Moral Briefs – Chapter LXIII – Godless Education

cover of the ebook 'Moral Briefs' by Father John Henry StapletonThe other defect, respecting education as found in the public schools of the land, is that it leaves the soul out of all consideration and relegates the idea of God to a background of silent contempt. On this subject we can do no better than quote wisdom from the Fathers of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore.

“Few, if any, will deny that a sound civilization must depend upon sound popular education. But education, in order to be sound and to produce beneficial results, must develop what is best in man, and make him not only clever, but good. A one-sided education will develop a one-sided life; and such a life will surely topple over, and so will every social system that is built up of such lives. True civilization requires that not only the physical and intellectual, but also the moral and religious, well-being of the people should be improved, and at least with equal care.

“It cannot be desirable or advantageous that religion should be excluded from the school. On the contrary, it ought to be there one of the chief agencies for moulding the young life to all that is true and virtuous, and holy. To shut religion out of the school, and keep it for home and the Church, is, logically, to train up a generation that will consider religion good for home and the Church, but not for the practical business of real life. A life is not dwarfed, but ennobled, by being lived in the presence of God.

“The avowed enemies of Christianity in some European countries are banishing religion from the schools (they have done it since) in order to eliminate it gradually from among the people. In this they are logical. Take away religion from the school, and you take it away from the people. Take it away from the people, and morality will soon follow; morality gone, even their physical condition will ere long degenerate into corruption which breeds decrepitude, while their intellectual attainments would only serve as a light to guide them to deeper depths of vice and ruin. A civilization without religion would be a civilization of ‘the struggle for existence, and the survival of the fittest,’ in which cunning and strength would become the substitutes for principle, virtue, conscience and duty.”

One of the things the Catholic Church fears least in this country is Protestantism. She considers it harmless, moribund, in the throes of disintegration. It never has, cannot and never will thrive long where it has to depend on something other than wealth and political power. It has unchurched millions, is still unchurching at a tremendous rate, and will end by unchurching itself. The godless school has done its work for Protestantism, and done it well. Its dearest enemy could not wish for better results.

Popular education comes more and more to mean popularized irreligion. The future struggles of the Church will be with Agnosticism and Infidelity – the product of the godless public school. And without pretending to be prophets or sons of prophets, we Catholics can foresee the day when godless education, after making bad Christians, will make bad citizens. And because no civilization worthy of the name has ever subsisted, or can subsist, without religion, the maintenance of this system of popular and free government will devolve on the product of Christian education, and its perpetuity will depend upon the generations turned out of the religious school.

The most substantial protest the Catholic Church offers against godless education is the system of her parochial schools; and this alone is sufficient to give an idea of the importance of this question. From headquarters comes the order to erect Catholic schools in every parish in this land as soon as the thing can be done. This means a tremendous amount of work, and a tremendous expense. It means a competition on educational grounds with the greatest, richest and most powerful nation in the world. The game must be worth the candle; there must be some proportion between the end and the means.

The Catholic Church has the wisdom of ages to learn from; and when she embarks on an enterprise of this kind, even her bitterest enemies can afford to take it for granted that there is something behind it. And there is. There is her very life, which depends on the fidelity of her children. And her children are lost to her and to God unless she fosters religion in her young. Let parents share this solicitude of the Church for the little ones, and beware of the dangers of the godless school.