Perhaps you have heard the brouhaha over the new teacher’s contracts in the Diocese of Cleveland. I do understand the angst about them. Essentially there is nothing different about them per se, but on the other hand there is something very different about them.
What is not different about them is that there is no new information in them. What was implied before is now spelled out. A public life lived in accord with the faith was expected before and is expected now.
What is different is now it is spelled out on more controversial topics. Living in invalid marriages, publically supporting abortion rights, and a host of other points have been spelled out more explicitly. This is partly in response to the new healthcare mandates, partly to help stave off litigation, and partly to reestablish a stronger Catholic identity in our schools.
Is it a good idea? Not being a lawyer or a politician I am not sold either way. But there is an aspect of this whole dust storm that is coming to light that illuminates a profound misunderstanding about what we are (supposed to be) doing as Catholic schools. A reading of some Letters to the Editor as of late give example.
One of these letters read something like this: “It is a shame that the Catholic Church is forcing the issue on what constitutes a good Catholic. By limiting the pool of teachers, we will be missing out on great educators, which can only harm our schools and our students. We want our kids to have the best teachers.”
Such a statement betrays a deep confusion of the nature of Catholic schools. A Catholic school is not a public school, it is not even a private school, it is a parochial school. Unlike public schools which are becoming more and more limited in passing on culture, discipline, ideas of right and wrong, good and evil, or even God, and unlike private schools who are there to simply provide a superior education (hopefully), a Catholic school is also about the formation of the human person, imbuing ideas of the good with very clear ideas of what that is. She passes on truth, concepts of what is holy, beautiful, and how one should live embracing the respect of life, family, the dignity of the human person, and all that entails with the 2,000 year understanding of the revealed truths of the faith.
It is culture that we are passing on, not simply knowledge. If it were not for the faith and the culture we would close our schools or make them profitable private schools as has happened to so many of our colleges and high schools.
So let’s say there is a police officer that comes to your child’s school to teach about staying off of drugs. He is very effective. The kids love him. He is popular with the parents. But he also has a website promoting illegal drug use and the kids know it. He admitted to the kids that he regularly uses drugs though they should stay off of them. He was quoted in the newspaper as saying that drugs should be made legal and available. No matter how good he is in the classroom and while in the school building, do you really want him teaching your kids about drugs?
Our faith is a culture, not a set of facts in a book. It cannot be taught like math. It is caught, not taught. No one can “teach Catholicism” while living a life contrary to it for then it becomes a dead message.