Confessions of a Wanna-Be Orthodox Catholic High School Teacher

Francis - Catholic Education


Have you ever felt like a nobody in the world? To be in the world but not of the world is surely a frustrating reality in the normative workplace environment. But in the Catholic Education world? I never thought it would be such lonely, difficult work to teach, preach, and witness an orthodox Catholic message as a theology teacher in the typical American Catholic High School. Where to begin? The dark stuff.

The problems begin as always in the home. When we went to the other children’s birthday parties and I chatted with the other parents, I noticed in the Catholic elementary schools my own children attended it seemed like more than half were living with the complexity of divorce. I have read that Catholics on the whole have statistical rates for most societal vices on par with non-Catholics. We aren’t leading (morally speaking) even though we have plenty of Catholic “leaders” in our communities and nation.

I also find the divorce phenomena in my high school classrooms, and try to share my own damage assessment from growing up in a divorced home and not being raised a Christian even though I was baptized as a child. The problem is for the kids today, like for me back then, you don’t realize how the divorce thing is harming you on the inside and affecting all kinds of relationships- starting with God the Father and working down to preparing for your own Marital Vocation. “Everyone’s Fine” is the theme for the “Love, American Style” post sexual revolution. Awareness that everyone isn’t just fine is the first step- and for many of the sons and daughters of divorce that awareness doesn’t come until much adulthood has already passed and cycles of dysfunctional relationships continue on until one finally is awakened. The fact is that parents who have divorced have a vested interest in perpetuating the false myth that “the kids are alright.” Few people like to admit fault and fewer still will entertain thoughts that they have harmed their own children.

I would list Divorce as the first cause of the diminished faith of the Catholic school students I have encountered in my decade and a half of teaching experience. The causes of Divorce of course go back to the unorthodox treatment of Catholic teachings on matters to do with sexuality. The litany of anti-Catholic influences and abuses is legion- pornography exposure from early ages, masturbation addictions, premarital sex, same-sex exploration and experimentation, ‘my body my choice’ hardened feminism. These are the diseases that plague marriages from before they even begin. If you add other spiritual sicknesses like general hedonistic life philosophies “Seize the Day!” “If it feels good, do it!”, along with consumerism/materialism, sports and entertainment obsessions and so forth, you really have to wonder how anyone is supposed to live as a typical American and find their way Home to Rome!

If Catholic schools were factories, the end product would be lukewarm Catholics. The Catholic school is already disadvantaged by all of the home and cultural realities that are doing the primary shaping of the young American Catholic mind and spirit. I still believe we could do a heck of a lot more to raise the odds that more of these young Catholics/Christians/Other would find the shortcut to the Way of Christ if only we had our act together as Catholic Education Centers. I could recount many nightmarish stories of how most of the Catholic school educators and administrators I have encountered have been men and women of little or no faith in Christ and Church. Even in the religion departments it is common to encounter ex-nuns who feel the Church is in sin because they can’t be priests, homosexual men who are more interested in defending the lifestyle than in teaching the straight Catholic faith, and a range of those who are in dissent on some or another important Catholic doctrine.

If there are problems of personnel inside the Religion departments, the other disciplines are almost completely immersed in doing exactly what they would be doing in a public school. I have often wondered what small percentage of Catholic high school teachers actually like the Catholic Church. It is obvious that in hiring these folks, the biggest unspoken question is not “Are you enthusiastic about your Catholic faith?” but “Can you tolerate pretending to be on board with the Catholic stuff you will encounter from time to time here?” For the most part, average Catholic school teachers are solid as dispensers of information and want to bond with their students, but there is no real faith present in their hearts, and certainly not in the worldview presented in their classrooms.

Faithless teachers would not be so rampant if those charged with responsibility for the school’s Catholic mission were sincerely focused on a “Faith First” approach and philosophy. I have been at schools where I have spoken directly to administrators about this and to my face I was told that \”only one-third of the parents of Catholic school kids are there for the religious education, another one-third are there for sports, and the other one-third for the safety and academics.\” So, the piecemeal system of making a show of the faith for P.R. purposes becomes the smart strategy for keeping things appearing Catholic-enough for the one-third of parents primarily interested in the faith dimension, but for the two-thirds who are not, there is a wink-wink given that the real show is the academic and sports achievements.

And, now after a brief flurry of pressure coming from the Bishops for re-establishing a “Catholic Identity” in our Catholic schools, the primary focus around the country is on getting technology into the classrooms at breakneck speed. There is even a strange development whereupon in Communist China, the buzz is that Catholic schools are the best schools in America, and for the children of the elite who do not do well on their placement tests, they are coming to American Catholic schools so they can go to American universities and bypass the more difficult to get into Chinese universities. The Chinese students come here never hearing the name Jesus Christ before. This could be an excellent opportunity for evangelization, but evangelizing was never spoken of as part of any serious plan. Just drop them into religion classes with everyone else, and they end up being exposed to a very lukewarm variety of Catholicity- makes them probably wonder what the big fuss is back home, the faith doesn’t seem to alter the lifestyle of typical American Catholic students.

