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January 29, 2007


Rich Leonardi

At the same high school mentioned in the Catholic Schools Week thread (Rochester's Aquinas Institute), Church teaching on core social doctrines was never mentioned during my time there in the mid-eighties. We learned war was bad of course, and to drive that point home, a man who traveled with Central American communists spoke to us about the evils of the Reagan administration. I recall abortion being mentioned once during a political science class. There was virtually no catechesis of any kind, as RE classes were devoted to things like Q source and reductionism. I remember finding a copy of the Baltimore Catechism about ten years after graduation and almost wondering what people did with it; it was an utterly foreign concept.


I was a Catholic school drop out in first grade. The reason was that in our little town, the school made sure that the folks with money were told that their children were the smartest and brightest to keep the money coming in. I was a charity case. My parents were told I had below average intelligence.

By December, I was totally frustrated. The sister would never call on me. Worse, I found out that my friends in public school were already reading while we were still looking at picture books. I begged to go to public school. My parents switched me. By the end of 1st grade, I was on grade level. By 3rd grade I was on a 6th grade level and by 4th had been recognized by the county as having one of the highest scores on the achievement tests. Hardly below average.

One of the problems with Catholic institutions is that those with the money often get all the attention and that the instutitions are crafted to suit those with the money. Who gets all the recognition awards at the big-dollar bishop's dinners and such? It is often those who have given lots of money. Where is the affirimation of the average Joe and Mary in the pews? Does the priest even know them? Does anyone in the Church know them and affirm their faith?

There is such an emphasis on seeking out the "big donors." Making them happy. How often have folks been scandalized by big dollar donors having undue influence? I know of one religous order that had a big fund raising campaign and alienated hundreds of "little fish" donors by their focus on "big" donors only. One wonders how the big donors morals (or lack thereof) might change the fabric of this order. One can almost imagine such a donor requesting the head of the order to "please tell brother so-and-so not to preach against embryonic stem cell research as I invest heavily in the technology and as you know I am one of your biggest investors."


Innocent fifth grade child comes home with Benzinger Family Life materials with a glossary of fairly explicit sexual terms defined, along with a spelling assignment to use the word "ejaculation" in a sentence. Pursuant to the bishop's directive, the principal insists that no one could opt out of this sex ed program, which would be taught by teachers with demonstrated lack of judgment and discretion. Now this was in pre-scandal days. It was always odd that the pastor at one of the local parishes would never come to any school events and would only communicate with the school by FAX. Offers for the school children to come to the church and perform service projects were rejected. It turns out that the pastor was known by the bishop to have sexually abused a minor in the past. So the very same bishop who insisted that our children's innocence be violated in order to "prepare them for the world", did not think it necessary to warn parishioners that their pastor was a sex offender. After the scandal broke, the pastor was a removed. His replacement was removed as well for indiscretions in his past. With shepherds like this, who needs wolves.


Therese is right. My mother remembers the people with money always getting a break, their kids being fawned over, being told they were smarter than others, etc. And discipline worked in inverse order: the fewer dollars you had, the more discipline you got, including expulsion for relatively minor infractions.


Does having your palm read by a Loreto nun after she teaches you Latin count? When I think of what my parents were paying for that "education"!

Mitch S.

I attended a Catholic high School, Schulte HS in Terre haute IN. The school was staffed in part by the Sisters of Providence. We were taught that it was undesirable and supersticious to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. We were discouraged from saying the Rosary. In religion Class the Priest, Fr. Godecker, told us that healing from the Anointing of the Sick was "too magical" and that sacraments sybolized community concern. We voted on the Real Presence and Transubstanciation, and they lost. The school was closed for financial reasons, people weren't sending their kids there. That's also where I learned to smoke pot, drink alcohol and commit several sins of the flesh. It too, was a classist institution.

My Kids went to Holy Family in New Albany. They are now Adults, in their early twenties. They didn't know why we would venerate relics. They didn't know to invoke the intercession of saints. They had no concept of the Eucharist as more than a community memorial feast. They were there on tuition assistance, and were treated a second class by teachers and other students, who somehow found out that they required assistance. More classism.

I dis-recommend Catholic Schools now. There are some good ones, but very few.


Attended Catholic elementary, high school, and college. Learned in elementary school (1968) that 1) the Vietnam war was bad, 2) the United Nations was very good, 3) the U.S. Marines were bad.

Learned in high school that the School for the Americas was very bad. The U.S. Marines were very bad, too.

Learned in college that . . . the U.S. Marines were bad.

I retire soon with 23+ years in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Joe Magarac

I attended a Catholic grade school in Pittsburgh, graduating in 1988, and my experience was like Rich's -- nobody said boo about homosexuality or abortion. It's not that the school was "progressive" -- this is Pittsburgh, after all, and back then half the teachers were aging Felician nuns in full habit. It's more that pre-AIDS, homosexuality was not on anyone's radar screen, and I guess abortion was not something they felt a need to teach grade-school kids about.

Looking back, I don't have a problem with the education I received. I don't think that a Catholic education needs to focus on hot-button issues like homosexuality and abortion. I think it should focus on building the kind of life habits that cause a person, when hearing that the Church says "X" about issue "Y," realizes that he owes assent to X.

Obviously, this begs the question of what to do about people like Ms. Pelosi. I heard nothing about homosexuality or abortion in Catholic school, but when I learned that the Church opposed those acts, I knew that I had to oppose them, too. Did Ms. Pelosi think she could stay Catholic while disagreeing with the Church on those issues? If so, someone at hear grade school or in her home dropped the ball when teaching her that being Catholic means doing what the Church does. Or is it that Ms. Pelosi decided to reject Catholicism and its positions on certain pelvic issues? If that's the case, I disagree with her decision but can't call her a bad Catholic, because she has at least acknowledged that she isn't one.

Tim Ferguson

Ss. Peter and Paul High School - 1981-1984, followed by Nouvel Catholic Central 1984-1985 when our high school closed and merged with two others. Religion class tended to be a joke - freshman year we learned how scripture was primarily a Jewish take on Babylonian myths (first semester) and a series of made up stories by people long after Jesus died (second semester), using the works of Mark Link, SJ; sophomore year was Church history by way of overhead projector, chock full of inaccuracies apparent to any 15 year old; junior year was sacraments and morality...I shudder when I think what we were taught; senior year was peace and justice and more morality - some truly heretical stuff there.

We seldom had Mass, when we did it was in the gym (despite the fact that the chancery was just upstairs and, at the beginning, there were plenty of priests there who could have offered Mass more regularly). The "chapel" was used as a storage closet. There was little by way of moral guidance, except from a few teachers. I am eternally grateful to my parents who truly sacrificed to send me there, but more because of their example of sacrifice and dedication, and the education and formation they gave me, despite what I was getting in high school...

Sarah L.

I graduated in 1994 from a Catholic high school run by the Sisters of Mercy. Close to 1/3 of the student body was not Catholic. At our (infrequent) school Masses we were led to believe that it was OK to receive communion even if not Catholic. I had my non-Catholic boyfriend going to communion for awhile in college before one of the priests there straightened us out. I also recall some Masses at the high school where the readings were not from scripture but were poems, etc.

Our freshman year religion class, "God Questions," involved a capstone project in which we wrote our own creed and presented it to the class using some creative means such as interpretive dance or music. Another elective religion class, "Values in the Media," had us examining advertisements for phallic symbols, listening to Led Zeppelin songs backwards, and making collages (of course!) of alcohol advertisements.

Chastity was never addressed, although we did have some speaker come to talk about AIDS. Abortion? Well, we had to do a position paper in Morality class where we could argue either position.

Why on earth did my parents spend $5k per year to send me there?




I served two years as the nominal chaplain for an all-girls Catholic high school while assigned as an associate at the neighboring parish. I was completely marginalized and contradicted by the nuns and the Campus Ministry team (laywomen). I got out of that thankless job when I transferred parishes. My successor is doing no better over there.

My experiences with parochial elementary schools have been much better.

Parents ought to carefully examine curriculae prior to sending their children to Catholic schools.


Just as with any Church group or experience, there is good and bad. At this point in my spiritual life, I will not point out the bad without a mention of the good. Otherwise, I become a crabby old woman who cannot serve Jesus each and every day, so here goes with my thoughts on "negative experiences with Catholic schools":

Bad: priest @ high school who taught religion from "I'm ok, you're ok." My mother complained that more books should be used but to no avail.

Good: same priest listened to my confession and taught me to get over my childish fear of the sacrament.

Yes. There it is if you want to find it in life: the bad with the good.

Is this not life, St. Blog's?


I attended Marymount School in Rome in the 1970s. We had quite a few non-Catholic students, so "Religion" classes were very generic -- I don't remember learing anything about the church at all, much less anything about abortion. I do remember, however, the nuns and seminarians socializing, and all the drinking and drugs that most of my classmates indulged in. I also remember my roomate trying to help another classmate miscarry her pregnancy. We were later told that a local seminarian helped her to procure an abortion...


My junior year religion class was a world religion class. The teacher was loopy, and drove me nuts, but she was wildly popular.

There were two things about that class which were something like milestones for me. First, we had a Hindu girl in our class (which I'm not disputing, more power to her) and I just remember the teacher explaining how we would go to heaven, hell, or purgatory, while our Hindu friend would be reincarnated. I didn't know the word 'relativism' or anything like that, but my reaction was, "oh come on!" There were a lot of these sort of moments in the class, and this one was just the most ludicrous that has stuck itself in my mind.

Also, our final project was to perform the ritual of another religion in the classroom as a group project. This I found pretty offensive. I don't want any dopey high school students acting out baptisms or confessions or, God forbid, the Eucharist in their classrooms. I forget how she justified this, but she did have some kind of "it's not real" blather going on. But the Hindu girl led us in a Hindu ritual so...

This would have been 2002-2003. The next year we were reading the Catechism, Gaudium et Spes, and Sheed, so it worked out providentially for me: I was intellectually insulted enough by World Religions that I was primed for a good solid Catholic shakedown. But I think my experience was opposite of everyone else's. The senior year class was a battlefield, and so far as I know, no one else thought there was anything whack about the world religions class. Like I said, she was a very popular teacher, and it was a popular class.


I attended St. Joseph Grammar and Monsignor Donovan High School in Toms River, NJ during the 70s and 80s. Early on in grammar school I was taught the faith, but as the years went on the religion classes became increasingly vapid and devoid of true catechesis. Indeed, in my senior year theology class we were taught by a priest (by then the only one in the school) that Saint Thomas' Five Ways did not prove God's existence.

Of course, I was also subjected to the evil "Becoming a Person" series, though I believe my folks pulled me out of the classes eventually.

I count it a miracle that my six siblings and I are all practicing, none of us ever having left the Church. My parents must never have ceased praying for us. To their minds, they had no other recourse; They would never have allowed us to go to public schools, having too much faith in "Catholic schools."

My siblings and I are practicing despite our Catholic school education, not because of it. I don't want that to be the case with my children, so I'm on the board of our parish's Montesorri school (in Great Falls, VA).

Ferde Rombola

Our daughters attended Immaculate Heart Middle and High School in Los Angeles. We never had a lot of money and weren't big donors. We and our daughters were never treated with anything but respect and affection. Our oldest was the speaker at her graduation; our youngest had the highest 4-year GPA in her class.

The school's primary fundraising focus was the scholarship fund. Many girls who excelled academically, but otherwise would not have been able to attend IHHS, were give scholarships. Our girls received a first class education which prepared them well for their college careers and as citizens. I can't say enough about the IH nuns and faculty at that school. We were very fortunate to have found the school and to have our daughters educated there.

Their religious education was fundamental. A significant part of it was accomplished at home. If you send your kids out of the house to be educated in the faith and are disappointed with what they come back with and want to blame someone, look in the mirror first.


