The new bishops

The new bishops

A friend sends along the following thoughts on the new US bishops appointed by Pope Benedict this week. Bishop Walter Hurley will be going to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Bishop John Noonan will be an auxiliary in Miami.

Bishop Hurley was Cardinal Adam Maida’s point man on dealing with priests in Detroit who had to be removed for sexual misconduct. Check out this quote from the bishop during his ordination as auxiliary bishop for Detroit in 2003:

But the shadow of the year-long struggle to combat sexual abuse also hovered over the mass. At the end of the liturgy, newly ordained Auxiliary Bishop Walter Hurley spoke to the crowd on behalf of the three bishops and borrowed a page from Charles Dickens.

“While we recognize that the past year will be a defining moment in the history of the church, we are not prepared to acknowledge these are the worst of times,” he said. “We are, however, prepared to say without equivocation that these really are the best of times—for never have we been so aware of the need of the Lord and his presence in our lives.”

Over the past year, Hurley, 66, has served as Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida’s point man in dealing with abusive priests and was promoted recently, at least in part, because of his calm leadership in the midst of that crisis.

Ordained along with Hurley were Auxiliary Bishop John Quinn, 57, until recently Maida’s director of education.

Usually “director of education” is not a title that encourages my hope for someone’s orthodoxy, but Bishop Quinn is credited for bringing back a renewal of orthodoxy for Detroit’s seminary.

Bishop Noonan is also currently rector for a diocesan seminary, St. John Vianney in Miami. He, too, is considered to be orthodox.

We’re seeing an interesting trend where rectors of seminaries that have decent current reputations

The US bishops are concerned about the decline in the number of Catholic schools in the country and have issued a statement vowing to strengthen Catholic schools. Some of the problems include a lot of schools in urban areas where few Catholics live and they mainly serve poor people who can’t afford tuition and not enough schools in suburbs where middle-class Catholics now live; fewer Catholics choosing to send their kids to Catholic schools; the need to pay higher teacher salaries because laypeople need more money than religious; and so on.

But I think they only touch on part of the reason why so many Catholic schools are failing. While having to double-pay for their children’s education (through taxes that pay for public school and tuition for private school), parents may be a little miffed that the education they’re receiving at some Catholic schools is no better than what they get in public. For one thing, shoving Talking about Touching down their throats may be turning some parents back to public schools or homeschooling.

“Today only a small minority of our Catholic children have access to Catholic schools, due to geography and finance, and many Catholics do not see the need of sending their children to Catholic schools,” Bishop Earl Boyea of Detroit said during discussion of the statement on Friday. ‘‘We are failing now because of our limited resources.”

They are failing now because these Catholic schools aren’t as Catholic as they should be. I know my kids aren’t going to a Catholic or public school if I can help it. They’re going to be homeschooled, where I can rest assured they’ll get a solid grounding in the faith and a top notch and rigorous education without all the extraneous frou-frou that fills the day in most classrooms.

  • I never intended to homeschool either of our kids.  My husband and I wanted to send them to a good Catholic school, where I could be a “school mom” who always volunteers for everything.  But the “Catholic” schools we looked at were all the same: they used public school textbooks so they could get government money, they used the same CCD books that the public school kids got in CCD at the parish, the lunch program was provided by the public schools (with no concessions to no meat on Ash Wednesday/Fridays in Lent), they rode on school busses with public school kids, the teachers were all graduates of public colleges, certified by a secular government, and the schools were careful to meet government standards for accredidation.  They did go to Mass once a week, but it was usually some silly kid’s liturgy, whatever that means.  And sex education. And for all this “Catholic school” education, we would be charged a couple thousand dollars a year.

    We have completed 15 years of homeschooling and have graduated our older child.  One more year, and daughter will be finished as well.  It has not always been easy, but I would not trade the past 15 years, and year 16 coming up, for anything in the world. 

    Dom, I hope it works out for you and Melanie that you can homeschool your kids from kindergarten through high school graduation.  I promise you, you won’t regret it.

  • Dom –

    Different advice from Monica’s smile—try not to get your heart set on homeschooling before the kids are even here. It can be great, but is not the best choice for every child.  I know it’s tempting to try and plan out how life for your kids will be, but you can make wiser decisions if you wait and see what situations & temperaments you are dealing with first.

  • So Dom, will you all be conversing in Latin around the dinner table?  ;^) May the Good Lord bless you two with many wonderful children!

  • Well, our parish school is now being run by a Nigerian nun, so I’m hopeful she’ll get things in line by the time my kid is old enough.

    The Catholic schools use the same crap texts as the public schools here in NYC, though.

  • Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley, who attended Catholic schools, said he was deeply concerned about the state of Catholic schools in the archdiocese and that assessing what to do about those schools would be a priority of his administration.