I have tried to make noise about all that I have written above. I’ve sent my letters to Superintendents and invited Bishops to dinner, but all I have received has been either polite thanks, or direct negative consequences. But here are my recommendations anyway:

1. Catholic identity is #1- hire right. Seek and find enthusiastic wanna-be orthodox Catholics to fill in the ranks of at least 90% of the faculty and staff positions. Help the teachers out by getting serious about locating textbooks that include positive Catholic worldview even in non-religion subject areas. As it stands now, the textbooks outside of religion classes are the same one would see in public schools, with all the problems of the culture seeping in.

2. Praise and worship should be given primary place in school activities. The mainstream music that is played throughout Catholic school sporting events, dances, gym classes etc. is the same junk that is being played everywhere, songs full of obscenity, sexual immorality, violence and despair. Why can’t Catholic schools be bastions for Christian music promotion? One only has to attend a sporting event, a dance or a school play to assess the strength of an actual Catholic influence and identity.

3. Catholic schools should be centers for Eucharistic Adoration. They could offer Theology of the Body classes, Pro-life activism, Catholic Relief Services, Fair Trade marketing, nurturing future community and political leaders with our full Catholic social doctrine and sexual ethics. Wow!

4. I have seen that the male-female interactions of the current generation are just not very healthy. One of the sad results of the Sexual Revolution is the pressure on young girls to get involved in sexual relationships, and even regard themselves as sex objects to match the mainstream culture. With divorce comes along a lot of girls who are going without a daily dose of a father’s affectionate love. They turn to the boys who often are addicted to pornography and don’t comprehend chastity. To combat this we need return to more traditional schools of all-boys and all-girls, or at least have classes separated into boy and girl classrooms with teachers best suited as role-models teaching one gender or the other.

© 2013. Francis. All Rights Reserved.

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124 thoughts on “Confessions of a Wanna-Be Orthodox Catholic High School Teacher”

  1. Take notice of the news-

    Here we see the chickens coming home to roost- I have noted that Catholic schools tend to make no effort to hire enthusiastic, orthodox teachers – so here you have an openly lesbian Methodist teaching gym for almost 20 years in a Catholic high school- a bomb waiting to explode- I can tell you there are many, many more scandals to come- and the beat goes on..there is no organized effort by the bishops to ensure that the administrators follow a common protocol in asking the tough faith and lifestyle questions up front in interviews. We are disorganized, haphazard, and there is no reason for it if we truly believe the mission statements of the schools. It is way past time for the bishops to step in as a collective body and sort this mess out.

  2. JD- I encourage you to be a CAtholic with evangelical zeal! I’m curious why you cannot teach theology or religion in a Catholic school if you have an undergraduate degree in theology from a Catholic university? You don’t need certification in another subject area and the state doesn’t certify theology teachers- separation of church and state…

    1. In my diocese, high school religion teachers must have a Masters in Theology, I don’t have it. I have a graduate courses in another field, which makes me a good catch for a school. (I will not say, as I don’t want to be outted.) For the middle schools, they want someone with a math/science degree as our schools normally have 60-90 middle school students, and so the teacher teachers math or science and religion. Yes, a math degree is favored over religion. I was told by a principal, I could hire an atheist to teach religion as it is a scripted program. The principal hired an engineer with no back ground in theology. The person goes to my parish and can’t even tell me why one should go to confession.

  3. Hi JD…from your comments above it sounds as though you regained your Catholicity some time ago…nevertheless, please allow me to Welcome you back brother!

    I’m sorry to hear about the situation in your diocese/parish. While I am not trying to choose the “other-side,” I must wonder if your diocese is concerned about its parochial students meeting certain federal and state statutory requirements regarding educational benchmarks/standards. Perhaps another concern for the diocese may be a drop in enrollment should the student’s parents learn the diocese employs non-certified teachers.

    Regardless of the reason(s) for these diocesan policies, I would like to encourage you not to give up! Did you ever consider/inquire about facilitating a CCD class with your parishes non-parochial school students? That is what I do throughout the school year. I facilitate religion class for my parishes 5th grade public school students, and I love doing it!!!

    I choose to call myself a “facilitator” instead of “teacher” because I feel I am not the “teacher” in religion class. The Holy Spirit, our Lord Jesus, and God our Almighty Father are, in my opinion, the Only True Teachers of the Faith! I merely provide a safe environment for the class to learn from and listen to our Lord…He does ALL of the teaching, if you know what I mean. 🙂

    I would now like to share a truthful story with you JD. Before I began facilitating my parish’s 5th grade CCD classes, I prayed and asked our Lord to let me know if I should pursue submitting my name for any open positions in the CCD program. Well, I believe all of 1-day passed (at most 2-days) before I received a telephone call from our Deacon’s wife.

