During an energetic presentation at the conference “Vatican Council II: Perspectives for the Third Millennium,” held last weekend in Peru, Auxiliary Bishop of Lima Pacifico Tomassi explained in detail the current crisis in Catholic education, saying the answer to the problem is a return to the teachings of Vatican II.
“The Church has always seen the education of man as an essential part of her very mission. Throughout the two thousand years of her history, the Church has always been concerned with the issue of education,” Bishop Tomassi said.
“We could say that charity and culture are signs of her mission, and within culture, the work of the Church in education is as old as the Church herself. How can we fail to recognize, for instance, the valuable contribution of innumerable Catholic schools and universities throughout the history of humanity?” he asked.
Bishop Tomassi recalled that the Council fathers saw it necessary, “in order to express the fundamental importance of education, to dedicate one of its documents to the issue of education: the declaration Gravissimum educationis, on Christian education.”
Bishop Tomassi spoke on the crisis in Catholic education that followed the Council. “If Pope John XXIII had said it was necessary to open the windows of the Church to let in fresh air, in reality many felt that what entered was a hurricane that caused distress and suffering and even concern for the future. Today, as we remember those times, we wonder: What happened? How was this possible?” Bishop Tomassi asked.
Continuing on he mentioned a few of the results of the crisis in education following Vatican II:
“Catholic schools run by religious were abandoned because they did not see them as a privileged means and place of evangelization.”
“Institutes operated by members of religious communities began losing personnel either because of the crisis and abandonment of religious life that became so common or frequent, or because professionalism prevailed over commitment to their vows.”
“A false liberation that demanded one abandon one’s community and its schools in order to become a worker and to blend in,” or to live out the so-called insertion into the world.
“Some considered themselves to be infallible bearers of the truth, writing in books and in magazines or speaking on television, calling those who do not share their vision right-wingers and conservatives; or publishing articles and blackmailing the hierarchy, which was forced to remain silent in order to avoid confusion and scandal.”
“In the name of autonomy and freedom, Colleges and seminaries attempted to justify, and still do, their infidelity to the Magisterium of the Church, placing into question doctrinal matters already defined by the Magisterium or presenting errors as if they had the right to discuss them; and despite this, continuing to claim they are Catholic.”
“And we even had religious who, under the pretext of identifying with and serving the poor and of breaking with the injustices and the dominant powers, abandoned the classrooms and even their own communities, opting instead for violence and terrorism.”
At the same time, Bishop Tomassi pointed out the great sacrifices of “religious who, practically alone and unnoticed, led their schools forward; or the laity who, faced with so much distress, armed themselves with fortitude and zeal in order to fulfill their mission as Catholic teachers; and even bishops who struggled for the truth of Jesus and the Church to heroic degrees.”
“These and other experiences,” the bishops continued, “should teach us that the questioning and abandoning of the Magisterium of the Church, for whatever motive or reason, may be popular and applauded by many, but its fruits are always sterility and destruction. And we should always give thanks to God, who was the One who guided His Church through the stormy seas, until the wisdom and holiness of many Catholic teachers (both lay and religious) helped reencounter the ideals and the true place of honor of Catholic education, which forever reside in love of the Church and faithfulness to Christ the Teacher.”
Bishop Tomassi concluded his comments noting that in today’s world of global communications, “the Church sees the importance of an educational system that recognizes the primacy of man as a person, open to the truth and to goodness. The Church, to whom Christ entrusted the mission of proclaiming ‘the path of life,’ feels she has a special educational responsibility,” he stated.