Let’s Follow Bishop Paprocki’s Lead

Last week, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, released a clear, truthful guide on gender identity that does a great service for Catholic schools in his diocese. Catholic educators everywhere should follow his lead in implementing similar policies in their schools.

The timing of the guide could not be better, as society embraces a sorely confused understanding of gender identity. For example, biological males are winning female events in Connecticut high school sports, and high school districts like one in Illinois are allowing biological males to use female locker rooms, and vice versa.

But the Catholic Church’s teaching on gender identity and human sexuality is clear. Catholic school policies should be consistent, as well.

For handling situations of a student facing “gender dysphoria,” Bishop Paprocki’s guide stresses the importance of “gentle and compassionate pastoral skill and concern” and condemns any sort of “discrimination or harsh treatment.”

At the same time, the guide states that sex is determined at birth. The truly loving thing to do in a situation when a person is facing gender dysphoria is to be “clear on the reality of human biology as a gift from God that we cannot change.”

As a result, students at diocesan schools must “use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their biological sex,” and they will be “addressed and referred to with pronouns in accord with their biological sex.”

Thank you, Bishop Paprocki! More than ever, Catholic schools need to teach and witness to the Truth.

The Church’s teaching on human sexuality should be steeped deeply in our Catholic schools. A Christian anthropology should guide classroom learning, student activities and all school policies.

In fact, Catholic schools might consider adopting Human Sexuality Policies, like the ones developed by The Cardinal Newman Society, that go beyond the issue of gender identity. If a school has a firm commitment to forming young people in chastity, then it is clear that the concern is for all students of every stripe, and not targeting certain students as many activists claim.

“As a Catholic institution, we believe that human bodies are gifts from God and temples of the Holy Spirit,” the resource states. “All men and women are called to a life of chastity appropriate to their vocation as single, married, or consecrated religious.”

“Because our efforts at integral formation include the integrity of body, spirit, and moral development, our school has a proper concern for each student’s behavior and development in the complex area of human sexuality,” the resource continues.

The resource offers examples of specific policies related to human sexuality, including addressing athletics, dances, dress code, facilities use, same-sex attraction and more.

In the months ahead, Catholic schools will face even more questions related to human sexuality. Catholic educators must be prepared with responses that are clear and consistent, upholding Church teaching.

Having strong policies in place will help Catholic schools to fend off attacks and legal threats. But even more important is the witness for students — they should learn the Truth about the human person in the classroom and see it lived out.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Chapel at Franciscan University

True Love at Faithful Catholic Colleges

Are students being prepared for careers — and for life — in colleges today? Some college professors are noticing that students are “excelling academically but not necessarily in other areas of adult life,” including dating and preparing for the vocation of marriage.

Students at faithful Catholic colleges, however, may be the exception. A good Catholic college will promote a campus environment that supports healthy relationships, and that’s greatly needed today.

Popular chastity speaker Jason Evert, a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, argues that there needs to be a revival of Catholic dating in our culture. He recently published The Dating Blueprint: What She Wants You to Know About Dating but Will Never Tell Youadvising men to “put down their screens, look a woman in the eye, and ask her on a date.”

Michael Kenney, director of The Cardinal Newman Society’s Catholic Identity Standards Project and one of the curriculum developers for the Dating Project, agrees. “The most consequential decision a person makes is the decision concerning marriage,” he says. “A healthy dating culture is essential to building strong marriages and families. Tragically, our culture saturates the airwaves with false lyrics, images and messages concerning dating.”

If a revival of traditional courtship seems unlikely on most college campuses, students can expect something different at a faithful Catholic college. At several colleges recommended in The Newman Guide, students can still find evidence of mature, chaste relationships leading to healthy marriages.

At Thomas Aquinas College, which has campuses in Santa Paula, California, and Northfield, Massachusetts, “about 10 percent of the College’s alumni have entered the priesthood or religious life,” the college reports. “Most of the rest marry, often wedding fellow Thomas Aquinas College alumni and raising fruitful, faithful families that bear joyful witness to the Culture of Life.”

