From Across the Pond
Eucharistic “coherence” or “consistency,” cont.
In light of recent “extremely extreme” statements of Joe Biden on the abortion issue, word has it that some bishops who initially had opposed a document of the episcopal conference on this topic now see the need more clearly.
A draft of the document has been shared with members of the executive committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), with a view to its being shared with the full body at their November meeting.
Catholic school governance models
It has occurred to me that my UK readers may benefit from a brief overview of how Catholic schools are governed in the USA.
Most elementary/primary schools are still parish-based, which means that the parish priest is the final voice, both civilly and canonically; parent advisory boards usually figure in the equation. The principal is responsible for the day-to-day running of the institution, with regular, frequent communication between pastor and principal (unfortunately noted in the breach more than in the observance in too many cases).
Inter-parochial schools are generally served by a board of pastors, with lay representatives from the participating parishes. “Regional” schools operate in a similar fashion. Schools owned by Religious fall under the aegis of the sponsoring congregation. “Independent” schools, established by laity, but acknowledged as “Catholic” by the local Ordinary, usually have a board of parents and others with vested interests, along with a priest, to ensure maintenance of Catholic identity.
Regardless of the governance model, the diocesan bishop has ultimate authority for the liturgical life of the school, catechesis, and faculty suitability (e.g., a “morals” clause). A handful of states require all teachers in all schools to be certified by the state. In no instance, does any state have authority over curriculum or staff in a Catholic school. We suffer the penalty of having to pay our own way, but the independence from government control is a worthwhile exchange.
As I believe I have noted before, a very strong movement exists to promote parental freedom of choice (supported by many faith traditions, as well as by those with no faith commitment) through voucher programs or tax credits. There is no support for government monies going directly to any Catholic school, lest he who pays the piper call the tune. Financial assistance to parents, yes (since they are the primary educators of their children); direct funding to Church institutions, never.
Covid restrictions and Catholic schools
Due to our independence from the State, our schools have been able to chart their own course regarding the pandemic. Nearly all our schools remained open for in-person classes throughout the crisis. Most of our schools have adopted a policy on masks which leaves that decision to parents. Where government officials have balked and attempted to enforce their own policies, many dioceses have sued in civil court and, in nearly every instance, the courts have validated the freedom of our schools to function according to our own lights.
Catholic school enrollment data
As I reported before, the pandemic was a blessing in disguise for Catholic education as parents sought less draconian measures for their children, resulting in serious enrollment boosts in dioceses around the country. The even better news is that upwards of 90% of those parents have kept their children in our schools for this new year. The Boston Archdiocese which saw an increase of 4000 students at the height of the pandemic has seen yet another increase – of 1000 for this year. The much smaller Diocese of Charlotte (North Carolina) enrolled over 600 families over the summer!
Bishop denies politician Holy Communion
Bishop Peter Baldacchino of Las Cruces (New Mexico) denied a pro-abortion politician Holy Communion, as did the legislator’s proper pastor. Needless to say, that action drew sharp criticism from the usual suspects, while loyal Catholics and other pro-lifers applauded the Bishop’s decision. I am happy to say that I taught the Bishop New Testa- ment Greek when he was a seminarian!
Archbishop blasts a Catholic university for hosting Joe Biden
Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati said he was not consulted and would not have given permission for pro-abortion President Joe Biden to appear at Mount St. Joseph University this summer. The news of Biden’s plans to host an invite-only town hall gathering drew heavy criticism from Catholics and pro-lifers alike.
Clergy sex abuse
The ever reliable “Media Report” ran this headline: “Iowa Atty General Report Confirms the Obvious: Sex Abuse in Church Is Ancient History.” The article shares the following information:
An exhaustive report from Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller (https://www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov/media/cms/ClergyAbus- eReport_81C76B10D7916.pdf) examining alleged Catholic sex abuse dating back to the 1930s has confirmed what clearheaded folks have long known: Catholic sex abuse is a thing of the past – even if it is in the continual present by old media types.
