(A Question or Two on Education)
This fall, once again, all over the United States, Catholic boys and girls have enrolled in non-Catholic colleges. For the most of them their motives are simple and not too ambitious — a good education, which will provide them with the means to think correctly, and a degree, which will enable them to land a good job, make enough money to raise a family and give their children a home and an education.
Most of these Catholic boys and girls up to this time have had the direction of their family and priests, and most of them have had their faith guarded for them. Many were sent to parochial schools on the advice of the yearly letter from their bishop urging them to take advantage of the education that the Church offers them. How strange it is that when they reach the most seriously formative years of their life, these same directors allow their children to go to non-Catholic colleges where they will be exposed to an un-Christian student body and an anti-Christian teaching body? In one such college, for instance, a Catholic boy who wished to study the Middle Ages, or Church History, would be obliged to sit under an apostate Catholic priest. It is a fact that some Catholic preparatory schools even urge their boys to attend non-Catholic colleges.
It is not an opinion but a fact that very many who go to secular colleges do lose their faith, and those who do not lose it completely have their minds so filled with un-Catholic teaching and un-Christian values that they have nothing to pass on to their children, and the Faith is lost in the next generation.
We are the salt of the earth. We have the truth. Should we not be teaching it, rather than be going, as we are, to heretics to be taught by them? And are we not responsible for their despair? There are many fine people in non-Catholic colleges who admit that they do not have the truth, who are desperately seeking certitude, and who are deterred from turning to the Church for truth because they feel the Catholics in their classes are just as badly off as they themselves.
They have listened to professor after professor tell them that all truth is relative, it is impossible to be sure of anything, either by reason or through the senses because of the fallibility of both, that Adam and Eve and Original Sin are myths. The Catholic student has accepted it all, too, without a protest. They see no difference either in thought or speech or action or values between themselves, and the Catholics in the university.
Sometimes the class in which a student loses his faith is the class in which not a word is said about the Church, for an attack on the Church would arouse his Catholic loyalties and put him on his guard. The religions of secular colleges are: Government, Economics, History, Sociology, Chemistry, Biology, Anthropology, Literature. How does a student lose his faith in these courses? I don’t really know. I just know that he does. Perhaps it is because they make him intellectually proud. Perhaps it is because they give him cosmic ideas of progress and evolution, which destroy his principles of human nature, or give him a group outlook rather than a personal one. Perhaps it is because they give him new values, or center his outlook not on man but on some idea. I still don’t really know. But Our Lord was good to us. He gave us a way to judge these messiahs of the class-room who offer us solutions for God, reality, certitude, peace, salvation: “By their fruits, you shall know them.”
Somehow when a Catholic goes to a secular college for four years his hometown looks pretty small; his mother and father look pretty small. His ideas become so cosmic that he is concerned about what the Church is doing about labor, the United Nations on social problems, and pretty soon even Our Lord begins to seem unimportant and pretty small on the Cross, and He becomes no more the Saviour of the World by whose Passion and Cross we are saved, but merely something personal which each one keeps to himself and is entitled to his own belief about. Our Lady is no longer the Queen of Heaven and Virgin Most Powerful, upon whose intercession the world depends and in whose hands peace is won or lost depending upon our prayers, but she becomes to him now rather a pious devotion and no longer the issue which every Catholic should fight for. (Mary is not only a refuge, she is an issue.)
It is possible to tell a Catholic who has been to a secular college by his non-Catholic loyalties. He is against Franco; he is worried about “explaining” a lot of things that the Church did in past history: the Inquisition, the Crusades, Indulgences. In literature, all his loves are heretical authors. In philosophy, he knows more about Kant and Freud and Hegel and Russell than he knows about his own philosophers. During this last war it was a standard joke that Harvard was teaching Hegel and shooting Hitler (the product of Hegelian philosophy!).
Never have so many Catholics gone to secular colleges as during these last five years, and never has our faith in this country been so weakened by liberalism, whose very seed is in secular education. In one more generation, will there by any Catholic loyalty left?
(This article was originally published in From the Housetops, Volume III, No.1, September, 1948.)