Evann at the Homeschool Goodies blog links to an article in Our Sunday Visitor about how the homeschooling movement is not always welcomed by Catholic dioceses. I enjoy articles like these; if I ever forget why we are homeschooling, these types of articles remind me pretty quickly.
Here is the relevant excerpt from the article:
Question of commitment
According to the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Christian Education (Gravissimum Educationis), parents are the primary educators of their children, and Catholic home-schoolers take that commitment seriously. For them, their homes are places where authentic Catholic education occurs, and many members of the clergy and hierarchy agree with them. Several dioceses explicitly recognize home schooling as a valid option for Catholic education.
But not all priests and bishops agree. At the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884, the bishops wrote that parents have an obligation to send their children to parochial schools, and some clergy members today say Catholic home-schoolers abrogate that responsibility.
The latest skirmish flared earlier this year when the Holy Family Homeschoolers Associationinvited Austin Bishop Joe Vásquez to celebrate a blessing Mass at the beginning of the next school year. The response came not from the bishop’s office but from the Catholic schools superintendent, Ned Vanders, who wrote:
“Bishop Vásquez received your invitation to celebrate a Eucharistic liturgy for the fall home-schooling blessing Mass. Bishop Vásquez believes Catholic education, and in particular Catholic school education, is an essential part of the life of the Diocese of Austin. As you know, Catholic schools are at the heart of the mission of the Church. “Bishop’s presence at the home-schooling Mass would convey a contradictory message equating the importance of Catholic school education with Catholic home schooling; therefore, Bishop Vásquez must respectfully decline the invitation.
Sincerely in Christ, Ned F. Vanders, Ed.D.”
A spokesman from the Diocese of Austin declined interview requests for Vanders and Bishop Vásquez.
In defense of schools
But if Vanders’ letter reflects Bishop Vasquez’s thoughts on home schooling, he is not alone.
Father Peter M.J. Stravinskas, executive director of the Catholic Education Foundation, has become something of a bete noire for the Catholic home-schooling community, championing the idea that Catholic children should be educated in Catholic schools.
There are several reasons to prefer Catholic schools, Father Stravinskas told Our Sunday Visitor, including that the Church Fathers made clear that catechesis is the job of the whole Church, with the main responsibility resting on the shoulders of the pastor, not the parents.
And Catholic parents who choose to home-school when there is a Catholic school available at least implicitly send the message that they do not trust the Church to educate their children properly, and the children get that message.
“On the same property where they go to church on Sunday is a school where the parents don’t wish to send them,” he said.
That leads to a subtle anti-clericalism, he said, because the children learn that priests cannot be counted on to hand on the faith. It shows in what he sees as a dearth of vocations from home-school families. “Why would you want to join the club if its members can’t be trusted to their jobs?” he said.
He also believes it is psychologically unhealthy for mothers to spend 24 hours a day with their children as they get older, and it’s academically nearly impossible for one person to teach all that is included in a modern high school curriculum.
What’s more, he said, some home-school families say they have no issues with the faculty or teaching at their local Catholic schools, but they don’t want their children exposed to others whose families might not have the same values as theirs.
“That sets up an elite, a church within a church, and that is to be avoided,” he said.
As a traditionally-minded Catholic, I guess I am guilty of clericalism and anti-clericalism at the same time!
Let’s start with Fr. Stravinskas, whose opinions have on the subject have been published in OSV in the past. Fr. Stravinskas has no clue about the Catholic homeschooling movement, if he really thinks there is a dearth of vocations from homeschooled families. Seriously? Do I need to point out the error in this claim?
And anti-clericalism? Seriously? Do you really think homeschoolers are more worried that priests can’t teach their children the faith, or is it rather that they won’t? I say “won’t”, because in nearly all parochial schools the priests don’t teach religion classes. Aren’t the teachers usually laymen who are the victims of post-Vatican II non-catechesis just like the bulk of us? Why would a hired layman teach my child religion better than I would? Moreover, I can only imagine that Father Stravinskas has not read the most popular religion textbooks used in Catholic schools–because if he did, then he wouldn’t write what he did.
I am no psychologist, but as unhealthy as it is for children to spend time with their mothers, fathers, and siblings, I would think that spending time with programs like “Talking about Touching” and similar “safe-environment” garbage is more dangerous. What do the children learn about Catholicism, about morality, about history– these are relevant questions that will enable parents to decide what type of schooling is psychologically, and more importantly, spiritually, superior.
Father Stravinskas, the article says, champions “the idea that Catholic children should be educated in Catholic schools.” I agree; that is why we homeschool.
With regard to Ned Flanders’ excuses for the Bishop quoted at the first part of the article, I can say that not every Bishop feels the same way, thank God. It would be wrong for a diocese to be more concerned with propping up a school system that doesn’t impart the faith by attacking those parents who are sincerely trying to impart the faith at home. I would propose that Catholic homeschoolers ought to stand as a positive challenge to the parochial schools to get back to what made them great in the first place. Children do not exist to prop up the schools; the schools exist to provide truly Catholic education to the children.