Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bishop McFadden, Bishop Sheen and Totalitarian Schools

"Let no one who hates religion falsely think that we can do without religion or that it can be banished from the earth. That is false assumption under which modern pagans work...The choice is not between religion and no religion, but between two religions: a religion from God or a State religion."

-Bishop Fulton Sheen

“Unless our people are thoroughly instructed in the great truths of religion, they are not fitted to understand our institutions, or to provide them with adequate support.”

-U.S. President Calvin Coolidge

During an interview on January 24th with the ABC affiliate in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Bishop Joseph McFadden gave voice to a belief about State-run education which enjoyed a consensus among U.S. bishops in the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. He simply dusted off an old truth and reminded the public, in so many words, that a monopoly on education by the State does not, in the end, empower children or citizens but rather the State itself. He said, “In the totalitarian government, they would love our system…This is what Hitler and Mussolini and all them tried to establish -- a monolith; so all the children would be educated in one set of beliefs and one way of doing things.”

Unfortunately, the beliefs of the family or the doctrines of the Church would not get equal time under such a system; instead, political ideology would take precedence and hence give shape to how children perceived the world. Inevitably, parental and Church authority would have to yield to State authority. And isn’t this the case today? Do secular-liberal politicians- the very ones who promote the glories of public education -really favor the rights of parents ? Bishop McFadden would go on to say this: “[U]nchecked monolithic governments of the past used schools to curtail the primary responsibility of the parent in the education of their children.” And then he adds, “Today many parents in our state experience the same lack of freedom in choosing an education that bests suits their child as those parents oppressed by dictators of the past.”

Universal education under the Federal and State government inevitably adopts rigidly uniform standards. Such a system does not allow for rival creeds or philosophies. Established are the set of beliefs approved by the State and no one else's!

It is interesting to note that prior to the 1940’s the U.S. bishops were virtually unanimous in sounding the alarm about the dangers of State-run education. A towering figure in the Catholic Church during the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century was Cardinal James Gibbons. For instance, in a Pastoral Letter in 1919 to the US Bishops, he wrote the following: "The spirit of our people in general is adverse to State monopoly, and this for the obvious reason that such an absorption of control would mean the end of freedom and initiative. The same consequence is sure to follow when the State attempts to monopolize education; and the disaster will be much greater inasmuch as it will affect, not simply the worldly interests of the citizen, but also his spiritual growth and salvation."

Here, the good cardinal is saying that not only economic and political interests would be at stake, but the salvation of souls would be adversely affected. In other words, public education will, at some point, prove to be a nemesis to the mission of the Church. And indeed it has.

Yet, how few Catholics see what our spiritual ancestors saw! How few members of the clergy articulate what Bishop McFadden is now giving voice to. However, what he said is nothing new! But is it any wonder that the Catholic Church has to publicly raise her voice against the Federal Government’s encroachment on her religious liberty?

We have forgotten that a nation’s education is more important than a nation’s government. After all, it is education that makes society, and eventually the government, into its own image. And what might be the image of our public schools? Well, we can’t mention God, we can’t promote chastity or the Ten Commandments, we don’t have much say about the school of our choosing or any objectionable sex education that is being implemented. And more often than not, democratic principles and the Christian roots of our nation are not being taught to our children. And in the absence of these truths, one thing is sure to take its place: the advancement of a totalitarian ideology.

As stated, Bishop McFadden’s statement draws from a well established tradition of belief that the family and the Church have priority over the State in terms of educating its children. A fine piece of writing which represents that tradition is by Bishop Fulton Sheen, whose book, Philosophies at War, was published in 1943. The excerpt below is from one of the chapters entitled, Democracy in Education.

If you are interested in knowing what is at the heart of the threat on religious liberty by the Obama administration, take the time to read Sheen's insights about whether we will become a people under an all-powerful God or slaves under an all-powerful State.

Keep in mind that even if the Federal government should rescind its healthcare mandate, the battle to preserve religious liberty will have to continue on the municipal, State and Federal level. The foes of religious liberty are legion. Their movement and determination are strong. In addition to raising our voices against these injustices, we must also consider the long term solution. Bishop Fulton Sheen prophetically identifies the long term solution.

Democracy in Education: Bishop Fulton Sheen, 1943

The Unifying Principle:

Education as it is presently constituted is not the bulwark of the nation. Washington it should be; but it is not. And the reason is because the college, in taking over the function of the Church, failed to supply a body of beliefs which could sustain the nation in time of trouble. Religion has a social function; that is, to give citizens a set of principles, a hierarchy of value, fundamental convictions and beliefs, and a set of moral standards.

