Protecting Our Children From Catholic Schools

December 2003By Charles James

Charles James is an Associate Professor of Philosophy, Academic Dean, and Provost at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, California.

Little did we know that when we placed our children in Catholic schools the most momentous spiritual war in our family would commence. We were naïve and inexperienced. We had left the liberal Episcopal Church where I was a priest, and wanted our children to learn the solid teachings of historical Catholicism. However, what we found in the Catholic elementary schools was the same intellectually bankrupt and passé theological liberalism of the effete "mainline" Protestant churches. As former Episcopalians, we felt strangely at home in our new "Roman Episcopal Church" with its feminist leadership and its subjective pop theology.

We endured three years in Catholic schools. What was the purpose of leaving our three boys in these schools when all we experienced were battles with teachers and administrators? Why were we paying such a high tuition when our children were taught dissenting opinions which only confused them? When we eventually withdrew the boys, we immediately sensed a spiritual peace in our home and in them.

Let me tell the reader some specific horror stories which are unfortunately all too familiar to many Catholic families. My son Nicholas was in third grade at St. Elizabeth School in Oakland. Driving one Saturday on an errand, I heard Nicholas make this statement from the back seat: "My teacher told me to put a condor on the peanuts to protect myself from AIDS." I hit the brakes and pulled over. What Nick heard as "condors and the peanuts" was actually about condoms and the penis. Well, the point was quite lost on him, but it grabbed his parents' attention immediately. Nicholas was being taught about contraception -- in third grade.

We confronted the teacher and the principal for two reasons. First, the teacher had not informed us that she intended to speak to our third grader about sex. Second, and perhaps more significantly, such teaching is in direct contradiction to the teaching of the Church. We complained about both these issues, and were shocked to receive a defensive response from both the principal (a Dominican nun) and the teacher (an ex-nun). Both of them explained, with a touch of racism, that the majority of the children attending St. Elizabeth's are Hispanic and African American and that they (and their parents) do not understand the importance of practicing "safe sex." My wife told the teacher that, as the parent of a third grader, the mother has the right to speak to her own children about sex when she feels the child is ready to hear it. The school had now pre-empted that right; it had assumed the authority of the parents. Adopting the public school attitude that "we are the experts," this Catholic school convinced itself that it was the "great white hope" for the teeming and stupid masses of east Oakland. How sad, and how arrogant.

My attempt to enlighten the teacher and her principal went nowhere. And before I got to my car I decided to pull my kids out of the school as soon as possible.

You have two options:

  1. Online subscription: Subscribe now to New Oxford Review for access to all web content at AND the monthly print edition for as low as $38 per year.
  2. Single article purchase: Purchase this article for $1.95, for viewing and printing for 48 hours.

If you're already a subscriber log-in here.

Back to December 2003 Issue

Read our posting policy Add a comment
When I complained to "Sister" Joan Curtin, the Director of Catechetical Education for the Archdiocese of New York that the 5th grade CCD workbook being used in our parish was filled with non-Catholic hogwash such as teaching the children the Indian prayer to the "Great Spirit," she called me a fanatic. When I volunteered to teach a Confirmation class in CCD in the Diocese of Paterson, NJ, not one of my students was able to give me 1 of the Commandments...I asked for just one. Posted by: gespin3549
August 04, 2006 08:56 PM EDT
Last year I volunteered to teach Confirmation class. I was astonished and dismayed about their lack of knowledge. I started with the basics akin to a First Communion class (rather than the third year of a Confirmation class), and these students were truly ignorant of the faith. As a teacher, I felt that I was in the right place.

I put structure and accountability measures that included homework and testing. Then, the Religious Director told me to "lay off." When I informed him of my observations, he said that though the students may not have the requisite knowledge, the last thing the parish wants is to withold the sacaraments or scare students away.

I will not volunteer again until changes occur. I cannot say before God in ceremony, as required, that the students are ready and sincere.

It is a lie.

Posted by: axiombob
September 05, 2006 11:21 PM EDT
It was more damaging to my faith to work for a diocesan Catholic college for four years, than it was to just go prodigal and quit practicing my faith and attend a state university for five years. I was poorly catechized as a kid in the confused 70s church and left it as soon as I could. I've had to teach myself the faith as an adult.