    While she and I certainly recognized each other by sight, our families didn’t exactly hang out together or anything like that. Also, please keep in mind that prior to her calling me, I didn’t share the substance of my prayer to God with anyone just yet.

    The Deacon’s wife was calling to ask if I might be interested in “teaching” a CCD class. Well, perhaps needless to say, I believe I received a very direct answer to my prayer…and having heard said answer, you probably could have knocked me over with a feather afterward!

    My answer to our Lord’s question of me was “Absolutely, Yes!” I have been facilitating this class ever since that initial phone call. I love serving our Lord in this manner!!!!

    So, I guess my point in telling you all of this JD is an effort to ask you to do the same thing. Don’t give up on your dream. Ask God if this is something He wants you to do…and ask Him to let you know somehow whether or not He is calling you to do this. If Jesus wants you to teach His children, He will let you know. If He has something else in mind for you, ask Him to let you know what that may be as well. Either way, God’s will is always done. All good things come from God as He is THE Source of all goodness.

    He has a plan for you JD, as I know you know…and I too will pray that He will show you what it is He wants you to do at this point in your life. Just keep the faith JD. Mother Teresa once said, “God does not expect us to be successful. But He does want us to be faithful!”

    May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus fill your heart and be upon you and your family!

  4. I left Catholicism as a teen for evangelicalism. The reason was simple: My Catholic parish offered a youth group that met for socialization. I tried another parishes’ group, and I was disappointed. A friend asked me to join their youth group. From the first night I was hooked. The youth group time started with worship, moved to prayer then to giving, a sermon and then prayer. I loved the praise and worship, it deepened my relationship with Christ. I attended an evangelical school, where I learned scriptures. I then, spent time in a few other churches, and now I am back in a Catholic pew. While I struggle with a few of the Catholic beliefs, I can defend them intellectually. However, my faith is alive and I am challenged to be an evangelical, Catholic. I want all to know Christ.
    As a Catholic, I struggle with the fact that my parish is in a very multi-ethnic area. We have several students from other countries, living just blocks away, from our school. These students who don’t know about Christ, could not only have a strong academic education, they could learn how to be Christians. And, our parish could have full pews on Sundays.
    I struggle as I have asked to teach at a Catholic school. I have an undergraduate degree in theology and ministry, including 18 hours of Catholic theology. (I finished my undergraduate degree at a Catholic college.) I would love to start religion class with prayer, a worship song, and authentic teachings. I would love to work with other teachers to incorporate authentic Catholic, Christian teachings. But, I have been told no, principals would rather have a licensed teacher, even an atheist, who can teach math/science/social studies with a bit of theology. For me I will not be sending my kids to Catholic school in my diocese. I want my kids to love Christ and lead others to him.

  5. I think we just have to go all out in every possible circumstance to try to part of the process of winning hearts for Christ and His Church. I don’t want to sound defeatist about having no chance of at miniumum laying the groundwork for conversion in our youth- no matter what they bring in as a family background. I am living proof that you can come from a divorced home environment, with the added proviso that neither of my parents even attempted to raise me in the Faith beyond infant baptism- no small thing that though! The Catholic Church was not on the radar whatsoever and I never so much as entered a Catholic school building. But guess what- God is good- opportunity came knocking later in life and with some fits and starts- I found my home in the Faith and am raising my own children to be strong little warriors for Christ and Church. So, lets not end this post pessimistically- my goal is to alert all solid Catholics of the honest situation (as far as I have witnessed and directly experienced) of our Catholic schools, and to shout out “Hey we can do so much more!”. We can plant more and better seeds among those in our schools- we have the freedom still- we just need to be smarter and have more resolve. We must organized a better strategy of following something along the lines of what Fr. Mike Scanlon did when he turned the University of Steubenville completely around. You can read his story in the book- Let the Fire Fall- this book should be part of every Catholic administrator’s required reading- if you have the financial means please purchase copies and give them to your area Catholic school administrators with friendly words of encouragement. Tell the Bishop about the book as well when you meet with him. If you want to really help wanna-be orthodox Catholic teachers like myself and many others- pray for us and our students, pray for their parents, and schedule meetings with your Bishop to discuss the realities that contribute to our Catholic schools seemingly churning out classes of lukewarm or dissenting young Catholics as the norm. Until we turn around the situation of young Catholics being just like everybody else their age when it comes to their moral and spiritual lives- we cannot rest, and we cannot just identify the bad guys and the negative influences- we must move on with the hard labor in the fields of young souls. We have the advantage in that we know the Truth, we have Good News to share, we just have to keep being creative and smart all the while relying upon the Holy Spirit to work through our good intentions and concrete efforts!

