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Catholic schools, and the Church are going extinct in America, and the blame is found within
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In the mid-1960s, twelve out of 100 schoolchildren in the United States attended a Catholic school. Even if you were not Catholic, chances are you knew multiple peers who attended Catholic school. Today, the numbers tell a grisly tale of collapse, under the triple threats of cost, scandal, and apathy. But there's more to this story than they're telling you. Here's the real answer why our Catholic school system collapsing and what can we do to reverse this trend.
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More than 200 Catholic schools are closing each year in the United States. What's the problem, and what's the solution?
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Make no mistake. The collapse of our Catholic educational system in America is a sign that the Church is collapsing in the USA. While the Church will never be wiped from the Earth, history provides plenty of examples of places where Catholics were once common, but are now extinct. The fight for Catholic education is a fight for both the Church in America, and the soul of our nation. Both the Church and the state are in rapid decline, and likely for the same reason. We, the faithful, are betrayed and the devil is winning.
In the 1960s, Catholic education was cheap and available to all who wanted it. The Church ran more than 13,000 schools where students could learn reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as their catechism from a religious brother or sister who actually knew the material.
The outcomes were incredible. The vast majority of these students went on to college or serve their country. Some became priests and members of religious orders. Our nation was educated, and our parishes were staffed. The pews were full, so parishes had to add Masses to the schedule.
Today, the grim evidence is impossible to ignore. According to the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA), there are just about 6,000 Catholic schools left in America. That's a shocking decline of over 50 percent. An average of 100 schools close each year. And 209 schools closed for good last year. At this rate, there will be no more Catholic schools left in just a few decades.
The most oft-cited culprits for this decline are costs, scandal, and secularism. Costs are up because few, if any, religious people are teaching in the schools anymore. Instead, schools are hiring laypersons to teach, many of whom are not even Catholic. In fact, some aren't even Christian. Lay teachers cost much more to hire than using religious brothers and sisters who teach because it is their vocation. Add other costs, such as facilities, insurance, books and other supplies and materials, and you understand why Catholic education costs around $4,800 per year for elementary and $10,000 per year for high school. How many people have that kind of money? Not enough.
For those who live in urban districts, enrollments are collapsing under the unbearable weight of tuition increases. The NCEA reports the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles saw a 12 percent decline in students, and New York an 11 percent decline. What isn't going to decline? The tuition.
Scandal is another reason. The shocking tolerance for sex abuse has driven many people away from the Church, and their students out of the schools. At the same time, Catholics who accepted secular notions on topics such as same-sex relations and abortion are fleeing the Church because they are "offended" by the faithful clergy who still have the courage to speak.
Apathy is cited. The fact is, religious life isn't as important to Americans as it once was. As much as one-third the population of the United States now identify as something other than Christian. The percentage of Catholics in America is down from about 1-in-4 in the 1960s to 1-in-5. And of those 1-in-5, how many attend Mass?
While these problems are often mentioned, they are not the root of the trouble, not even close. The real heart of the problem is our leadership.
Too many bishops of the Church have subscribed to pop-secularism. They are no longer concerned with the teachings of the faith, and instead are concerned with "wokeness" and other topics which have little to do with the salvation of souls. It's clear the devil is at work. How do we know? Simply look at the facts.
- Catholic schools have declined by more than 50 percent in the past 50 years.
- Catholic schools will be extinct in the United States in just a few decades, if current trends hold.
- Children are no longer being taught by religious persons, but by laypersons, many of whom are not even Christian (or Christian in name only).
- The pews are empty.
- Catholics are now less than 20 percent of the population, and most of them no longer attend Mass.
- We have bishops who are preaching that the Church should change God's Law (which it can't!) on issues such as marriage and the family, vocations, and more.
- We have few bishops who courageously speak against the evil trends in America who are publicly persecuted as a result.
The fact is, Catholic education is the solution to all these problems. But by secularizing the Catholic schools and charging astronomical tuition, the system sabotages itself. The schools render themselves down to serving only those who are fortunate enough to have the money to pay the tuition. Those parents aren't raising their children to live in poverty and obedience, but to become doctors, lawyers, politicians, and business owners. For many, it's an earthly investment which they expect will pay an earthly dividend. Hence, the decline of the clergy. A feedback loop is created, the more Catholic schools fail, the faster they fail.
