of 75% of preborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are killed by abortion.

But Holy Family — a small, lay-established school that is faithful to Catholic teaching — does more than advocate for the life of these children. It helps give them an education through its beautiful St. Anne Program, launched at the beginning of the last school year.

Each Friday, students aged 8 to 18 with Down syndrome participate in academics, music and art as a cohort, joining with the remainder of Holy Family’s K-12 students for Mass, lunch and recess. Parents homeschool the children through the remainder of the week.

“As a Catholic school, we are committed to promoting the dignity of life,” says Mo Woltering, headmaster at Holy Family Academy and former executive director of The Cardinal Newman Society in the late 1990s. He believes that, while students with Down syndrome have significant intellectual challenges, they have a human right to formation in mind, body and soul — and the program has “worked really well” for other children, too.

“Students see that children with Down syndrome are welcome at the Academy, and that the school has a commitment to education for these members of our family,” Woltering says.

Unique classical model

The St. Anne Program addresses a top priority for the local Diocese of Arlington. Bishop Michael Burbidge has called for more inclusion in Catholic schools, noting that students with special needs “show others the face of Christ and bring out the best in all of us.” He recently highlighted programs at two schools on the Newman Society’s Catholic Education Honor Roll: Bishop O’Connell High School’s expanded services and Paul VI Catholic High School’s Options program.

Other schools on the Honor Roll and around the country wonderfully combine faithful Catholic education with care for students who might otherwise be excluded. But one thing that is special about Holy Family’s St. Anne Program is that students have the opportunity to partake of a classical Catholic curriculum.

“The program reflects our basic commitment to classical education: that it’s for everyone, and that it will feed the souls of students with Down syndrome, albeit in a different way,” says Woltering. These students “show us a new type of connection with the classics, and with the true, the good and the beautiful.”

Another unique aspect of the Holy Family Academy program is that it focuses exclusively on children with Down syndrome, which Woltering says serves the students well.

“Many special education programs tend to lump their students together, but there are many educational and emotional differences among various special needs children,” he says. “A feature of our program is that the needs are similar, and so we are able to address them in a consistent manner.”

For social and recreational time, other Holy Family students serve as “ambassadors” for the St. Anne children. For many students, it’s the “highlight of their week,” Woltering says, and “friendships have quickly formed.”

“It’s always so much fun to see them on Fridays, they have such big smiles,” says Woltering. “On the friendship level and on a joy level, it’s been a big success.”

Family oriented

Catholic school programs like this recognize the dignity of each human being and benefit both students with special needs and the rest of the school community. This is the mission of Catholic education in action. As Pope Benedict XVI told Catholic educators during his 2008 visit to the United States, “No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation.”

At Holy Family, the students with Down syndrome bring so much to the school, and the Academy has been a big help to parents in forming their sons and daughters in the Faith. It is — as Catholic education should be — a service by and for families with shared needs.

Mary Radel, instructor for the St. Anne’s program, has a younger brother with Down syndrome. The youngest child of Woltering and his wife Denise, who directs the grade school curriculum and whose parents founded the Academy, also has Down syndrome but is not yet old enough for the program.

Only a year and half into the pilot project, Woltering hopes that the St. Anne Program will expand and succeed into the future. “It will be really exciting to see that, to experience that, and share that with others too,” he says.

May Holy Family Academy’s example inspire other Catholic educators to do something similar to celebrate and improve the lives of children with special needs. It is yet another piece in the renewal of faithful Catholic education, with just the right combination of traditional devotion and innovative methods that is needed to serve Catholic families.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Nick Sandmann

Justice for Nick Sandmann — and All of Us

Last year during a Catholic school trip to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., Nick Sandmann and his peers were bullied by shameless activists and then belittled by shameless activist journalists. Now justice has begun.

CNN has agreed to some type of settlement with Sandmann for its reckless and false reporting, after the boy and his family filed an $800 million lawsuit against the television news company, The Washington Post and NBC Universal. Reality is about to hit the latter two companies also, and rightly so.

I am delighted to see this boy and his family defeat Goliath — and it’s a win for all of us, especially those who brave the weather each year to attend the March for Life as well as the West Coast Walk for Life, only to be heckled by those who defend the most abhorrent practices and (worse) largely ignored by the media.

The persecution of Sandmann and the Covington Catholic School students could easily happen to any of us — and not just in Washington, D.C., but at any restaurant or supermarket across the U.S. Although American libel laws are woefully inadequate to protecting anybody deemed a “public figure” by the courts, we can be grateful that the laws still protect the average citizen — people like Nick Sandmann, simply exercising his free speech in an extraordinarily restrained manner.

God bless you, Nick, for taking your fight to the courts! You fight for Americans everywhere.

The witness of young Catholics

The news of the CNN settlement arrives just two weeks before this year’s March for Life on Jan. 24 and the West Coast Walk for Life on Jan. 26, when thousands of Catholic school and college students will gather once again, countering a culture of death.

Is it any surprise that, when Americans gather to protest an atrocity as evil as abortion, evil retaliates with insults, attacks and unpredictable situations?

