Dan Burke is an award-winning author, writer, and speaker on Catholic spirituality. He has written and/or edited nine books on faithful Catholic spirituality and is the President and Chief Operating Officer of EWTN News, Inc. Dan is the president of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and the creator of Divine Intimacy Radio and SpiritualDirection.com.
When you send your child to a Catholic school, what do you expect?
Chances are, among the other essentials of education, you expect that the individual instructing your child will be faithful to the Catholic Church's teachings and her Magisterium (teaching authority). It is Catholic education you are seeking, right?
These days, though, it's hard to tell what you'll actually get. Look no further than the many catechetical horror stories of Catholic education in the 70s and 80s.
So it's easy to cheer the example of Bishop Robert Vasa, who put his diocesan teacher contract where his authority is.
His diocese, in Santa Rosa, Calif., is requiring its 200 school teachers to sign an adendum as part of their contract. This addendum affirms, in part, that education in a Catholic school must reflect the Catholic teaching that contraception, abortion, homosexual marriage and euthanasia are "matters that gravely offend human dignity."
There's also an expectation that the teachers will follow the Ten Commandments, go to church every Sunday, and heed "God's words in thought, deed and intentions."
If you're a Catholic teacher in the Diocese of Santa Rosa, you're going to have to sign the addendum to continue to teach there.
While popular criticism brings into the argument such points as having friends who are gay couples and employing teachers who aren't Catholic, it completely ignores the pure fact of the matter: These are teachers in CATHOLIC SCHOOLS.
What do you expect when you agree to teach in a Catholic school?
Not only should this sort of requirement not come as a surprise to the teachers of Catholic schools, but this bishop deserves a large round of prayer and applause from the lay faithful. This isn't an example of a bishop’s strong-arming; it's about ensuring that kids in Catholics schools get a CATHOLIC education. (Isn't that what you're paying for?)
Another faithful Bishop, Archbishop Naumann, from Kansas City, Kan., requires all of his teachers to go through the School of Faith, their catechetical school. Its mission is one I can't help but applaud.
“As stressed by the Church at the Second Vatican Council, Catholic schools have the task of leading young people to a deep encounter with Jesus Christ. This entails providing them an apprenticeship in Christian living, as well as renewing Catholic culture through the development of the physical, intellectual, moral, social and especially spiritual capacities of the next generation.
The religious who graced Catholic schools in previous generations had an amazing depth and breadth of formation in the Catholic faith. Today, however, the vast majority of our teachers are lay people who were not given this same depth of religious training. If the primary mission of a Catholic school is to provide an authentically Catholic education, then equipping the teachers who have the responsibility to carry out this mission must be a priority. Teachers must be well formed in the Catholic faith and way of life themselves, as they cannot be expected to hand on what they do not possess.
Therefore, the mission of School of Faith is to provide ongoing doctrinal and spiritual formation for Catholic school teachers in the Archdiocese of Kansas City through catechetical programs that stress the call to prayer, virtue and holiness of life. This formation not only benefits the teachers themselves, but also equips them to build a solid Catholic environment in our Catholic schools.”
What wonderful signs of hope for a new generation of Catholic school students. Forget sending my kids to these Catholic schools. I want to attend them myself.