The ultimate indictment is this: who in their right mind would permit such circumstances to persist? What bishop, witnessing this decline, would permit the schools under their care to further decline? Why not intervene and order religious persons into the schools to deliver authentic Catholic instruction? Why not reverse the simple error, that priests are administrators and money managers while laypersons are the catechists? People become priests not to balance books, but to evangelize. But somehow, the priests are doing the managing while the laypersons, who may be trained to manage and account, are doing the catechesis. They are failing spectacularly, of course. Just quiz any Catholic on the basics of their faith. Ask anyone to simply list the Ten Commandments. Most can't do it. Most American Catholics cannot recite the Ten Commandments!
This should be reversed, with the priests and religious out in front, and the laypeople charged with worrying about finances and day-to-day operations. They should be supporting their priests in their mission of evangelization.
This is the most sensible and rational solution. It would take time to implement this reversal of roles and return religious instructors to the classrooms. But this is the only way to reverse the collapse of the Church in America. It has worked before throughout history (see: the Counter-Reformation), and in fact, it is the only thing that does work. It's what is meant by evangelization. But evangelization occurs not just in the pews, but in the classrooms and in the streets, and a man who sits behind a desk all day is a poor evangelist indeed. Good evangelizers are seen in public, practicing and preaching the Gospel, not just in the parish church.
Sell your desk and go outside where the people are.
In the meantime, a team of dedicated Catholics is doing something extraordinary over at Catholic Online School. They're not waiting. This is one school that's growing while the brick-and-mortar schools are collapsing. Why is this? It's because Catholic Online School is faithful to the Magisterium of the Church. And it's FREE. There's no tuition, no books, no costs whatsoever.
Catholic Online School was launched in the fall of 2018 with a mission to provide a free, world-class Catholic education for anyone, anywhere. All courses are online and feature short videos that clearly explain the fundamentals of our Catholic faith and answer the many questions people have. All of the content is reviewed by clergy for accuracy to ensure it absolutely adheres to the one, true, official teaching of the Catholic Church. Live instruction is also offered 6-days per week.
The school is a success story and a beacon of hope for many. In less than three years, the school has gathered nearly 560,000 student enrollments from 193 countries. These are all people who hunger for the Gospel. They're being served here. The school is supported by donors from more than 144 countries, an affirmation that it's meeting the needs of many.
Its courses on the Sacraments are the most popular, with many now incorporated into parish catechetical programs. Teachers and homeschoolers are also using the school to supplement their instruction. And thousands of the school's students are adults who just want a refresher. In fact, students write in all the time saying thanks to Catholic Online School, their Catholic faith finally makes sense to them. All because the content was simply and clearly explained using terms they could understand.
Given this success, it is obvious that Catholic Online School is part of the solution to the problems facing the Church at present. Every bishop, every parish priest, and every Catholic school should be using Catholic Online School to provide catechesis to their students.
The school recommends each day begin with Daily Readings with Questions for Reflection, to cultivate an understanding and appreciation of the Sacred Scriptures. Then, the school offers other subjects. Religious education courses are complimented with history and English classes. And there are some remarkably fun classes like the Explore the Bible series which delve into mysteries found in the Bible. A great number of courses are now in production, including a course on the United States Constitution, as well as courses on math and science.
There are extensive classes on apologetics (Defending the Faith) which every Catholic should take so they have the knowledge to answer questions and objections from atheists and other Christians.
You can take courses from Catholic Online School yourself. Simply click here to register, find a course that interests you, and enroll. You may attend one of the Live Lessons, or you may watch the videos and the recordings of previous Live Lessons. You are free to go at your own pace, and everything is free.
Be sure to share Catholic Online School with others, especially those in your parish community. Ask your priest if they are using the school as a resources, and if not, ask why. Be sure to use the school as a resource for your own faith development and to help guide the faith formation of those around you.
If you wish to support this vital mission, visit Your Catholic Voice Foundation (YCVF.org) to do so now.
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