14 October 2010

The Non-News News-Flash: Contracepting Away the Catholic School

The STLToday story on the Epiphany school closing and its aftermath is causing quite a stir in the Archdiocese, and my post of yesterday about it has generated a lot of interest here.   Not only is it generating discussion in the combox, but I have received several very detailed and thoughtful emails about the problems facing Catholic education, an analysis of the causes, and speculating on some possible solutions.

And even while I was posting on the article and adding my own comments, I thought I would also follow up with a post about what could be done.  I intend to do that in the coming couple of days.  But first, there is one big issue (mentioned in the combox, but not the article) I want to address.

So, in order to continue the discussion, here are some additional thoughts.

When dealing with the cause of the dwindling enrollments, we typically focus on the city of St. Louis, and in the STLToday article it specifically dealt with one city parish school.  This focus can obscure that the drop in numbers is not just population shifts (whether it is "white flight", or bigger homes in the county, or better highways and roads allowing for easier commutes to the cities), but much, much, more importantly, one of the biggest elephants in the Catholic education room, and one that affects all Catholic schools, city and county:


Contraception obviously leads to couples having fewer children than they would likely have had.  Hence the name.

But contraception also contributes to promiscuity before marriage, adultery within marriage, destabilizes homes, and perversely enough leads to more abortions, as the couple who sought to pervert the marital act to serve their own ends is often led to take it one step further and "end a pregnancy" they bought drugs or devices to prevent.

Providentially, the Catholic Church teaches unequivocally that contraception is gravely sinful matter and may not be used by Catholics.


This is not a news flash, but Catholics today contracept at a rate similar to non-Catholics:

The Center of Disease Control and Prevention 2002 National Survey of Family Growth revealed that 97% of American Catholic women over age 18 have used a form of contraception, which is the same percentage as the general population. A 2005 nationwide poll of 2,242 U.S. adults by Harris Interactive showed that 90% of Catholics supported the use of birth control.

And Janet Smith writes that thirty percent of Catholics are sterilized, which is the same rate as the rest of the population.

Ironically, the pastors and schools that were supposed to pass on the Catholic faith have, by their willful and/or reckless failure to do so, have nearly choked off the vitality of that system.  The Church's pastors all too o
ften enabled the Church's laity to reject the truth about contraception, either by failing to preach it, failing to admonish the faithful tempted by it, or even by tacitly reassuring some that it was just not a big deal.

Sermons on contraception are seldom heard.  In my lifetime, other than at a traditional Mass, I have heard two (one was by Bishop Hermann).  Pastors don't wish to upset parishioners because they might go away, or stop contributing money to the collection, and times are tight enough.  Yet the loss of nerve in passing on the faith makes the faith itself less appealing, precisely because it is less demanding.  Good things are worth sacrifice.

The schools traded in the Baltimore Catechism for a more "sophisticated" approach, which is a nice way of saying that the Baltimore Catechism was uncomfortably uncompromising in its presentation of the truth.  The catechisms and personal sins were thrown out, workbooks and collective sins were brought in.  The faith was traded for a mess of pottage.

Yes, the sisters and brothers-- the "cheap labor"-- went away.  But this wasn't because a meteor hit the earth and wiped them out.  It is because vocations dried up after the post-Vatican II Church made it clear that a lifetime of sacrifice (including making a total gift of one's sexuality to serve God better) was no longer valued, and no longer desirable.  The prayer warriors of the cloisters were traded in for leftists running interference for the Sandinistas, and social workers filling out government aid forms.

The Catholic faith is true and timeless.  But for four decades, it has been hidden, misrepresented, scorned, ignored and even opposed by many clergy and laity.  

Even the change to the Mass has negatively affected the passing on of the faith.  The old Mass reflected the truths of the faith, and uncompromisingly presented them to the faithful. It was cashiered for a new form of Mass.  Of course the new Mass is valid.  But it less obviously reflects and presents the faith.  This sounds provocative, but let me ask you: do you think the old or the new Mass better reflects the Catholic teaching on Transubstantiation?  Yet now, there is a dichotomy between faith and praxis.  Now, to be Catholic means to give intellectual assent to the truths of the faith, while somehow liturgy is a mere matter of taste.  With all due respect, this is not an historically Catholic attitude.

Moreover, this attitude that liturgy is merely a matter of taste makes it awfully tempting to hold that doctrine, too, is merely a matter of taste.  Like whether one uses contraception.

When you look at empty schools, you see the result of empty wombs.


Anonymous said...

Are you really surprised that the Prophecies of Paul VI came true after all?

Long Skirts said...

Timman said:

"Of course the new Mass is valid. But it less obviously reflects and presents the faith."