For catechists, I'd recommend the Marian Catechists apostolate, formed by the request of Mother Teresa and the pope (JP2) to have a catechist training program for the Missionaries of Charity...the course materials are by Fr. John Hardon, SJ, a great defender of the faith in the late 20th century, God rest his soul. Abp Burke continues to direct the apostolate. I've just started the Basic course (home study) and have learned so much! Fr Hardon's fine Jesuit mind is really making me learn and think. I'm taking the course to improve my own faith, but perhaps I shall be a catechist, perhaps with teens and adults, because I'm not real talented with kids.
Posted by: kentuckyliz
May 18, 2007 01:24 PM EDT
Copy of a letter we sent to my son's school principal in Nov 2006:

Mrs. Maureen Stiene - Principal
Saint Peter’s Regional School
121 Lincoln Place
Liberty, NY 12754

Dear Mrs. Stiene:
It is with a sense of shock and dismay that I write this letter to you. Shane returned from school yesterday humming a song which he apparently learned, with your approval, for the Christmas Pageant, or should I say “holiday pageant” so as not to “offend” anyone by mentioning Christ?

The refrain goes something like this:
“Merry Christmas,
Happy Hanukkah,
Peaceful Solstice,
Joyful Kwanzaa!”

If you go to a Hebrew school, do you hear the children glorifying religions other than their own? No you do not. That would be anathema to them. As a matter of fact, if you go to Israel, the seat of Judaism, you do not see Hanukkah celebrated to the extent it is celebrated in this country. Hanukkah is only a remembrance of a triumph/miracle in Jewish history, but it cannot be equated with or celebrated in conjunction with the celebration due the birth of our Redeemer which is Christmas, and especially not in a Catholic school! It has no place in a Roman Catholic School which is charged with the training of young impressionable minds. What are you doing!?!? You are desensitizing the children to the reality that our religion is the only path to salvation. This is an eternal truth. By exposing the children to foreign religions at the same level as our religion of eternal and God-given complete truth, you are programming cafeteria Catholics of the future who will not have any problem with choosing one religion or another or mixing parts of several or all religions because “they are all the same.” You are watering down our faith by mingling it with other faiths, some of which are downright false and PAGAN!!!

Kwanzaa. Created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 as a political response to the state of African Americans in the United States at that time, Kwanzaa is not even a religious celebration! It is a pagan and secular celebration which introduced the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles (devised by the founder of the holiday, and through the Nguzo Saba, introduced and reaffirmed communitarian values and practices which strengthen and celebrate family, community and culture. (Where is Jesus here???) These seven communitarian African values are: Umoja (Unity), Kuji-chagulia (Self-determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith). These are all man-centered values. What in God’s Name does this have to do with the birth of our Redeemer? Nothing!!! All you are doing is sowing the devil’s confusion into the minds of our children. Again, I re-iterate that this cannot be equated with or celebrated in conjunction with the celebration due the birth of our Redeemer which is Christmas, and especially not in a Catholic school! It has no place in a Roman Catholic School which is charged with the training of young impressionable minds.

“Peaceful Solstice!” I save the most horrific for last. Now we find you equating the birth of our Redeemer with outright PAGANISM! The worship of the sun, mother earth, the “goddess,” etc! Why not have the children dress as Druids for the pageant. You might as well, if you are truly going to be politically correct and non-offensive (to all except Christ…it’s OK to offend Christ on His birthday.)

The winter solstice has been celebrated in pagan cultures the world over for thousands of years. This start of the solar year is a celebration of light and the rebirth of the sun. In old Europe, it was known as Yule, from the Norse, Jul, meaning wheel. The Emperor Aurelian established December 25 as the birthday of the “Invincible Sun” in the third century as part of the pagan Roman Winter Solstice celebrations. Shortly thereafter, in 273, the Christian church selected this day to represent the birthday of Jesus, and by 336, this Roman solar feast day was Christianized. January 6, by the way, celebrated as Epiphany in Christendom and linked with the visit of the Magi, was originally an Egyptian date for the Winter Solstice. These conversions indicate a triumph of Jesus over paganism and by celebrating a “Peaceful Solstice,” you are re-introducing that dead paganism to our impressionable children. What is the purpose of this? It serves no purpose in guiding our children to Jesus, but it most definitely serves the purpose of steering them away from Jesus.

