04 April 2013
Just What is Being Saved Here?
A few months back I posted a story on the upcoming closure of the venerable St. Elizabeth Academy in St. Louis City. The only unusual element of the story was that there isn't anything unusual about Catholic schools (or parishes, for that matter) closing. In short, a sad but typical case of life in the New Springtime of the post-Vatican II world.
We live in a society that contracepts and aborts its babies out of existence. We belong to a Church that has done more than any other institution in the West to oppose this-- which sounds great until you realize that it has done practically nothing at all, and only stands in relief to everyone else, who did absolutely nothing or who even promoted it.
This same Church, though no dogma or doctrine has changed for her, has seemingly lost confidence in her own mission and identity. I mean, with all due respect, just how Catholic was St. Elizabeth in its death throes? Just how Catholic is your child's school? Your own parish? Of course the answers to these questions will depend on circumstances, but the trend and overall picture is not encouraging.
Catholic parishes and schools have not produced vocations to the priesthood and religious life. We pay poorly catechized secular teachers a much higher wage than their religious predecessors earned. That cost is passed on in much higher tuition. And the faith is not passed on in these schools. The Church is not being renewed by ranks of fervent young graduates from our own schools.
And, please, again with all due respect, don't point out the big money schools with their service-project Catholicism mentality, unless you can point out orthodox Catechesis, theology and morality promoted there.
Why is it that when you scratch a Catholic high school or college grad you discover a Eco-worshipping, same-sex marriage-tolerating, pro-choice-voting, Mass-skipping typical young person who is distinguishable from their worldly counterparts only by the need to publicly apologize for certain embarrassing tenets of their own faith?
Yes, I have painted a bleak picture here, and not all is bleak. There are exceptions and success stories, and it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Yes, I know. But work with me here, and acknowledge the basic picture as more or less accurate.
Which gets me to today's story at STLToday. It seems that some well-wishers of St. Elizabeth's want to "save" it as a charter school. Certainly, as an educational option in the City school district, this could be laudable, but for the Catholic girls currently educated there, what exactly is being saved? Not their religion, not their religious instruction, not their formation.
The buildings, yes, just like the Epiphany charter school transition. But what else?
The story and even the new proposed name (Service Ethics Academics Academy) make it clear-- it's about social action dolled up with vague spirituality (or "ethics") and doing its best to compete with what passes for secular "academics".
But isn't this what Catholic schools have been offering for decades already anyway? Hey, maybe they are really saving the school.
Is there a market for Catholic education? And can it be offered?
From the full story:
St. Elizabeth Academy could see new life as charter school
When Nicole Trueman-Shaw heard that her alma mater, the city’s second-oldest Catholic high school, would close, her heart sank.
That night, she began talking with other alumnae of the school about a way to save St. Elizabeth Academy. What has developed is a plan to transform it into what would eventually be a charter school, leaving behind its roots in Catholic education.
To do so, supporters must raise $750,000 by June 1 to cover the costs of 2013-14 — a bridge year in which the school will remain a private school while founders complete the charter application process that would lead to public funding.
The new school would be called SEA Academy, or Service Ethics Academics Academy. This fall, SEA Academy would open as a private, college preparatory school for girls with a low tuition commitment, Trueman-Shaw says.
Although it would not be a Catholic school, it would still offer an all-girls, college-preparatory education with a strong foundation in service to others, character education and leadership, founders say.
Debbie Lowry, an alumna and parent of a freshman and sophomore at St. Elizabeth, said her daughters were hoping to attend the new school and were helping with fundraising.
“They all felt like SEA is home. The diversity, everyone is accepted for who they are,” she said.
She said the new school would include community service requirements for students, which is included in Catholic education, although daily prayer and other religious practices will disappear.
But to some parents, the strength of St. Elizabeth Academy is its Catholic education.
“To many of us, St. Elizabeth’s is important first and foremost because it is Catholic,” said Thom Pancella, a parent. “When it closes after this academic year, that will go away. A charter school simply cannot do that.”