Well, let’s look at the schools and the ages: (Disclaimer. I’m a product of Catholic education, and it SAVED my faith and preserved it. But I went to good authentic Catholic schools.)
30 years ago… 1979. Aha. Post Vatican II. Many of the schools at that time became infected with a lot of “experimentation” and were being run by some pretty liberal administrators and raging feminists who had their own agendas. They had had a good 15 years headstart to take a very good Catholic School structure in America and totally corrupt it.
And a lot of those schools were in parishes that were being run by what my generation called “the hippie priests.” Not coincidentally, during this era, a lot of the pedophilia was taking place that didn’t get discovered for more than a decade and a half. Young men were entering the seminaries from the late 60s on, some to avoid the draft, others to be in a place where they had guaranteed access to children. A minority to love and serve God and His people, it seems. It was a wonderful time for those who wanted to cast out all the old rules. Church teaching on the sanctity of marriage? We don’t need that! Church teaching on contraceptives? We don’t need that! We can make our own rules and follow our own consciences! Church teaching on premarital sex? Lord, we don’t need THAT most of all! WE are Free to be ME! Abortion? Don’t condemn! And throw away that Baltimore Catechism. Gaah! We’re NEW CHURCH. NEW CHURCH SPEAKS! Listen to the Spirit! (Unfortunately, they didn’t specify what spirit…)
Yay! Whee! FUN!
Wasn’t that a wonderful time, boys and girls? Open dissent! Pro-abortion priests running for elected office. No more rules! WE ARE ALL CHURCH! (Whatever that means.)
And the party went on for a little bit while a lot of people in my parent’s generation switched parishes and looked for old-school priests and nuns to teach their kids. But then something happened. Families began falling apart. People started getting annoyed at reports of their kids being abused sexually. Seems they loved when Fr. Feelgood dispensed them from Christ’s teaching on sexual morality and told them to use the pill, that shacking up wasn’t the worst thing they could do and if the wife was looking peaked, God didn’t mind if they started anew with the secretary… well, that was all fine and good. They LOVED Fr. Feelgood. He was never “negative” or made them feel “guilty.” (The worst of sins!) Well, turns out sometimes Fr. Feelgood was dispensing himself from a few of the Church’s teachings on sex also. Like the one about not sleeping with your neighbor’s kid. Oh, now that’s different! :eek: He didn’t judge you, because who was he to judge you? It’s not like he was going to be a hypocrite about it all. (Another really bad sin.) Then the priests who used to turn a blind eye to the Truth got another look and closer scrutiny.
However, in 1978 something critical happened. A very strong young pope had just taken the helm and had begun instituting measures to reign in the madness. Things began to change. They’re still changing. From the seminaries on down. The kind of men who were inspired by him and entered the seminaries to follow his example have been ordained and are replacing some of the retiring loopier older priests as pastors now. They are also changing the face of the Church and the parish schools. In a good way.
But let’s look at your friends. Who may have started school in, say, 1977. And they went till 1989 or later. Their experience with Catholic education could have been marred by the remnants of the period of insanity and the feminist agenda that permeated many convents and schools during that time. And they suffered from the lax oversight of what was taught in the schools and pulpits. They went to schools but those schools were hardly “Catholic.” They fell away from the Church because they were never exposed to real Church teaching. They fell away from a misrepresentation of Catholicism. I would have too, probably.
I think many schools are changing back. It takes a close look and discernment to see. If you can AFFORD the schools now (and that is a BIG issue and a reason for home schooling for a lot of people), your best bet is to first go to the parish church. Listen carefully and observe the pastor and his associates. If they are faithful to authentic church teaching in their sermons and rubrics, and if Mass is celebrated in the church with reverence then talk to the families in the school. Go in and look at the textbooks. Talk to the principal. Check out the parish/school website and look for words like “Magesterium” “Fidelity to Christ” “adherence to the teachings of the Pope” and other phrases that aren’t just lofty “We teach with the Spirit and have an accepting community of faith-filled believers” claptrap that can indicate a problem.
It will only be with your generation insisting on genuine Catholic schools that the whole institution won’t die out or turn into fancy prep schools that really mean nothing spiritually.