  6. Good post and interesting discussion. For anyone interested in a very compelling study on the effect of divorce, I would suggest a law review article by Lynn Wardle “THE POTENTIAL IMPACT OF HOMOSEXUAL PARENTING ON CHILDREN” 1997 University of Illinois Law Review 833. Though the article is focused on homosexual parenting, it contains a lot of information on the effect of divorce. I may be using the wrong terminology, but it is a sort of “meta analysis” that synthesizes numerous studies and statistics. It very much underscores what is said in the article above.

  7. Note to all those who took their precious time to add commentary- thank you so much for the words of challenge and encouragement! I have had to go deeper in my identity cover to ensure that I can be frank about a situation that troubles me greatly without putting my ability to provide for my family in jeopardy- my openness in the past was a little naive and we already paid the price once. Thanks be to God all has worked out- I’m in a better teaching space now- I work for a principal I truly respect. I am trying to move the school in the directions I have mentioned in the article- baby steps, seed planting. Pray that the love of our Faith wins out and the Catholic schools will wake up to recognize that they have to do a few things very differently starting yesterday. #1 Start with the new hires- find the smart teachers with passionate orthodox faith lives- ask the direct questions about faith in the interviews- perfectly legal, we are private entities. Assist the teachers by developing Catholic-worldview textbooks for all subject areas. I have already put forth the specific Catholic history/social studies textbook suggestion made by one of the commentators above to my principal! #2 We do need to evangelize and re-evangelize the current crop of parents and faculty much more vigorously- before we start firing folks and before we can expect a mass conversion of heart among the student body, the parents need to be targeted for solid catechetical upgrading. If we are agreed that everything good or bad really starts in the home- then we would be terribly amiss if we miss the opportunity to bring the parents in for inspirational guest speakers with follow-up opportunities to grow in the knowledge and practice of the Faith. I have put forth this idea elsewhere- didn’t mention it in my article but someone else did- and it is so true. #3 got to lobby the Bishops directly and repeatedly- I have been working from the trenches, the bottom-up approach is really difficult in a hierarchical institution- we rely heavily on the Bishop just like the military relies on the generals- think Lincoln and all the subpar generals he went through and almost lost the Civil War. Parents need to schedule meetings with the Bishop- as it stands now it is practically professional suicide for a lowly religion teacher to reach beyond the school administration to try to break up the lukewarm Catholic school culture. A strong, orthodox Bishop can change things in a day that could take 20 years or never when you are just one or a couple of teachers trying to make a difference. God bless all the commentators, and may God bless and transform the Catholic schools to make them all orthodox-friendly, passionate about a true Catholic worldview on every front, and affordable for all!

    1. God Bless Francis, Todd, and all the other Catholic School teachers that try so hard to improve Catholic Schools. Let us all pray for them and the Bishops to make the changes to Orthodox Catholic teaching in our schools.

  8. As one who has also taught in a Catholic high school, I can relate to much of what Francis mentioned in his article. I am happy to see someone speak out on this issue as it is very disturbing to say the least. (Unfortunately, it only gets worse when one looks at many of our Catholic colleges & universities.) I am optimistic however, because when the Church has ever gone through trying times, God has always raised up GREAT SAINTS! We know this from our history, ‘Salvation History’.

    Lastly, let us all keep Phil in our prayers. God bless!

  9. Phil: I have hunted high and low on the internet for some information on what you wrote:
    “I know that there have been 30 born of virgins, crucified on a cross or tree, […] where did you find it at?

    Then you wrote: I will happily enter into polite discourse; vitriol, name calling and abusive language…no! I haven’t seen any of this,

    BTW, here are the references you requested, and you give a link which I read. In relation to the link’s story on the Pope’s girlfriend – In the Popes biography – The Jesuit (El Jesuit – available on life free read) he relates to the girlfriend he had a kid growing up: “If I don’t marry you, I’m going to be a priest.” And In his youth, he enjoyed dancing the tango with a girlfriend before discovering a “religious vocation.” this girl lived just down the street with her parents from where the future Pope lived with his parents. Later his parents moved. He would later enter college studying chemistry before he saw his vocation for the priesthood. – when it comes to the background on the Pope don’t always rely on what the secular media writes and more accurate info on him comes from his own writings.
    In relation to the book “On Heaven and Earth” (not avaliable in a on-live Spanish version or english but will be published in English in a couple of months) he co-wrote the book with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary in Buenos Aires, as a series of conversations. Their exchanges cover topics such as God, atheism, abortion, the Holocaust, same-sex marriage, fundamentalism and globalization among other topics. He speaks of the struggles he had after meeting a young lady at his uncles wedding and forced him to consider what others go through. I do not see him ever endorsing marred clergy in the future – as he does relate back to scripture (paraphrasing here) some are called to married life, some to single life of serving.