This past Sunday, Father Ginel, our pastor, stated in his sermon that we Catholics are directly responsible for the destruction of our HOLY DAYS (not holidays, for there it begins.) We allow alien and secular belief systems to trample our true faith in the name of inclusionism and diversity and tolerance and non-offensiveness. This is ridiculous. Father Ginel called upon us to defend our God for if today we disown Him and His Truths, then at our judgment He will disown us and know us not! Are you willing to take responsibility for the loss of one single soul of those entrusted to you? You will most definitely have to answer for that soul when you die and Jesus warned us very clearly in the Bible,
Matt.18.6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

If you insist on celebrating other faiths in this pageant in spite of my protest, then you will not have my son participate in any fashion with this travesty.

Mrs. Stiene, when we first approached you two years ago about enrolling our son at Saint Peters, you assured us that the school was orthodox and you proved it by showing us the religion texts which are used as well as the spiritual growth programs in place. We are very disillusioned. Shane comes home with anti-Catholic political hogwash learned in his social studies class and it takes us many a painful conversation to detoxify him from the viral seduction with which he is seduced into thinking that’s it’s ok to mock the Laws and Commandments of God. Let me be very clear about this – my child is told in no uncertain terms by his teacher that she is going to vote for a candidate who is pro-abortion. That it is her choice. There can be only one choice for a Catholic which constitutes a free choice and not a choice leading into bondage and that would be the choice of goodness and holiness and whatever constitutes goodness and holiness. My child knows that knowingly voting for a pro-abortion candidate constitutes complicity in the act of abortion, and for a Catholic, it is a mortal sin and quite possibly invokes an automatic excommunication from the Church. It is no joking matter and this scenario has no place in a Roman Catholic school at any level. That teacher is not only placing herself in grave spiritual danger, but is placing the salvation of my son at risk by opening his mind to a road he cannot take and should not even be thinking about. What I state about my son goes for all the other children who have to listen to this rubbish! That teacher has absolutely no right to expose Catholic children to error. If she wants to do that, she should not be teaching in a Catholic school in spite of her qualifications.
Shane also comes home after what was supposed to be a “retreat.” I think that the “retreat” should be named for what it really is – a social gathering to discuss ethical/political beliefs and their impact on pubescent lives. A retreat involves a strengthening and re-enforcement of the relationship between God and individual. We’d love to know how this was accomplished.

Now Shane comes home, innocently reciting religio-babble for the pageant! As for this pageant, [sarcastic remark imminent] I am offended that you have not included the following phrases in the refrain:

“…Delightful Diwali,
Blessed Eid and Eid ul-Adha,
Happy Samhaim,
Glorious Beltane,
Peaceful Bodhi,
Merry Litha,
Sad Zarathosht Diso,
Wonderful Hajj,
Glorious Waqd al Arafa!”
This would be truly inclusive!!

Some may think that I have over-reacted, but, as a Catholic, I am compelled to defend my faith and my God wherever I see offense and mockery and a watering down of said faith. Although I strive to maintain a spirit of compassionate Christian fraternal correction as indicated in the bible, it is very difficult when confronted with such offense from within our own ranks! I hope you take this letter to heart for I will not back down and I intend to make the letter public through various venues, extending to the Holy Father, if required, if this silly song is not removed from the pageant. It must be a Christmas Pageant in all of its parts or it is nothing which glorifies the Christ. What was it that Theodulph, appointed Bishop of Orleans by Charlemagne, sang in the year 820?

“ALL glory, laud, and honor
to thee, Redeemer, King!
To whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring.”

Note that the first word is “All,” not “some” or “shared.” You have no idea the confusion you create in the minds of these kids and the peril you place their souls into.

I’ve written quite a diatribe, I’ll admit, but in the defense of Saint Peter’s as a whole, Shane also comes home with the most wonderful positive tales about his teachers and his daily experiences in school. Although we are disillusioned with certain aspects, albeit, very important aspects, of the learning experience in Saint Peters, in general we are very happy with the support we receive as Catholic parents attempting to forge a Catholic Gentleman and with the response we receive whenever we bring up subject matter which concerns us.

Gabriel Espinosa

Copy: Mrs. Slimskey
Reverend Monsignor Straub
His Eminence Edward Cardinal Egan

Posted by: gespin3549
June 06, 2007 07:07 AM EDT
Add a comment