We expect it, but there was a time not so long ago when adults refrained from targeting young people, because of a general respect for their innocence and the space they need to grow and mature. Even if the Covington boys had acted improperly — and from what I have seen on the videos, not every boy had the composure that Sandmann displayed — it was simply wrong for national media to destroy boys’ reputations for reacting to angry and drum-banging political activists.

Sure, some of the Covington Catholic School boys were wearing “Make America Great Again” hats, and the most hardened “never Trumper” thinks that makes them fair game for protest. But these were young tourists, excited to support their president and the dignity of babies. School boys are not appropriate targets for nasty political protests.

Unlike the activists who confronted him, Sandman acted commendably by keeping his cool in a confusing and hostile situation. School and college students—and all others, young and old—who are traveling to this year’s March for Life would do well to follow Sandmann’s lead when faced with the inevitable hatred of pro-abortion protestors. From what I have seen in past years, the young people at the March for Life do an outstanding job of keeping it positive and celebrating life, even while protesting the horrors of abortion.

Indeed, pro-life students from across the U.S. cheerfully overcome all sorts of obstacles when attending the March for Life under wintry conditions. In 2016, there was a different flurry of media attention after the March for Life, when buses returning to Midwest schools, colleges and parishes were hit with a massive snowstorm. Some groups were stranded on the Pennsylvania Turnpike for more than 24 hours.

These included students, faculty and staff from the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, a faithful Newman Guide college. One student told The Cardinal Newman Society that being stuck in the snow had its perks, because it brought much-needed media attention to the March for Life. Media coverage revealed the joy and optimism of the group, and it “showed the dedication of the students for this issue,” the student explained.

The nation’s media should be ashamed that snowstorms and activist attacks on young people are the only way the March for Life gets substantial attention. Hopefully this year is different.

A chastised media?

This month, as every year, Catholic students will travel in buses from across the country to march against abortion. They will brave the cold weather and sleep on the floors of gyms and churches. They will do their part to make a stand for life!

Keep an eye out for Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, which is sending eight buses with nearly 500 students. At least five buses and more than 250 students from Benedictine College of Kansas will travel more than 1,000 miles. Presidents from both colleges and leaders and students from several other faithful Catholic colleges will March for Life.

Christendom College in Virginia always closes campus for the day, so students, faculty and staff can attend the March. Other Catholic colleges that typically cancel classes during the March include The Catholic University of America, The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts and Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts.

The story of what will happen at this year’s March for Life is yet to be written, and a chastised media might think about highlighting the example of the extraordinary young people who come to the March each year. Catholic students are numerous at the March, and they witness to the dignity of human life all year long. May God bless them for their witness!

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Virgin and Child with Saints Dominic and Thomas Aquinas

Resolved for New Year 2020: Teach the Faith

I love the six days between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The Son of God is with us! Now we get a short time to rev up our engines for the new year’s work of evangelization, as Christ commanded.

I propose three resolutions for the Year 2020, under a single theme of education. Why education? The confusion, irreverence, dissent, scandal and blasphemy that we find within the Church today—and the extraordinary challenges of secularism and sexual perversion in our culture—exhibit widespread embrace of falsehood. More than 2,000 years since Christ was born, too few people know the truth of God and his creation.

To help remedy this appalling situation, I pray that in 2020 the Church might finally break free of the dangerously limited notion of Catholic education as a particular system of schools accessed by a dwindling portion of young Catholics. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of truly Catholic schools! But they are one means of Catholic education—a favored means during the last two centuries, yet never the only means. The need for educating Catholics in truth and devotion is what takes precedence. Some schools, sadly, have even forgotten essential aspects of their mission, while increasingly Catholics are turning to print, broadcast and online resources as well as lay-run schools, homeschooling and innovative hybrid school-and-home options.

Catholic education is the task of formation in faith, truth and reason, and it is the Church’s primary method of evangelization. It is for all of us! Learning is growth, and teaching is key to three of the Spiritual Works of Mercy: instructing the ignorant, counseling the sorrowful and admonishing the sinner. All three works are desperately needed today.

Every Catholic adult is called to self-educate. Today we have many outstanding publishers of books, videos, software, websites and more. We have faithful Catholic media like EWTN and the Register. We have new and renewed colleges that provide faithful online and in-person instruction grounded in authentic theology.

For children, Catholic education is a solemn duty of every Catholic parent. If a child cannot be taught in a faithful Catholic school or homeschool, then the parent must find other ways of forming the child in the truths of the faith—not only doctrine, but reverent prayer and sacrament. And not only religion, but the great insights of our faith into every other branch of knowledge, including history, science and literature. And not only knowledge, but the skills of reasoning and communication—those uniquely human abilities that resemble God’s wisdom and loving Word.

If a school or CCD program fails to do the job adequately or a secular school is the only option, then a parent must find or create other means of Catholic education. It is as essential as providing food and shelter.

So for 2020, let us resolve to teach the truth of God and his creation to a world suffering from ignorance.

Resolution 1: Teach the Holy Eucharist

The Pew Research study released in 2019 found that only 31% of self-professed U.S. Catholics—26% under the age of 40—believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. A more recent EWTN-RealClear poll found that 49% of Catholics who are registered to vote believe in the Real Presence. Both results are devastating!

