Threats to Catholic Education

From Cardinal Newman Society

In a lecture yesterday at Georgetown University, Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly warned students that despite real progress toward strengthening Catholic identity in Catholic schools and colleges, “the future of Catholic education is seriously threatened” by violations of religious freedom and the influence of “a politically correct, secular elite” even within many Catholic institutions.

Reilly’s talk centered primarily on concerns about the adoption of the Common Core State Standards in many Catholic schools, but he also addressed problems with Georgetown University’s Catholic identity and violations of Catholic educators’ religious freedom.  The lecture was sponsored by Georgetown Young Americans for Liberty.

“As America becomes increasingly secular, the threats to Catholic education are becoming more numerous,” Reilly said.  “There seems to be a growing intolerance for those who teach and live the Catholic faith—intolerance from nonbelievers but also, and perhaps especially, from dissenting Catholics.”

He identified violations of religious freedom from the federal government, including the HHS mandate for insurance coverage of contraception and sterilization, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s claim that such coverage at Catholic colleges is mandated by non discrimination law, and the National Labor Relations Board’s interference with Catholic college employee relations in direct contradiction to federal court rulings.

Reilly also noted that the Common Core standards, which were embraced by most public school leaders because of funding provided by the Obama administration, also threaten religious freedom if Catholic schools voluntarily yield to federal influence in determining standards for Catholic education.

Other concerns with the rush to embrace the Common Core include the lack of emphasis on key objectives of Catholic education and student formation, violations of subsidiarity and the parental role in education, and a further shift away from liberal education.

Catholic schools and colleges, “by their very definition, ought to be rooted in fidelity to Catholic teaching,” Reilly said, adding that Catholic identity was sorely lacking at Georgetown University.  Instead, the University seems to have succumbed to political correctness.

“Especially on Jesuit university campuses, Catholic identity has come to mean social justice and racial or sexual identity—and not according to a Catholic understanding of the human person and authentic Catholic social teaching, but according to a leftist political ideology,” Reilly said.

Noting that Catholic identity should not be equated with any political philosophy—instead educators should be promoting “genuine attempts to get at the heart of an issue by considering various points of view rationally and respectfully”—Reilly identified numerous examples of Georgetown’s pervasive bias toward pro-abortion, liberal politics in place of an authentic Catholic identity.

These include press releases publicly cheering pro-abortion politicians and dissident Georgetown professors confirmed for public posts, a near-exclusive bias toward leftist politicians when choosing individuals to honor or deliver key lectures, hiring former politicians to the Georgetown faculty, and praising the Obama administration’s regulations on the HHS mandate even while the U.S. bishops and faithful Catholic schools and colleges are struggling against it.

“Especially in our Catholic colleges, there are many who are employed by those colleges who actively seek to steer the colleges away from their Catholic mission and toward the sterile but dominant secular model of education,” Reilly said.

Such efforts must be resisted, he argued, because Catholic education is vital to the Church.

“It is the distinctive mission of Catholic education to lead young men and women to the truth that frees them from the chains of sin and ignorance,” Reilly said.  “It is for this reason that the Catholic school or college that is firmly rooted in the Church is well worth preserving from every external and internal threat to its integrity.”