Fenwick H.S., Oak Park, IL. Still in recovery from the Dominicans.


Fifth grade sex ed--it may be difficult to do anywhere, but it could (and must!) be done better than this at a Catholic school.

Our Lady of Mercy, Dayton, OH (since consolidated...) circa '90. I had no idea what either a condom or a lubricant were, and while there were no demonstrations we were hit over the head with the admonitions that these were absolutely necessary. The lady presenting gave us horror stories, i.e. a boy who used motor oil as a lubricant because he didn't have anything else.

Innocence lost and horrific images ingrained... I'm sure that this could have been done with more tact and decency at a public school. I made it through unscathed, but thanks to loving and responsible parents. Lots of 7th and 8th graders were messing around sexually--and that was during the school day.

There were good elements of the school, and it's sad that schools are being consolidated/closed... but some of the negatives put subsequent problems in context.


Indulge what may seem like a "general" comment:

So despite 12 years of Catholic education in San Francisco and four more at a Jesuit university...

I have to say that on its face this doesn't necessarily seem inconsistent with what Alexandra claims was *her* experience with Catholci education.

Morning's Minion

"Church teaching on core social doctrines was never mentioned during my time there in the mid-eighties"

And why would one want to questin Catholic social doctrine???

Steve Cavanaugh

When my son hit his junior year at Boston College High School the religion class was an ethics/morals class (the first two years had been good classes). When the teacher started using various questionable books, my son referred him to the clause in Canon Law that states that books without an imprimatur are not to be used in Catholic education. The teacher's excuse for using these was to get other perspectives. My son spent most of the year either ignoring the teacher's "fresh" perspectives, or sabotaging his idiocies with quotes from the Catechism or Denziger.



Amen to this: "...If you send your kids out of the house to be educated in the faith and are disappointed with what they come back with and want to blame someone, look in the mirror first."

Who knows whether Alexandra Pelosi is accurately recalling what those nuns did or did not say to her way back when? We DO know whom she had for a role model at home: Nancy Pelosi, champion of the powerless (as long as they have already been born).

Sorry for the "generalized" comment, Amy, but I couldn't help but mention Alexandra Pelosi (since this is her memorial thread ;-). At our Catholic school they are always telling us that parents are the first and best teachers of their children. Alexandra Pelosi's experience has one big mitigating factor (not to mention the fact that the tide of the culture is pretty strong, too).

Morning's Minion

Sorry, I pulled an incomplete quote from Rich Leonardi's post above...

My own experience: religious education never matured. The stuff they thought you at 8 years old they repeated at 16, complemented of course by feel-good blather and the obligatory Friday movie!

When I went to college, I was an angry anti-Catholic, because of what I saw as its anti-intellectualism. Later, of course, I realized that nothing could be further from the truth. When I finally began to explore the depth of the Church's teaching, I felt cheated. Badly cheated.


Quoting Therese:
I found out that my friends in public school were already reading while we were still looking at picture books. I begged to go to public school. My parents switched me. By the end of 1st grade, I was on grade level. By 3rd grade I was on a 6th grade level and by 4th had been recognized by the county as having one of the highest scores on the achievement tests. Hardly below average.

On the basis of scholarship, my experience as a child in grade school and as a parent has been exactly the opposite. Public education is abysmal and many non-Catholic parents seek out Catholic schools in order for their kids to get an adequate education. Class never reared its ugly head because most parents struggled to be able to afford Catholic education in the first place and receiving some assistance was not uncommon. The parish underwrote the cost of every student anyway to keep tuition affordable at around $4000/year per kid.

I have three, currently in Catholic grade school, high school and college. Paying tuition is my life! I do not always get what I pay for. I have seen and experienced good solid catechesis along side the goofy. But I transfered from Catholic grade school to public high school growing up and I would not wish a "public education" on mine nor anyone else's kids.

It's fun to tell horror stories and I've got lots of my own, but our real job is renewal, which means serving on parent-teacher boards, going to the meetings, reviewing textbooks, writing letters and asking tough questions of administrators face to face.

Even with it's problems, Catholic education is a non-negotiable budget item in our household.

John Murray

I attended Ss. Peter and Paul grade school (Norwood) and St. Xavier HS in Cincinnati. If religious ed consists of teaching in faith and morals, the Jesuits did pretty well by us in the latter--importance of chastity, plenty of proper teaching on abortion, and perhaps an over-emphasis on social work and the dangers of wealth. Even one recruiting pitch every year. But it was all clear and aimed at age-appropriate levels.

But the faith part! Nothing in grade school about doctrine, prayers, what happened at the Mass, and really nothing more in high school about scripture or tradition. Not the slightest bit of church history. And the usual weirdnesses at Mass--mimes were the worst part. The grief I caught for complaining about mimes hopping around during the Gospel!


For once, I agree with MM. Once I learned the depth of Catholic teaching, I also felt cheated. This was only a few years ago.

scotch meg

I, of course, have to take primary responsibility as a partent, but...

My oldest child, a very bright kid, got to the question-everything stage early (in 7th grade). Her 7th grade religion teacher (wisely) decided to let it float. She taught the Faith and accepted my daughter's answers in the form of "the Church teaches..." and didn't force the issue of participating in Mass, prayers, etc., as long as she was quiet and respectful (which she was). In 8th grade, a different teacher took a more forceful attitude, giving my daughter an incomplete because she wouldn't pray. My husband got annoyed -- this wasn't how they treated non-Catholic children, and our child was functionally non-Catholic at this point, but compliant with going to Mass, learning religion, etc. -- and insisted that she be given a grade based on her work and left alone about her spiritual life. We weren't happy about where she was, but had gone through "annoying athiest" phases ourselves, and were hoping to short circuit this one. Not a chance. There was a kerfuffle at the school about why a girl couldn't play Jesus in the passion play (no sane explanation of TOB or the role of gender, mind you, just an embarrassed "no") which led to more problems as my daughter advocated for the girl. We explained as best we could why a girl as Christ was inappropriate, but the family discussion also touched on the reasons why the teachers might be uncomfortable teaching orthodox doctrine concerning Christ's incarnation as man (very liberal, loosy-goosy theology from this religion teacher). In the end (and there's too much more to go into detail) other teachers at the school retaliated against our daughter (without talking to us), we pulled the other kids out to homeschool the next year, and our daughter has still not returned to church or the Church.

I thought this was a one-of-a-kind event based on individual circumstances and personalities, and then heard a similar story from a friend whose kids were at the Catholic school I had thought of as a shining example. This one involved retaliation against kids from teachers who had heard a false story about their parents' attitude toward the principal of the school.

I still support Catholic schools because the problems with public schools are even more horrendous and not everyone can homeschool -- but I would no longer recommend to anyone that they can count on their local parish school to support and embody Christian charity and sound Catholic doctrinal instruction. The up side has been homeschooling, which was better for our family life and our faith than I could ever have imagined. And that our other children understand and value our faith, and pray for their sister (they initiated this!). And I teach confirmation class in hopes of imparting a little bit of accurate theology into the lives of a few high school students.


I, too, attended 12 years of Catholic school in northern California, followed by four years at a Jesuit university. I graduated from college last year.

1st-5th grade: local parochial school. The only books about saints in the library were four about St. Francis of Assisi, and six about some other people. I discovered the six books in fifth grade; until that point, I had been under the impression that the only saints were Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, Francis of Assisi, and the Apostles. No one ever talked about anyone else.

6th-9th grade: independent Catholic school, very orthodox. No complaints, except that they didn't know how to manage their budget--the religious education was excellent, and so were all the other subjects. My parents pulled me out of the parochial school because they realized that my grades weren't good because I was bored.

10th grade: parents insisted I try out the big Catholic high school, mostly for social reasons (independent school only had 40 kids in the high school). School liturgies were celebrated in the round in the gym, and the music wasn't even Christian--we had the theme song from "Cheers" as an opening hymn once. In my religion class we studied Scripture, interpreting it according to our own norms, and watched "Godspell," "Jesus Christ Superstar," and a documentary on the '60's, which was supposed to make us think about how great it is that we don't have to let the establishment think for us anymore, I guess (I never was quite sure). When Mary Beth Bonacci came to speak about chastity, the students talked through the whole presentation and booed her at random intervals. The students from the independent school came as guest attendees, and I sat with them. They were polite, as most of them had already read Ms. Bonacci's "Real Love" (aka The Purple Book) and liked it.

11th-12th grade: I got to go back to the independent school, where we read the Catechism four days a week and had lectures about the Fathers of the Church on Fridays in religion class, and Mass *every single morning*.

I've already taken up too much space so I won't go into the Jesuit university, except to say that yes Virginia, there are good Jesuits! and that while the religion teachers weren't great, if you wanted to be a good Catholic the resources were there.


'70's CCD was "Be nice, don't litter (or let yourself be alone w/ Monsignior)". I learned about the value and dignity of human life by helping my mom with her Right to Life activities, and learned about God's love by living with her. Ferde is right.


Overall decent. Good teachers and bad. (K-12, graduated 12 in 2000).

I never learned that not going to Mass on Sunday was grave matter. Or any of a number of sexual sins, etc.

But more importantly, I had a panic attack in College, called my mom panting and upset at 3 am. and she said, "Well let's pray the Memorare together," assuming I knew it. I had never heard it before (except probably from her a few times when I was unaware of what she was praying). She's since told me that she thought we were getting the education she got so she didn't question us as much as she should have.

I'm now a Catholic School teacher, and you bet my students know the Memorare.


Sorry, the reason I claim that as more important is not that morality wasn't important, but at least I was taught that they were sins, if not taught the fullness. With traditional Catholic prayers I didn't even know what I wasn't being taught.


Late 1970's. High school prep seminary. Never had to buy a bible. Never opened a bible. Didn't know what a Catechism was.

On the plus side, we did put on great versions of "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Godspell"

Dick Rood

I left Catholic education after my High School graduation. I recall grammar school religious education with Sisters of Notre Dame (SS Peter & Paul, Rochester, NY). In High School I attended religious classes taught by Sisters of St Joseph. Sisters of Mercy and Basilian Priests (Aquinas Institute, Rochester, NY). I do not recall any particular sex education classes but I had a clear understanding of the requirements of Catholic morality. My parents also participated in my religious indoctrination. After high school graduation I was faced with military service and World War II. Since those early days I have always been interested in my church also its "ups and downs" in the "pelvic morality" area. I have always valued my religious education and really do not perceive any short comings. Perhaps it is a personal thing . . . to lament shortcomings in Catholic religious education.


Diogenes, of Catholic World News, has this to say about those Bishops (clergy) who offer Christ to catholic politicians, yet they are obstinate in their abortion/contraception positions against what our Lord teaches on this matter. He says,

"Bishops ought to think carefully before handing over Holy Communion to “manifest grave sinners,” like civil authorities who publicly promote contraception, abortion and same sex marriage. (Can. 915). Jesus was surely referring to the “chief priests” when He said to Pilate “he who handed me over to you is guilty of the greater sin” (Jn.18:35; 19:11)."

What Diogenes has to say is very thought provoking and keen insight into Holy Scripture to say the least.

Peace and blessings to all today.



Well, the task is how to describe my Catholic school experience and not disparage others. Impossible. I could write a book about my entire family’s experiences. I will focus on one experience, which stands out and relates to me more than to others.