Miller’s report found that since 2002 – now nearly two decades ago – a mere five priests in Iowa have even been accused of abuse; and of those, only one accusation was even deemed credible. Of course, the state attorney general’s report received nearly zero attention from the media, once again just underscoring that our media is no longer a trustworthy source of information, if it ever was, but just a collection of left-wing cranks pushing their political agendas on the rest of us under the guise of news.
What is true of Iowa is the universal situation in the Church in the US, leading me to say repeatedly and in full honesty: The safest place for a child in our nation is in an institution of the Catholic Church.
Catholic school teacher in same-sex marriage
A federal district court on August 11 rejected a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, filed by a former Catholic school guidance counselor, who had been fired for entering a same-sex marriage contract. Judge Richard Young of the Southern District of Indiana ruled that the former Roncalli Catholic High School counselor, Lynn Starkey, qualified as a minister of religion; thus, the Archdiocese and school were exempt from federal workplace discrimination prohibitions, regarding her termination of employment.
The Archdiocese was represented by the very competent and fierce defender of religious freedom rights, the Becket Fund. Becket argued that “Catholic schools exist to teach the Faith to the next generation, and they can’t do that effectively if the law forces them to employ teachers who oppose core aspects of the Catholic Faith.”
In a related development, in the case of Demkovich v. St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, a former parish employee sued both St. Andrew’s and the Chicago Archdiocese for discrimination after he was fired in 2014 from his position as music director and organist for having entered into a same-sex marriage.
In a 7-3 ruling, a full panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that due to the so-called “ministerial exception” in federal civil rights law, the Court could not adjudicate Demkovich’s claims. Once more, the Becket Fund succeeded in defending the interests of the Church. “Worship is sacred,” said Daniel Blomberg, senior counsel at Becket, which represent- ed the Chicago Archdiocese. He went on: “That’s why worship leaders who select and perform elements of worship are ministers of the faith, conveying its teachings to the faithful. That’s also why the church—not the state—gets to make sure that its music ministers are directing its congregation in a way that’s faithful to its beliefs.”
“Catholics for Choice”
This dishonest organization, consist- ently repudiated by the American hierarchy, again provided disinformation to the general public by asserting that the bishops do not reflect the laity in their anti-abortion stance. In point of fact, surveys have consistently shown that “self-described” Catholics are evenly split on the issue, while practicing Catholics are overwhelmingly pro-life.
Years ago, I prevailed on George Gallup, Sr., to divide his sampling of Catholics into practicing and non-practicing, in the belief that significant attitudinal differences existed between the two groups. Gallup discovered that my intuition was on-target.
The battle to maintain the Hyde Amendment, with its nearly half-century ban on federal funding of abortion, continues apace. Not a few Democrats also support its maintenance, reflective of the general population who have the position, “If you want to have an abortion, don’t make me pay for it.” Interestingly, the parish church of Pious Joe Biden, St. Joseph’s on the Brandywine in Delaware, regularly has an item in the parish weekly bulletin urging the faithful to petition their congressional representatives on behalf of the Hyde Amendment; that notice greeted Holy Joe on one of his recent visits to the church.
More and more cities have declared themselves “abortion-free zones.” Most remarkably, the entire State of Texas did this legislatively. The Texas law authorizes any private citizen to sue doctors and clinics who perform abortions on women more than approximately six weeks after a woman’s last period. The Texas law also allows any private citizen to sue people who assist women in obtaining an abortion after that time period. To the absolute chagrin of pro-aborts, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a 5-4 decision, refused to block the law (three of the justices in the majority opinion were Trump appointments).
A similar law, emanating from Mississippi, protects babies in the womb at fifteen weeks. The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments on that case in the current term. All eyes are on this case because, as feared by the pro-abortion lobby, the Court could rule in such fashion as to overturn Roe v. Wade, the infamous decision of the Court in 1973, which has enabled over 65 million children in our nation to be murdered in the womb.
Fr. Peter Stravinskas is the President of the Catholic Education Foundation, Editor of The Catholic Response and publisher of Newman House Press.