If the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, then clearly a top priority must be Catholic education for both young people and adults, by teaching sound doctrine and forming Catholics in reverent liturgy and adoration.

This begins with parents and educators. Catholic homeschoolers have demonstrated a notable commitment to both daily and Sunday Mass, preparation for Mass through frequent confession, and Eucharistic adoration. But this should not set them apart—surely Catholic schools and colleges could be encouraging the same, yet most regard the sacraments as personal obligations that are extraneous to the job of education. Catholic schools and colleges should consider adding more frequent Masses, including at least some in the Extraordinary Form, with sacred music. They should provide opportunities for Eucharistic adoration and confession. They should teach students about the Eucharistic miracles.

Parents with children in secular schools need to make an extra effort to work liturgy and prayer into their daily schedule, as well as instruction in Catholic doctrine. But if these are high priorities, then they can be done.

Adults, too, need to be able to explain the Church’s authentic theology of the Eucharist and share the truth with each other. We can no longer assume that even our fellow Catholics know the truth. We must find ways to integrate contemplation of the Eucharist into our daily lives and into group activities.

Through catechesis and exposing fellow Catholics to beautiful and reverent liturgy, we can return Catholic education to its roots and renew faith. We have seen the tragic results of watered-down instruction and lackluster worship. Now we must aim for something better.

Resolution 2: Teach chastity

As our culture keeps going further off the rails, it is all the more important that Catholics uphold virtue and teach and practice chastity. Our witness to chastity can, I hope, bring about a renewal of the culture. It will certainly help preserve us and our young Catholics from grave sin.

Even in Catholic high schools and colleges, the hook-up culture is well-documented and the rates of sexual activity and assault are alarming. These are associated with the mortal sins of contraception, sterilization and abortion, as well as an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases. Even before high school and throughout adolescence and adulthood, Catholics are faced with the temptation of online pornography and explicit sexuality and violence in movies and television shows.

Teaching chastity in a culture that is downstream from the Sexual Revolution is not easy, but it begins with simple practices and precautions within our Catholic homes, schools and colleges. Make an effort in 2020 to frequently speak the words “near occasion of sin,” an essential point of Christian ethics that seems to have been forgotten or even rejected by many Catholics today. Avoidance of temptation is the reason Catholics once chaperoned activities, dressed modestly, and associated dating with the seriousness of marriage—let’s do it again.

Some practical steps can be taken to build a home or school culture that projects an assumption of chastity. Members of the opposite sex should not be entertained in bedrooms or in any room with a closed door, and Catholic colleges could help set the example by restoring appropriate campus dorm policies. Monitor internet usage and filter pornography from Wi-Fi networks; again, some Catholic colleges are already leading the way.

Resolution 3: Put truth back into education

One factor in the decline of faith over recent decades is the declining respect for truth. When was the last time you heard someone state a proposition—an opinion or claim of some sort—and back it up with sound evidence and reasoning? It is rare, and I suspect that most people today are afraid to try.

Developing strong reasoning skills used to be central to a Catholic education, probably because we expected young people to cogently analyze great literature, explain history and learn difficult theological concepts as taught by Augustine and Aquinas. Today, schools tend to emphasize facts and figures, but young people often lack the wit and wisdom of their grandparents.

Moreover, most Catholics have had a secular education—many never setting foot in a Catholic school or college, others attending Catholic institutions that provided a rather secular program. Not only were they not well-formed in doctrine, prayer and sacrament, but they never gained the insights of our faith into every other study.

If a young Catholic is not formed in truth, then we have failed to educate. Providing a truly Catholic education and fostering skills of reasoning are difficult outside of a Catholic program, but they can be done with great effort by the parents. Immediately, however, we need lukewarm Catholic schools and colleges to step up and show the way—to present the ideal so others can follow. Everything that a Catholic school or college does should reflect its Catholic identity, from its hiring practices and human sexuality policies to its curriculum and library book choices.

In 2020, Catholics should resolve to no longer accept mediocre education. Together we should demand truly faithful education with classical approaches to learning and formation. Simply resolving to make truthful education a top priority, whatever our state in life, would help turn our gaze to God and his magnificent creation. It would refocus our lives to the perfection that God wills for us, by his grace and mercy.

Please pray throughout the next year for the intercession of St. John Henry Newman, himself a great educator and advocate for faithful Catholic education. His desire was that the Catholic laity would seek truth with vigor and hold to truth with devotion. May God grant such wisdom in us, and bless us all throughout the year.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Catholics Should Lead on Banning Porn

Like many Catholics, I was encouraged by U.S. lawmakers’ plea for better enforcement of obscenity laws against pornography. What I find troubling, however, is that few Catholic colleges are leading by example.

As even companies like Starbucks and Tumblr move to block pornography on their internet networks—a rather simple thing to do—it seems like common sense that Catholic colleges would also install porn filters to avoid streaming smut to their students. But at the University of Notre Dame, students are the ones begging for a filter, and still the administration is unwilling to take a simple step toward decency and respect.

By contrast, several of the faithful Catholic colleges recommended in The Newman Guide block pornography on their Wi-Fi networks and go out of their way to encourage chastity on campus.