We need these standards and beliefs today, but who shall say what are the beliefs of an educational system? There is no agreement on principles and no uniform set of values. In time of peace the only universal agreement was a negative one, namely, that he Church is non-essential; in time of war, another negative one, a hatred of Hitler. Education now affirms that the function which was once performed by religion can be better performed by a school without religion.

The result is that in time of crisis such as this, we lack a positive belief and a unifying inspiration of sacrifice. As Calvin Coolidge said, “Unless our people are thoroughly instructed in the great truths of religion, they are not fitted to understand our institutions, or to provide them with adequate support.”

We are at a stage like unto that developed by Dostoevski in his Crime and Punishment, in which he describes the world as having been desolated by a microbe which affected the intellect and the will rather than the body. The effect of being poisoned by these bacteria was that one imagined there was no law or authority outside of himself; that he was the final standard and arbiter of right and wrong; and that all scientific conclusions and judgments were absolutely right, because they were his.

Whole populations became infected, and no one could understand anyone else; each considered himself as the possessor of the greatest truth; and when someone insisted on his great truth, another would throw his arms in the air and complain about the stupidity of the first. The result was that there was only chaos in the world, which ended in a great strife in which every man rose up to kill his brother.

Insufficiency of Knowledge:

And this picture is fairly accurate. No one in his right mind will admit that universal education has brought us freedom from evil…Ignorance is not the cause of evil; hence universal education of the intellect alone will not remove evil. It is not the educated who are the good. In fact, the great marvel about St. Thomas [Aquinas] is that in being so learned, he was also very saintly, and not the other way around. What is the use of piling up knowledge, unless we know what we are going to do with it? Facts are for the purpose of feeding values and moral ends of living; but when our education is devoid of these things, we leave the facts hanging in mid-air. If they are taken into the mind, they remain as so much undigested knowledge which through constipation mars [disfigures] mental and moral judgments. We are all agreed that the youth should know something, but there is no agreement as to the one thing everyone ought to know.

Four Indispensible Principles:

Upon what principles shall we proceed?

First, educate the whole man, not the part man. The whole man is not only economic, nor political, nor sexual, but is moral. Because he is moral, he is economic, political, and social, and not vice versa. The education of the whole man entails education on three levels: man must be informed about what takes place on the sub-human level, and thus become acquainted the natural sciences; he must become acquainted with what takes place on the human level, and hence know the humanities and metaphysics. Finally he must become acquainted with what takes place on the supra-human level, and hence know something about God and the moral law and his eternal destiny.

Secondly, as a basic principle of the rights of education, the family, because instituted by God, has a priority of nature and therefore a right over civil society. Existence does not come from the State, hence the parents rights of education is anterior to a right of civil power and the State. The State derives its power to educate from the family; the State does not give it to the family.

Third, restore education back again to the Churches and to religion. We are at present in an era of transition in education, and coming into an era wherein education will belong to the family which insists on religion, or to the State which will exclude it. No one wants education to be the unique and fundamental right of the State because such is the essence of Nazism…

Fourth, in a country such as this where there different religious beliefs, it is the duty of the State to leave free scope to the initiative of the Church and the family while giving them such assistance as justice demands…

Crossroad in Nation's History:

We are at the crossroads of our national history. In the field of education we will either believe or we will obey. He who will not believe in the Truth must submit to Power. Which will it be? Will we retain a set of beliefs in which we are all agreed, and on which we were all agreed when this country was founded, or, scrapping all beliefs shall be and thus extinguish all freedom?

Let no one who hates religion falsely think that we can do without religion or that it can be banished from the earth. That is false assumption under which modern pagans work...The choice is not between religion and no religion, but between two religions: a religion from God or a State religion...

We do not yet realize this truth, but it is an indisputable fact that a nation's education is far more important than a nation's government. Given one generation educated on the principle that there is no absolute Truth or Justice and our next generation will be a government of power.
There is no such thing as neutral education; that is, education without morality and religion.

Religion and morality are not related to education like raisins to a cake, but as a soul to a body. There can be cake without raisins, but there cannot be man without a soul. If education does not inculcate a moral outlook, it will inculcate a materialist or a Communist or a Nazi outlook. Neutrality is absolutely impossible in education. By the mere fact that religious and moral training is neglected, a non-religious, non-morality and by consequence an anti-religious and anti-moral ideology will be developed. 'He that is not with me is against me.' (Matt. 12:30)

The old notion of “no indoctrination,” really meant “no religion,” but instead of “no indoctrination” of faith, it really meant “indoctrination of doubt and unbelief.” And doubt is the accomplice of tyranny; if we educate pagans in one generation, we will educate barbarians in the next. As William Penn said: “Men must be governed by God or they will be ruled by tyrants.”