With an annual enrollment of just 500 students, Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, boasts more than 480 alumnus-alumna marriages in its 40-year history. This has something to do with the academic program, the college explains:

Students learn Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in one course, while they learn about Catholic doctrine and moral theology in other courses as well. As students complete each course, they gain a greater knowledge of the principles of the faith, especially pertaining to the Church’s teachings on sexuality, marriage and family.

But even more than the academic study, Christendom’s campus fosters healthy relationships by providing only single-sex dorms, which are totally off limits to students of the opposite sex. That’s opposite to the typical college hookup culture, but the marriages among Christendom alumni are evidence that true love is in the air.

Such is true also of John Paul the Great Catholic University, Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts, Thomas More College of Liberal Arts and Wyoming Catholic College, where — like Christendom and Thomas Aquinas — student dorms are single-sex and opposite-sex visitation is not allowed.

Such dorm policies help combat the hookup culture and preserve the privacy of student bedrooms. A Newman Society report cites one study finding that “students living in co-ed housing were also more likely [than those in single-sex residences] to have more sexual partners in the last 12 months.” Further, those students were “more than twice as likely as students in gender-specific housing to indicate that they had had three or more sexual partners in the last year.”

Of course, reducing the hookup culture doesn’t automatically lead to healthy dating — that’s something that needs to be taught to a generation of students who see casual relationships promoted in popular entertainment — but responsible campus policies certainly can help. Student programming, such as the chastity speaking events at Franciscan University and other faithful colleges, are helpful too.

New online dating apps and other options are being created to help address the Catholic dating problem. But it helps to live in a culture that supports authentic relationships. Faithful Catholic colleges attract students with similar values, and they are uniquely positioned to help prepare Catholic students for happy and meaningful lives.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Celebrate the Students Who Marched for Life

Again this January, huge numbers of young people from around the country showed up in Washington, D.C., to demand an end to abortion. Many were from faithful Catholic schools and colleges that bused students to the annual March for Life.

Seeing all those schools and colleges represented made me very proud of our Catholic educators and their continued renewal of Catholic identity. And so, how perfect was it that we celebrated National Catholic Schools Week (Jan. 26-Feb. 1) just following the March?

The two events should remind us: when Catholic education is done well, it prepares its students to be ethical leaders and to transform the culture. And nothing could be more important than defending the weakest among us, the innocent baby in the womb.

Two pro-life leaders with Students for Life of America, one of the most dynamic pro-life organizations, say that their Catholic education prepared them for the work they do today.

Katie Portka credits her faithful Catholic education at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, with strengthening her pro-life convictions. Portka learned about Benedictine through The Newman Guide, and then, while a senior in high school, saw the College’s students carrying the banner at the head of the March for Life.

“I loved how energetic they were — this huge group of young adults who were so full of life and passionate,” says Portka. She had been involved in pro-life efforts with her family, but she didn’t often see large groups of young people standing for life as a high school student. Shortly after the March for Life, Portka signed her acceptance letter to attend Benedictine.

On campus, Portka immediately got involved in the large Respect Life Ravens Group. “The school at large was a very pro-life campus,” she says, “in the dorms, in classes, and in the faculty.”

Benedictine “really did embody the Church’s teaching on life and the dignity and sanctity of life,” says Portka. “In college was when I realized why I was pro-life and why I wanted to be pro-life.”

Stephanie Stone works for Students for Life of America as regional coordinator in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia. She credits her faithful Catholic education with helping her discover that pro-life work was part of her “mission.”

As a high school student, Stone visited The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and “fell in love with how proudly the school wore its Catholic identity.”

“Catholic University helped me to dive deeper into my faith and experience how faith is applied to the world around us,” says Stone. “It also gave me a number of opportunities to become more active in the pro-life movement, eventually leading me to understand that pro-life work was my mission.”

On campus, Stone served as president of the Cardinals for Life club and was instrumental in organizing the first Pep Rally for Life for students ahead of the March for Life. Stone also found that studying in Washington, D.C., was a great place to learn about politics and grow in her pro-life beliefs.