One of the arguments against such filters is that blocking porn would violate “free speech.” Social media has been abuzz with vigorous debate over the limits of government authority. But that has no relevance to a private college’s behavioral expectations, which are intended to form the character of young adults as much as they also protect the rights of those whose dignity and often safety are endangered by the sleazy porn industry.

College leaders also need to consider the health of their students. The severely damaging effects of pornography are well-documented by chastity advocates like Matt Fradd, a graduate of Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. His book The Porn Myth explains the psychological effects, addictive properties and devastating impact on relationships that pornography can cause.

A representative at the University of Notre Dame has argued that students should be “self-censors.” It is true that students have plenty of opportunities to access online porn outside of a college’s Wi-Fi network, and so they must learn responsibility. But a Catholic college sends an important message about the absolute impropriety of viewing porn by installing a filer—and a college that rejects filters and willingly provides access to porn sends a terrible message to students that it is not a serious concern.

Blocking porn sends a strong message about a Catholic college’s priorities and expectations for students. It says that the college condemns porn and encourages its students to stay far away from it. It tells students that the college cares enough for its students that it would never willingly sponsor a near occasion of sin, leading students into temptation.

Pornography is “not the sort of relationship” that students should be “looking for,” said President John Garvey, who happily agreed to restrict pornography access earlier this year at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. “We’re not going to lend our system to help them find it.”

If Catholic colleges are not willing to help protect students from something as damaging as porn, what concern do they show for the good of their students? What is the point of Catholic education at all, if there is no effort at formation and teaching students to live as God intended?

Catholic colleges market their bold mission statements and claims, but they need to walk the talk. They claim to offer education for the “mind and heart” and to prepare graduates to be “powerful forces for good in the world.” An easy start would be to block porn and work hard to create campus environments that promote virtue.

The souls of students must be the top concern for Catholic educators. Catholic colleges have a great responsibility in preparing students not only for this life, but also for God. I pray that college leaders muster the moral courage to stand against porn and lead the way for the rest of society.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Archbishop Sheen

Archbishop Sheen’s Idea of Education

This article by Patrick Reilly, President and Founder of The Cardinal Newman Society, was published at The National Catholic Register prior to the unexpected delay of Venerable Fulton Sheen’s beatification (originally planned for Dec. 21). Please continue to pray for his Cause for sainthood.

Education should teach us the “truth about man,” said Archbishop Fulton Sheen. A graduate of and longtime professor at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., before he was a television celebrity, Sheen should inspire Catholics to seek out authentic education.

For 23 years, Sheen taught courses such as “Philosophy of Religion” and “God and Society” at Catholic University, making frequent use of Caldwell Chapel on campus. After teaching, he moved into television and radio programs, reaching greater numbers—even until today—with his wisdom, wit and unparalleled teaching ability.

One of his former students, Father William Amann, said that Sheen’s strong faith was obvious in the classroom. “He was a very holy man and it came out certainly in the presentation of his class. His holiness was evident in his demeanor and the classes he gave, his belief in God, and his trust in the Lord.”

For Sheen, education was about training the “whole man—the intellect and will, not just the mind alone.” Related to the intellect, he described the educated person as one who will do three things: “seek truth,” have a “correlation of studies” and have “depth, particularly the deepening of mystery.”

For the first, Sheen urged that the “one basic truth we have to learn is the truth of our own existence.” He lamented that people live years of their lives without learning “why they are here, and where they are going.”

“When life is meaningless, it is very dull,” Sheen continued. “When you know the truth of life, then you are most free.”

On the second point, the correlation of studies refers to the idea that “there are certain subjects that ought to be regarded as essential, so that a man will be truly educated.” The tendency in education, Sheen explained, was to use the “shelf theory” and “take any course that you please.” This leads to a “disconnected and disjointed” understanding.

The “really educated man sees a relationship between various branches of knowledge,” said Sheen, urging against “overspecification” in universities. A well-rounded curriculum “will teach a man how to… know himself, know society, know his relationship to the universe, and above all, he will understand his relationship to God.”

Finally, a truly educated person will have a “philosophy of life that is solid” and will “deepen the mystery of things” rather than centering studies around various fads that come and go.

Sheen’s thoughts on education may sound lofty in our nation today, where many colleges, even Catholic ones, have become focused solely on job training. They lack the formation that Sheen insisted upon. Many colleges promote relativism, fail to provide a meaningful foundation in the liberal arts, and leave students empty and unprepared for life.

Sheen explains how a strong Catholic education can make life worth living. If families look carefully, they can find strong Catholic schools and colleges that are worthy of a saint.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Study Science at a Faithful Catholic College

Catholic high school students often ask: can I study engineering, medicine or the other sciences at a faithful Catholic college?

Or, to put it another way: can a college that teaches theology and philosophy be good at teaching science?

St. John Paul II thought so! He urged Catholic colleges to address the most pressing needs of society in science and technology, teaching students to see how faith and reason “bear harmonious witness to the unity of all truth.”

Today, America’s most faithful Catholic colleges are embracing St. John Paul II’s vision by teaching the sciences from an authentically Catholic perspective, and several of the colleges have announced exciting new developments in recent months. Students pursuing degrees in health, engineering, nursing, chemistry and other science- and math-related fields would do well to consider the differences in studying at a faithful Catholic college.

