Prohibition on attending non-Catholic colleges?

I was browsing through the OCE (Original Catholic Encyclopedia), and ran across the following:

“As to higher education, parents have a clear duty to see that the faith of their children is not imperilled by their going to non-Catholic universities and colleges. In the lack of positive legislation before parents can assent to their children attending non-Catholic universities or colleges there must be a commensurately grave cause, and such dangers as may threaten faith or morals are to be rendered remote by suitable remedies. The last-named requirement is obviously the more important. Failure to fall in with the first, provided that means had been taken faithfully to comply with the second, would not oblige the confessor to refuse absolution to such parents. There is an undoubted and under ordinary circumstances inalienable authority to be exercised by parents. The extent of this is a matter to be determined by positive law.”

Here’s a link to the article:

Where did this come from (authority-wise?) Is it a teaching of the Church? Is it still in force? This seems pretty extreme, especially this: “Failure to fall in with the first [allowing children to attend non-Catholic universities], provided that means had been taken faithfully to comply with the second, would not oblige the confessor to refuse absolution to such parents.” What? A parent would have to go to confession for allowing their children to attend a non-Catholic school? I myself am a Catholic student at a non-Catholic university, and don’t think I’dve found a Catholic university that would have had the reputation my school has for computer science, nor would I or my parents have wanted to pay an enormous amount of money when I can instead attend a public school for a fraction of the cost.


When was this written? It may have come from a time when Catholic universities were actually Catholic and higher education costs hadn’t soared through the roof and up into the stratosphere.

I think the main point of the piece is that parents have a duty to make sure their children’s education doesn’t conflict with Catholic teachings as much as possible. Sure they can get a degree at a public university, but if they come out after 4 years an atheist it was not worth the price. Nowadays you can go through 12 years of Catholic school and 4 years of Catholic college and end up an atheist though. :shrug:

I went to a public university, but it was more conservative and religious than many of the other ones in the state. If I had gone to UNC-Chapel Hill, for instance, the odds of graduating as a feminist atheist or something would have been much higher. Parents need to talk to their children about the importance of picking a school that matches their beliefs as closely as possibly rather than going to the one all their friends are going to or one that has the best football team or something else equally trivial in the long run. Many, many students end up falling away from the faith during college so it’s an important issue.

Given the state of “higher education” today… eh… I wouldn’t be crying if it was in force today :stuck_out_tongue:

I believe the original article was written a little before 1917, though it may have been updated since then. The code of canon law has changed since, so perhaps it’s not as strict as it was. I suppose that a suitably grave reason to attend such a school would be that the subject you’re studying isn’t a fortee of any Catholic school in your area, or that you don’t have the money to afford a more expensive private education.

As far as steps the parent must take though to remedy the threat to their faith, what exactly does that mean? It’s hard to tell your children what to do when they’re adults, though when you’re paying for their education it’s true that that gives you a certain amount of control (i.e. if they don’t obey, you don’t pay for their school.)

Suppose, as a random scenario, that the school is close to home and you have the option of having your child live at home where they could be more easily influenced by you, or to let them live on their own, where they are much more likely to be influenced by those around them, who very well may not be Catholic? While making them live at home might protect them in some ways, it would also hinder their freedom as an adult to live on their own, and I believe that an adult, even a young adult, should be given a certain amount of autonomy. What kind of decision would you guys make in that circumstance?


Parents making major life decisions for their adult children is a bad idea. You have to cut the apron strings at some point and you don’t have any legal power over them past 18. They might also rebel and be very resentful if parents force them to go to a school they don’t like. I don’t think parents should make the decision of where their child should go to college, but there are some reasonable circumstances that could affect it though, like parents not wanting to pay for an art history degree from a $40,000 a year school (no offence to anyone who has one). Basically, parents need to talk to their children about keeping the faith in college but they usually can’t make them go to a specific college.

That pretty much sums up how I feel about it. What does everyone else think?


According to the article: “Children are released from parental control when they attain their majority, or are legally emancipated.”

In other words, if your son or daughter will be 18 when they reach college, it’s their decision.

