Are Catholic schools a good thing?


I was lurking on a Protestant blog, and the poster discussed a Baptist church where the minister got rid of Sunday school. The minister said that the introduction of Sunday schools was actually controversial in the late 18th-early 19th century. He said one of the main reasons people opposed them was the fear that, if Sunday school was introduced, people would stop teaching their children about the faith. He found that, in his experience as a Protestant minister, that is exactly what has happened. He found, in his discussions with teenagers at his church, that they had received almost no religious instruction from their parents.

Don’t Catholic schools do the same thing? A parent could feel that, since they’ve enrolled their child in a Catholic school, they don’t need to worry about teaching their children the faith. After all, they are paying trained professionals to do it for them.

Do people feel that this has happened, or could happen, as a result of Catholic schools? Or do Catholic schools encourage and emphasize the fact that the parents must take an active roll to educate their children in the faith?


I found just the opposite to be true. when my children were in Catholic school the church revolved around the children

Parents came to many more functions because the children had to attend

We had May Crownings, and 40 hr devotions. Beautiful first communion classes, and confirmation classes

I always felt the public school kids missed out on a great deal


I am a former Catholic School teacher. I have seen families whose children are well taught in their faith and found that I was just someone in the extended Catholic family confirming what their parents had taught them. I have also had families that were fallen away to one degree or another and I had the chance to instill their children with some knowledge of the faith. I have also taught children whose parents have become Catholic because of what their children and the community of Catholic parent’s have witnessed to them. I had the privilege of being attending RCIA with two of these parents and being asked to be their sponsor. I have also had parents who appear to send their children to Catholic School and leave the teaching to others. In this case, I am grateful to the Lord that He has given me the Spirit of Obedience in all that I have taught. I have known some teachers who, either out of ignorance or design, did not teach what the Church teaches. For the most part though I found that being part of a Catholic School Community and Parish was a blessing for us all.


I learn so much from my kids who attend catholic school. My background was public school, and my parents did nothing to supplement the CCD class. I had CCD class for one year for Communion, one year for Confirmation, and we did very little besides color in that time.
Besides, with the NEA, I could not send my kids to public school.


Being that I just recently (2 years ago) graduated from Catholic high school and before that attended two different Catholic grade schools, I feel I can safely say that this is the case. As of late, I have been researching the Catholic faith more and more and feel like the Catholic schools I attended really let me down. The high school did a fairly good job and I did actually have some good classes. There was a history of the Church class that was really good and my senior year I was taught by a man who was planning on joining the Augustinians, so he knew a lot.

The grade schools, however, failed me miserably. I know almost nothing about the Bible other than the Gospels (and even with them I should know more), my teaching in morals was horrible and I am still suffering from a masturbation addiction because I never had even heard that it was in any way sinful until after I was already addicted.

As for what you were saying, I feel like my parents (and all the parents of my classmates) almost completely left the job of teaching the faith up to the school. I didn’t really learn anything other than basic morality from them and the only time we talked about faith was when my mom had to help with homework. And it’s not like my parents aren’t into the Church, either, they are in fact very devout. I feel like they rely too much on the schools though.

Anyway, that’s why I plan on homeschooling :smiley:


My kids go to the same Catholic grade school I went to. Not only did I learn a whole lot while I was there, I can’t believe how much our family is learning now through the same school. I will say that it has helped to keep our faith front and center in our lives.


It can definitely happen both ways… it really has more to do with the motivation of the parents in raising their kids in the faith. I don’t think the Catholic Schools are to “blame” by any means… because even parents who ARE extremely active in raising their children in the faith often find the Catholic Schools only build on that.

At our parish school it’s EXTREMELY difficult to get in… big parish… LONG waiting lists, etc… so they do look at parish involvement as a huge factor in whether or not you’ll even get in!
A perfect example of this is on our donation envelopes at Mass… we have the option of donating by credit card… so even if you don’t attend Mass you will still be donating… but in order to see participation AT Mass, you still have to drop your donation envelope (empty, with a checked box saying you donate electronically), just to show you were PHYSICALLY there.

So yes, some parents have tried to skirt the system and avoid active participation in raising their children in the faith… but certainly not ALL… and the schools themselves (at least OURS) are taking the steps necessary to encourage this participation in order to even be enrolled at the school.


Catholic schools started in the United States because Protestants ran the public schools, and taught an anti-catholic agenda. They were made, and continue to, foster faith where possible. If parents want to abdicate their responsibility, they will do it no matter what school they send their children.


I agree with the poster who said it goes both ways. Perhaps some parents see the school as a chance to abdicate their responsibility. But then, who is to say they wouldn’t have done that anyway?

But then think of the evangelization that can take place. Many non-Catholics send their kids to Catholic schools because they are better schools than their public counterparts. More than a few have been led to the Church when they otherwise never would have been.

