Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 6, 1960
NUMBER 22, PAGE 2,14a

Can Parochial Schools Last?

(Voice Of Freedom, June, 1960)

In what the Roman Catholic press called a "startling and outspoken" statement, R. A. Carlin, a Catholic priest who attended the White House Conference on Children and Youth as an Oklahoma delegate, said that Catholic schools in his state and in the nation are on the brink of an "agonizing reappraisal to determine if they should be continued, overhauled, or abandoned entirely. His remarks met a sharp retort from Sister Bernadette, O.S.B. of St. Michael's school at Henryetta, Oklahoma, who said that his "insinuations" were a "disgrace."

Carlin is himself administrator of the Bishop McGuinness (Catholic) High School in Oklahoma City. He suggested a sound scientific survey of Catholic students in both Catholic and public schools to see if the public school students are as competent spiritually and morally and if, therefore, Catholic schools aren't an extravagant duplication. "I question whether parochial schools, elementary as well as secondary, are economically justified," Carlin said.

After the personal attacks on him, Carlin issued a second statement which was published in the Oklahoma Courier, an official paper of the Catholic diocese. He said that "Within the last few years, I have personally heard so many contradictory statements concerning Catholic school products, to the effect that some are making poor showings on our state campuses, in the armed services, in industry and elsewhere that I have generally come to the conclusion that we need to really try to look at ourselves in as scientific a manner as possible to see if we can find whether these contentions are true or not."

Carlin added that "I absolutely contend that we must strive to be honest with ourselves even if it turns out that the truth hurts us very much." But the diocesan superintendent of the schools, "Father" Ernest A. Flusche, displayed no such courage. He said that "it is not possible to test by scientific, natural methods, or experiments, the supernatural factors that enter into the educative process."

Carlin's statement was not the first instance of misgivings on the part of Catholics about continuance of their separated school system. There were a number of such comments about a year ago when the spectacle of 93 children being roasted alive in a Chicago fire-trap called Our Lady of Angels School shocked all Americans. It was especially shocking to non-Catholics who resent refusal of Catholic parents to associate with other Americans in the common school system.

That disaster seem even to have convinced some of the bishops who run the segregated Catholic system that its operation is an anomaly in our democracy. At the last meeting of the National Catholic Educational Association, Bishop Lawrence J. Shehan, President of that group, suggested that "in certain areas," the church should "concentrate on establishing parochial junior and senior schools rather than elementary schools." The Catholic grade school children would then presumably join other future American citizens in American public schools.

While Americans generally, through their taxes, were constructing our world-famed free public school system, the foreign-controlled Catholic hierarchy was forcing ignorant American workers who were members of the Catholic faith to pay for a separate system controlled by the same bishops. These people could ill afford the luxury of "private" schools. And the schools that they got for their money had none of the high quality that private schools sometimes have. The Catholic schools have always been inferior, with standards far below those of the public systems. The Chicago school that burned down was only one example of many of the deplorable conditions in Catholic schools.

Proud as are most of us of our public school system, which is the basis of our democracy, the Catholic bishops in the past have had nothing but contempt for it. They have condemned it time and again as "godless" because it does not teach their "one true faith." Wherever possible, the bishops will "pack" public school boards with Catholics who hate the schools that they are supposed to administer. Proposed expenditures for public education are constantly being attacked by bishops as wasteful. At the same time the bishops insist on the spending of more and more money on Catholic schools either by the government or through contributions from their subjects.

Lately the screams of Catholic educators for help from the federal treasury have become more strident because if they do not get public money soon, their system will fall apart. In their last public statement on the question, the Catholic bishops insisted that their schools were "partners" with the government in American education and that no federal aid should go to the public schools unless the papal-dominated system also got a hatful of help.

But there is another alternative, as proposed by Shehan. That is that Catholic children should go to public schools along with their non-Catholic playmates. Shehan did not make this suggestion on his own initiative alone. He was under pressure from Catholic fathers and mothers — the people who pay the backbreaking bills for parochial education.

In the Catholic Standard of Washington, D. C., Mary Tinley Daley, who writes for the woman's page, discussed the problem from the point of view of the Catholic parent. She said, "Let's face it, in many communities, Catholic parents cannot afford school buildings, an adequate teaching staff, transportation, all required for proper education of their children — while at the same time supporting the public schools."

"So far," continued Mrs. Daley, "very little has been heard from Catholic parents on this subject. Usually, however, Catholic parents are united only parochially, their voices drowned out of the national picture. As a parent, if you had to make the choice, what would you do? Perhaps, soon, the 'iffiness' will be removed. Soon you will have to make the choice."

Mrs. Daley then made the interesting disclosure that one of her own children is attending a public school!

It is pleasant to hear Catholic parents speak of making a choice. In the past, their bishops have sought to make all such choices for them. But the bishops have never really been able to enforce the ban on attendance at public schools. Millions of Catholic children are attending public schools in spite of the Catholic orders against them. Why?

One answer to this question was given by Mary L. Riley, past president of the Catholic Teachers' Association, at a recent meeting in Brooklyn, New York. Speaking to assembled Catholic nun-teachers, she expressed a very low opinion of the quality of their teaching. She says that Catholic children go in droves to public schools because of the "limited curriculum" and other deficiencies of the schools run by the sisters. Miss Riley did not mention that many of these schools are actually dangerous to life and limb. But she did not have to say so. Catholic parents know that their children's lives are being risked in parochial schools while millions are spent on diamond studded halos for images of the Virgin, on majestic cathedrals, and on gorgeous papal coronations. Clearly, the parochial school system, for all the money squandered on it, is grossly inadequate by modern education standards.

To save their separate systems, the bishops of the United States have been engaged in a massive tug-of-war against the forces of democracy in education. At stake in this contest are not only the principles of democracy but also the actual safety and future happiness of the unfortunate Catholic children. Catholics are now turning against the bishops because they are convinced that their cause is unjust. Catholics are withdrawing their children from parochial schools and refusing to pay the costs of such schools. If the force favoring free public education for all will hold out a little longer, the bishops will lose their struggle and start closing up their parochial establishments.