Let’s just say I went to a Catholic school in a small Midwestern town. I followed five older siblings into the parish school. My class was the last one to wear white dresses for First Hoy Communion. The Communion rail was blasted out of the church. The nuns and priests were dating and hoping for a married clergy soon. By the time I reached fourth grade, my older sibs were being taught Sex Ed in high school Religious Ed class. All the changes in the Mass after Vatican II were hard enough on my poor mother, but this was the last straw. She wept over the Communion rail, but this required a new approach. She gathered a group of parents and approached the Bishop with her concerns. She had limited success. She then extracted me and my two younger siblings from the parish school. The next day I met my old friends at recess where my new public school playground fence met the Catholic school fence. My ‘play clothes’ were too shabby to wear to school and my mom did not have time to get me new clothes. (How my sister scrounged up an outfit, I will never know.) Unbelievably, I wore my uniform to the public school and never thought anyone would think it was odd. Here comes THE lesson I took away from Catholic school. I was chatting with my old friends on the Catholic side and they were very interested in what I thought about my new school. Before long an eighth grade girl approached and told the Catholic kids they could no longer associate with me. They followed her and I grew up that day.

It was not easy, but I made great friends at my new school. I do not blame my old friends or even that girl for her actions. I became aware of a wider world that never existed before. I never knew a non-Catholic before that day. (I eventually got new clothes and packed away the uniform)

As a teacher with experience in both Catholic and public schools, I see kids who behave in exactly the same way today. The lesson I learned was hard at the time, but it shaped my character. I seek to make friends with those who are like me as well as those who are different. I also love heading into new situations where I do not know anyone. I do believe I became a better Catholic by following my parent’s lead and not blindly accepting what nuns and priests say, and having the courage to approach the Bishop with objections to inappropriate teaching. I meant to share a negative, but I guess I am sharing a positive. That is part of my character too. Maybe this belongs on the other thread?

mary martha

I was a CCD kid in grammar school... so of course when I hit my Jesuit High School I was virtually a clean slate.

Freshman year was World Religions (there were many non Catholic Students) and it was actually presented quite well in a very factual manner. We basically memorized basics about the Great Religions of the World (I still recall the 5 pillars of Islam and primary gods of Hinduism) If only we had then gone on to memorize facts about *our* great religion.

Sophomore year it started to get a bit questionable... Old Testament studies. There was a great deal of 'none of this is true... they are just myths that let ancient Jews understand the world around them'. I did learn how to explain away the 7 plagues though!

Jr. Year - New Testament. Lots of Q source and reductionism. By the way - did you know that Liberation Theology is the true way to understand the Bible? In the late 80s that is what I learned.

Sr. Year - Philosophy. We read Camus and Sartre. Keep in mind that we never read (let alone heard of) Aquinas or Augustine. I remember the priest assuring us that the Catholic Church was going to change and that soon priests would be able to marry and women would be priests.

I think there were three Masses a year in the gym and I clearly recall the one Nun in the school offering homilies. I don't recall confession ever being mentioned - let alone offered.

We would recite the prayer of St. Ignatius regularly. However the phrase 'communion of the Saints' is something I never heard. Neither my best friend or I can recall any images of Mary in the whole (huge) school. We surely never said the Hail Mary.

I will say that I received and excellent education otherwise. In many ways the fact that they taught me how to think is what brought me back to the Church many years later. I used reason and my love of learning to reason and learn my way right into a fairly traditional Catholic faith. However, all of my friends who I am still in contact with from HS are atheists.

Mike Petrik

"I'm now a Catholic School teacher, and you bet my students know the Memorare."

nab, you're the solution! We need more of you.

Going Anon This Time

After a fairly good education (faith-wise) in parochial grade school (although the school couldn't seem to instill in my classmates that bullying me was sinful), I got an art scholarship to a private college prep school run by the Sisters of St. Joseph. In 9th grade ('89) my religion teacher was an ex-nun who was heavily into social justice and made random, bizarre comments about sex (made NFP sound silly). She allowed one of my classmates who was pro-abortion with a capital PRO (her schoolbag had a button depicting a coat hanger with the red circle-slash through it) to show a PP video in class. I'll never forget the image of the medical worker spreading out the aborted remains while a cheery voice-over said, "See, it's just tissue." It also made out people who opposed abortion to be all like Terry Randall/Operation Rescue who was shown to be very scary. As soon as I told my mom, she arranged for a pro-life speaker to come speak at the class. I wish Mrs. L. had been fired and the damage could've been undone. Mrs. L. also declared "Adam and Eve was a myth" (that's all she said on it) and later one of my classmates H. told me she stopped practicing her faith because she heard that. When I ran into H. about 2 years after graduation she ran down the list of her friends, our classmates, who had gotten pregnant in the first year of college. Really sad. High school got us into good colleges but I don't think they really taught us to live a good life and keep the Faith. Fortunately my parents were there to reinforce things for me and it actually made me want to defend my faith even more.

And, hey, anybody else have The Fountain Square Fools come for a retreat?


My children currently attend a parish Catholic school in the SF Bay Area and the experiece is mixed. The principle is a good woman who must make the best she can with a faculty who are only partially faithful Catholics. The second grade teacher was specifically chosen to teach that grade because she is very faithful Catholic who takes formation for 1st Communion very seriously. She is very good at it.

Things have shown a marked decline at Jr. High. The religion teacher is a good woman with good intentions but she has personalized her post-VII experience of being a guitar-slinging revolutionary as her abiding identity and hasn't developed much beyond that. There isn't much discussion about the hot-button issues but my son tells me that she always comes down on the side of orthodox church teaching but isn't very articulate about it. Too much "talk about your feelings" stuff and not enough leadership. I guess that would be considered to coercive.

My biggest complaint echoes something that an earlier poster said. They seem to keep teaching the same basic stuff that they taught in the early grades over-and-over. There is no connection being made to a more mature and developed adult faith. Although most students are baptized and have had 1st Communion, only a handful of the parents are practicing. This of-course is reflected in the attitudes of the kids. Going to Church every Sunday makes you a nerd.

On the positive side, they attend Mass every 1st Friday and many other times during the year. This includes high holy days and during holy week (of course) but also on days relevant to our parish (our patron Saint's day for example) and in concert with school events as a supportive experience. During Lent, each class attends one day during each week. Our priests are all very good orthodox men and all contact with them is positive. Our new assistant is in his mid-20s on his first assignment and is forming a group of Jr high kids to meet once per week. I have high hopes for this.


First Catholic school: Sisters of Charity school in Colorado. Excellent in all respects: minimal favoritism w/ wealthier families, class differences downplayed, excellent academics, and most of all, faith was made part of every dimension of school.
Second Catholic School (grades 4-8): Still Sisters of Charity, but different state. Deplorable academics, religion pretty much confined to religion class (and not much religion anyway), students promoted from grade to grade based on parental wealth. By 8th grade, many of my classmates could not recite longer prayers like the "Hail Holy Queen."
After 8th grade, I begged my parents to let me go to the local public high school. The Catholic high school taught no Latin and had maybe 1 or 2 AP science and math classes. Wouldn't you know, it was at the public school that I was able to take four years of Latin, and go on to win a Latin scholarship to the University of Dallas.
The rest is history- God does work in mysterious ways!


I am older than all of you. I didn't go to Catholic School, I only saw the kids who did as they left and I came in for CCD or whatever they were calling it in the mid 50s to early 60s. But I know a lot of people my age who tell horrific stories about physical harm at the hands of Christian Brothers and man hating sisters. However, what I have observed is, that these same people developed into very accomplished adults from a career standpoint and faithful adults. Many of them have been and continue to be captains of industry and education AND practice their faith devoutly.

The ones who haven't remained in the Church (men especially) married out of it. It has been my experience, when Catholic men marry out, regardless of their faith upbringing, they follow their wives. However, they have become men of faith in their particular denominations.

Those of us in public school and therefore religious education, got lots of rules, regulations and definitions back then. The Baltimore Catechism served its purpose but it wasn't enough. Questions even for understanding were verboten. The Church was definitely placed between us and a relationship with Christ, at least where I grew up (Newton Ctr, Massachusetts, and I am talking strictly about MA, NJ, and CT.)

Personally, I had to take an almost 35 year detour, spending 26 of them as a protestant (I married out but after 14 years of being out) developing a relationship with Jesus until such time as I made the decision to believe. Once I did, I had the hunger of an addict for truth, with a "T". That led to an evangelical church and my first relationship with the Bible (scary, I was in my early 40s), where I discovered that it was really a very Catholic book. It was the final step towards home.

I teach 8th grade CCD now and my partner and I struggle with the curriculum which while very orthodox, creates no love of Christ, no vision of the Church etc. It is simply the same rules, regulations and definitions that I had, spiffed up. What you end up with either way, is what Jeff Cavins described as a big pile of stuff. "The Trinity? It's in there. The Incarnation? Yup, it's in there too." Our kids learn about Jesus during First Communion and then we are on to definitions and rules again. They are never taught the story of salvation. And the parents take absolutely no responsability. It is very frustrating.

We are trying a new direction, very much on the QT. We handed out a survey to see where their belief was if it was anywhere at all, and we gave them index cards on which to put any questions at all that they have on the topic of religion. No names, no judgement. We are using Amy's Prove It! Series among other books to address the questions. In addition, we have decided to read the Gospel of Mark to them over the next few weeks in the hopes that a piece of the story will entice them to seek out the rest of the 'story'.

Pray for us and for them. They are good kids.


I didn't go to Catholic school. But hopefully in not too twisted a way, this thread is making me feel less guilty about having left the faith of my childhood as a college student. I did have once-a-week catechism class where I learned the story of salvation history from the nuns (Srs of Victory Knoll, based in Huntingon, Ind., God bless their souls) in my earlier grades, but not much of note after 4th grade. But it seems a lot of people my age didn't learn much of the real meat of the faith, and some, it appears, learned much worse. I know I'm still culpable for having left, but now I'm getting a better grip on the scope of the bad teaching in the 70s and 80s. Not happy about it, but feeling a little less like a chief of sinners for my apostacy. Now, to get back! ...

Erin S.

I am one of the daughters mentioned earlier by Mitch S. Not only did they not teach us properly about the Mass or Catholic teachings and beliefs, the religion text book (not a Bible or Catechism) was more political and remided me very much of my second grade spelling book at Lloyd Alman Elementary in Fayetteville NC. I recieved a better eduacation at that public school than at Holy Family.
There were a few techers who tried to help, but by 8th grade(after having been teased and humiliated by my peers for 4 years) it was a little late. Not only was I smarter before entering the school, but had attended a public school for 3rd grade as well, though the teacher let us instruct ourselves, I didn't have to choange my language skills untill catholic school. The other children couldnt understand standard american english.
When religios participation was involved the other students would yawn and pretend to participate. I loved singing the hyms and participating in the mass and recieving the eurcarist. But looking around at daily mass the only other person besides my twon sister who seemed to really mean it was Fr. Jerry. He was reassigned when i was in 6th grade. Fr. Sunny Day replaced him.
i came to cherish the the rare occasion of the daily mass when it was led by the founder Fr. Marcino, now a Mnsgr.
To this day i wish he ahd been giving the religious instruction at that school instead of the math or science teahers. He said the Hail Holy Queen at the end of every mass, and the concluding prayer to the father. He once stopped the song at the end of the thursday mass and told the students that they shouldn't be afraid to sing for God at church and had us start over again. Everyone in that church sang louldly for the rececional hymm.
I still know several fellow students from there. They aren't practicing and are rather lost in the world. I left the church when I turned 18, but am slowly coming back to it. I just wish the local parishes weren't set up for the people with money. I don't have any.


I encountered decent "be nice and share" religion classes in grade school, but seriously ran aground in High School at Marquette Catholic in Alton, IL.

I was already pretty close to apostasy by the time I got there, and the school's empowerment of kids and teachers who were manifestly unchristian in their attitudes and actions while professing Christ loudly in words really did me in. Sophomore year, the religious director physically threatened me and even punched my desk in the middle of class for simply asking persistent questions that would have demanded a little deeper explanations of Church teaching. By Junior year we were making mandalas and talking in religion class about the erogenous character of our religion teacher's husband's nipples. By senior year, we were looking for our totem animals and I was invited by the religion teacher to attend a Wicca gathering.