  10. What a blessing parents here in Canada do have. Catholic schools have their own identity but are covered by government financing. The way it is done, at least in Ontario, is that homeowners choose to which school system their school taxes will be going. It does not mean that all is well in our system, I heard a high school teacher in my parish once complaining that the principal of his school was “New Age”! But at least those schools do not cost a fortune, and the parents can bring their objections to parents-teachers meetings.
    Of course, we often hear calls from secularists to put an end to this system; however it is part of our Constitution…

  11. Abigail Benjamin

    I noticed another problem in Catholic education, and that is the isolation that cost places on large families.

    I am now the mother of 5 children. (God willing we may have more). I started homeschooling because my parish school offered a ridiculous family cap for large families. For Catholic elementary school in Washington DC tuition cost between $4,000 and $5,000. The way it worked for large families is that you paid for 4 kids in a single school ($20,000) and then you got one kid in “free.”

    I started homeschooling my kindergartener because by the time she was 5, we had three kids. I knew I couldn’t ever pay $15,000 a year for elementary education–even with some type of financial aid.

    So what happened in our community of Washington DC is that there were vibrant Orthodox Catholic families, but they all homeschool. Homeschooling is a unique art. It’s cool. I’m glad I’m doing it.

    It just makes me think that if your Orthodox, you hopefully follow the Church’s teaching to be welcoming to children in your marriage. If you’re not infertile, (which is a heavy cross for some families), you most likely will have a larger than average family.

    So if you make Catholic High School education impossible to pay for for families with more than 2 kids, you automatically lose a large chunk of your “Orthodox” Catholic families. That changes the flavor of the school.

    I’ve been in very Orthodox parishes, with lovely Catholics who were young and single, elderly and retired, or married with large families. The school attached to these parishes were a different “flavor.” They were radically less Catholic and more secular. Its because the people who were at Daily Mass, and singing in the choir on Sunday, weren’t sending their children to Catholic School.

    They didn’t send their children to Catholic School because of the problems you mentioned, but also because of the high cost.

  12. Abigail Benjamin

    Francis, Thank you for writing this article–especially for mentioning divorce.

    I’m an adult convert to the Faith. Before converting I worked for 4 years as a Divorce Attorney. I went to Law School with the idea that good, kind hearted attorneys could make life better for kids during a divorce. Wow! I was wrong. I watched my clients (mostly mothers) fall apart in front of my eyes. It didn’t matter what the process looked like–you could have mediation, special meetings, parent education. The divorce process left bitter, bitter divides in a family.

    The hard part was that it was always papered over like “Oh, we’re working together for the kids! We’re great co-parents.”

    I’ve been in court cases where an otherwise rational Father and Mother got into screaming matches over a $3 Washington Redskin key chain. “Who gets the key chain after the divorce” that problem could take 3 weeks for the parties to resolve.

    I’m really happy someone is talking honestly about the problems of divorce. Of course, a parents divorce is going to erode a child’s trust in God the Father.

    Talking about a spiritual reality doesn’t mean that God can’t still work in a difficult situation. We can’t judge. Sometimes a divorce might be a “spiritual good.” For example, in a domestic violence situation. The catechism says that divorce could be permissible for some limited reasons–and its important to recognize that its remarriage without an annulment that is a mortal sin in our faith, not simply “divorce.”

    Even understanding that an individual family’s situation is unique–it doesn’t mean that as a whole we as a church can’t talk about the problems of divorce.

    I think the children of divorce need a special place in their local parish priest’s heart as a child who has a potential wound on their heart. They need prayer, love, and concern.

    1. Your comment brings to mind something I have read in the news soon after the tragedy in Newtown. The article mentioned the divorce of the young man who did the shooting. Apparently the divorce was relatively non-oppositional and the parents remained “friends”. What struck me was that the father was quoted as “willing to do everything for their son”, who did have some problems, I am not sure if they were related to autism or something else. At the time the thought crosses my mind: “sure, everything except giving up, for the sake of his son, the idea of divorcing the mother…”

  13. mtmom- I was not aware- I am now- will look into it and if they are good all-around then we need to promote the heck of them to all the pertinent Catholic school stakeholders- like I said before- if the bishop says jump- the diocesan and school administrators will jump- they are like everyone else- they want to hold onto their jobs. Ideally everyone would be motivated by the Faith First enthusiasm but Catholic Education is in such disarray it really requires the orthodox bishops to start issuing marching orders and draw upon the hierarchical structure of our Church