Both Cain and Able made "valid" Sacrifices...
One must be a fruit-picker today -
What are the fruits of the new Mass?
What are the fruits of the TRUE Mass?
If the Bishops don't "contracept" i.e. STOP just at the TRUE Mass and not let the TRUE Masses' graces flow, there will be the fruits of the TRUE Mass which are TRUE Catholic grade schools, high schools, seminaries, monasteries, convents,retreat houses and many, MANY Vocations and that is why His Excellency, Archbishop Lefebvre insisted on the schools along with the TRUE Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, DAILY!
Tradition yesterday, today AND tomorrow! Merci Marcel!!


And where are the schools?
The daily Mass,
Lines to confess,
A uniformed lass?

And where are the schools?
The Latin class,
Cassocked priest,
Candles in brass?

And where are the schools?
To strengthen souls,
Shape their wills,
Set the goals?

And where are the schools?
The altar boy,
Assisting priest,
Like Christ, their joy?

And where are the schools?
Oh, time you lied,
Two generations
Have gone and died.

And where are the schools?
Which don’t derive,
That two plus two
Are sometimes five?

S – S – P – X,
They’re found in large,
Where struggling families
Let priest take charge.

For the good of the whole,
Priests’ lives are laid,
So many may come,
Not be afraid.

And win the Faith,
From Christ-like hand…
St. Pie the Tenth
Two and two are grand!!

Anonymous said...

For those of us fortunate enough to attend the traditionl mass on a regular basis and are , at times, obliged to go to a Novus Ordo mass due to certain circumstances be it travel or whatever, it is especially difficult to stomach what goes on. Being raised in the Novus Ordo mass and not dicovering the TLM until a couple years ago, it can be a real challenge to attend this mass not only for me and my wife, but for our children (young children). Even my 3 and 5 year old have wondered what are these people doing?
I am tired of speaking to people about how the two rites are equally valid. I suppose this is true because both rites at their core complete the same sacrafice but anyone who has attended the TLM for just a few months would seem to not be able to deny that the TLM is FAR SUPERIOR!!!
I think that an important concept that has been made a reality in these last two years for me is that the TLM has the ability in its liturgy alone to change people and mold their faith into something more authentic.
Anyway, I am not sure that much can be done with the sad state of Catholic schools in this city. The situation as it is is too risky for our young ones. People often tell me to be patient, send my children to the local Catholic school, and things will eventually improve. As a concerned parent, it is just too risky to expose my little ones to even 1 day in one of these schools let alone waiting for things to get better.
I anxiously await your suggestions.

Cathy D said...

My husband and I do not use contraception. I know we are in the minority among Catholics. In my 47 years I don't think I have EVER heard ANY homily at mass about contraception.

I think I could count on 2 fingers the number of times I have heard a homily that focused on ANY of the core teachings of the Church. Most homilies are (as my sister-in-law calls them) "vague homilies about vagueness". The two times I have heard solid teaching, to give the men credit, were at St. Joe in Cottleville and the current Belleville Bishop at my nephew's confirmation. I long ago realized that if I wanted to learn about my faith, I had to look elsewhere, because it wasn't going to happen at mass. Sad, but true.

Anonymous said...

I have seen a Catholic schools where a Catholic teacher told her elementary students that she was not going to have kids until she was 'ready'.
I have seen students who do not know that there is a nun in their school because she does not wear a habit.
I had a student in Catholic school whose teacher told them to use condoms if they were going to have premarital sex. She wanted them to be safe in case they did what in her eyes they were going to do anyway.
My children no longer go to Catholic school. They are homeschooled.
'Good Catholic' couples have 3 or 4 kids. And then they stop. Because they want to. They want to look like good catholics by having more than two kids but do not give in to the notion that they should just leave it in God's hands.
I am tired of all the good catholics asking me if this is my last one (number 9). I am tired of good catholics asking me if this was planned. I am a convert. I love the catholic church only the way a convert can and I am tired of all the protestants in the catholic church.

Anonymous said...

Cathy D:

I am in the Bville diocese and am happy to hear that Bp. Braxton's teaching on the faith to stand out as meaningful for you. Was the confirmation this past spring? What did the Bishop say that jumped out to you? I ask b/c I blog about the Bville diocese and would enjoy sharing this with my readers. Cheers!


Anonymous said...

Wow. A lot of over-moralizing and judgmentalism in the combox on this one.

Anon 8:48, the Novus Ordo Mass has the power to change people, too, despite all of the flaws that you perceive in it. I suppose if one is closed-minded to it or prejudiced against it, that power might have more difficulty working. In charity, only "supposing" that the two Masses are valid is a step towards a dangerous frame of mind. I pray that you not take any additional steps down that very dangerous primrose path.

