Parents and guardians in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s school system are being asked to pledge support for the Catholic identity and mission of their children’s Catholic schools with a new document this year, which likewise requests they uphold any policies or principles that regulate archdiocesan schools.
TheMemorandum of Understandingalso says that the archbishop has final say on all questions involving Catholic teaching, morals, and Church law.
“The believing community has the right to an education guided by Catholic teaching and identity,” it states, “unimpeded by pressures contrary to Catholic teaching.”
The memo is intended to clarify the purpose of Catholic schools and was provided to all Archdiocese of Philadelphia schools to be included in entrance applications and handbooks, according to areportfrom Philadelphia magazine.
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“A ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ has been distributed to all Archdiocese of Philadelphia schools via the Office of Catholic Education,” said Archdiocese of Philadelphia director of communications Ken Gavin. “The purpose of the memo is to simply inform parents that we are Catholic schools, that we will teach the doctrine of the Church, and have them sign that they understand and are in agreement.”
The one-page memo contains six statements parents are to affirm when enrolling their children in school, the first being that attending a Catholic school is a privilege, not a right.
“The primary purpose of a Catholic education is two-fold,” it continues: “to strengthen the Catholic community in its faith, and to form students in the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church.”
The memo also says Catholic schools are “distinctive religious education institutions guided by the teachings of the Catholic Church” and “not simply private schools offering a positive moral code.” Rather, “they exist to advance the faith mission of the sponsoring Catholic parish[es], Archdiocese, or Catholic community.”
And while there is a high value placed on academic excellence and extracurricular achievement in Catholic education, the document states, “its fundamental priority is fidelity to Catholic teaching and identity.”
The document affirms as well that each archdiocesan school and its administrations are responsible for ensuring “that Catholic teaching and moral integrity permeates every facet of the school’s life and activity and that the school is able to function as a community of faith.”
Gavin alsotoldthe Philadelphia Inquirer that the memorandum was not the result of thecontroversyat Waldron Mercy Academy in the Philadelphia-area community of Merion Station, where the director of religious education did not have her contract renewed after complaints were made to the school and archdiocese about her homosexual “marriage.”
TheMemorandum of Understandingwas developed long before the issue this past June at Waldron Mercy, Gavin said.
The archdiocese has maintained that it does not oversee Waldron Mercy, a private Catholic school sponsored by the Religious Sisters of Mercy.
Archbishop Charles Chaput later made astatementcommending the school and the Mercy Sisters for taking steps to uphold Catholic identity.