True and faithful Catholic education is necessary today given the crises of values and family life, explained Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, in a recent address in which he argued for the importance of authentic Catholic schools.
At the invitation of Bishop Frank Dewane, Cardinal Grocholewski visited schools within the Diocese of Venice in Florida and presented a talk to priests. The presentation, titled “The Need for Catholic Schools, and Their Identity,” focused on the prevalent cultural crises, the dire need for strong Catholic education, and included a concise summary of Church teaching on Catholic schools.
“A secular education only takes into consideration life in this world, the deceptive happiness here on earth,” Cardinal Grocholewski stated in the talk, noting the moral relativism at the center of the crisis of values, which is the root of all educational problems. “Yet, we know that life does not finish with physical death, but that it goes on,” he continued. “We are destined for eternal life; we are called to eternal happiness. Therefore, we need Catholic schools that situate us within the full truth of our existence, and prepare us for beatitude in the eternal dimension.”
Concerning the crisis of the family, Cardinal Grocholewski proffered Catholic education as a primary means to renew family life. Parents must be recognized as the primary educators of their children, and “we need Catholic schools that focus on the family; schools that keep in mind the family’s needs, and defend its dignity as well as the values on which to build its happiness,” he stated in the talk. They must also be “schools that do not only teach people to build strong, responsible and long-lasting families, but also seek to be an effective help for families in their weighty task of education. Yes, we need Catholic schools!”
In order to do this Cardinal Grocholewski stressed that Catholic schools must provide an integral education of the human person covering all dimensions human, intellectual, spiritual, cultural, and professional. “[W]e need schools that concern themselves with forming humanly and spiritually mature persons, discerning people who want, and are able, to use what they have learned only for good,” he said in the address.
The cardinal also noted that many students become “slaves to drugs, to sex and to other weaknesses, from which they do not know how to free themselves, and which destroy their personalities and their relationships with others.”
Cardinal Grocholewski continued in the address:
The fundamental task of the Church is to preach the Gospel to all nations: to enrich all people with the light of the Good News, which, by its essence, is aimed at transforming the human person and setting him or her on the path that leads to salvation. Just like all other documents of the Church, the Code [of Canon Law] treats of Catholic schools precisely within this perspective of evangelization.
“If Catholic parents, concerned for the religious education of their children, entrust them to a Catholic school, the school must not disappoint them. Just as, on the other side, the school must not disappoint the Church, which entrusts it with such an important mission,” Cardinal Grocholewski said to the priests.
Quoting Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Catechesi tradendae, the cardinal emphasized that a Catholic school which succeeds in effectively teaching non-religious subjects, but neglects a proper religious education, undermines its mission.
Citing canon law, he noted that teachers at Catholic schools must be “outstanding in correct doctrine and integrity of life.”
“I pray the Lord that these schools [in America] will become ever more places of formation, first of all, of authentic Catholics with unshakeable faith, who can be courageous builders of a better world,” he said in the address. “I am, in fact, convinced that the more our Catholic educational institutions will clearly conserve their own identity, the more their work will be fruitful and beneficial.”
“[T]hank you with all my heart for your efforts to direct and support Catholic schools and to reinforce their Catholic identity,” Cardinal Grocholewski also stated in the speech. “I thank all those who work in Catholic schools, for their work, their dedication, their sacrifices; and for the love with which they seek to enrich young people and to hand on to them true values, to build a future for your beloved country based on solid foundations. May God reward you!”