The critical role of Catholic schools
With Easter approaching and the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus about to be remembered and sanctified, it’s timely to reflect on to what extent schools provide an enriching and worthwhile education; one that enables students to be morally grounded, spiritually enriched and imbued with a deep appreciation of the significance and value of Christianity.
Proven by the impact of critical theory and cultural-left woke ideology there’s no denying schools, including Catholic schools, are being pressured to implement a radical secular curriculum in areas such as gender theory, identity politics, critical race theory, climate change and respectful relationships.
Such has been the success of the left’s long march The Australian newspaper’s Tess Livingstone, in her chapter of Christianity Matters In These Troubled Times, writes “Nor have Christian schools been spared the malaise in humanities teaching that has afflicted much of Australia’s education system”.
A situation in schools is made worse as most universities, instead of being committed to a liberal education within the Christian tradition, have long been awash with critical theory and its off springs: postmodernism, deconstructionism and gender, queer and postcolonial theories.
Archbishop Fisher in his inaugural Kathleen Burrow lecture speech delivered on 26 May 2021 notes the destructive impact of radical secularism when he concludes “The corrosive effects of secularisation upon the Catholic DNA are evident in our institutions”.
In relation to Catholic schools, such is the contagious and destructive nature of this threat Archbishop Fisher argues “It is intellectually and culturally impoverishing.
But it is also highly problematic for Catholics because so much of our faith is carried not by creeds and catechisms so much as art, music, literature and the rest”.
Other examples of this radical secular attack on Christianity include: the Andrews government in Victoria championing the neo-Marxist gender fluidity Safe Schools program; boys in New South Wales being told to apologise for being male and across Australia students being encouraged to wag school and demonstrate against man-made global warming.
The need for schools and the curriculum to reassert the significance and lasting value of Christian beliefs and teachings is even more vital [today] …”
In the national curriculum, the emphasis, instead of being on the strengths and benefits of Western civilisation and Judeo-Christianity, focuses on Aboriginal history, culture and spirituality and, as a result, too many students leave school culturally illiterate, morally compromised and spiritually adrift.
Reaffirming the role of Catholic schools
What’s to be done?
As argued by Archbishop Fisher in his Kathleen Burrow lecture the need is to reaffirm the historical role Catholic schools have as the “Church’s principal response to Australian secularity” and to prioritise “evangelisation, catechesis and religious education”.
Archbishop Fisher quotes St John Paul II’s statement “the educational sector occupies a place of honour” in the new evangelisation as well as Pope Francis’ description of education as the “key, key, key” to evangelisation. In his concluding comments Archbishop Fisher argues we must awake in students “an appetite for God” and help “them find answers to their deepest longings”.
The need for schools and the curriculum to reassert the significance and lasting value of Christian beliefs and teachings is even more vital given the prevailing sense of anxiety, despondency and uncertainty caused by the disruption and dislocation as a result of the China virus.
Add Russia’s illegal and barbaric invasion of Ukraine and the suffering, destruction and death inflicted on millions in that country as well as the threat represented by Xi Jinping’s China and it’s obvious a radical secular view of education that is inherently negative and nihilistic is not the solution.
A Christian education, on the other hand and as detailed in Thinking Christian Ethos, is inherently moral and involves cultivating “the moral and intellectual virtues, for the good of the person and the common good of society”.
The cardinal virtues involving temperance, prudence, fortitude and justice and tempered by God’s eternal love foster “a settled disposition to react in the right way and do the right thing; that is, to do what promotes the true flourishing of human persons”.
Schools as centres of evangelisation
The death and resurrection of Jesus illustrates why it is so vital Christian schools remain true to their mission and the central role they have in evangelisation and ensuring students are grounded in Christian beliefs and teachings.
As Pope Francis preaches in his 2021 Easter Blessing: “Amid the many hardships we are enduring, let us never forget that we have been healed by the wounds of Christ. In the light of the Risen Lord, our sufferings are now transfigured…
…Where there was death, now there is life. Where there was mourning, now there is consolation. In embracing the cross, Jesus bestowed meaning on our sufferings and now we pray that the benefits of that healing will spread throughout the world”.
Education in its truest sense is inherently moral and spiritual as well as utilitarian in nature. Something Catholic schools must continue to acknowledge.