By then, it seemed like fun because I was already on drugs and a total agnostic/relativist.

By the grace of God, however, I had fallen for a girl whose parents had a powerful and lively faith, and who had managed to turn their household into a holy place. I followed her to college at the University of Dallas, where everything changed. There I was forced to respect the intellectual and aesthetic magnitude of the Church. There I heard ecclesiastical Latin for the first time. By the time I graduated, I was well on the road to a return. No place is perfect and one could find a fair amount of real nonsense there if one wanted, but being for the first time in the midst of authentically faithful intellectuals made a big difference.

Now, like a previous poster, I am a catechist trying to help other young people avoid the mistakes I fell into.



This is perhaps a minor thing, but still irksome to me. The summer reading list for Loyola High School in Los Angeles, which is generally considered LA's best Catholic high school, has Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons," which I assume is no better than "The Da Vinci Code."


This above link is to the list. Most of the other books are unobjectionable but the list is noteworthy for its absence of Catholic literature (apart from Graham Greene) -- no Flannery O'Connor, no Eveyln Waugh, no Francois Mauriac, no Paul Horgan, just one book by Graham Greene. I suppose that considering the school is Jesuit it could be worse.


I attended an all girls' school taught by the Sisters of Providence outside of Chicago in the mid-60s.

I do not remember a lot being said about abortion/sexual morality. What I do remember is being taught evolution in Biology. It was explained in this way - as long as you believe that God was behind the process and that He alone provided the "spark of life" it was not incompatible with Catholic teaching. I also remember being told that the Old Testament, especially Genesis, was not to be taken literally.

The documents of Vatican II were studied by the senior class. I do remember V2 being discussed quite a bit at all class levels. The impression that I got at that time was that I should ultimately look to my own "conscience" in determining what was right and wrong.

What was I really taught? At this point, who knows? I don't really remember. But at 15-16 yrs old, all I heard was the part about acting on one's own conscience. I was left with the teen-aged impression that a lot of the devotions we had learned all through Catholic grade school were outdated, semi-superstitious beliefs.

I stopped going to Mass as soon as I graduated high school. It didn't seem like it was a big deal anymore.

A bizarre feature of my junior year religion class was spending a quarter of the year studying alcoholism. What this had to do with the price of potatoes I will never know. An Irish priest was "imported" to teach junior year religion and theology and he spent half a semester with every class talking about alcoholism.

The only thing that I remembered from that class was his description of a woman he knew that was married to an alcoholic for many years until he died. He told us that her main method of dealing with this dysfunction in her life was prayer and leaving the side door open every night so he could crawl home and not be embarrassed in front of his children. She was held up as an example of how to cope with this situation. (His mother, perhaps?)

Six years later, when I was confronted with my own alcoholic husband, I vividly recalled those classes and it reinforced my decision to stay away from the Catholic Church.

How I came back to the Catholic Church after 26 years I'll never know, but thank God I did.



Spent grades K-6 in public school with CCD classes on Sundays.

For grades 7-8 (1982-84) I transferred to the local Catholic school. Only nuns there were the principal and assistant principal, but my Religion/English teacher was a former nun. Learned from her that you could ask your Guardian Angel to reveal his name to you and that he would do so by causing someone to call you by the "wrong" name. Then when the principal started accidentally calling me "Kathleen," I figured that must be my Guardian Angel's name! Somehow, the odd stuff like that stuck with me more than the rest of the religious instruction

Then I attended an all-girls Catholic high school, which I'd prefer to not identify by name. Freshman year religion class was a thorough indoctrination into "higher biblical criticism." A few of my friends lost their faith over that.

Sophomore religion consisted of one trimester of "Thanatology" (more Elisabeth Kübler-Ross than Christ), one trimester of Church History and one of "Human Values and Sexuality," the moral component of the sex ed program (taught jointly with the Health/Phys Ed department, which tackled the biological stuff). In the latter we were told that the Church says that contraception is wrong unless our conscience tells us it's okay! The Health teacher, meanwhile, taught us how to use various contraceptives plus the calendar rhythm method, but nothing about more modern forms of NFP.

Junior High consisted of Social Justice (a relatively good course because it focused on papal encyclicals on the topic) and some other subjects which I don't remember very well. I do remember, however, viewing a video in class which was basically a hatchet job on CUF and paean to Charles Curran. Which class that was I can't recall.

Senior year was the worst of all - a quite heretical Christology course. The teacher started the year by trying to demonstrate that the Gospels all contradicted each other and so were not reliable. She then had us read a book called Jesus Before Christianity which basically portrayed Jesus as a social revolutionary ("liberation theology" was really big in this course). The teacher then severely savaged the Council of Chalcedon and promoted the speculations of "reformulation Christologists" instead. We were told that Jesus wasn't God Incarnate, a Divine Person with two natures, but just an ordinary man who allowed himself to become so filled with God that "He and God became functionally one." He is now "God for us," but that doesn't necessarily rule out Buddha or other such figures being important for other religions.

The teacher also denied original sin and transubstantiation, said that one could reject the virginal conception of Christ and still be a "good Catholic," promoted the idea that God is Mother as well as Father and said that we should redefine the Trinity in a modalistic fashion. This course confused and upset some of my classmates so much that their parents complained to the school chaplain, who had a talk with the teacher, who then toned down her anti-Chalcedon rhetoric a bit. By the end of the year, most of the kids in class said that they didn't know what to believe anymore.

Actually, I knew that the course would be bad before taking it, but the only other option that year was a "Christian Feminism" course. I wanted to avoid the latter because I had come across a copy of the closing "prayer service" for that course two years earlier, which invoked Lilith along with female saints.

Now you know why I didn't want to reveal the name of the school! Incidentally, the Christology teacher left the school at the end of that year, but AFAIK the nun who taught the "Christian Feminism" course is still there.

As a result, I have no intention of sending my kids to Catholic high school.

In Jesu et Maria,


I attended a Catholic K-8 school for 7th and 8th grades and then an all girls high school. This was in the 90s in suburban Chicago. Most of the teachers at both schools were laywomen. Both schools were also staffed and administered by a branch of the Dominicans. I talked about my good experiences with both schools on the other thread. Here are the bad.

The nuns definitely stressed pro-life issues and tried to stress chastity. That's more than many nuns do these days, so God bless them for that. But opposition to abortion and pre-marital sex was as close to orthodoxy as we ever got.

If you only listened to how religion was taught at my school, you'd conclude that Catholicism is more about being an activist for lefty causes than about anything such as eternal life. Cardinal Bernardin reigned and died during my school years and he was absolutely idolized by the nuns. It was seamless garment all the way. There was a heavy focus on gun control, for some reason. We were told that it was wrong to vote for Clinton because he was pro-abortion, but it was just as wrong to vote for Dole because he supported the 2nd amendment. We were told that you can't *really* be pro-life on abortion unless you were on board with all the other lefty issues - otherwise you were a hypocrite and no better than people at Planned Parenthood.

As a result, several girls decided that since they couldn't get on board with all the hippie stuff (their families hunted, they wanted to join the Air Force, etc) and they didn't want to be a hypocrite then, forget it, they weren't going to oppose abortion either. None of us had any notion at all about the Church's teaching about non-negotiable issues vs. issues that allow a wide variety of opinions.

The nuns also had a strange preoccupation with racism - but only whites vs. blacks, with whites *always* being at fault. Any socio-econimic differences between blacks and whites were due to white racism.

Our school (and entire area) was mostly white and Hispanic. We were told that we lived in "segregated" neighborhoods because few of us had black next door neighbors. When students protested this by pointing out that blacks were more than welcome in their neighborhoods but none had chosen to move there, the nuns questioned whether blacks *really* would be welcomed in our neighborhoods. It seemed they were accusing our parents and our neighbors of being racist. We were also guilt-tripped about how we had all benefited from "white privilige." Strangely the fact that the nuns were all white never was an issue. Although we were treated to the pathetic spectacle of 50-something white nuns trying to imitate "soulful" black gospel singers at Mass.

I wonder how much of the leftist silliness of the nuns drove girls away from Catholicism. Catholicism, as far as we knew, consisted of supporting unrealistic political goals and calling us racist. This is what the *nuns* had taught. And aren't nuns experts on Catholicism? It would be no surprise if some sensible girls thought, well so much the worse for Catholicism . . .

Meanwhile, we learned nothing about doctrine, sacraments, church history, etc beyond the basics we'd already learned in elementary school. I doubt most of us knew about, let alone believed in, the Real Presence. Occasionally a priest would visit our theology classes and attempt to discuss various doctrines. One day he talked about Purgatory. None of us - even girls who'd been in Catholic schools since kindergarten - had ever heard of Purgatory. Alot of us were freaked out by it and some girls got hysterical and mouthed off to the priest "you can't make me believe that!"

And then there were the odd few weeks when Medjugorjie was discussed. Not only was this problematic in itself, being an unapproved apparition, but it was so bizarre and such a jarring contrast from what we usually learned, that I think it just confused people all the more and made it look like Catholics worshipped Mary too.

As far as spirituality went - school gym Masses, school retreats - it was pretty lousy. It was a bad mix of Kumbaya and evangelical "Jesus freak" stuff. Basically the impression I got throughout high school was that being spiritual, "really" being Catholic meant having a lot of emotional, touchy-feely experiences. I guess they thought this would appeal to teenage girls, but it never appealed to me. Instead I felt like there was something wrong with me, that I must be some cold religious hypocrite because I didn't feel "spiritual" from doing the hug chain and falling game on school retreats. There was no indication at the time that spirituality could include solemnity, contemplation, and ritual. Ritual was seen as something mean and cold. I thought I was weird to find it appealing and crave more of it.

Oh yes, we did litugical dance. At a special Mass during Lent. We wore purple crepe paper sashes. The best way of describing the dance moves would be a slow motion version of SNL's "Sprockets" dance (without the nipple grabbing).

I became an orthodox Catholic despite my Catholic education, not because of it. Bill Gates is more responsible for my faith than the nuns were. When I was 17 we got the internet in my house. I had always been curious about alleged apparitions and miracles (at best, Medjugorjie sure is *interesting*) There was also a Catholic gift shop in a nearby town where people claimed the statues were moving. This caught my attention and I wanted to find out more about this weird stuff. With the internet in my own room, I didn't have to feel self-conscious about investigating my odd interest. This weird stuff led to more solid stuff, which intested me far more. Slowly I started educating myself about Catholicism.

Looking back on my Catholic school years, I realize that WE WERE ROBBED. How could they have kept the faith, with all it's richness, beauty, history, and grace from us?! And to replace it with gun control and liturgical dance! It's practically criminal.

What breaks my heart is that many of my classmates grew up thinking that is all there is to Catholicism. They have no idea what they've missed and I worry that they will never be inspired to seek it out because they think they know everything there is to know about Catholic belief and practices. They were taught by *nuns* after all . . .


Nothing in this thread surprises me but it's depressing nonetheless. Catholics have the greatest treasure in the world and so many of them have thrown it away.

J. Christian

We went to several Catholic school open houses this Sunday as we prepare to send our first child to Catholic school. The parish schools we visited were a mixed bag. Two of them seemed to be fairly decent on the RE front; the third seemed Catholic in name only, yet that one is the most popular choice with parents by far.

It is very depressing to read this thread on the cusp of our son's schooling. We'll try our best to educate him in the faith at home, but from others' experiences, it sounds like our best hope is that he marries into a good Catholic family!


After reading other comments, I feel compelled to leave a second post.