“We believe faith, morality and ethics are just as important in the sciences as in every other part of our lives. They cannot be separated,” said Stephen Minnis, president of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

The College recently opened a new 100,000-square-foot state of the art STEM building, the culmination of an impressive three-year project. Students and faculty expect that the new facility will open the door to involvement in even more major research projects. But unlike students at secular and many other Catholic colleges, Benedictine’s students do “not have to check their faith at the door of the science building,” says Minnis.

Students can find the best of both worlds in a faithful Catholic college. They can receive a solid liberal arts education while choosing majors like chemical, civil and mechanical engineering.

Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, has also announced expansions to its science offerings in recent years. This fall, Franciscan unveiled a biochemistry degree as one of its new majors. Students benefit in every subject area from a strong faculty, which is 94% Catholic.

“In this age of technology, we are in dire need of more truly Catholic scientists and medical professionals who can clearly articulate the proper use of science and technology in society,” explains Dr. Daniel Kuebler, biology professor and dean of the School of Natural and Applied Sciences. “The type of integrated science education offered at Franciscan produces just these types of graduates.”

In an increasing secular society, many ethical questions are raised about how scientific knowledge should be used, says Kuebler. “Should we clone humans? Should we manipulate human embryos? Should we develop embryonic stem cell lines?”

“At Franciscan, students not only learn the cutting-edge science through our array of academic programs, but they are also trained in sound Catholic moral and ethical principles so that they can competently and confidently defend the dignity of human life,” he says.

“Too often people see science and faith as being at odds with each other,” Kuebler adds. “Nothing could be further from the truth for a Catholic.”

Catholic students also find integration of faith and science at Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, North Carolina. The college recently announced that Caromont, a local health care system, will be building a hospital adjacent to campus. The lease agreement with the Benedictine monastery will ensure that “nothing contrary to the Church’s teaching will be done at the hospital,” says Dr. Heather Ayala, chair of the college’s biology department.

Additionally, any “cooperative programs the college undertakes with Caromont will be degree-granting academic programs and thus under the control of the college,” Ayala continues.

The Benedictine mission of Belmont Abbey is a “central piece” in the development of new science and health related initiatives, Ayala says. Her biology department is known for its high placement rates for graduates into medical, dental and veterinary schools.

Ayala says she has “enjoyed being able to speak openly” about her faith with students and “have conversations both inside and outside of class” that integrate her Catholic faith with the life sciences.

The University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, recently was given permission by the family of St. Gianna Beretta Molla to rename its School of Health Sciences after her. Saint Gianna gave up her life to save her unborn baby.

The sacrifice of St. Gianna witnesses to “all that we hope to pass on to our students,” says Lauren Emmel, associate professor of physical therapy at the university. She believes that students must be educated about how “God works through our vocation for our sanctification and the sanctification of those we serve.”

The University of Mary offers a variety of majors in the health sciences including physical therapy and biomechanics. Its nursing is especially popular because of its high national ranking. Students are taught from a Catholic perspective and take two theology and two philosophy courses.

“Our commitment to teaching the sciences, especially the health sciences, begins with a witness to Truth personally. Students know integrity when they see it, so a personal commitment to the faith is important for any teacher in a Catholic institution,” explains Emmel.

“Without a recognition of the other as a person with dignity,” Emmel warns, “we begin treating diseases and discarding the less-than-desirable parts… One can imagine how this potentiates discarding entire classes of people, especially those who are dependent: children, elderly, the weak, the poor.”

But at the University of Mary, “our programs begin, as they ought, with a recognition of the dignity and sanctity of life,” she says. Professors try to help students “see, consider, and view people first, with all the dignity God has provided to them” and then only afterward to “address the weaknesses and impairments in a manner which is helpful and truly healing.”

Other faithful Catholic colleges recommended in The Newman Guide—including Ave Maria University, the Catholic University of America, the University of Dallas, the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Walsh University—offer various science majors that integrate faith and ethics. John Paul the Great University in Escondido, California, offers several technical programs related to new media and the arts. Catholic liberal arts colleges like Christendom College, Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts and Thomas More College of Liberal Arts also provide math and science education.

The Great Books education at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California, and Northfield, Massachusetts, “requires knowledge of the principles of all the major disciplines, including math and science,” according to Dr. Thomas Kaiser, associate dean of the College in New England. Like Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyoming, which also emphasizes the Great Books, students get a rigorous foundation in Euclidian geometry, mathematical reasoning, scientific reasoning, natural science and philosophy.

“Having a philosophical overview of the principles and methods of the sciences is excellent preparation for specialization,” says Kaiser. “Those who specialize without this preparation may unknowingly accept philosophical presuppositions without any opportunity to critically assess them.”

Kaiser explains how, in our world today, “scientists have displaced the theologians and philosophers as the supposed wise men.” He laments that “many of them are atheists, and even those that aren’t think that there is no compatibility between faith and reason.”

“Of course, this never has been the position of the Church,” says Dr. Kaiser.