For myself, I went to Catholic school from K-12. Certainly, there were shortcomings, and I learned much more about my faith on my own after graduating high school, but I still learned far more than my parents would have been able to teach me. They certainly wouldn’t have been able to give me lessons on the faith for 45 minutes a day, five days a week. They simply didn’t know enough themselves (and they didn’t go to Catholic schools). Now they come to me with their questions about the faith. :slight_smile:


But think how much less instruction goes to those in public school. Take me for example. I went to CCD and Church. Period. That was it never heard of it outside that.


It is the responsiblity of the Parents to teach their child our Faith, we take that vow when we have a child Baptized (we took a similar vow while Presbyterians as well).

There are many parents today who aren’t going to teach their child no matter what you do. The Parish school and or Sunday School is only to suppliment what the Parents teach.

As a Presbyterian (I was raised Baptist) people would ask how I knew everything about the Bible… well of course I would respond that I didn’t know everything but what I did know came from a good SS, reading and my parents. While I did have a great SS who encouraged us to learn (actually tested us) it was the discussions with my Father, he and I reading and studying that I learned what I learned.

I send my kids, those of age, to our Parish school. I pray that I will be able to sustain that financially in the future but regardless, the duty of teaching them is mine.

For those reading who aren’t planning on being the main source of knowledge, start with Prayer. Teach your kids to pray and not just the Our Faither and Hail Mary. Teach them some Holy Spirit prayers AND… AND teach them to be revrent and be comfortable just talking with God. (yes as Protestents do) I say this because I know a number of devout Catholic who struggle with this, it starts when they are young. Teach them to depend on God now and to focus on him and they will. They may fall away for a while, but they will come back.



Catholic schools and Protestant Sunday schools are two different intiatives to meet two different needs. The purpose of Catholic schools was to provide academic education for children in a Catholic context, with instruction on the faith as part of the curriculum, to counteract the heavily Protestant bias in public schools of the time (mid 19th to mid 20th c). Now that the bias in public schools is toward rampant aggressive secularism, rather than Protestant Christianity, separate Catholic schools are even more urgently needed.

Sunday school – and it was controversial when introduced – was to provide formal doctrinal instruction and bible classes to congregants of all ages, not just children, beyond that provided by the preaching at the Sunday services.

an analogy to Sunday school would be formal parish religious education programs (CCD) for children and youth, and adult education and bible studies in Catholic parishes.


I see this more w/ parish religious ed.


Great point!

Think of it this way, what is the alternative? Should all Catholic parents send their kids to public school because all of their religious education should only be done in the home? Or should all Catholic parents homeschool and not use the public or the Catholic schools?

Obviously, if not homeschooling, I would rather my children be taught in a Catholic context. It’s not just about the religion class, but all classes. Do I want my kids’ Biology teacher to teach my kids “reproductive rights”, or to affirm the Church’s teaching on marriage and sex? Do I want my kids’ History teacher to smear the Church every chance he gets, or to put things in proper context?

Homeschooling is not possible for everyone, and it sure is nice to have a Catholic alternative to the secular (often anti-Catholic) public schools.


Catholic school is great… if it is really actually Catholic.
I went to a “catholic school” and there was nothing catholic about it… only its name and the fact that language was more controlled in front of the teacher.
I learned nothing about Catholic faith or morals… a totally secular kid would never have discovered he’d entered a Catholic school here except for the “Our Father” being said in the morning gathering…
All the kids swore like everyone else… they drank - unlike the serious protestant children I encountered - and went to pervers parties as soon as they were confirmed…
We had no sex-ed that made any impact or stood out in any way compared to the public school I came from.
There was nothing counter cultural about it… sad to recall…
I later became a Catholic but that school had zero to do with it… on the contrary it was quite a bad example of tepid Catholicism…

:frowning: I hope you have better Catholic schools in the states.
Ps. we had no nuns here… and no crucifixes on the walls…


I don’t think the process of sending one’s child to a catholic school propells a parent towards NOT giving a child the education he otherwise would. Instead, I think parents that give their children no catholic formation would STILL be that way if there were no catholic schools or CCD.

So the presence of the school IMO has no negative effect on the parental educational motivation.

As for the school itself, it depends. A GOOD catholic school for kids with lukewarm parents who otherwise give no formation is better than nothing! A lousy catholic school (one where the behavior and teaching is NOT in compliance with the catechism and christian principles) CAN have a seriously negative effect. Such places unintentionally innoculate kids against catholicism rather than instruct them in it.


I thought ??? that Catholics are obligated to support their parish schools by sending their children to them if at all possible. I seem to remember reading it in the Catechism. Is this not the case anymore?

As to whether Catholic schools are a good thing…I think it depends on the Catholic school and on the parents.

The school in our parish apparently made a commitment 25 years ago to teach Catholic children their Catholic faith and the Bible, and not only teach it, but live it.

And they do just that and do it very well.

