Report Card: New California Threat to Catholic Education; Catholic School Wins in New York Court

Posted July 21, 2017 12:44 am by Matt Archbold

California Catholic Conference warns about threat to Catholic education

The California Catholic Conference reaffirmed its strong opposition to California Assembly Bill 569 which could restrict the ability of Catholic schools, colleges, and other religious employers to enforce codes of conduct in the workplace.

In short, if the bill if becomes law, it would prohibit Catholic schools from requiring employees such as teachers and staff to live publicly as Christians.

Tellingly, the abortion lobby NARAL has announced its strong support for the bill. So that’s pretty much all you need to know.

The bill would likely invite years of expensive litigation that would either force Catholic schools into bankruptcy or to eventually submit. But that would likely be the point.

A win for Catholic school’s religious liberty in New York court

A New York court has ruled that the Catholic St. Anthony School in New York has the right to choose a principal who shares the faith.

The decision relied heavily on the unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision Hosanna v. Tabor that found a “ministerial exception” from federal nondiscrimination law for employees of religious schools. Agreeing with the high court, the Manhattan court stated that religious schools must be free to choose their leaders.

“The court saw right through this blatantly anti-Catholic lawsuit, agreeing with the Supreme Court that the church, not the state, should pick religious leaders,” said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at Becket, a nonprofit religious liberty law firm which represented the Catholic school as well as the Archdiocese of New York.

The case stemmed from the fact that the Catholic high school refused to renew the contract of the school’s principal after deciding she was no longer communicating the school’s Catholic values effectively.

The lawyer who brought the suit claimed that the school should be prohibited by the court from choosing a principal who would promote the Church’s teachings. The court thankfully and rightly disagreed.

Fr. Jenkins of Notre Dame praises disastrous Land O’Lakes Statement

In an attempt to defend the disastrous Land O’Lakes statement which increased secularization on many Catholic campuses, Father John Jenkins, C.S.C., of the University of Notre Dame writes that critics, including Patrick Reilly of The Cardinal Newman Society, are misunderstanding the groundbreaking document or simply taking lines out of context.

Fr. Jenkins notes that some see the influence of the document being “unconstructive or simply pernicious,” he added, “For Patrick Reilly, president and founder of the Cardinal Newman Society, the statement has led to the de-Catholicization of Catholic universities.”

(Spoiler alert: Patrick Reilly is correct.)

Fr. Jenkins retorts, “What the document actually envisions, rather ambitiously, is a university whose Catholicism is pervasively present at the heart of its central activities—inquiry, dialogue, teaching and human formation. The internal dynamic of these activities, as they saw it, would lead to God and to a consideration of all things in relation to God, and these activities would take place in a community of faith redeemed and transformed by Christ.”

He does acknowledge that the document’s signers didn’t foresee two difficult issues including the difficulty of hiring highly specialized academics who are Catholic. And he admits that while the statement delineated what the relationship between the university and the Church should not be, it failed to articulate a positive vision for that relationship.

As an example of the consequence of the latter, Fr. Jenkins actually points to the controversy surrounding his own invitation to President Obama in 2009 to be honored at Notre Dame’s commencement ceremony. Could this be a remarkable first step toward admitting that there was something wrong with the invitation?

CUA President John Garvey criticizes Land O’Lakes Statement

John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America, takes a fresh look at the controversy surrounding the 50-year-old Land O’Lakes Statement in the latest edition of Crux.

“One of the things that they said is that to be truly Catholic you need an academic freedom from any sort of influence, lay or clerical,” said Garvey. “This is not the view of Lumen Gentium, it’s not the view of Ex corde Ecclesiae, it’s not the view of John Paul II, or Benedict, or Francis.”

He said that Catholic colleges and universities should “provide an opportunity for the rest of the Church to think about the intellectual life of the Church at our university.”

He said the original fight wasn’t so much about sexual morality but “about the role of Church authority in higher education.”

“Is the Church a conversation partner in that? Is our work really about faith and reason, or is it just about reason?” he asked. “At that time the ecclesiastical left, if I can put it that way, took a kind of liberal position about sexual issues and took what we might call a liberal position about the role of the Church. ‘Look bishops, this is our job, ours as theologians is to tell you about what to think about these things. You stay out of our work.’”

But Garvey seems hopeful that “a new conversation about the teaching authority of the Church” has arisen because of scholars’ openness to Pope Francis.

Notre Dame hosts radical speaker on radical topic

Elizabeth Corey of Baylor University, in a piece at First Things, attended what she called a “radical” conference at the University of Notre Dame called “Intersectional Inquiries and Collaborative Action: Gender and Race.”

So what is intersectionality?

“Intersectional scholars proudly proclaim their goal: to smash the neoliberal, corporate, heteropatriarchal academy and then to reinvent it in a way that rejects traditional notions about what universities are meant to do,” Corey writes. “These scholars also want to redefine the family and to abolish the ‘binary’ of man and woman.”

Patricia Hill Collins, a professor in sociology at the University of Maryland, was the keynote speaker at the conference. At the end of the lecture, Corey asked her how intersectionality would engage with conservatives and did she see some way to find common ground? “The vehemence of her answer was startling. ‘No,’ she said. ‘You cannot bring these two worlds together. You must be oppositional. You must fight. For me, it’s a line in the sand.’”

Why is a Catholic university hosting a conference which calls for fighting, redefining the family, and abolishing the gender binary?

Corey describes intersectionality as a “quasi-religious gnostic movement” which assumes that “the primary purpose of higher education is political indoctrination allied with progressive political activism.”

Jesuit teaches “Defense Against the Dark Arts” to Harry Potter enthusiasts

Father William Reiser, a Jesuit professor and department chair in the religious studies department at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, teaches a course called “Defense Against the Dark Arts,” named after a subject taught in the Harry Potter novels.

In one interview, Father Reiser says that more of his students have read the Harry Potter series than have read the Scriptures.

“I think the novels gave them a world to step into,” Father Reiser said. “If you’re really going to get into the Gospel story, you’re going to have to get into the Gospel world, and that’s all about imagination.”

Father Reiser even compares the Harry Potter books to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. “For anyone who knows the Ignatian tradition, imagination becomes supremely important,” Father Reiser says. “The spiritual exercises really work with imagination over and over again.”

While it is troubling that more students have read Harry Potter than the Bible, isn’t that also an indictment of Catholic schools and colleges that have failed to assign reading Scripture?

Developer donates seven-story building to Cristo Rey school

After being approached by Bill Garrett, the president of Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School, Jim Cumming, an Atlanta developer, agreed to donate a seven-story building to the Jesuit school which serves low-income students.

Cumming had purchased the building in 2013 for $2.5 million and initially said that it was impossible that he would just give it away to the school that was serving more students than its facility could accommodate. But the Jesuit educated developer reconsidered and donated the prime piece of downtown property to the school.

After a year and half of fundraising to renovate the building, the school is now opening. Garret called it “an answer to our prayers.”

When classes resume, 525 students—three times the number it had when it opened just three years ago—will walk into the new school that includes classrooms, labs, and faculty areas.

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