  14. this is the author- note to some of the commentators

    To Lizzie et al: I should say that my primary point to make with this article is to cry out from the wilderness to those who have actual power to change the paradigm that is dominating Catholic Education at this time. This would include parents who have their children in Catholic schools- you have a lot more potential influence than a singular religion teacher- in America we operate under the mantra “the customer is always right!”. If enough orthodox Catholic parents weighed in at the schools and in face-to-face meetings with their Bishops- I think the critical mass could be achieved. I would appeal to orthodox priests to lobby their Bishop to do more about setting clear guidelines as to how to “Hire Right” up and down the Catholic Educational food chain. We must get “Faith First” enthusiasts into the classrooms- they also need to be smart and have the wherewithal to bring an authentic Catholic worldview into their subject areas. The USCCB should be lobbied to get started on building upon the Bishops’ Curriculum Framework for Theology – to get cross-curricular experts together to get going with the creation of textbooks in all disciplines that reflect the Catholic worldview- embedded in the texts in a way that assists ‘faith first’ teachers to do that which they truly wish to do but may be hamstrung by the typical textbooks that are found in Catholic schools- which are really the same text that are used in public schools- with all the lackings that that would suggest.

    As for Divorce- I agree Lizzie that I may have overreached with trying to diagnose the cause of the problem of so many of the Catholic school students coming in with lukewarm or non-existent faith lives. I put the onus on the parents- but to be fair- the problems that lead to divorce are problems that create circular paths of faith damage. The sexual revolution- all the baggage of rampant porn, ubiquitous premarital sex patterns, poor selection of priest and religious candidates and formation (which is at the heart of the explosive priestly sex scandals), which of course bleeds into marriages with contraceptive mentalities- which leads to divorce or at minimum ruptured/strained marriages. The poorly formed priests failure to prioritize Church teachings on sexuality and embrace Theology of the Body and NFP, this has damaged greatly the Faith of the parents of Catholic school students. My larger consideration is not whether divorce alone is the primary reason for why the kids are not alright and turning up in our Catholic schools with damaged faith lives. I am sure that the combination effect of the Sexual Revolution which didn’t really reform prudishness and sexism but did literally throw out the baby with the bathwater. Combine the Sexual Revolution with the lack of solid orthodox priests and religious taking command of parishes and allowing the schools to become bastions for lukewarm and/or dissenting Catholic educators- and you have the crux of the problem. Divorce shows up as one obvious dead-end for the true faith, but like lizzie reports many intact marriages exist but are spiritually dying or dead and so do nothing to inspire an enthusiastic faith in the children. The solution is not more lukewarmness, more dissent that would lead to Unitarianism or Episcopal liberalism ( and certainly not pantheism). No matter the exact placement in the hall of shame of the negative faith effects of divorce- the fact remains that we are in crisis- and firm, tough-loving orthodox Catholic leadership is needed (like yesterday!). I am Catholic and I am also American, so I believe in the Catholic doctrines and I believe in that American “can-do” attitude. I’ve listed my complaints, but I have provided several proposals to correct course and help push back against the damaging general culture for the sake of all the students still in our Catholic schools at this very moment.

    1. Ironically, I belong to a homeschool support group comprised of over 100 families which is an official ministry of a local Catholic Parish, a parish with a pretty large K -8 Catholic School. The same problems that you write about exist in this school in no small degree. Many many families in the Parish and a few other neighboring parishes opted out of the education offered through the Parish school to become homeschoolers. The priests have embraced our movement because our faith is an intrinsic part of our lives and we teach our children within the context of this faith every single day. We are a thriving example of what real Catholic education is, and it shows in our children’s involvement in the life of the Church. It is not found in the school, but in our homes. If you want to fix Catholic Schools, you must catechize parents. It doesn’t matter how many orthodox Catholics you hire to put into your schools if 16 hours a day those children are living with people who have, in effect, abandoned the faith. Sure there will always be children who will be graced with the inspiration to embrace the teaching, and I absolutely agree that faithful Catholics should occupy the positions within Catholic schools. But for most children, it truly does begin, and end, at home.

  15. “And the dragon was angry against the woman: and went to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17).

    “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them. And power was given him over every tribe, and people, and tongue, and nation” (Revelation 13:7).

    “Here is the patience of the saints, who keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).

    Brothers and Sisters…be patient, loving, and truthful in what we do and say, especially in our Father’s name…and as our Father in heaven is patient with us.

    As we prepare to enter into Holy Week, we must ask, how many times has our Lord Jesus been patient with each of us?

    On my own account, in my own life, I must say countless times. For me, the old proverb holds true: But for the grace of Almighty God go I…and I daresay any of us.

    So, remember…What God permits will be. What God does not permit, will not be. Hold true! Be faithful, steadfast, and hold to the path! And let us all pray we are not put to the test…St. Peter himself stumbled when put to the test.

    May we all meet our Lord this week and be crucified with Him at Calvary, and may His peace and love be upon us all and give us strength.

    Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto, sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

    1. I should have been more direct with my comments from above.

      What I was trying to say was, let’s all try to be more patient with our brother Phil. I know I have never walked a mile in his shoes…I’m guessing none of us here have.

      The problems Francis discussed above are the result of our own societal failures…and God permits these failures, because to do otherwise would be to remove His tremendous gift of free-will. God does not want slaves. The enemy wants us to be slaves to him and sin. God wants us to choose to follow Him of our own volition, which is why His call to every soul never ends until we pass from here to our reward, or conversely, to our judgment.

      Here’s a hypothetical…what if God was leading Phil, or someone else, to this internet site for the purpose of trying to find a foothold in their lives?

      While I understand how righteous indignation may “well-up” within us from time to time, it is in these moments we must be most patient. Just as God is endlessly patient with us the countless times we each stumble or fall, we are called to be endlessly patient with each other.

      We are called to be reflections of Jesus in all we do. Yet, given some of the comments I read that were directed at Phil, I’m not so sure we’ve done anything that would have helped our Lord in any attempt on His behalf to reestablish a presence in Phil’s, or anyone else’s soul/life.

      Yet, we should all take heart, and remember…all things are possible with God…regardless of our failures. God’s will is always accomplished.

      So, to close, perhaps the hypothetical I presented above is something we might think about, or reflect upon, as we enter into the holiest week of the liturgical year.

      Let us all pray that God will allow us to see Jesus in Phil and in everyone we meet, just as we are called to do with each other.

      Thanks for the opportunity to clarify. God bless!

  16. Forgive me if this was already discussed, because I haven’t read all the thread, but it seems to me a major point is being missed. Young people aren’t leaving the faith because their parents get divorced. Young people are leaving the faith because their parents are leaving the faith. Except for those for whom divorce is forced upon them, the very act of divorce is an abandonment of the Faith. I would guess that a majority of children of divorce were not being reared in the faith to begin with. The divorce is merely one indication of this loss of faith.

    So the relevant question seems to be, why have ADULTS abandoned the faith? I believe the best answer is the secularization of society. And it is for THIS reason more than any other, that children do not identify with the church. Add to this the scientism that is rampant in intellectual circles and you have the recipe for widespread dismissal of Church doctrine. Western secular culture rejects metaphysical belief in all forms. The problem isn’t just that kids’ parents are getting divorced. The problem is that the kids’ parents are witnessing disbelief to their children in a million other ways from birth long before their parents ever get divorced.

    1. Lizzie:

      You are exactly on point. I think one of the reasons they are leaving the Church is not only secularization but inadequate catechism. A LOT of Americans in the 30 – 50 age bracket don’t really know or understand what the Church teaches. Post Vatican II in the US was a confusing time.

    2. I think that somewhere in this discussion we got confused. The problem for kids isn’t their intellectual decision to abandon the Faith; it’s that they aren’t being raised properly in the Faith to start with or are entering it so damaged as to not be able to grow in it. That’s where I think divorce is such an important factor.

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  18. I have not had the time to read all of the comments, but as I did read some I began to feel extremely thankful that I was homeschooled almost all through primary school. It was rare in the 40’s, but it happened for health reasons (not my health but my mom’s and my brother’s), and on top of that my mom was actually qualified to teach the primary grades. Nowadays when I read some blogs I have been surprised to realize that many teachings about my Catholic religion that I just assumed were “part and parcel” of who I am were not that common, and that they came from my mom’s deep knowledge of religion and Catholic faith. I guess I was very very lucky. Too bad that I never had children of my own to raise…

  19. @Francis, the author – I am glad you are strong in your faith and I pray you will work as hard as you can to be a positive role model for other teachers who may not be where you are yet. Please don’t toss your hands up in defeat. It’s possible other teachers would step up if only they had the privilege of the same level of formation you have received in your life (whether you were raised well or simply sought out adult formation on your own) I am a mom in my 40s, and even though I was raised Catholic, I had almost no formation. If I had embarked on a teaching career, I would have chosen to teach in Catholic schools, because I am Catholic and I sincerely would have believed I was fulfilling some sort of higher calling, and I would have been as ineffective as you describe. What would work? Maybe begin by bringing some light formation into the workplace. I don’t mean watered down, but accessible. I have seen many people work wonders with Rediscovering Catholicism by Matthew Kelly. May God bless your efforts!!

  20. Fred, If I’m not mistaken this quote “to those who believe, no explanation is necessary, to those who do not, no explanation is possible.” is attributed to Saint Thomas Aquinas

    Phil, when you said you were a pantheist had to look that up to be sure: 1. A doctrine identifying the Deity with the universe and its phenomena. 2. Belief in and worship of all gods. The false theory according to which God and the world are one. (these come from the Catholic Encyclopedia) these are if not mistaken what the New Age religion grew out of.

    1. Pantheism is the religious belief that God is not merely omnipresent, but that God is the universe…the Source of all energy, the summation of all physical laws. Much more could be written to explain.