At secular colleges and even many secularized Catholic colleges, Catholic families will find science education that is completely divorced from faith. Fortunately, there are faithful Catholic colleges where students can prepare for careers in the sciences while being educated from an authentically Catholic perspective. It’s a wise choice, if wisdom is the objective.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

All-Night Dorm Visits at Notre Dame?

A group of students at the University of Notre Dame recently staged a sit-in to protest “parietals”: rules prohibiting students of the opposite sex from spending the night in each other’s dorm rooms. But ending one of the few remaining protections for chastity on a college campus is a terrible idea.

For years, Notre Dame students have made arguments against parietals, but this new effort is driven by students who claim that the University is too “heteronormative” and promotes “sexism and queerphobia” by limiting visitation from opposite-sex students.

Whatever the motivation, doing away with parietals would be a disaster. It would invite higher rates of sexual activity, sexual assault, contraception, STDs, pregnancy and abortion. It would invite mortal sin—a concern that many today think old-fashioned, but hopefully the priests and leaders at Notre Dame care deeply about such things.

Ironically, the protesters seem not to be targeting Notre Dame’s single-sex dorms. The university’s steadfast commitment to men’s and women’s dorms is admirable, given that most American colleges—including most Catholic ones—switched long ago to coed residences. Studies find that coed dorms have higher rates of drinking and sexual activity.

But still, loose rules allowing opposite-sex visitors to stay in bedrooms until late-night hours can quickly undermine the benefits of single-sex dorms, especially with regard to sexual activity. At Notre Dame, opposite-sex visitors can be in student bedrooms until midnight on weeknights and 2 a.m. on weekends. These are hours when students are more likely to be sexually active and under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

The protesters are right, then, to target parietals if they want to dramatically change campus culture. Notre Dame should reject their pleas.

Even more, Notre Dame should consider further limiting nighttime visitation and insisting on open doors when someone of the opposite sex is present. Even better, the university would provide sufficient meeting spaces for students in other buildings and end opposite-sex visitation to dorm rooms altogether.

What if Notre Dame’s politically correct leaders feel compelled to appease the misguided students who find parietals to be too “heteronormative?” There’s a simple answer: end all visitation to dorm rooms, by any student who does not live in the room, throughout the day. This has the added advantage of promoting chastity among even the homosexual students at Notre Dame.

Reducing Sexual Assault

College-aged females have the highest rates of sexual assault, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, and Notre Dame has its share of such crimes.

Although studies show that most sexual assaults against college students take place off campus, about a third occur within student dorms. Reducing off-campus assaults is necessary but very difficult; reducing on-campus assaults could begin with simply reforming dorm visitation policies.

Studies show that two key factors are associated with sexual assault on campus: drinking and casual sex. When looking at the sexual assaults of college-aged females, one study found that 47% of victims perceived their attacker was drinking or using drugs. Additionally, the facts show that 78% of on-campus sexual assaults took place during what started as casual sexual encounters.

Also, a third factor seems to be the time of day. A study found that 52% of forced sexual assaults and 90% of assaults on incapacitated victims took place between midnight and 6 a.m. Most of the others occurred between 6 p.m. and midnight.

A survey of students at Notre Dame bears similar results to the national studies. In 2018, 7% of female students said they had experienced “non-consensual sexual intercourse” while studying at Notre Dame. Of the assaults that occurred during the last year, 58% were committed within residences on Notre Dame’s campus. And in nearly two-thirds of the incidents, the victim was familiar with the attacker prior to the day of the assault.

Is any of this surprising? Put unsupervised young adults in bedrooms, behind closed doors, in the evening or late at night, when they are more likely to be impaired by alcohol or drugs, and serious problems will result.

A Catholic college should be greatly concerned about the spiritual health of its students, as well as the epidemic of STDs and high rates of abortion among college-age Americans. But even a secular college that has no problem with premarital sex and abortion should see the obvious implications for sexual assault.

Not Just Notre Dame

When The Cardinal Newman Society looked at dorm visitation policies at Catholic colleges across the country, we were shocked to find that more than a quarter of residential Catholic colleges have no restriction on all-night opposite-sex visits. Most others are like Notre Dame, with weeknight visitation until midnight or later, and weekend visitation until 2 a.m. or later. Doors may remain closed.

This indicates that Catholic college leaders across the country are turning a blind eye to what is going on in dorms late at night. This needs to change, and Notre Dame could set a powerful example if it reformed its policies appropriately.

No policy change will completely change a campus culture, but stronger visitation policies could help prevent many sexual assaults and send a clear message about the college’s expectation of chastity among its students. Catholic college leaders should do all within their power to create safe and healthy environments on campus.

This is a golden opportunity for Notre Dame to stand up for Catholic values, and implementing a few common-sense measures could go a long way to help keep students safe.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

St. John Henry Newman’s Battle for the Church Continues

Three weeks ago, my family and a group of Cardinal Newman Society pilgrims were newly arrived in Rome — and what a contradiction we seemed!

The whole world was watching the Vatican, anxious to know whether the Amazon Synod would preserve or rupture Catholic tradition.

And yet there we were at the center of it all, full of joy and excitement, eager to celebrate the canonization of the great educator and convert, Cardinal John Henry Newman — much like the Americans who, 140 years earlier, had come to Rome to celebrate Newman’s elevation to cardinal and represent the jubilant Catholics back home.