The question before us as a nation is not whether religion shall be taught as one subject among many, but where the integrating principle of all subjects will be derived from the spiritual and Absolute Truth, or from the material and omnipotent State.

The modern world as confused the extension of education with intension, and by spreading it thin has sacrificed depth. This does not mean universal education is wrong. No! It is not the universality of it that is wrong, but it is the lack of philosophy of life and a proper understanding of the man to be educated. The natural or “neutral” man, as the intelligentsia call him, is anti-social and can be counted on to abuse society for his own personal ends. The only way his egotistic impulse can be combated is by a renewal of his nature from above. This rebirth alone enables him to be a member of society without losing his personal dignity. There is no disputing the necessity of controlling selfish tendencies. The choice is in whether the State will control it by its omnipotence. The whole of civilized man is today confronted with this question: “To whom do you belong?” Education will give the answer.

Liberty or Totalitarianism:

Neglect conscience, and the majority makes right; neglect the absoluteness of Divine Truths which religion teaches, and you dethrone Power as the only criterion of right and wrong. Neglect the training of freedom, as liberty within the law, as religion teaches, and you will first enthrone first a liberty without law which is anarchy, and then by reaction a law without liberty which is Totalitarianism. Neglect the principle that evil is rooted in a perverse will, which religion teaches, and you will train the intellect to neglect of the will and this end in system where reason is used to support the passions. Neglect the principle that the progress of man is conditioned upon the progressive diminution of original sin, and you will create a fatalistic belief in progress which is unable to stand either the shock of depression or the bloodshed of war. Neglect the ideal that man was made for happiness as religion teaches, and exalt the idea that man was made to make money and you build a race of profiteers, but not a race of Americans.

The hour is past when anyone can say, “I belong to nobody, because I belong to myself.” We will belong to either Caesar or we will belong to God. It was Christianity in the beginning that deprived Caesar of his unrestricted power over individuals, and it was through martyrs’ blood that it was accomplished. It is through their blood today, that modern Caesars are challenged.

That America may be preserved from such a necessity, it must close the gap between the principle of democracy and its education. Our democracy is founded on the principle that our rights come from God: “The Creator has endowed man with certain unalienable rights.” Education has a tendency to divorce these human rights from God. It cannot be done. If our rights come from God, no one can take them away- they are “unalienable” as the Declaration of Independence puts it. If they come from the State, the State can take them away.

Certainly, we have rights, but there are never any rights without duties. In fact, duties are opportunities for acquiring rights. Because God made us free; we have rights. Because God made us creatures; we have duties. For over one hundred and fifty years [from 1943 back to 1776] we have been celebrating the ten articles of the Bill of Rights. It is now about time to recall the Ten Commandments in our Bill of Duties!

Here is the dilemma facing the country. On the one hand, government admits that good citizenship is impossible without religion and morality [not in 2012!], and that such an integration has been our philosophy of democracy from the beginning.

On the other hand, what encouragement is given by the States to foster religious and moral education? The White House Conference stated that of the thirty million children between the ages of five and seventeen, sixty million receive no religious education. When you take out the sixteen million, those who are being educated by the Catholic Church at its expense the number becomes more staggering still…

Any doubts about the importance of religion to resist political slavery can be dissipated by inquiring into the forces which resisted it in our modern crisis. When Hitler came into power in 1933, the first to capitulate were the professors, and the one force which never capitulated was religion, such as the Catholic bishops and Pastor Niemoeller. It was the professors who allowed the independent administration of the universities to be abolished…

Given a crisis in any country in the world in which Totalitarianism in any form threatens the liberty of its citizens, the first to capitulate will be the non-religious educators. How could it be otherwise, for without a faith, how could they oppose a faith? It will be only those schools which give moral and religious training which will challenge the right of the State to dominate the soul of man…

Purpose, Religion and Education:

The prime purpose of education is the making of a man, and it is impossible to make a man without giving him the purpose of being man. Unless we make sense out of life, we fail in education...So long as we educate without defining the purpose of life and the standards of life and without developing a sense of right and wrong, we are losing our souls...

No signer of the Declaration of Independence was educated in a non-religious school. For a century the United States did not have a single presdient who was educated in a non-religious school. The only time the State now recognizes religion is when it builds a chapel in a penitentiary. Would it not be a good idea to give a religious training before men get into the penitentiary?

Centuries ago the Light of the World rebuked those whom He called to be teachers, because they ignored little ones: "Suffer the little children and forbid them not to come unto me: for the kingdom of heaven is for such as these." (Matt. 19:14) The Master is crying out to them now, Hitler has said: Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the essence of Totalitarianism. There is the dilemma: the children of America will belong either to God or to the State.