    Here’s a thought. Why not make teaching Roman Catholic doctrine a priority? What’s with this “assessing?” Is this a difficult thing to decide?

    A sensible comment, in my opinion, from the South:

    ’‘More and more we are confronted with Catholics who cannot or will not use Catholic schools,” said Archbishop Oscar H. Lipscomb of Mobile, Ala. ‘‘I think the emphasis ought to be on them, rather than evangelization. We find non-Catholics increasingly taking advantage of [the Catholic education system] because it is less expensive than private schools, and our primary purpose can easily be lost.”

    Damn straight, if not in Mobile than certainly in Boston. Our Catholic schools are the economy version of prep schools. Period.

    A rather idiotic comment, in my opinion:

    But O’Malley said that educating non-Catholic children in Catholic schools is important. ‘‘Children from other faiths find it a good atmosphere, for spiritual values, and, besides that, the discipline and the focus that Catholic schools give,” he said.

    I would invite the Archbishop to visit either the Cathedral grammar or high schools (he lives about 6 inches away from both) and ask students at random something like…oh, I don’t know…why not:

    “Why did God make you?”

    To make it tougher, he might ask them “Who made you?” But no…that might mess up somebody’s “spiritual values.”


  • I don’t know what state Monica lives in, but her comments re teachers @ Catholic schools receiving state certification and the schools receiving government accreditation indicated that she believes that this is a negative.  The fact that this Catholic school actually wants to, and can afford, to hire credentialed teachers is a plus.

    Credentialed teachers are required to take and renew coursework that actually prepares them for instruction in a classroom that may contain any number of children requiring differentiated instruction.  English language learners, gifted, hyperactive, slow learners, children with abusive or negligent parents, etc., may all show up in a public school teacher’s classroom.  In California, where I teach, that means using substantive state standards to frame curriculum. 

    Many Catholic schools, it is correctly noted, cannot afford to hire lay people, and do not pay professional salaries.  Furthermore, parents are stuck with the curriculum that the diocese uses, but in public schools, one could object to absurd and useless curriculum such as this “Touching” item on the basis of religious beliefs.  In any case, we spend an enormous amount of time on the standards, especially literacy, and have little time for idiotic alleged sex ed courses.  Also, we are fingerprinted and checked prior to signing our contracts.  Now, who in the Catholic school system can say that??

    Dominic, the answer to the Catholic school mediocrity is not necessarily homeschooling, but being part of the community, and part of the solution.  Enough flight, people!  In life, we meet lots of people who won’t agree with us, or who are quite different from us.  School trains us to be thinking individuals who can adjust to many situations.  I do not believe that there are endless numbers of parents actually qualified to educate their children from 5 to 18.  Or are homeschool parents & children practically perfect in every way, with no need of assistance or guidance?  God forbid, that they should actually sit next to a public school student on the bus……how horrid!  Did those children survive their jarring urban experience?

  • I’ll fight to improve Catholic schools, but I won’t put my children on the front lines of the fight. Why should my kids have to be cannon fodder in that war?

    I know it’s heresy in some circles, but teaching is not rocket science, and you can do it without a teaching degree. Neither do you have to be a perfect parent or child for it to work.

    There’s enough of a track record on that with millions of kids being homeschooled in recent years and exceeding the scores of their peers in schools, public and private.

    Don’t make this into a race or class thing. This is about making sure your kids receive the best education possible, whether they live in an urban or suburban school district.

    Why does everyone assume that kids need to go to school with other kids in order to be whole? Has everyone else has such good experiences in school, not been bullied; not been bored by the teacher having to go as slow as the slowest student; not been ostracized by the cliques; not been subjected to politically correct liberal curriculua?

    Well, I have and I’m not going to put my own kids through it.

  • Jane,

    I’m all for saving Catholic schools, but that takes time, and meanwhile, my children need to be raised and educated NOW.  They can’t wait for things to get better.

    I object to the very strong emphasis on secular certification and accredidation because liberal secular values invariably go along with them.

    Actually, we’re supposed to be teaching virtues, and not values, but that’s a separate issue. 

    Lastly, I am not from any one state, but have lived in quite a few, and it is always the same thing.  And, all those special services you mentioned, are either missing from Catholic schools, or, more frequently, are handled by public school Title programs.  I remember one such school which offered extra reading assistance through a Title program:  a public school teacher would come to the Catholic school to teach kids with reading difficulties.  The only problem was that she was required to teach in a classroom in which all religious objects had been removed.  Down went the crucifix, out went the statue of Mary. 