Anon 10:37:

"'Good Catholic' couples have 3 or 4 kids. And then they stop. Because they want to. They want to look like good catholics by having more than two kids but do not give in to the notion that they should just leave it in God's hands."

Wow, just. . . wow. There is a fine line between defnding the faith, and judging others based on assumptions. I realize that the anonymity of the internet allows us to express raw emotion, but, that doesn't mean that a filter is completely unnecessary. This is clearly a Catholic blog, and I would hate for meanspiritedness and preudice to be attributed to the Church based on something written here.

Anonymous said...

I agree especially with the last line of Anonymous above. "I would hate for meanspiritedness and prejudice to be attributed to the Church based on something written here."

Based on the tone of many things I read here, I would think that the Catholic Church is the most judgmental group of people in the world.

thetimman said...

Last Anonymous, to be fair, I think that a readiness to see others as judgmental can sometimes be its own form of judgmentalism.

Truth and Charity. Both are needed. It is not charitable to obscure or deny the truth. And all the truth in the world without charity will not move souls.

We must all try for both, forgive others, and seek forgiveness for our own weaknesses.

The discussion is good. I would like to see it keep going. I will post once more on the topic this weekend about some ideas for going forward in Catholic education.

ATW said...

Anon 12:48 said, "The Novus Ordo has the power to change people too..."

I certainly agree with that. It changed three generations into non-believing, non-practicing, non-Catholics. Must give credit where credit is due.


Children are Blessings said...

Dear Anonymous with 9 Children,

I know that you sincerely believe that all good Catholics should just have as many children as they are capable of having, but that just is NOT true. I have spoken with three very fine Latin Mass priests and they all told me the same thing; that practicing Natural Family Planning is fine and even necessary to many couples and not all couples are called to have 10 children.

They said that we must be able to take care of our children, including their education, so money is a factor as well as both physical and emptional needs of the family and parents.

It is really not fair for you to assume that all Catholic couples who have smaller families are doing it for selfish reasons. Some just may not be blessed with great fertility, some may miscarriage repeatedly. And yes, some may choose to keep their family to four children, which is twice the national average, so I think they are being pretty generous.

I personally would love to have 10 children, but God has not blessed me so, and it truly breaks my heart. So not everyone thinks you are crazy to have a big family. Some of us think you are a very, very fortunate mother.

Anonymous said...

Since the endangerment of Catholic schools is on the groundfloor of this discussion, let me remind everyone about how dangerous this name is to Catholic schools everywhere: M-E-I-T-L-E-R!!!!! If Meitler Consultants are on the way, kiss good-bye to the church and school of your heitage and start looking for a public school.

Anonymous said...

That's the most boring thing about you traddies. Always in a contest to see how many kids that you can pop out.
"Mother of nine" : Sounds to me that you could do with a little less sex and more common sense. (You already must have buckets of money.) Hitler used to give medals of honor to women who bore as many children that they could have. Not behavior that I would want to emulate.
But then, I forget. This is the internet. You might just be pulling your nine children out of thin air. You can be whoever you want to be on the internet.

Anonymous said...

Timman - your best post ever. Our actions have consequences, especially when we contradict God's law. I am reminded of Paul's Letter to the Romans:

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.

The Archbishop of Brussels is now being attacked for saying similar things about homosexuality and AIDS, how through an "immanent justice" one leads to the other. The same can be said of contraception and Catholic school decline.

Anonymous said...

Good Catholic' couples have 3 or 4 kids. And then they stop. Because they want to. They want to look like good catholics by having more than two kids but do not give in to the notion that they should just leave it in God's hands.
I am tired of all the good catholics asking me if this is my last one (number 9). I am tired of good catholics asking me if this was planned. I am a convert. I love the catholic church only the way a convert can and I am tired of all the protestants in the catholic church.

As a Mom of six who would love more and has been open and hoping for three years, I cannot tell you how hurtful your comments are. Yes, when I had number six I got a lot of questions. I tried to accept that most people actually aren't trying to be offensive. We can be a good, positive witness, or we can be bitter and hurtful. I just find it sad that you are actually sitting there judging families of three or four when you cannot possibly know the circumstances behind their family size. I can understand you being tired of the comments but you've just made the same type of unthinking, hurtful comments that have so hurt you.

Seriously, maybe when you see those families with fewer children than yours, you should pray for them and thank God that He (HE not you) has granted you the beautiful gift of nine children. Many would love to be in your shoes but He doesn't always give us what we ask for.

Anonymous said...


Ha, ha. Very funny point - - if you hadn't just criticized a properly authorized Catholic Mass for being detrimental to the souls of those that attend it.

Martin Luther could not have said it better. Maybe some of the other bright lights of the Protestant Reformation could have, but then Luther was never known for his eloquence, just for his boldness and shock value.

That thought process is sad and dangerous.