What the Church Says about Catholic Schools

Rev. Robert Brucciani

Perennial truths

In its pre-conciliar magisterium, the Church gives clear guidance on the type of school Catholic parents should find for their children. The magnificent encyclical of Pope Pius XI, Divini Illius Magistri on the Catholic education of youth, written in 1929, is well worth reading for any parent.

Education must be integrally Catholic

Catholic education must be integral. In every subject of study, the students need to see the connection between God and the natural order of things.

§80. The mere fact that a school gives some religious instruction, often extremely stinted, does not bring it into accord with the rights [and duties] of the Church and of the Christian family. To be this, it is necessary that all the teachers, syllabi and textbooks in every branch, be regulated by the Christian spirit, under the direction and maternal supervision of the Church; so that religion may be in very truth the foundation and crown of the youth’s entire training; and this is in every grade of school, not only the elementary, but the intermediate and the higher institutions of learning as well.

Against Naturalism and a false notion of freedom

§60. Hence every form of pedagogic naturalism which in any way excludes or weakens supernatural Christian formation in the teaching of youth is false. Every method of education founded, wholly or in part, on the denial or forgetfulness of original sin and of grace, and relying on the sole powers of human nature, is unsound. Such, generally speaking, are those modern systems bearing various names which appeal to a pretended self-government and unrestrained freedom on the part of the child, and which diminish or even suppress the teacher’s authority and action, attributing to the child an exclusive primacy of initiative, and an activity independent of any higher law, natural or divine, in the work of his education.

Against sex education

§65. Far too common is the error of those who with dangerous assurance and, under an ugly term, propagate a so-called 'sex education', falsely imagining they can forearm youth against the dangers of sensuality by means purely natural, such as a foolhardy initiation and precautionary instruction for all indiscriminately, even in public; and, worse still, by exposing them at an early age to the occasions, in order to accustom them, so it is argued, and, as it were, to harden them against such dangers.

Against co-education

§68. False also and harmful to Christian education is the so-called method of 'co-education'. This, too, by many of its supporters, is founded upon naturalism and the denial of original sin; but by all, upon a deplorable confusion of ideas that mistakes a levelling promiscuity and equality, for the legitimate association of the sexes. The Creator has ordained and disposed perfect union of the sexes only in matrimony, and, with varying degrees of contact, in the family and in society.

Against non-Catholic schools

§79. From this it follows that the so-called 'neutral' or 'lay' school, from which religion is excluded, is contrary to the fundamental principles of education. Such a school, moreover, cannot exist in practice; it is bound to become irreligious.


It would be fair to say that the traditional teaching of the Church (which is not “time-conditioned” because it has the natural state of man with original sin as its object) leaves no room for doubt that, unless parents are able to overcome the difficulties of homeschooling, they must do all they can to send their children to traditional Catholic schools if they are to fulfil their duties as parents.

Traditional Catholic schools require more commitment from parents, they are difficult to run for priests and religious; they require huge amounts of energy and are usually a black hole for money, but they are necessary for the long-term survival and flourishing of any parish.

May God grant us priests, teachers and plenty of children for our school. May Catholic parents receive the grace to love their children enough to make the sacrifices necessary for their Catholic education. May our heavenly Mother, our Sedes Sapientiae, hold our school in her tender care and find the wherewithal to establish a new junior school in Glasgow!

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