    Our children have grown up to be well-educated well-mannered children.  They are very well socialized, and are very involved with their communities (for example, Habitat for Humanity, Community Theater, public library lots of Church stuff).  They are both gainfully employed and have plans for their futures.  One is happily married.  How has homeschooling shortchanged them?

    Dom, homeschool your kids.  The pay-off is wonderful, both in this world and the next.  Besides that, Latin’s fun! 

  • Dom, I encourage you and Melanie to enjoy homeschooling your future children.  It was a great adventure for our family and my kids are so thankful for our close family time.

    We began when dd was in 2nd gr. (due to being skipped ahead) and ds was in K.  My background was in investment banking, so this was a huge adjustment for me, but it was also a delight.  Monica is right, Latin is fun; so is Japanese.  Along with my children, I learned to love chemistry and music history.  We set aside the money that otherwise would have been spent on tuition for science museum workshops, living history museum tours, Space Camp and other extended “field trips.”  Dh loved bringing us all along on his business trips.

    My kids now attend the same univeristy where they are honors students with multiple academic scholarships.  They have a zest for learning that seems so rare among their classmates, but their enthusiasm seems to draw people to them.  More importantly, they are truly good people – far better than their father and I ever were at that age and perhaps are even now.  They take their Faith very seriously without taking themselves too seriously.

      Catholic homeschooling is not without challenges.  We lived in several states and didn’t always have a support network.  I hope that you and Melanie will be blessed with homeschooling friends to share the joys and the difficulties.  Our family is so grateful that we were able to homeschool and we treasure the memories.

  • We homeschooled our oldest from grades 1-4, and our second child for grades 1 & 2. Our youngest benefited, learning to read and write before she went to the public kindergarten, but from the time she entered grade 1, all the kids have been in school; the girls in public, and Pat in public through grade 8 and at BC High for high school.

    We would have kept the kids homeschooled longer, but once we moved back to Massachusetts, we couldn’t afford to not have my wife work as well as me. Once she was working more hours, we didn’t have the time for homeschooling.

    I would say that Dom and Melanie ought to plan for homeschooling, which among other things, involves Dom planning for a salary that will support the whole family. I didn’t do that, and once we were in the midst of things, it was too late.

    I’d say that all three of our children benefitted from the time that we spent homeschooling them, and we have had no regrets about it.

    As for the post by Monica (i.e., “I never intended…”) it didn’t strike me as some sort of abhorrence of her kids sharing a bus with public school students that was the problem, but that paying for a Catholic school education wouldn’t give her kids a substantially different experience than putting the kids in public school. That may or may not have been true of the schools she investigated (it is hard to know from the outside no matter how diligently you look).

    I taught for a few years at a Catholic parochial school, and I would say that there was a difference (having also taught in public school), but each school is different.

  • Actually you might say it was double whammy for me, both that they would be thrown in with the public school kids, AND, that we would be paying for what was supposed to be a different experience, but which was, in fact, not so.

    I also have taught a few years in Catholic parochial school, plus my husband and I have worked in Catholic parishes and on the diocesan level for nearly 30 years.  What we saw was from the inside, and we did not want that for our children. 

    I think everyone needs to look carefully at the educational opportunities that are available, and then choose what is best for the family and for each child.

    Looking back over the years, and the way our family life turned out (wonderfully!), I see that we made the right decision to begin and continue homeschooling.

  • I went to Catholic schools and I’m very thankful. My family were Baptists. I became Catholic because of what I learned at dear old St. Augustine and ICA. Those schools were like Noah’s Ark to me becuase the public schools in DC were like something out of Blackboard Jungle. I’d hate to see that chance of escape be blocked for another generation of kids.

    By the way, sitting in a classroom with a child who (GASP!) came from a public school or from the inner city is not an automatic sentence of doom for your kid. He or she might learn that there are other people in the world and that the world is bigger, more generous and finer than just his or her neighborhood. It worked for me.

  • Just wondering…  Where are most of our vocations to the priesthood coming from?  From homeshooled, Catholic schooled or public schooled children?  Anyone?

  • Myself, product of Catholic grade, high, and college and a few classes in public college.  I also have a Catholic family.  Both sets of grandparents went to Mass, one grandfather is KoC.  Both parents went to Mass every Sunday and holy days.  There are many schools around the country now that offer true Catholic education.  Sure they must be searched for, can be hard to find, but are surely worth it.  Yes, homeschooling is an option, but think about a school that teaches the Faith, practices the Faith, is supported by parents practicing the Faith, and desires nothing else than that of the forming of character via physical, intellectual, and spiritual formation.  I think this would be hard to beat.  Of course, each child must considered, but at this moment, I plan on sending my children to a school that offers what I stated above.  I think this topic gets very dicy very quick.  We should all assume that each parent is deciding what is best for the child and family in regards to education.