Moral Briefs – Chapter LXV – Some Weak Points in the Catholic School System

cover of the ebook 'Moral Briefs' by Father John Henry StapletonSome parents claim that their children do not learn anything in the Catholic school. It is good policy always to accept this statement as true in all its parts; it may be true, and it is never good to deny the truth. All are not equally endowed with brains in this world. If a child has it dinned into his ears that the school he attends is inferior, he will come to be convinced of the fact; and being convinced, he will set to work verifying it, in his case, at least. Heredity may have something to do with it; children are sometimes “chips of the old block,” a great misfortune in many cases, handicapping them in the race of life. It is well, therefore, not to claim too much for our schools. We concede the point.

Another parent thinks that because he went through the public schools and kept the faith in his day, his children may be trusted to do the same. This objection has a serious front to it. It does seem strange that children should not walk in the footsteps of their worthy parents; but the fact is, and facts are stubborn things, the fact is that they do not always act thus. And they might tell you, to justify their unseemly conduct, that the conditions that obtained in life in olden days are not the same as at present; that there were no parochial schools then to offer a choice in matters of education and that kind Providence might have taken this into consideration: that it was the custom in those days for children to imitate the rugged virtues of their parents struggling against necessity on one hand and bigotry on the other; but that through the powerful influence of money, the progeny of the persecuted may now hobnob with the progeny of the bigot, and the association is not always the best thing in the world for the faith and religious convictions of the former, unless these convictions are well grounded in youth. The parent therefore who kept the faith with less had a very considerable advantage over his child who apparently has more privileges, but also more temptations and dangers. The objection does not look so serious now.

Of course there is the question of social standing – a very important matter with some parents of the “nouveau riche” type. A fop will gauge a man’s worth by the size of his purse or the style and cut of the coat he wears. There are parents who would not mind their children’s sitting beside a black child, but who do object most strenuously to their occupying the same bench with a dirty little Irish child. A calico dress or a coat frayed at the edges are certainly not badges of high social standing, but they are not incompatible with honesty, purity, industry and respect for God, which things create a wholesome atmosphere to live in and make the world better in every sense of the word. There is no refinement in these little ones, to speak of, not even the refinement of vice. There is something in the air they breathe that kills the germ of vice. The discipline considers sin a worse evil than ignorance of social amenities, and virtue and goodness as far superior to etiquette and distinction of manners. If a different appreciation of things is entertained, we grant the inferiority of our schools.

“But then, it is so very un-American, you know, to maintain separate schools in opposition to an institution so intensely American as our public school system. This state of affairs fosters creed prejudices that it is the duty of every true American to help destroy. The age of religious differences is past, and the parochial school is a perpetual reminder of things of the past that were best forgotten.”

We deny that the system that stands for no religious or moral training is intensely American. This is a Christian land. If our denial cannot be sustained, we consider such a system radically wrong and detrimental to the best interests of the country; and we protest against it, just as some of us protest against imperialism, high tariff and monometalism. It is wrong, bad, therefore un-American.

We also claim that the Protestant propaganda that is being carried on under the guise of non-sectarian education is unspeakably unjust and outrageous. Protestantism is not a State institution in this country. A stranger might think so by the way public shekels are made to serve the purposes of proselytism; but to make the claim, in theory, or in practice, is to go counter to the laws of this land, and is un-American to a degree. That is another un-Americanism we protest against.

We teach truth, not creed prejudices; we train our children to have and always maintain a strong prejudice for religious truth, and that kind of prejudice is the rock-bed of all that is good and holy and worth living for. We teach dogma. We do not believe in religion without dogma, any more than religion without truth. “That kind of religion has not been invented, but it will come in when we have good men without convictions, parties without principles and geometry without theories.”

If there is anything un-American in all this, it is because the term is misunderstood and misapplied. We are sorry if others find us at odds on religious grounds. The fact of our existence will always be a reminder of our differences with them in the past. But we are not willing to cease to exist on that account.