A Synod slap at home schoolers

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Oct 11, 2018

From Patrick Reilly of the Cardinal Newman Society, via the National Catholic Register, comes this ominous warning:

At the Youth Synod in Rome this week, one of the bishops’ discussion groups made some disappointing and ignorant comments about Catholic homeschoolers.

In one of the English-language discussion groups at the Synod, a summary of the conversation included these disturbing notes:

Home based schools—a model coming from America.

USA has many home schoolers—bishops in USA are not united, as homeschooling can have an ideological basis—kids may have special needs

are parents qualified to homeschool them?

Let’s answer that last question first. Yes, parents are qualified to teach their own children. In better times, Catholics could rely on their bishops to support the role of parents as “primary educators.”

Why is it, then, that the “bishops in USA are not united” in support of home schoolers? The note is chilling in its answer to that obvious question; the bishops of English-language Circle C referred to “an ideological basis.” As Patrick Reilly points out, liberal opponents of home schooling regularly use that term to disparage the home-schooling movement. The “ideological” label, Reilly remarks, is “what faithful Catholic home schoolers endure frequently from fellow Catholics, priests and even bishops—the charge that they are too ‘conservative’ and too ‘moralistic.’”

It’s painful enough that home schoolers are portrayed as “ideological” by champions of the public-school system, in which an increasingly toxic ideology reigns supreme. It’s outrageous that bishops, who should be defending loyal Catholics against this sort of unjustified attack, are instead joining forces with the assailants. Particularly outrageous, because many Catholic families would not be home schooling if the bishops had fulfilled their own responsibilities, and ensured the existence of parochial schools where young people could learn without being subject to the influence of the dominant secular ideology.

Would it be too much to ask that one or two bishops might inform the Synod assembly about the benefits of home schooling? About the often heroic work of the mothers (it is, in most cases, the mothers) who devote themselves entirely to the work of educating their children? They deserve the full support of the institutional Church.

Yes, there is a profile of typical Catholic home-schooling families, and it’s not inaccurate. Most are large families; the parents have been open to life. Most of the mothers stay at home, sacrificing income to provide a healthy home life and an authentically Catholic education for their children. These families are doing exactly what the Catholic Church has traditionally encouraged families to do, swimming against some of the most powerful currents in our society. They deserve the bishops’ support. Where is it?

Come to think of it, can you point to any recent document or statement from the Vatican, or from the US bishops’ conference, that provided support and encouragement for young families in which the mother stays home with the children? Take your time searching. I can wait. I’ve already waited—from the time when my children were born until now, when they’re all adults. Like so many other home schoolers, we’ve been looking to the hierarchy for help all these years, and now, reading this report from the Synod, I’m reminded of this morning’s Gospel:

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; of if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? [Lk. 11:11-12]

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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