A prominent and wealthy atheist has donated $22.5 million to the New York archdiocese for Catholic school scholarships for inner-city children. It’s the largest donation the archdiocese has ever received and maybe the largest any US diocese has received.
What’s interesting is that the donor, Robert W. Wilson, an 80-year-old retired hedge-fund manager, is that rare breed: an atheist who does not hate the Catholic Church.
“Let’s face it, without the Roman Catholic Church, there would be no Western civilization,” Wilson said. “Shunning religious organizations would be abhorrent. Keep in mind, I’m helping to pay tuition. The money isn’t going directly to the schools.”
Unfortunately, what nags me is the thought that our Catholic schools are now at the point where they are more valued for the education they give to mainly non-Catholic poor kids than they are for the faith formation they give to Catholic kids or for the evangelization they perform for non-Catholics.
In fact, reading the article, you could substitute the world Catholic for “private” or “Episcopalian” or even “Jewish” and it wouldn’t read any different. In other words, it doesn’t seem to matter if there is anything distinctly Catholic in the Catholic schools, so long as they provide a better education than the public schools.
I think Catholic schools are great, but we should ensure that they operate with the same fundamental mission that all Catholic apostolates do: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, unto the end of the world.” (Matt 28:19,20)
The primary job is getting souls into heaven. Everything else is secondary.