Now we prepare for the Feast of All Saints, celebrating the greatest of all promises given by Jesus to believers, amid so much unbelief across the West.

While in Rome, I reflected on this irony with our pilgrims. I realized something very important: the timing of Newman’s canonization amid the ugly synod was just right, because Newman is just right for these times.

Specifically, it seems to me that Saint John Henry’s devotion to both teaching and defending truth, together with his beloved manner of “heart speaking to heart,” provide a powerful response to those who imagine that tending to the practicalities and particularities of pastoral care must be somehow opposed to upholding the timeless truths and traditions of our faith.

Some have even warned of schism over this error, but Newman’s example could help heal the rift — or if not, then at least the unassailable reason and precision of his many writings provide a mighty defense of doctrine. In this sense, our newly declared saint promises to be more a “doctor” of the Church than we might have anticipated.

Pope Francis has called the Church a “field hospital,” and today indeed there are many wounded — in part because of the Holy Father’s own inexplicable harshness toward those who would preserve ritual and reverence while embracing the reason that is married to faith. Today’s wounded also include young people — to whom Saint John Henry devoted his educational efforts — who have been greatly harmed by the lack of a strong Christian formation and by dissent, abuse and betrayal from within and without the Church.

After his conversion, Newman saw no conflict between his popularity as a pastor and his battle for truth. Despite being one of the Church’s greatest intellectuals and theologians, the Saint’s focus was always on the immediate concerns and controversies of the people under his care. His primary interest was the authentic formation of the souls right in front of him, always speaking heart to heart, always speaking truth. He was both a loving pastor and a champion of orthodoxy.

His life’s work, Newman said, was the fight against relativism — what he called “liberalism in religion.” He insisted on the unity of faith and reason, the intellect and morality, subjective and objective reality. He proposed faithful Catholic education, precisely because he wished to “reunite” the faculties of conscience and intellect that “man had put asunder” by original sin.

With this heart of an educator, Saint John Henry Newman was devoted to truth and to bringing others to the truth. That is what the word today so greatly needs!

Newman was also, at times, prophetic about the challenges we face today. Already in 19th century Europe, Newman saw the makings of what would be the “age of infidelity,” when the Church would be confronted by a culture unlike anything it had ever seen before: a culture that simply does not tolerate religious belief, except as a private matter. Newman also predicted increased scrutiny of Catholics by secularists, who eagerly seek evidence of hypocrisy. The sins of our priests, he predicted, would become a spectacle to the news media and disbelievers.

That’s surely where we are today — and yet, truly, Newman’s canonization was also a happy moment! One of the Church’s greatest intellectuals and a beloved convert is certainly in heaven. Saint John Henry Newman encourages and inspires the Church at a time when it is under sustained assault.

Sainthood itself refreshes our hope in the mercy of God and the promise of heaven. It is a great blessing to know that a dutiful and faithful man has received God’s great mercy and the reward of heaven.

By his canonization, Newman has become even more capable, by his example and because of our prayers for intercession, to help us once again follow the Kindly Light of Christ. Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

(This article is adapted from comments delivered in Rome on the day of Saint John Henry Newman’s canonization, Oct. 13, 2019.)

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

church

We Are Losing Young Catholics

A new study by the Pew Research Center shows that less than half of American millennials—those young adults from age 23 to 38—call themselves Christians. This is the second recent study that should wake up Catholics to the very serious dangers of our secular culture and the urgent need to renew faithful Catholic education.

The other recent Pew study found that only 26% of self-professed Catholics under the age of 40 believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

These results are devastating! But sadly, they are not shocking. Our culture has rapidly fallen into that “age of infidelity” that Saint John Henry Newman predicted, and too may Catholic institutions have been complicit in the slide from faith and tradition.

It’s a clear generational decline. The Pew study shows that the Silent Generation currently identifies as 84% Christian; the Baby Boomers, 76%; and Generation X, 67%.

Now we find ourselves with young adults who are only 49% Christian, which raises the question: Where do we go from here? If the trend continues, the current youth of our country will be less than 36% Christian as adults.

Catholic parents, educators, and bishops must together renew our commitment to the Catholic formation of young people. The statistics are clear: if you go with the flow of secular society, there is a good chance that your child will lose his faith.

Public schools are controlled by governments that are no longer neutral to the faith, and they certainly do not provide formation in the most important things a child must learn and do. Lukewarm Catholic schools are a scandal, doing more harm by their example than they do by teaching some degree of values that are acceptable to the non-Catholics they strive to recruit. The Catholic faith simply cannot be taught as an add-on to life — not believably, anyhow — or it will quickly be discarded by students when confronted by reality.

The same goes for secular colleges — and the large number of secularized Catholic colleges. They actively push progressive agendas that are anti-Christian, chipping away at the faith and hope of young people.

Perhaps even worse than what students are learning in the classroom may be the hedonistic lifestyle on many Catholic college campuses. The drinking and hook-up culture is well-documented and well-ignored by many Catholic leaders and parents alike.