“In my experience, having a Catholic education really solidified my understanding of the value of the human person,” explains Stone. “It helped me form a deep respect and radical love for all of God’s people, which is what ultimately encourages me to do this work.”

Whether at the elementary, secondary or higher education level, the fruits of Catholic education can be seen in the witness of its graduates. Many alumni of faithful Catholic schools and colleges are doing important work in rebuilding a culture of life in our country.

Hopefully, last week’s celebration of Catholic Schools was a reminder to Catholic educators everywhere to redouble their focus on the most important things that distinguish Catholic education from a secular program. Students should be prepared to follow God’s will for their lives and impact the world.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

UMary students March for Life

Students Make History at the March for Life

Nearly every year of Simone Kelly’s life, she attended the Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco, California, with her family. As the president of her high school’s pro-life club, she was intimately involved in the planning of the trip.

This year, Kelly has a different but exciting project on her hands. As a sophomore at the recently opened east coast campus of Thomas Aquinas College (TAC) in Northfield, Massachusetts, Kelly volunteered to help plan the college’s first trip to the March for Life in the nation’s capital.

Classes are canceled at New England campus Jan. 24 so that the entire student body of 58 students, along with faculty, staff and families, can attend the March. TAC has thus joined other faithful Catholic colleges that cancel classes for the March for Life, including The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, New Hampshire, and the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Christendom has been doing so every year since the college’s founding, so that its entire student body can attend.

The TAC contingent will leave campus Thursday night and attend Mass, adoration and confession at a nearby parish before driving through the night to Washington, D.C. Kelly says that everyone on campus is “super excited” for the upcoming trip to defend the unborn, noting that all students raised money to help fund the trip.

Since there are no juniors or seniors on the new campus, Kelly plays a leadership role as a sophomore. Part of the reason why she transferred to the new campus is so that she could help “bring traditions” from TAC’s home campus in California, founded in 1971, while also developing “new traditions.”

The March for Life is a new tradition that Kelly is eager to organize so that “in the years to come, the details will be worked out.” At the west coast campus, the Walk for Life tradition, taking place this year on Jan. 25, is well-established — students from the college have participated in the Walk every year since the event was founded.

For Kelly, the opportunity to make a stand for the unborn makes sense with the “liberating” education she is receiving. “My education is forming me to learn the truth, know the truth and defend the truth,” says Kelly. “Attending the March for Life allows me to live out what I’m learning.”

Other Catholic colleges are making history at this March for Life, too. For the first time in many years, the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas, is making an official trip to the March for Life.

“Many students have traveled the 1,300 miles on their own in recent years,” says Mary Kate Tomassi, treasurer of the Crusaders for Life Club, but this year is different. “We have 44 students officially going with UD to Washington, D.C. for the March for Life this year.”

“We have all been working hard to figure out the logistics for this trip, get approval, and fundraise. Thanks to many generous donors, and one in particular who wishes to remain anonymous who matched nearly $8,000 in gifts, we are able to make this important trip,” she continues.

Making the long journey is not for the faint of heart – and students will miss two days of classes. But Tomassi believes it’s important to “stand up” and “witness to the nearly 62 million lives lost and the 62 million families torn apart since 1973” due to abortion.

Beyond the witness of Thomas Aquinas College and the University of Dallas, there are other records being set by faithful Catholic colleges at this year’s March.

Some of the groups traveling the farthest distance with the greatest numbers of students include Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, and the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. They will both be traveling more than 1,000 miles to the March, with approximately 250 and 200 students, respectively.

Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, is sending approximately 500 students. A junior at the university, Kyle Taggart, believes that “we have a serious obligation to do everything in our power to fight legalized abortion” given the “gravity of the abortion issue.” His fellow classmates seem to be taking that message to heart.

History will be made at this year’s March for Life, in no small part due to the efforts of faithful Catholic colleges. Let’s pray that this witness leads to a change of minds and hearts — and the law — in our country, and that ultimately the lives of all unborn children will be protected.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

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.