I am a volunteer in the school choir (I play piano) and this spring I had the privilege of teaching the children a song I wrote about Daniel and the Lion’s Den. Before I taught them the song, I gave them a list of 12 questions about Daniel, all taken from the Bible, and I told them that the following week, we would play a game to see which team studied their Bible to learn the answers to the questions.

The following week, I did my game (a quiz format), and I was completely blown away by the acumen of these 3rd graders.

One little girl told me that she and her mother had studied the questions EVERY NIGHT so that she would be prepared. Remember, this was just a GAME, not a class with grades.

I asked one question that was kind of “tricky” and lo and behold, those kids didn’t miss it! They got it!

The boys were especially quick at answering the questions, and they demonstrated by their answers that they didn’t just know “rote” facts, but also applications. Someone had obviously discussed the life applications of the various Bible passages. I’m betting that the “someone” was a parent.

I found myself wishing that I could take a team of these kids and put them up against a class of evangelical Protestant kids in a Bible challenge–I honestly think our Catholic kids would win and debunk the “myth” that Catholics don’t study the Bible! Bwoo ha ha!

I think that parents who make the sacrifice financially to put their kids in a Catholic (or any Christian) school are probably the kind of parents who WILL spend time at home educating their children in the faith.

I’m not saying that parents who send their children to public schools will slack off on home religious training. If you live in a city that has an excellent public school with good scores on the standardized testing and where God’s Name is still allowed to be mentioned in a way other than as a swear word, then praise the Lord and send your kids there! Lucky you! No tuition bills!

As for Protestant Sunday schools–I was evangelical Protestant for over 40 years, and I remember constant pleas for people to PLEASE send their kids to Sunday school and PLEASE come to Sunday school! Sunday school is NOT an obligation for Protestants, and many do NOT attend. (It means you have to get up an hour earlier, or stay at church an extra hour.) It’s always been one of those things that churches struggle to keep up because most of the members don’t come.

Also, in this day of megachurches, alternative churches, and emergent churches, many churches are not doing Sunday school anymore, but are doing some kind of Christian education program during the week (a club ministry, or youth group, or adult Bible studies.)

Also, when I was growing up, Sunday school was just that–SCHOOL. We had a Bible curriculum that many churches in the denomination were using, and it took a children all the way through the Old Testament by the time they graduated from 8th grade. We had homework and lessons with actual WRITING! And quizzes. It was work and not very fun at all.

I was the LAST class that ever got through this curriculum (I graduated from 8th grade in 1971). The next year, they started using “fun” curriculum designed to capture and hold the attention of the “Sesame Street” generation–kids raised on TV. There was no longer a “Bible study” curriculum, but more “topical” curricula, with “issues-based” lessons (e.g., “Dealing With Peer Pressure” or “How To Share Your Faith.”)

Just thought you might be interested in the state of SS these days!


No, this is not the case – there was a recent discussion on this topic.

Catholic parents are obligated to provide their children with a Catholic EDUCATION, which doesn’t necessarily mean sending their children to Catholic SCHOOLS. They could educate their children in the faith by sending them to Sunday School (CCD) and teaching them the faith at home.

Speaking as someone who graduated from high school in the past 10 years, I’ve seen no firsthand evidence that today’s Catholic high school graduates are any more faithful than the general population.

I know many young faithful Catholics that follow the teachings of the church, but very few of them went to Catholic high school. Maybe 5% or less.

In contrast, most of the Catholic school graduates I know ended up being somewhat hostile to their faith after graduating, and resent the fact that they had to spend so much time learning about religion, and how “mean” their teachers were. Undoubtedly, these “recovering Catholics” will become the next generation of anti-Catholics…which makes my blood boil when I think about how my donations subsidize their education, at great expense!

It seems that those who are interiorly disposed to remain faithful will remain faithful, regardless of their schooling.


I think we’ve both had the same experiences. I lived one year at college with three people who went to Catholic school, and none of them ever went to Mass as far as I knew, and they all supported gay marriage. One of them did not support abortion, but she did support schools handing out free birth control beginning in middle school, and practically lived with her boyfriend. Of course, her mother was also a very devout Catholic, so perhaps her mother did try to educate her in the faith. I don’t know if I can really blame her schooling for her falling away, since I don’t know anything about her school.

I think that you’re right, a person who is chooses to remain faithful and are interiorly disposed to do so will do it, regardless of their schooling. Sometimes it just comes down to personal choice.


Interesting… I wonder if the breakdown is happening at the high school level… when the teens are trying to be rebellious, kwim?

I see a big difference between Catholic education on the elementary/middle school levels and the high school level… at least locally.
This is why I’m personally EXTREMELY fond of the public high school experience (in our area)… sometimes teen “rebellion” in PUBLIC high schools can actually push kids TOWARDS religion… rather than having it forced on them by the school itself…
Just some thoughts and personal observations…:slight_smile:

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