One of the biggest current challenges to Catholic schools, to no one's surprise, is the fallout from COVID-19 and ongoing lockdowns, Daly said.
At least 140 Catholic schools- mostly elementary schools- have closed in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic, he said, and elementary schools remain the most vulnerable to closure.
"I think we have to re-examine why we have our schools, and why they're so important to families," he said.
Making Catholic schools accessible for students with disabilities is also a priority, he said, and he hopes his committee will be able to assist and encourage schools to expand their special education programs.
Daly said historically, Catholic schools arose in the United States during a time when many public schools were de facto Protestant, and often presented a somewhat hostile environment to Catholic families.
"The need for Catholic education today is as important as it has been since the 1800s, when the Church and our mission were [often] attacked," he said.
Part of the reason for this, Daly said, is that laws in many states make public school curricula nonconducive to an education in Catholic values.
For example, during the Nov. 2020 election, voters in Washington state approved a ballot measure that will require "comprehensive sex education" in public schools, which Daly noted "undermines core beliefs of our faith" by failing to address complex moral issues tied to human sexuality, and failing to discuss sex in the context of marriage.
He said serving as a priest and educator in San Francisco- today a very secular and liberal city overall- allowed him to observe indifference and later hostility to the Church's message firsthand.
Daly said within Catholic education, there ought not be a dichotomy between "social justice" and "piety." He pointed to the life of St. Teresa of Calcutta as an example of strong faith and morals manifesting in a life of service.
Catholic schools ought to be places of learning, he said, which involves allowing students to encounter differing viewpoints and ideas. Catholic schools should respect students' freedom, not forcing them to accept the faith, but also not compromising on the Church's beliefs.
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While realizing that not every student who enters a school or university is or will be Catholic, there ought to be at least an exposure to Catholic theology, morals, and intellectual tradition at the university, he said.
Today, many students graduate from Catholic universities having never taken a Catholic theology class. Some Catholic universities may do this because they fear that students of other faiths will be less likely to attend, or because a more Catholic curriculum may be viewed as "narrow-minded."
"Too many institutions of higher learning and Catholic education have compromised their mission, and that to me is not going to be effective," Daly commented.
"Education with humility leads to wisdom; without humility, it leads to arrogance."
During February 2020, Gonzaga University, a Jesuit school located in the Spokane diocese, announced the creation of a law clinic focused primarily on LGBT advocacy.
"While the Catholic tradition does uphold the dignity of every human being, the LGBT Rights law clinic's scope of practice could bring the GU Law School into conflict with the religious freedom of Christian individuals and organizations," Daly told CNA at the time.