I remember our second year (1967-68) high school religion textbook. It was heavy on "social justice" and light on religion. To this day whenever I see the phrase "social justice" I anticipate a leftist argument coming forth. We didn't learn about saints in school anymore, but learned lots about current events and the people involved in them.

One of the readings precipitated a running argument that I had with my Mother at that time.

We were taught about a woman named Viola Liuzzo, a mother from Detroit who traveled to Alabama to participate in the Civil Rights movement. She was shot to death and left 3 or 4 children. My mother was horrified by the idea that any woman would put herself in jeopardy, regardless of the cause, and leave her young children like that. I argued violently with her about that. Now I wish I hadn't.

I understand what the point of learning about Mrs. Liuzzo was all about, but now I also see my Mom's position. I do not remember reading about the everyday heroes and heroines, like my Mom and Dad, who made daily sacrifices to raise their kids the best way they could.

Rebel With a First Cause

I attended Catholic schools in the sixties, from grades one through six, in suburbs of St. Louis and Chicago. Although I had lots of trouble in school (basically attributable to undiagnosed ADD – this was the sixties) and was eventually expelled for good at the beginning of the seventh grade, I have basically positive memories of my experiences.
In terms of religious education, I am a Catholic in spite of, not because of, the religion I was taught. The only thing I can actually remember from religion class, in 3rd or 4th grade, was having to memorize a paragraph each week and spit it back out on a test.
So I didn’t really learn anything about the Church in class. What I did pick up, however, was basic Catholic culture and devotion. In the school I attended in Missouri for 1st and 2nd grade, we went to Mass three times a week and had a communion service on the other two days. By the time I was in Illinois I was serving Mass several times a week, in the afternoons, as an altar boy. I can still remember the Ray Repp songs!
As for the worst stuff that happened to me, let’s see… I was throttled by a nun and nearly asphyxiated once, and another time I actually had my mouth washed out with soap and water. I can still remember the taste!
At no time was I ever aware of even a hint of anything “weird” with the priests. I don’t recall even seeing them outside of Mass, except for an occasional classroom visit.
I dropped out of the Church in the late seventies, and didn’t return until the late nineties. Sounds like I missed a lot of nonsense in the interim!

Fred's Leash Holder

Hmm, first 3 years of Catholic grade school - all school Mass every day
Moved between 3rd and 4th grade
New grade school - all school Mass every month
Catholic HS - all school Mass twice a year
Catholic College - what's an all school Mass?


Great education in pre V2 years. Only sisters taught. All Catholic students. Great library of donated books. A lot of anti-communist teaching. Strict and still had fun. Free for parish children. Many fond memories. I wonder what happened to our pagan babies?


If you only listened to how religion was taught at my school, you'd conclude that Catholicism is more about being an activist for lefty causes than about anything such as eternal life.

Which is almost word-for-word my (Protestant) husband's major complaint about Catholicism as practiced by my two siblings, both of whom hold degrees in theology from prominent Catholic universities.

Thankfully, I did not encounter any ultraleftist socialism masquerading as Catholic teaching until I got to college. When I returned from Rome, after spending a semester being steeped in the truths of my faith and reading encyclicals, magisterial documents, the Catechism, and most importantly, the Bible, I took an Intro to Religious Studies course that was the biggest bunch of nonsense to which I've ever been exposed.

One of many examples: the adjunct prof who taught this course refused to accept any paper that referred to God with a masculine pronoun. She also denied that Scripture was divinely inspired, embraced outdated scholarship like Q Source, espoused syncretism, and denied any sort of teaching authority on the part of the magisterium.

Since then, I've met more teachers like her than I have met teachers like the ones who taught me. I know teachers in Catholic schools who teach religious studies and publicly deny such truths as Transubstantiation. Others teach that it's legitimate to be pro-abortion and Catholic. Wealthy white-kid guilt is substituted for genuine charity.

More than anything else, it's the state of religious education that's persuaded me to homeschool our children when and if God blesses us with them. A close second are the numbers of people who send their children to Catholic schools and regard the fact that the school is Catholic as something to be endured with gritted teeth and not celebrated.

M.Z. Forrest

There is always a danger present when those who were malformed in their youth speak on malformation in the present. As one who was malformed in his youth, no Catholic school but CCD, I'm sure I'm tempted to the same dangers.

A few disjointed thoughts:
1) Philosophy tends to be where a lot of the breakdowns occur. This has been observed among some of the more liberal communities. There is the overall tendency among folks to assign morality to acts and not to actors, allowing the possibility that a moral act occured without an actor.
2) In teaching theology, there seems to be an overemphasis on reaching understanding versus knowing the truth. This is true to a large extent in secular education. If you look at whole math or whole reading, you'll know what I mean.
3) In evaluating Catholic schools, I think it is important to evaluate how those schools compare to their secular peers. We would not console ourselves with the fact that more people were receiving last rites because we had a Catholic hospital if the hospital wasn't competently treating people.
4) We should not have the expectation that a child's beliefs are going to be radically different then his parents' beliefs. Admittedly, a number of children do not know the teaching of the Real Presence. However, your typical adult does not believe the teaching of the Real Presence.
5) The establishment of Catholic schools was not done as a vehicle for religious education. They were intially done in this country as a defensive mechanism against a public education system that was overtly Protestant at the time and in some ways anti-Catholic. Educating the poor was a charitable work. The fact that you need almost a 6-figure income to send a Catholic family to a Catholic hgih school seems to indicate an institution that has lost its purpose.


We migrated to "alternative Catholic school" education for our children when the local parish school decided that education in sexual practices was appropriate for the 5, 6, 7 grades. That was a mandate from the Archbishop, who later resigned for some...ah....personal problems.

Interesting that the "alternative Catholic" school also provided a MUCH stronger Catholic atmosphere, as well as a MUCH stronger literature and math curriculum, AND actually taught 2 years of Latin (7th/8th.)

There are now three "alternative Catholic" K-8 schools in the area, all doing very well in terms of student-count, academic success, and spiritual success.

And the traditional parochial schools? Closing.


Marie - How about this sentence?

The silent prayer vigil outside the abortion clinic was broken by Fr. John's ejaculation, "Mother Mary, pray for us!"

Not having been raised Catholic, I can only give the perspective of a parent. In our high-end parochial elementary school in Atlanta, the middle school religion teacher presented some teaching on family that implied divorce and remarriage was acceptable. She said she had not properly reviewed the materials before using them. Many times the problem with Catholic education is that it is too close to a general education. It is a lot of work for our teachers to vet everything, but they must do it because there are few fully reliable sources for good (safe, orthodox, age-appropriate) materials.

One good thing going on in my kids' elementary school is the commitment to drills on boring but important things like multiplication tables and spelling. Yes, we get six weeks of St. Martin Luther King, Jr., and only six minutes on George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but they are doing a decent job of the old 3 R's of reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic. (The three new R's are racism, relativism, and recycling.)


Went to Catholic grade school from the mid-1970s to early 1980s before my parents sent me to public school for a better education (that's how bad it was).

Only learned generalities about Christianity, such as the 10 Commandments and various Bible stories (although like other commenters I don't recall ever opening a Bible). Didn't even know what the Catechism was until I heard about it in my teens. Learned nothing about Church doctrine & history. In sixth grade was ridiculed by a lay teacher for criticizing Communists in Central America.

Education-wise, it was a disaster. When I eventually transferred to public school in 7th grade I had no idea what fractions were.

When I took a Confirmation class (by this time I was in public high school) I remember being excited because now I would learn the Catechism and get all the basics in the faith I hadn't gotten before. Wrong. Our youth leader was worthless and we mainly spent our time in ridiculous group conversations covering such topics as "What do you think God looks like?"

It is a testament to God's grace and the Holy Spirit that I eventually re-dedicated myself to the Church and started teaching myself in my 30s all the things I should've been taught as a child.


I went to Catholic grade school in the late '60s early '70s. I couldn't tell you anything about what the Church taught, but I could sing you every single word of "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Godspell."
I feel like the opposite of Robert Fulghum: "Everything I Know About Catholicism I Learned After Graduating From Catholic School."

Rich Leonardi

5) The establishment of Catholic schools was not done as a vehicle for religious education. They were intially done in this country as a defensive mechanism against a public education system that was overtly Protestant at the time and in some ways anti-Catholic. Educating the poor was a charitable work.

There were a variety of factors that went into the formation of Catholic schools, no? Since religious instruction was there at the beginning, I've got to think it loomed large.

The fact that you need almost a 6-figure income to send a Catholic family to a Catholic hgih school seems to indicate an institution that has lost its purpose.

Amen. As someone pointed out on my site, these schools are filled with the affluent who can afford them and a token number of the poor who receive scholarships. This is one instance in which the "forgotten middle class" is more than a slogan.

Maclin Horton

I feel obliged to put in two cheers for McGill-Toolen High School in Mobile, Alabama. Two of our four graduated from there, seven years apart (wow, time flies). As far as the explicit teaching of religion is concerned, it was mixed when the older one was there and has gotten better since. One son who graduated in 1999 had a terrific religion teacher in 11th grade and a zero in 12th. The daughter who graduated in 2006 had pretty good teachers all the way through.

My biggest gripe about the curriculum has to do with literature. It leans heavily on fairly recent and fashionable novels like The Secret Life of Bees, which at best were totally disconnected from and at worst hostile to what was going on in religion class. History also seemed to be questionable.

There were a number of other things we didn't care for but which are less the fault of the school than of the surrounding culture--rampant drinking, drugs, and sex among the students, a tendency for a well-to-do in-crowd to dominate at both the student and parent levels, etc. Only so much a school can do, of course. But most of the people in charge, especially the president, are very serious about providing a solid Catholic education.

Catherine L

Mercy Academy, New Orleans, LA (now closed) - 1977-81. Sophomore year health class featured a whole semester on everything you ever needed to know about artificial birth control. I was young for my grade - 14 years old.


I went to a Catholic grammar school in NYC in the 1940s, and this was that world -- I believe it existed because there was no television, and most mothers did not go to work. If they did, another woman was in the home, a grandmother or aunt. It was during WWII.

We were safe, walking the streets, playing and in school. We had prayers every morning In sixth grade we also said the Pledge of Allegiance (without "under God" then), and in the sixth grade we added the Preface to the Constitution and the Gettysburg Address! The Baltimore Catechism was memorized but I do remember religion was integrated into everything -- poetry, if not religious would be "beautiful" and wasn't God good to inspire the writer Literature gave opportunities to discuss who was good and why, who was bad and why. History also. But more than anything we saw religion being lived, and prayer was integral -- we had no hesitation about asking people to pray for an intention.

Children fasted like adults before Communion -- no water after midnight. There were First Commumions and Confirmations with everyone there. Feast days and processions in the street -- watched by relatives and neighbors. Devotions to our favorite saints. Fish on Friday. Missions during Lent. Weekly confession, Stations of the Cross weekly in Lent, learning Latin to sing and respond in Mass and yes, we knew what it meant. Benediction in the evening. But we also saw how faith supported our families in bad times.

We prayed for peace and for the neighborhood boys in the service.If a parent died (and men died of heart attacks in their 50s) everyone went to the wake and said prayers, especially the classmates of his children. The entire school would attend the funeralMass of a parent or sibling of a student. Death was not hidden. Classmates died of polio and measles -- The entire neighborhood came together, firmly believing in eternal life. Catholic High School and College followed, In my 20s I left the Church but returned after sevral years. I had seen the Truth and Beauty of a life lived in Faith. For which I thank God daily.

Kevin Jones

A side-story from my public school days in high school in the nineties: most of my friends were atheists. One had been baptized Catholic, and one day we were over at his house and he brought out his "brainwashing papers," the materials his parents had received in baptism prep. It was heavy on giving "just have faith" answers to kids' questions. Even as poorly catechized as I was, I knew that wasn't the best explanation of the Faith.

