I have been postponing writing my thoughts on the new Archdiocesan school plan until I could think it over for a long time, and talk with others about it. Lots of people are interested in the plan, and I have heard some really great opinions. I want to support the effort of the Archbishop to address and overcome the tough future facing Catholic schools. I certainly pray the effort succeeds.
So, I want to be clear that my post today is not about shooting holes in the plan, but is just my attempt to give my own take, with which some will agree and some will not. I hope to spark a discussion that will enlighten us who engage in it and (who knows?) may give those tasked with the plan help in implementing and improving it.
Thus, I can sum-up my analysis of the Pastoral Letter by saying this: it is obviously better than nothing, and represents a good start to finding a solution– but it may only be able to treat the symptoms, not the cause. Nobody should be surprised when we still have problems in the future. Everything we do is like trying to remind an Alzheimer’s patient what day it is; the problem is that the overall loss of memory cannot be compensated for by constant reminders.
The skyrocketing costs of Catholic education cannot be compensated for by tuition assistance programs or by enhancing curricula to make Catholic schools more appealing, because the trend in Catholic parenting is firmly set in motion. The bottom line is this: there is a decreasing population of practicing Catholics, an increasing number of “semi-practicing” or non-practicing Catholics, and more importantly, low birthrates among Catholics.
But even this is still not the root cause.
The real cause is the secularization of the laity, clergy, and religious. This has its side effects — doctrinal confusion, moral relativism, lack of priestly and religious identity, decreasing vocations, an acceptance of a culture of contraception, and the abandonment of a sacramental lifestyle. It erases our Catholicity like an Alzheimer’s patient loses memory, while leaving the “empty” body to care for but only with ever increasing difficulty.
I say it again: the secularization of the laity, clergy and religious has erased our Catholicity like an Alzheimer’s patient loses memory, while leaving the shell of the body to care for only with great difficulty. It needs the constant reminders and a constant addressing of mere symptoms, all the while we seek against temporal hope for a cure for the cause of it all.
Due to secularization, we already know there is a crisis in Catholic sacramental marriage in all its parts as it is lived, from disregard for the sacredness of conjugal love to a day-by-day family life that is indistinguishable from non-believers; this is leading to Catholic education’s foreseeable extinction.
The trend can be slowed but not turned around by introducing programs and the new initiative may succeed in slowing the trends. And by the way, the mangling of the faith and liturgy in the aftermath of Vatican II is not the only problem, as the inevitable secularization would have happened anyway. By saying this, I do not (as some do) let the manglers off the hook and imagine that the changes did not do incalculable damage that would not have been done anyway. Far from it. I think that the ancient liturgy would have been a much more effective bulwark against the tide of secularism, perhaps if not stopping it cold at least greatly limiting the damage so that the solution could be sought much earlier and with more hope of success. Yet in the Church’s history there have indeed been times when secularization made inroads despite the presence of the Mass of All Ages.
At certain times, only saints like Louis de Montfort or Hildebrand (Pope St. Gregory VII) could change the local trends.
Faithfulness is the answer, not a bureaucratic overhaul. Unfortunately, bishops and pastors deal primarily in bureaucracies all week and only get to preach faithfulness on Sundays. But that is not enough time and there are no easy answers. Promotion of the sacraments helps. The Traditional Mass can change hearts, but again, more is needed, for the ancient Mass has seen its share of unfaithful times and places.
As I posted earlier, this liturgy, when combined with the use of the Baltimore Catechism, would stand as a clear expression of the Faith to students, faculty, parents, priests and faithful alike, but like the seed scattered in the Parable, today there is a lot of rocky soil out there and little to chance for it to take root.
So, I applaud the Archbishop’s school plan as a serious step to addressing the issues. But again, there are no easy answers to the root problem, a problem that no amount of mere marketing can address.
We really need a saint to show us what Faithfulness looks like and who inspires others to be Faithful, too.