      I have no doubt that a Catholic encyclopedia would categorize it as a false system of belief.

      Actually, it’s not new age but stems from GAIA and also from the mystery religions of ancient Egypt..all of which pre-date Judeo-Christian tradition.

    2. “I SHALL show hereafter how the preponderant taste of a democratic people for very general ideas manifests itself in politics, but I wish to point out at present its principal effect on philosophy.

      It cannot be denied that pantheism has made great progress in our age. The writings of a part of Europe bear visible marks of it: the Germans introduce it into philosophy, and the French into literature. Most of the works of imagination published in France contain some opinions or some tinge caught from pantheistic doctrines or they disclose some tendency to such doctrines in their authors. This appears to me not to proceed only from an accidental, but from a permanent cause.

      When the conditions of society are becoming more equal and each individual man becomes more like all the rest, more weak and insignificant, a habit grows up of ceasing to notice the citizens and considering only the people, of overlooking individuals to think only of their kind. At such times the human mind seeks to embrace a multitude of different objects at once, and it constantly strives to connect a variety of consequences with a single cause. The idea of unity so possesses man and is sought by him so generally that if he thinks he has found it, he readily yields himself to repose in that belief. Not content with the discovery that there is nothing in the world but a creation and a Creator, he is still embarrassed by this primary division of things and seeks to expand and simplify his conception by including God and the universe in one great whole.

      If there is a philosophical system which teaches that all things material and immaterial, visible and invisible, which the world contains are to be considered only as the several parts of an immense Being, who alone remains eternal amidst the continual change and ceaseless transformation of all that constitutes him, we may readily infer that such a system, although it destroy the individuality of man, or rather because it destroys that individuality, will have secret charms for men living in democracies. All their habits of thought prepare them to conceive it and predispose them to adopt it. It naturally attracts and fixes their imagination; it fosters the pride while it soothes the indolence of their minds.

      Among the different systems by whose aid philosophy endeavors to explain the universe I believe pantheism to be one of those most fitted to seduce the human mind in democratic times. Against it all who abide in their attachment to the true greatness of man should combine and struggle.” — Alexis De Tocqueville, 1835

      The mystery religions of “Egypt” do not predate Christianity, Phil. They were attempts to strengthen Roman civic religion by reviving the use of old gods as new symbols, partially to counteract Roman citizen’s fascination with far Eastern religions and other foreign belief systems like Judaism and Christianity. The religion of ancient Egypt, on the other hand, was thoroughly polytheistic with occasional hints of henotheism. Pantheism came from the Greeks, because their democratic system was well-suited for it. The Hindus and most other oriental people were not pantheistic until about 1500 years ago, and then only somewhat. Pantheism thrives in cultures where the people are exalted above the individual. It facilitates government control of a populous quite well by devaluing the individual and emphasizing sameness and uniformity.

    3. Phil, you seem to have been employed by a Catholic school some time ago, so perhaps your thoughts about what affects Catholic student belief today are a bit outdated. Also, as you are now a pantheist (yes, the Catholic Church — and all other faiths that are not pantheistic — would say you are wrong) it seems to me that your view may explain why you are no longer a Catholic more than it explains anything else. I find that very sad, but as I’m sure you don’t, I’ll leave it at that.

  21. “The RC Church’s obsession with sex. ”

    It seems that it is the media and the Church’s critics that are obsessed. The Church speaks out regularly and clearly about the rights of the oppressed, the plight of the poor, etc., yet if any announcement is made about abortion or contraception the media and critics readily pick it up and make it a front-page item. I chuckled when I heard the head of “Catholics for Choice” recently state that the Vatican is obsessed with the pelvic region. Actually, Catholics for Choice sole being for existence is the pelvic region.

    The Church needs to be a voice speaking out against so-called modern values and “rights.” Yes, many in the Church, in the US and the West, have quit attending Mass, yet how aligned are they really to the Gospel?
    Looking around, I have to say very limited…just look at the huge disparity in the West between the rich and poor, and the middle class consumer and the poor. Many in the West are bankrupt, at the family level, at the civic level, state level, and national level. Westerners are dealing with obesity and over-consumption at many levels.

    Consumerism and materialism are easier and seemingly more comfortable than the Gospel and than what the Church teaches. This is why Mass attendance has declined…modernity has offered an easier and less demanding path.

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  23. I know a priest who was visiting a school and told the staff that they should be educating their students and forming them to be good Catholics. The staffs response was basically that it was enough to make them good people. A lot of people send their kids to Catholic school in order to get a “values” education. They want their child instilled with good values, but not necessarily religious ones.

    I find that many teachers are good and faithful Catholics, but weakly catechized. They don’t always know how to address their student’s questions or how to present the faith in a compelling and interesting way.

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