Finally, a couple quotes from an article on educational theories. It seems that these two systems in particular have been very influential in religious education:

...He defines formalism as the notion that “what counts in education is not the learning of things but rather learning how to learn.” Formalism leads to such Progressive slogans as “It’s how to think, not what to think,” and it stresses “process, not product.” Formalist ideas derogate domain-specific knowledge as inessential and rapidly superseded, facts as “mere information,” and their acquisition as “rote learning.” Accordingly, formalist thinking privileges the teaching of supposedly general abilities such as decoding and reading strategies.

Naturalism is the older idea that “learning can and should be natural and that any unnatural or artificial approach to school learning should be rejected or deemphasized.” Adherents to this approach abhor the thought of “stuffing . . . children’s minds with dead, inert information.” The naturalist constellation of ideas, one might add, underlies familiar Progressivist tenets such as “teach the child, not the subject” (which Dewey himself regarded as simplistic) and supports the more recent jargon such as “personal growth” and “finding your own voice.”
Whatever the merits of these approaches, they've been caricatured into the most superficial pabulum possible. Kids recognize that phoniness from a mile away, but confuse their content-free education with the substantial content of the real subject matter.


I teach New Testament and philosophy at a Catholic high school. This is the second Catholic high school at which I have taught. Having left the first one because of its lack of authentic Catholic identity, I have similar feelings of emptiness and meaninglessness at this second school.

I make every attempt to be responsible and to present and defend the faith of the Apostles in my classes, but I am not at all confident about what goes on in other classes. Comments by previous posters stating that Catholicism is presented as a commitment to leftist causes, without any regard for eternal salvation or the truth of revelation, unfortunately applies to my school as well.

Jesus is presented, not as the Incarnate Word, not as the Savior, not as the Son of God, not as the revelation of God and of true humanity; he is presented as the exemplar of leftist values: Jesus was tolerant, inclusive, compassionate, pacifist and the like. As such, it is the leftist values that are the true religion at my school, and Jesus is merely a convenient figure onto which people have projected those values.

We pray "in the name of Jesus, our friend and brother" instead of praying in the name of Christ the Lord.

Students give the homilies at our Masses. The people in charge see nothing wrong with such a practice. Of course they don't: the spiritually immature (or dead) would think that a child has just as much that is valid and meaningful to say during worship as anyone else.

Most parents, students and teachers are not faithful, Mass-attending, practicing Catholics. It hardly qualifies as a Catholic faith community. Catholicism is not the religion of the school nor the dominant value system of the school. Leftism is our golden calf.

The students and parents realize that religion class grades don't count in the computation of GPA for college admissions, so the attitude of many is "it's just religion."

Catholic high schools in the Bay Area have ceased to be be meaningful schools of formation and maturity in the ways of Catholic discipleship. They groom students for college admissions offices, which is all that the parents want.

I wonder how much longer I can tolerate being a participant in such a farce. I already have to numb myself for each day of work, but I never show that interior disposition to my students. One good thing that has come of it all, though, is that I have turned to God in prayer like never before.


I went to Catholic schools from 1st - 11th grade.

Grade school was pretty good academically but I was still learning the warmed over "I'm special" drivel in eighth grade that my siblings were getting in first. The only class where I remember learning anything about the Faith was an eighth grade elective called "The Way it Was" where we had to learn parts of the Baltimore Catechism.

9th grade was great both religiously and academically because we moved from Colorado Springs to Annandale, VA for a year. A convent was attached to the school and we still had priests and sisters teaching. The sister I had for religion class was a pretty sour lady but I learned something.

Sophomore and Junior year were a waste of tuition money from a Catholic sense. The local Catholic high school was really only Catholic in name - we watched Ghandi as part of our religion class. The chaplain committed suicide when he was found to be preying on the male students. This gave our bishop the ability to stand up in front of the diocese when he made a big announcement about how our diocese was handling the abuse scandal and say that there had never been a prosecution in our diocese for abuse with a straight face.

The Catholic high school in town also refused to allow a pro-life speaker come to the school without a rep from Planned Parenthood coming to make sure that the presentation was "balanced".

My Mom also spent many years trying to combat pornographic sex ed programs in the Catholic schools and eventually just started homeschooling when it became clear that no one really wanted to follow the Church on the matter.


For grade school in the 50s I had the wonderful Sisters of Loretto. Only one nun fits the usual horror stories; all the others were genuinely kind people. We learned catechism rote, but we also had Bible and Salvation History. I can't cite chapter and verse like Protestant cousins, but I know my Bible stories as well as catechism. The girls' choir did all the funerals and we learned compassion from our perch in the choir loft. (I miss the Dies Irae - although I see why they dropped a piece that in English would have scared the heck out of post-sin Catholics) Our teachers and parents' attitude at Mass re-inforced what we learned in class about transubstantiation and the Real Presence.

Jack, I can always tell if somebody is near my age if they know about "pagan babies". Because of our penny collection for them, I had originally intended to be a medical missionary in Africa until I discovered boys in the 8th grade.

I graduated high school in 1962, the same year protrayed in American Grafitti. This was pre-birth control pill - so one of the major duties of our Catholic girls' HS was to scare us to keep us from getting in a family way. I think about 10 of the girls who quit or transferred before graduation did so because they got pregnant. I don't know if that's a lower figure than the public school, but I'm sure many parents were counting on that.

So what I REALLY remember from HS is the overt and covert messages about what happens to girls who aren't careful. I don't remember specifically being taught about abortion, but even the news media and movies back then were very vague about that and contraception. I remember being dumbfounded that sexual sins were still possible after getting married and wondered what they could be. Lots of stuff was implied and between the lines. I had an 18 yrs old friend who still did not know about the birds and the bees. Most of what I knew about the plumbing stuff I learned from friends - never in class. All the funny things you've heard about warnings about patent leather shoes and the like are perfectly true and then some. But I also remember classes on Church history that I found fascinating - early fathers, crusades, Inquisition, Reformation, etc.

In 1962 I started St Louis U where all the girls had to take a class on Christian Marriage which was really a propaganda course on not using birth control. The birth control pill had just been invented and there was an uneasiness about its use by non-Catholics as well as Catholics. We sat up nights in the dorm talking about would we use it or not. There was a committee appointed by the Pope studying it and we were sure it was going to get the OK. Prior teaching had always talked about "artificial" birth control - always interpreted as a barrier. Some doctors were starting to prescribe it about a month or so before a young woman married. The idea was to get settled before starting to have kids and then to space them. In both instances 2 years seemed to be about what was intended. Turns out that the first women to use the pills were exposed to massive doses of hormone. They used to make people nauseous - my generation were the guinea pigs. I had two kids by the time Humanae Vitae came out.

At SLU we also got a great series of courses beginning with Logic and then on to Philosophy of Being, Philosophy of Man, Ethics and Theology. This was pre-"preferential option for the poor" Jesuits when they still thought they should influence culture by educating the future "elites". Many of you younger folks don't realize that that phrase is new from the Medillin (sp?) conference of bishops in Mexico which was then adopted by Pedro Arrupe, then head of the Jesuits. In the 70s? Arrupe changed the focus of the Jesuits to a sort of liberation theology; "preferential option for the poor" is not from an encyclical or any Catholic Tradition that I know of. I think the new focus may have made the Jesuits doubt themselves and their historical mission to elites as well as the foreign missions and the down-trodden.

I remember seeing a gradual and then monumental change in nuns and priests. They jumped over our heads to get taken in by bizarre fads that made no sense to us adult laypeople. It was the younger folk they indoctrinated with that stuff. I left for about 15 years and was shocked at the state of the church when I came back in the early 90s.

It was actually a respectful course on the history of the Popes at secular Washington University in the late 80s, where I was the only Catholic in the class that got me to revert. There was no textbook and we read all original documents, like the Liber Pontificalis and Justinian Code. It got me back to thinking this is the true church and I wanted to be part of it again even if it's going through a goofy phase.

Anyhow, I may be atypical because I had a father who was a state apologetics champion in his youth. The discussions at dinner taught me more than I ever learned in school. If Pelozzi doesn't know much about the Catholic faith, I'd say she probably grew up in a home where they focussed on the externals and never the basis of the faith.

Ave Maria!

I had 12 years of Catholic education. And it was a good education. But I watched the aftermath of the new mass and the vatican II fallout as the priests and sisters began to change thier dress and then their vocations. We went to daily Mass as a little kid, weekly Mass in junior high then to monthly and by the time I graduated, in the 70s, we did not go to Mass any more. I recall we had ONE teacher telling us abortion was wrong, etc. and we thought he was just nuts, some old fashioned guy and paid no attention to him.

I had to take my oldest son from the 'catholic' school in second grade due to an abuse situation. People as how my sons are still Catholic a nd I tell them that we took them out the Catholic School and I taught them religion at home and they were confirmed in the next diocese. Those kids who went to the local catholic school are gone in high school from the faith. There are some wicked folks over there...


My experience at catholic college prep school:

Enneagram, astrology, homosexuality, abortion, women priests, God as "mother" -- thumbs up!

Pope John Paul, Mary mother of God, Eucharist -- thumbs down!

Gene H

I converted a few years ago, so I never had the Catholic school experience personally, but after reading this thread, I can't tell you how happy I am with the Catholic school my daughters attend.


Great Catholic education is now the exception not the rule. Most Catholic schools, both primary and secondary, are nothing more than very expensive vehicles to help your children lose their faith. On a plus side, they are wonderful promotions for the home school movement which grows every year as parents realize what a scam mainstream Catholic education has become. They trade on their glorious past to rake in the cash and warp the faith of children. An ugly business, to be sure. A number of new Catholic universities have been founded in the last 30 years which are wonderful and replace the Notre Dame, Georgetown, Boston College crowd. I hope the same happens with high schools. In the meantime, unless I closely vet the faculty and cirriculum, I would never trust my child to a Catholic school or any other for that matter. Home schooling or a charter school with like-minded parents is the best approach along with a minority of solid Catholic schools that have managed to avoid losing their identity.

Dan Crawford

Having had my entire pre-college education before the 1st session of the council, I have fond memories of Catholic school. But the education failed us mightily in preparing us for the Council. I was as biblically illiterate when I graduated from high school as I was the day I began first grade. I was taught and made to believe in so many ways that priests and bishops could do no wrong; that God had determined that nearly everything I did as a child deserved eternal punishment - I still have vivid memories of the Examination of Conscience pamphlets published by The Queen's Way (dramatic upper case letters to designate the MORTAL sins, usually clustered under the 6th and 9th commandments); that my non-Catholic friends who knew the same prayers and Apostle's Creed I did were doomed because they didn't know the Hail Mary; that I was not to have any contact with divorced relatives, especially those who had remarried; that the Church was the Mediator and Instrument of my salvation.

And yet, many of my teachers were among the most compassionate and thoughtful people it has been my privilege to know. And some of them actually taught me to love Jesus in spite of what I was taught. And some of them helped me understand that just because something was "Catholic" did not always mean it was good, beautiful, true or right. Lousy Catholic art was still lousy art. Lousy Catholic theology is still lousy theology.

The most valuable thing I was given in my Catholic education was instruction in personal discipline and in the skills of critical thinking and analysis. That has helped me greatly over the years.

I understand the dissatisfaction of some contemporary Catholics with the Church after Vatican II. What I do not understand is the romanticization of the pre-Conciliar Church - that church (the Church "triumphant")sowed the seeds of much of the scandal whose fruit we are now compelled to live with. Now if we could take the rich theology of Vatican II and Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI and combine it with the best features of pre-Vatican II Catholic education (a love of learning and a willingness to do what needs to be done to learn) - we just might be able to revitalize the Church and get it through this difficult time.


