Educating Catholic Children – What’s a Parent to Do?

In the news this week is a report that Quebec is expanding its sex-education pilot project to kindergarteners. According to the CBC,

The trial program, which is in its second year, outlines a number of subjects that must be taught including the proper name for male and female sexual anatomy, the stages of conception all the way through until birth, how to describe feelings and the different types of family structures that exist in modern society.

The story links to an earlier report in which the Minister states that there will be no exemptions. Who thinks this is okay? This is completely unacceptable to Catholic parents.

It is over twenty years since The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality was published, but the principles contained within it make it a completely relevant today. In this document, the Pontifical Council on the Family discusses at length the Church’s approach to the teaching of sexuality within the family. I recommend all parents become familiar with it and consider how to apply it to their own families.

In his article Shared Responsibilities, Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver writes,

Parents have the original, primary and inalienable right to educate their offspring in conformity with the family’s moral and religious convictions. They are educators because they are parents. At the same time, the vast majority of parents share their educational responsibilities with other individuals and institutions, primarily the school…

In a true sense schools are extensions of the home. Parents – and not schools either of the state or the Church – have the primary moral responsibility of educating children to adulthood.

Archbishop Miller is discussing the principle of subsidiarity, which is fundamental to the Church’s approach to social justice. In short, our basic human rights come from God, not the state. The state is empowered through the people who delegate certain powers for the good of society. If we delegate to the state the power to establish schools, we do not surrender our primary, God-given right and obligation to raise our children in accord with our beliefs. The state has no right to undermine our authority over our children nor to teach what is contrary to our beliefs.

Archbishop Miller continues,

For subsidiarity to be effective, families must enjoy true liberty in deciding how their children are to be educated. This means that “in principle, a state monopoly of education is not permissible, and that only a pluralism of school systems will respect the fundamental right and the freedom of individuals…”

Quebec education is in a particular crisis, but Catholics’ concern for the education of their children is pretty much universal. What are the goals of education, from a Catholic perspective? In his book, The Case for Catholic Education, Why Parents, Teachers, and Politicians Should Reclaim the Principles of Catholic Pedagogy, Ryan N. S. Topping states, “The ends of education are threefold: happiness, culture and virtue.” This stems from the Second Vatican Council’s Gravissimum Educationis:

True education is directed toward the formation of the human person in view of his final end [happiness] and the good of that society to which he belongs [culture] and in the duties of which he will, as an adult, have a share [virtue].

This is a lot for parents to think about. We all want what is best for our children, but how can we provide them with the education they deserve? We begin by recognizing our rights and responsibilities as Catholic parents. We pray, pray, pray. Pray for guidance. Ask your children’s guardian angels to protect them. Pray some more.

We will continue looking at Catholic education in upcoming blog posts. What does an excellent Catholic education look like? How does it differ from a state education? Stay tuned…

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