On the other hand, the best Catholic education shows students the unison of faith and reason, not only in studies but in life. It forms young people in mind, body and soul. They receive a solid grounding in Catholic thought, prayer, sacrament and morality. A faithful education includes participation in beautiful and reverent liturgy and authentic Christian community.

If this sounds out of reach, take a look at the Catholic schools and colleges that are getting it right. Take a look at Catholic homeschoolers, who give their children so much that is lacking from our schools, without any benefit of the resources that are wasted on poor schooling. The stakes are too great to not provide our children with a faithful Catholic education!

Of course, there is no guarantee that any student will keep the faith after graduation, especially in this toxic culture. But we must give them the very best chance of keeping it, and they cannot keep what we fail to teach them. With the souls of our young people at stake, it is essential to do everything that we can, and pray for God to lead them on the path to heaven.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Where is Newman’s University?

John Henry Cardinal Newman’s vision of higher education has been celebrated for more than 160 years, and it will hopefully get renewed attention after he is canonized this Sunday, Oct. 13.

Still, few colleges today closely resemble his Idea of a University.

If anything comes close to Newman’s vision today, it would have to be those faithful Catholic colleges recognized in The Newman Guide and the National Catholic Register’s College Guide. These are models for the renewal of Catholic education—largely according to Newman’s vision—and their continued efforts toward bringing his “idea” to fruition are a blessing to the entire Church.

I look forward to seeing many representatives of these colleges in Rome this week. Celebrating together with The Cardinal Newman Society’s supporters and friends will be leaders of Christendom College, Thomas Aquinas College and University of Mary, and key faculty members from Thomas More College of Liberal Arts and University of Dallas. We will gather also with friends from the faithful Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and Pontifical North American College.

The students and faculty of Belmont Abbey College got a head start on celebrating last week, with a lecture by Dr. Paul Griffiths. They gathered to rejoice in Newman’s sainthood, but also to embrace his vision for an academic and residential community shared by both students and mentors.

“Newman was deeply formed by his own experience as a student and as a professor,” Griffiths said. Newman expected tutors to be involved in students’ “moral and spiritual” formation and intellectual growth, in addition to students’ engagement with university lecturers and preachers.

On the same Thursday evening as the Abbey lecture, The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., held a conference on “Newman’s Idea of a University—What It Is and Why It Matters.” The event included a panel discussion with President John Garvey and professors from a variety of disciplines, highlighting Newman’s concern for dialogue and integration across a wide variety of studies.

A Catholic college unites “intellect and virtue, which man’s fallen nature has allowed to drift apart,” Garvey wrote in a 2010 article in First Things. He cited one of Newman’s university sermons:

It will not satisfy me, what satisfies so many, to have two independent systems, intellectual and religious, going at once side by side, by a sort of division of labour, and only accidentally brought together. …I want the same roof to contain both the intellectual and moral discipline. Devotion is not a sort of finish given to the sciences; nor is science a sort of feather in the cap… an ornament and set-off to devotion. I want the intellectual layman to be religious, and the devout ecclesiastic to be intellectual.

Although Newman is often associated with Catholic centers on secular campuses, he was primarily an advocate for Catholic, liberal arts education. The first “Newman Society” was established at Oxford University for Catholics seeking a higher education, only after the Irish bishops thwarted Newman’s plans for a truly Catholic Dublin university and the English bishops rejected his designs for an Oxford Oratory.

For Newman, only a Catholic college has full claim to authentic higher education, because a commitment to truth means that no branch of knowledge can be excluded, including the truths of our Catholic faith. To “withdraw Theology” from colleges is to “impair the completeness and to invalidate the trustworthiness of all that is actually taught in them,” Newman wrote in his Idea of a University.

Higher learning “educates the intellect to reason well in all matters, to reach out towards truth, and to grasp it,” Newman wrote. The “cultivation of the intellect” is “an end which may reasonably be pursued for its own sake.” It helps form a “habit of mind” which “lasts through life” and brings “freedom, equitableness, calmness, moderation, and wisdom.”

This type of education ends up being practical, too, although that is not its first objective. Cardinal Avery Dulles explained Newman’s thought during a 2001 address to The Cardinal Newman Society: “Whether one becomes a soldier, a statesman, a lawyer, or a physician, one will need the ability to think clearly, to organize one’s knowledge, and to articulate one’s ideas so as to deal effectively with the questions at hand.”

Newman saw in Catholic education “the incomparable advantage” over secular education of “being able to integrate all truth in relation to Christ, the incarnate Logos,” Dulles said.

At Newman Guide colleges, the difference is striking—and encouraging for a Catholic who is yearning for renewal in the Church and culture. At Christendom College, the entire community has been invited to join in a novena praying for “an outpouring of grace in the world” through Newman’s canonization, several faculty lectures on Newman’s conversion and Idea of a University, and a “watch party” on Oct. 13 to celebrate the canonization from afar. It is this integration of spirituality, academics and joy in God and his creation that marks a true Catholic education.

Faithful Catholic colleges that strive for intellectual and spiritual formation and not simply career preparation are the true heirs of Newman’s vision for higher education. May his vision continue to take hold worldwide, and may Catholic educators everywhere pray for his intercession in asking God’s favor upon the renewal of faithful Catholic education.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.