In my Catholic high school, we had MASS PRACTICE, where we would all sit in the church and practice the songs and the responses, etc. It was soooo lame.


After reading this thread and contributing a negative comment about Loyola High School in Los Angeles, I examined Loyola's website to see if there were any clues on it as to what was being taught and how. The following is an assigment from a class on "moral theology":

After reading Donum Vitae, completely answer the following questions in paragraph form (on a separate sheet of paper). (When I say “completely”, I mean that you should demonstrate evidence of your deep analysis and evaluation of the issues at hand. Consider the length suggestions listed below as minimum requirements; you may want to write more than suggested.) You need not type these responses; legible handwritten work is fine.

"1. Describe, analyze, and evaluate the basic arguments laid out in the following sections:
a. “Biomedical Research and the Teaching of the Church” (2-3 par.)
b. “Science and Technology at the Service of the Human Person” (1-2 par.)
c. “Anthropology and Procedures in the Medical Field” (2-3 par.)
d. “Fundamental Criteria for a Moral Judgment” (2-3 par.)

Responses to Questions #2-14 must both analyze and evaluate the Church’s answers to each of the questions posed.

2. What respect is due to the human embryo, taking into account his nature and identity? (at least 4 par.)
3. Is prenatal diagnosis licit? (2-3 par.)
4. Are therapeutic procedures carried out on the human embryo licit? (2-3 par.)
5. How is one morally to evaluate research and experimentation on human embryos and fetuses? (at least 4 par.)
6. How is one morally to evaluate the use for research purposes of embryos obtained by fertilization in vitro? (2-3 par.)
7. What judgment should be made on other procedures of manipulating embryos connected with the “techniques of human reproduction?” (2 par.)
8. Why must human procreation take place in marriage? (2-3 par.)
9. Does heterologous artificial fertilization conform to the dignity of the couple and to the truth of marriage? (2-3 par.)
10. Is “surrogate motherhood” morally licit? (2-3 par.)
11. What connection is required between procreation and the conjugal act? (at least 4 par.)
12. Is homologous in vitro fertilization morally licit? (at least 4 par.)
13. Is homologous artificial insemination morally licit? (2-3 par.)
14. What moral criterion can be proposed with regard to medical intervention in human procreation? (2-3 par.)

15. Analyze and evaluate the Church’s response to the authentic suffering experienced by couples who cannot have children. (at least 4 par.)
16. Analyze and evaluate the Church’s position on the role of civil law and government authority in the area of procreative technologies. (at least 3 par.)"

This strikes me as encouraging. It appears to reflect an in depth look at the Church's teachings and requires the student to "both analyze and evaluate the Church’s answers."


My mother (age 77) INSISTS that the nuns taught her that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception referred to the conception of Jesus, not the conception of Mary. She would not take my word for it; I was forced to resort to a secular dictionary. Her response: "Well, obviously they changed that teaching since I was in school."

FWIW, my mother also believes that heaven and hell are fiction, that women should and will be priests, that it's no big deal to miss Mass, and that no "normal" man would even think of becoming a priest.
That's 12 years of pre-Vatican II Catholic school speaking.


I posted some of this at Mark Shea's blog last week. It's my experience of Catholic schools:

I moved a lot as a child. I attended nine different Catholic schools in 12 years of education; ten if you count the last 2.5 years during which I was home schooled.

With the exception of the home school program, the Catholic schools taught me nothing whatsoever about the Faith, or about my duties as a Catholic, except the following:

1) Jesus is really nice.
2) He died on the Cross, but then He rose, and we're an Easter people and Alleluia is our song.
3) Littering is bad.
4) The nuclear arms race is really, really bad (no joke; I won prize money participating in an anti-nukes poetry/art contest in the eighth grade).
5) The Contras are bad, and the Sandinistas are really, really good. (Again no joke; we had speakers brought into our high school to tell us how good the poor persecuted Sandinistas were.)
6) "Birth control is Health, and I'm teaching Health. If you have a problem with this, bring it up in religion class." (An actual quote from my sophomore health class teacher, who was a Catholic lay woman.)

It was shortly after #6 that my mom decided to home school.


A Sampling of Why We Removed Our Children From Catholic Schools:
1. 6th grade teacher tells class that they should have their parents vote for Senator X, because Sen. X supported higher teacher salaries. When our son told teacher about a Catholic's responsibility to vote for the pro-life candidate, teacher says abortion is just another issue he didn't care about. All he cared about was making more money.
2. School has to rent a hotel convention center to have room for everyone that shows up for pizza-bingo. When school prays for life at Planned Parenthood, two families show up. Mine and the other Respect Life leader's family.
3. 3rd grade teacher is very liberal and pro-choice, but states to parents that she can still effectively teach the children about the Catholic faith.
4. Daughter's 5th grade teacher signs petition to overturn ban on abortion.
5. Son's class had "religion" 4 times between August and November. Once I realized that no religion was being taught, we started Family Faith Formation at home. This has been a blessing for our family.
6. I could go on and on. Have never regretted decision to remove all four children from Catholic schools.

Manuel Chavira Jr.

I went to St. Mary’s Catholic school in Fullerton CA from 1974 to 1978, the 4th thru 8th grade, and Servite High school in Anaheim CA for about a year and half.
It was St. Mary’s school and church that had a substantial impact on my life. It is hard to explain why but the first thing would be the outstanding primary academic foundation.
Taught for the most part by lay teachers but co-coordinated by our very strict and wonderfully holy principle. She was and still is a nun of the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Unfortunately our religion classes were standard boilerplate and not too memorable as far as a deep understanding or justification of doctrine etc. is concerned. One of our priests taught us once a week or so my last two years there and even though I cannot remember the intellectual aspect of his classes I do remember him. In fact all our priests would visit the classrooms every so often.
Primarily it was my years as an altar boy from 5th to 8th grade that helped to shape my life even to this day and I wouldn’t have been an altar boy had I not gone to a Catholic school.
We had four priests back then for our mid-sized parish (we have two now) and the simple proximity that we altar boys had to these great priests allowed us to be witnesses to what a consecrated life of a priest can and should be. Simply put these men believed.
My life has had its twists and turns. The madness of the late 70’s affected my classmates and I in varying degrees but I never forgot our priests and nuns, our church and its families and all the kids who went to all those masses with me.
Two of the priests have passed away and the other two were transferred long ago. But I sometimes wonder what they would think if they knew the part they played in my decision to enter a Trappist abbey for an observership in less than a month.


Anyone notice the 'positve' thread has only 27 comments while this one has 79? After reading other comments, I think I was lucky to get out after fourth grade!


Not only is the score 79-27 negative, alot of the positive in the 27 comes from the pre-VII era.

David J. White

I attended Catholic elementary school in Ohio 1968-1976, and an all-boys Jesuit high school (which is now co-ed) 1976-1980.

When my sister and I were in grade school, my mother became so upset at what we were being taught (or, more accurately, not taught) in "religion" classes, that during the summer she brought out her old Baltimore Catechism and made my sister and me memorize sections of it, on which she quizzed us. I still remember a great deal of it, and I owe my faith far more to my parents and to that summer with the Baltimore Catechism than to anything in 12 years of Catholic schools. When I joined the Knights of Columbus last year, I was able to remember word-for-word answers from the Baltimore Catechism when asked questions about the faith.

Yes, I realize that rote memorization by itself is not sufficient for an adult faith; but you need to have the building blocks on which to build. If you learn a foreign language, you have to sit down and learn grammar and vocabulary before you can try to communicate. Similarly, you can't try to pursue a deeper understanding of the faith without a basic knowledge of what the Church teaches.

When I was in Jesuit high school, they were not longer teaching Latin when I was there. I was so disappointed that I started teaching myself Latin. Some of the older Jesuits loved me for that. I now teach Latin and Greek on the college level.

The Masses were ridiculous free-form things. This was the 70s, after all, and the "Songs of the St. Louis Jesuits" were prominently featured. I was scandalized that the Jesuits allowed students who I -- and presumably they -- knew not to be Catholic to receive Communion. There were also stories about the Jesuit serving alcohol to students who visited their residence (attached to the school), though I had lunch there once or twice and don't recall anything untoward happening.

I have to say, though, that one of the best courses I have ever had at any level of education was a high school course in Church history, taught by a Jesuit scholastic (now a priest). It was essentially a course in the history of Western Civilization, and was the first history course I had in which I was taught to see history as a process, rather than as a series of disconnected events. So, I will give the Jesuits credit for that.

Still, I have to emphasize again that I owe my faith to my parents. My mother got up every morning not only to have breakfast with us and see us off, but to pray with us before we left for school. We also had family rosary in May and October, and always went to Mass as a family. If I ever get married and have children (unlikely at this stage, I think), I would want to create the same kind of environment.

Mitch S

I've been watching this thread all day. I just wish my Bishop would read it.

Morning's Minion

I notice that some people seem to be more annoyed by being taught certain positions that may have violated their secular ideological beliefs than with absence of solid Catholic teaching.

I think the real issue is the "dumbing down" on Catholicism. Where do they teach, for example, the meaning and historical context of the Creed? (Arianism, Gnosticism Monophysitism, Monothelitism etc). If Catholics knew the basics, crap like the Da Vinci Code would cease to impress. What about the role of the church? the nature of revelation? the natural law? The list is practically endless! I learned none of this in school. Nothing.

But it is also important to teach students the elements of Catholic social teaching, and apply it to modern society. And yes, in the 1970s and 1980s in the United States, that often meant what facing what was going on in Latin America as a result of supporting brutal thugs. And it meant opposing the build up of nuclear weapons. Of course, it should mean opposing abortion too, but not to teach the full breadth of Catholic social teaching because it offends people's secular ideology is wrong.


The sisters of the Academy of the Visitation in St. Louis MO instilled a love of truth and beauty in me in the late 40s and through the 50s. And even though I was a chatterbox, they taught me by the rhythm of their lives that silence and peace are interconnected. They taught me the Faith by word and example...and lots and lots of memorization. They were women of mystery who taught me to respect the deep mysteries of our Faith. And, oh my, were they fervent believers and zealous for souls. Were they perfect?? No, not by a long shot! When I think about my time at Visitation, a song expresses it best: "It only takes a spark to set a fire burning." The Viz nuns had that spark and they passed it on.

Would I want to go back to the good old days? No, because there was an unbalanced emphasis on fear and a real sense that Protestants (which included my mom) were the Enemy. Vatican II, despite its poor implementation, ushered in the era of living our faith out of love and also connected us closer to Jesus through the scriptures. Vatican II didn’t tear down what the good nuns had done, but built on it the way that grace builds on nature.


I attended Villa Maria in a small southern town in 1960-61. Was taught by the IHM's from Immaculata,Pa. Some of the most wonderful memories of my life were from that year. I wasn't Catholic at the time but in just one year was given a thorough knowledge of Catholicism, the catechism, and scripture by the sister who taught us. I definitely remember being taught that abortion was evil. As for homosexuality, I honestly can't remember, but then it really wasn't much of an issue then. Not many people even knew any homosexuals. Education in all the other subjects was excellent as well and I became a crackerjack at diagramming sentences. I experienced Catholicism in all its splendor and glory at that little girl's school and voluntarily went to Mass in the little chapel every morning. Every day was infused with prayer and I especially remember praying the Angelus daily at noon. Sister Claudia instilled in us the importance of following your God given vocation and living it to the fullest, whether it be religious, married, or career. Life was to be lived according to God's will.
From 1961-1965 I attended a co-ed parochial school with good sisters who were orthodox in every way but by 1965 you could tell that the Church was starting to fray around the edges. There was quite a bit of rebellion among some of the students and their parents against the teachings of the Church.
It has been a long and winding road for me to come home to the Church and to assent to all her teachings but here I am happy to be!


