Volume > Issue > Protecting Our Children from Catholic Schools

Protecting Our Children from Catholic Schools


By Charles James | December 2003
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.

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