Thursday, August 4, 2011

One step backwards?

Paul Kokoski argued Aug. 2 in the Hamilton Spectator the Catholic school system in Ontario has lost its way.
I've rarely written about these issues here, since my foundational belief is that if the province chooses to continue to fund Catholic schools, it shouldn't be surprised when the tenets of the faith conflict with provincial policy. As long as this dynamic exists, I don't react with rage, frustration or malice towards school boards that, in opposing or approving but ignoring policy, do so on the basis of the faith that guides the system they've been allowed to run using public funds.
Kicking off with mentions of the struggles between the faith and the province's equity and inclusiveness policy of the past year, Kokoski goes back to the 1960s, Vatican II and the decisions of that decade to move the Catholic instruction of pupils from the ordained to the laity.
Decades of replacing priests and nuns with lay teachers has left most of our Catholic schools in a catastrophic state. The students that graduate from them are, with few exceptions, agnostics, moral relativists and, at best, cafeteria Catholics.
How can this be undone and corrected? Though our bishops may not be in a legal position to exercise control over our schools, they certainly retain the right to freely force the faithful (via penal sanctions) to submit to church teaching. This right, in fact, was mandated at Vatican II in the doctrinal document Lumen Gentium.
Unfortunately, while this would greatly help matters, our bishops have consistently demonstrated a reluctance to exercise this singular authority, especially where it concerns Catholic politicians who support homosexuality and abortion. Why? They think that once in power these politicians will somehow have an epiphany and reverse their creed. But in never happens. Still, our bishops continue to believe in this policy of “compromise” as a means of conquering the world.
Rather than a call to arms to the faithful to strengthen the Catholic school system in a manner that makes the faith more malleable to the social-justice, equity and inclusive characteristics of our society in 2011, this column will likely have people running the other way. It could fuel the call to simply sever the faith from public funding and move to a single publicly funded school system-- such as has already been done in Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador (provinces with a much stronger and larger Catholic tradition than Ontario as a whole).
The church's challenges don't start in Catholic schools and taking a harder line on upholding the faith in these schools won't be what begins restoring the faith where it's lost itself. The church's salvation lies in its ties to the community and family -- which includes schooling but shouldn't be led by it. Some of the strongest Christian faiths that are growing aren't built on a school system, they're built on a strong community.
It also makes one argument increasingly more compelling. If the Catholic school system cannot or will not adequately implement provincial policy and this becomes a critical issue for the government, the solution is simple. Follow provincial policies and get funded, or run your school system the way you want, but without public funding.


Unknown said...

I agree with this column.

One of the common problems, however, is that many public school boards have done a poor job of creating a consistently high quality of education. These boards have turned over their management to administrators who run the organization like a business with no sensitivity towards educational values and principles.

Too often the local fundamentalist religious schools (including the Catholic schools) look somewhat better, despite their superstitious elements.