By Hilary White
ROME/LONDON November 23, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A key Vatican official has called the lack of public funding for Catholic schools in the US “a disaster.” Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, which includes seminaries, told a Vatican news conference that the US government should do more to allow parents to choose the educational option they desire for their children.
The cardinal, while presenting a new document, “Educating Together in Catholic Schools,” criticized the US system saying, “The state does not recognize full democracy for Catholic schools.” In America, Grocholewski said, the financial strain on the Church, “makes it difficult to achieve the same economic conditions as the state schools.”
Writing for the National Catholic Reporter, John Allan Jr. said the cardinal made the same criticism of Italy. The new document, Allan writes, points to a global trend toward reliance on laity in Catholic education. Following the vocations fallout after the Second Vatican Council, the number of priests and sisters serving in Catholic schools dropped dramatically and has been replaced by lay teachers, mainly women. In 1965, there were 104,000 teaching sisters in the US. Today, there are 8,200, a decline of 94 per cent since the end of Vatican II.
The takeover of Catholic education systems by lay people may have been a major contributing factor to the rapid secularization of the schools noted by many parents and Catholic organisations. In Canada and Britain where faith-based schools receive at least some government funding, they have suffered a significant loss of Catholic identity as a result.
As many families and faithful have observed, Catholic schools in Canada have been severely compromised and in the US, the loss of Catholic identity has helped the burgeoning of the Catholic homeschooling movement.
Fr. Timothy Finigan, a London Catholic priest and founder of the Association of Priests for the Gospel of Life, explained, “It’s a good idea in principle, but you have to be careful about accepting public money.”
Catholic schools in England have had public funding since an agreement was reached in 1944 in which the Church would provide the buildings and the government would pay for staff and running costs. Since then, however, there has been more government help with building costs and the advent of government inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED).
Fr. Finigan said, “OFSTED is at the heart of the problem. It is not an independent body but is part of the government. Which means they enforce government policy.” Fr. Finigan said that Catholic educators fear that the five-point agenda followed by OFSTED can be interpreted to promote the government’s pro-homosexual and abortion and contraception promoting policies.
“In principle,” Fr. Finigan said, “Government funding is very sensible, but practically speaking when you’ve got a secular government, you’d be better not touching it with a bargepole.”
“It worked very well in England for about 50 years, but I think we’re in a very dangerous position now.”
The Vatican’s new document on education cites “lack of interest for the fundamental truths of human life,” and “individualism, moral relativism and utilitarianism” as challenges to Catholic education. These have also been widely identified as the philosophical foundation of the abortion movement.
By Hilary White