My own Catholic school experience took place in the midwest between 1960 and 1973. It included one truly mentally ill nun, a principal who also taught 8th grade (PBS often substituted for teaching time), a high school teacher who left the convent to marry a student, and a biology teacher who let my friend and I do a lab experiment to discover the effect of PCP on mice.

The religion courses were fair but did not teach Catholic doctrine. Our Belief and Unbelief high school course ended up strengthening my faith when I was required to defend the teachings of the church on a daily basis.

We pulled our own children out of Catholic school in Ohio, mostly for academic reasons, and homeschooled them for 3 years (what a wonderful experience). After moving to Oklahoma we placed one child in a Catholic school and, because there was no room for the other four children, they went to public school.

We found ourselves constantly asking the question Amy posed - "And we're paying for this??" We were so pleased with the public schools - excellent teachers, conservative moral values - that we ended up sending all the kids there and have been very happy.


My high school, St.Xavier in Cincinnati, used Knitter's book for the religion classes (1995). There I learned from the Jesuits how believing that the events in the Bible actually took place in any historical or factual way would make me a fundamentalist. And no one wants to be a nasty fundamentalist. Jesus was not divine, performed no miracles, did not foresee his death, was only metaphorically resurrected, and whose sayings should be judged as no more authoritative than the wise bartenders' down the street. As children our teachers give us snakes instead of bread.


Went to Opus Dei high school in Chicago suburbs.

Mixed bag; don't remember too much heresy, although some of the faculty were a bit flaky but instruction really wasn't as effective as it needed to be. Lots of the numerary faculty who tended to be interested in recruiting the wealthier, smarter students to Opus Dei (pestering them to go on ski trips, hiking trips, service projects, asking about their spiritual lives, summer excursions). So, the others got to do as they pleased; discipline was a mess. Faculty and administration definitely weren't willing to confront the wealthier parents about the problematic behavior of their children (e.g., hosting drinking parties, etc.).

One good thing that I did hear was "you've got to have an adult level Catholic education"; if you're a college-educated professional, your knowledge of your faith shouldn't stop at 8th grade. That has encouraged me to acquire a knowledge of theology and church history, which is a big help when talking to DVC readers. That's what's interesting about this thread: it's almost all about grade school education, as if religious education stops once you're confirmed.



I have never formed a solid opinion as as to US policy in Latin America in the 70s and
80s. But it was the build up of nuclear weapons by Reagan and Thatcher, tacitly supported by Pope John Paul II I might add, that led to the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Your ignorance of these facts leads me to doubt anything you might say concerning US Latin American policy in the 80s.


Went to Catholic school in the 1980s. With the exception of one or two kids who were into the folk mass/pseudo hippy thing, everyone-- even the so-called "good kids"-- ridiculed the vapid stuff being taught in religion class.

There's only so many times kids can hear, "Smile, Jesus loves you" or "It's okay, Jesus forgives you" without knowing why Christ loves us or what Christ forgives us for.

Morning's Minion


That may be true (about the decline of the Soviet Union), but beware consequentialism.

anon also

And, hey, anybody else have The Fountain Square Fools come for a retreat?

I believe so. Now, I can't say for sure that there was anything wrong with said "Fools" because I hardly remember them. But there's something, um, validating about often learning years later that there really was something objectively wrong with many of the things that just made me uncomfortable in ways I couldn't explain as an inadequately catechized young person.

Getting too deep into writing my own bad experiences to this thread would probably not be a good thing for me.

I do remember one high school religion teacher who did things like ask who would be more likely to go to a gay bar, Jesus or the Pope, seem to treat the death penalty as a non-negotiable but abortion as something he personally disliked and wanted to discourage (to the point of anonymously mentioning a fellow student who really regretted her abortion) but did not want to be judgmental and imposing about, and present Church teaching on usury as something that had changed in a contradictory manner.

I (age 15, h.s. junior) was not into class participation but once I raised my hand and commented on something in a manner that led a friend to say, "You've got guts." Then I confronted this teacher outside class once. His initial response was a "Who are you to...?" sort of thing. I probably ended up on the verge of tears.

We had a long conversation outside class where I explained how I'd come to my own position as a would-be orthodox Catholic: unconvincing, low-content schooling, settling into a questioning/rejecting phase, then embracing Christianity via the Bible and then doing personal research to understand how you could "believe in the Bible but still be Catholic." Our high school library had a lot of crap in it, but I was also able to find enough straight-from-the-source stuff to complete that "return" to Catholicism on my own.

He actually listened and conversed pretty respectfully and seeming to really care to hear about this one shy/outspoken student's faith life, till we were interrupted by my need to get to class. I am guessing charitably he was at least about as "liberal" as orthodox gets, and perhaps didn't even feel the need to assent to Church teaching at all... but it was an insight into one of these frustrating modern religion teacher people that maybe they're not all callously disregarding Truth in favor of "pelvic issues." He has since died and I remember him with fondness though I cite some of what he'd say in class to my husband as a prime example of the problematic attitude throughout much of my Catholic schooling.

I'd say this guy was born in the 1940s sometime. Maybe the confusion goes back a couple of generations and is no more culpable in some of the older generations than in people like me when I was young and poorly catechized and looking elsewhere for Truth?


Mornings Minion,

Accusing teenagers, their parents, and their neighbors of being racist without any cause is NOT Catholic social teaching.

Saying that support of the second amendment is morally equivalent to support of abortion is NOT Catholic social teaching.

The nuns did not "offend" or "annoy" our secular political leanings. We were in high school and barely had anything resembling a cohesive political ideology. Those of us who reacted to the more extreme leftist statements did it not because we were Rush Limbaugh fangirls. We recoiled from the extreme statements because they flew in the face of common sense and sometimes were personally offensive.

Yes, the nuns' positions on issues like gun control, welfare reform, and the like are *perfectly permissable* positions for Catholics to hold. But it's a bald-faced lie to claim that these are the *only* positions Catholics can hold on such issues. Support gun control, the welfare state, and pacifism all you like - just have the intellectual honesty to acknowledge that Catholics can hold other positions on these issues without falling into heresy. Likewise acknowledge that the Church teaches that some moral issues do not have as much leeway - like abortion. The dishonesty and innaccurate portrayal of the Church's social teachings to teens who didn't know any better is what was so offensive.

And many of us posters are more displeased not by the fact that our religion teachers were leftists, but rather that this political junk replaced basic catechesis. I'd be just as PO'd if the nuns had spent all that time extolling the free market and Reagan in lieu of teaching us our faith. I totally agree with you about how theology has been dumbed down and students should be learning about the early councils, Christology, etc. But we weren't getting any of that, or even more basic catechesis like the Real Presence, the four last things, etc. Why? Well a lot of class time was wasted by political ideology.

The greater problem was that the political/ideological focus of the cirriculum skewed the very way we approached Catholicism. Christianity is fundamentally eschatalogical - focused on the eternal. In order to understand things like Christology controversies, one must have an eschatalogical mindset. Politics, meanwhile, is essentially focused on the temporary here and now. If you teach religion with a political bent, you're going to end up teaching religion with a temporal bent - and Catholicism morphs into "be nice, hug a lot, guns are bad, and racism is the root of every evil." Trying to move into eschatological topics like Christology requires a jarring paradigm shift that's next to impossible to pull off.

I saw some of this confusion first hand when our curriculum abruptly switched from social justice to Medjugorjie. It's a cognitive roller coaster to go from hearing "you've all benefited from white privilige" to "make reparation to the Immaculate Heart in order to stop the coming chastisement." (or whatever the heck it was that Medjugorjie said - I don't believe in it, BTW).


Growing Up: 779 Bville, IL: I think the liturgical practices were great. We studied the bible, etc. [See below] I did not know a number of traditional Catholic prayers and practices that I learned about at our parish in Va. There were holes in my faith and knowledge from grade school. I was socially miserable, however. Whether it was the "we're not rich" and get treated less than, I don't know--or if it was just me. I was glad to hit the bigger public HS.

Now: I take my toddler boys to weekday masses at our parish which we moved to in the summer. I positively HATE the guitar masses, the Monty Hall homilies, altar chicks, handholding for the Lord's Prayer, the disrespect of the children for Our Lord's Presence--talking, clapping, going to bathroom constantly, not much genuflecting, & very loud talk after mass while still in nave. [The adults are just as loud on Sunday!] We would have NEVER gotten away with that when I was a kid. Our old parish in Va would not have tolerated that either. They use different "children's mass" settings which are awful in my mind. So, that's all I know for sure is bad. Once the principal and some teachers did in lieu of a priest's homily a skit, which was cute and all, but didn't belong in the Mass. I believe the principal and priest mean well. I don't know what goes on in the school otherwise at this time. We're getting ready to consider K at the school or remain in PreK another year for readiness reasons. The kids' behavior at Mass tells me a lot, but we have an open mind right now. We can always pull the kids out if it turns out the school ethos is not ok in our minds. [They're building a new round church, too. Ugh!!!]

Donald R.McClarey

My Catholic education in the mid to late sixties consisted of CCD classes taught by generally kind nuns and a cranky priest. We memorized the Baltimore Catechism, much of which remains in my mind to this day. What was most important to me, is that the cranky priest and the kind nuns obviously believed in every jot and tittle of what they were teaching, and, I believe, were quite ready to die for it if need be. They regarded the teaching of the Faith to be of supreme importance. If they had shown the same shrugging indifference to the Faith that is displayed by too many teachers in Catholic education today, I doubt if their efforts to teach me the Faith would have succeeded.

mary martha

AJP - I attended the college run by those same Dominicans just down the street from your HS. I was friends with several grads of your school.

We used to laugh that the HS and college were evidently both named after something that these particular Dominicans no longer believed in.

If you think they were all about social justice issues in HS... when they were running the college they really went off the rails.

I was actually kicked out of a theology course for arguing that a male preisthood was a completely defensible position. The nun running the class yelled at me that she should be a priest and I was not welcome in her class.


Hey Amy, how about a thread devoted to us Catholic school teachers?

We have stories to tell from within. Many of us, I'm sure, carry the burden of believing in the mission of Catholic schools as mandated in canon law, and choose to teach in imperfect institutions, perhaps seeing these times as anomalous, trying to hold the fort until the cavalry arrives, which might be years in the future.

And as we all know, a school is as good as the teacher of one course in one classroom. Catholic schools are beleagured by all that has been chronicled in this thread, but sometimes there is one teacher fighting a daily battle for orthodoxy, and no one on the outside will know the pro-abortion speaker that was disinvited because of his behind-the-scenes lobbying, or the textbook that wasn't continued the next year because of research he had done, or the priest who finally began to hear student confessions because of that teacher's pleading, or the public apology over the PA by a student because a teacher stood up to peer pressure from other teachers on a student comment in an assembly, taking the liberty at the microphone, to celebrate something immoral in popular culture? Or the heat he took from secular parents in the principal's office for showing a prolife documentary on the Roe V Wade anniversary?
And legions more, no doubt.

I believe some of these stories are worth an airing?


Whew! Thanks for all these comments. Makes me realize that 1) spend only a few moments a day in St. Blog's com boxes otherwise you might lose your faith in Mother Church 2) if the schools are really so bad maybe we're in for an amazing adult revival in Catholicism? Truly, one has to believe that it's the adult faith that matters the most!


The music we performed for our Confirmation Mass in the late 1970's was "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkle. It was selected after there was some controversy over the drug overtones in the first selection, "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin.

I kid you not.

It wasn't all bad, mind you. I'm grateful for the education I got in parochial school. But those were interesting times.

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