If your child is going to college before age 18, then you probably ought to be more circumspect about what kind of spiritual and intellectual influence they might run into there, whether the college is officially Catholic or not. A person of that age may be academically advanced, and yet not mature enough in other respects to be exposed to the same sorts of things an older person would be.

I saw that, but wasn’t sure if it applied to what it had to say about college, since I didn’t think that most people attended college before 18, and since parents still have some sort of control, given that they are usually the primary source of financial support.


I was telling my elderly aunt about the various college tours my 17 YO and I had done this summer. She was very interested, asking good questions and making comments and observations. Her late DH was a college professor for 35+ years. Then she asked ME, “So where did YOU decide he will go?” I told her that decision was up to MY SON, and she seemed very shocked. :rolleyes:

She and her DH decided for every one of their children where they attended college…the college he taught at, of course. I think it may have been free, or reduced cost, but still…no thanks.

Forgive me for my ignorance, but what does DH stand for? :stuck_out_tongue:


(DH/dh = dear hubby; dd = dear daughter; ds = dear son, and so forth)

James, attending a Catholic college is absolutely NO guarantee of faithfulness to the Magisterium: I attended a liberal arts RC college (founded way back in '32) that was run by a certain order of nuns who were LEFTIST (and feminist) to the core, such that when I returned from my junior year abroad in France, I was appalled at how much MORE secular they had gotten in my one year absence. Ditto for the nuns running the very exclusive (and academically excellent) RC prep. school in SoCal, where I did my soph. and junior years, and the other group of nuns running the thoroughly Marxist parochial school back in Podunk, Mass. my senior year. Even though I was at that time neither RC, nor even Christian, I knew that their position/paradigm were dead wrong.

As I myself recall, back about 1960 priests told the people to send their children to Catholic schools and that this was a moral impertive for parents. It was a part of U.S. Catholic culture. Catholic schools then taught and built up the faith in children, something of course public schools did not do. As people here have been pointing out, much has changed since then, and in fact I hadn’t heard this advice from even one priest in the years after that. Now, in view of what some Catholic schools are like, it can be better to tell parent’s not to send their children to the local Catholic school or Catholic college, making it better to give the complete opposite advice. Of course there still are excellent Catholic schools, but blandly to say it is important to send your children to a “Catholic” school would be mistaken advice. Bishop Fulton Sheen once said it is better to send your child to a secular college where your child will have to fight for the faith, than to a Catholic college where he will lose it.

In 1917, very few people, and very few women and or minorities, went to college. It was something for the wealthy white male, although some women and some minorities went.

SAT didn’t exist and the concept that college was for everyone, including the poor, didn’t exist either.

I can understand why the Catholic Church wanted this money (and possible influence in the business world) to be sent to Catholic colleges rather than secular. I don’t think that’s a bad or “elitist” thing at all. They wanted to build up their colleges, find donors and get a good alumni so that they school would continue to be strong financially.

But nowadays, college is open to all, and many people go to college on loans rather than real money. It’s a very different world.

My younger daughter attended a Catholic college. In writing, the college was Catholic, and she did have many professors who were strong Catholics, and she loved these professors. She also had liberal professors that she hated listening to (my daughter makes Rush Limbaugh look like a liberal!). And many of the students were definitely not there to get a Catholic education; they were there to drink and party and get away from their parents.

Sounds like my neighbor’s kid. Her mom is on the board of directors for a local university and mom offered to pass through her application basically guaranteeing her entry, but she didn’t want anything to do with it. She ended up at another univeristy three hours away.

read what it says

“the parents have a clear duty to make sure the faith of their child is not imperiled” by the educational choices they make.

I would argue further that if they send their child to a “Catholic-in-name-only” college that publicly teaches and acts in defiance of the Church they are as much in danger of imperiling the faith of the child as sending him to a public school. This means that whereever the child goes to college, the parents should have seen to his solid religious formation throughout his school years so that he is firm in his faith, has a desire to learn more, and most important practices the faith including prayer, reading scripture and frequent recourse to the sacraments and above all regular Mass attendance. They should make sure to the extent possible this continues during college. I would argue further that if they are paying for it they have a right to insist upon it.

No where does it say absolutely a parent must send the child to any Catholic college over any public or non-Catholic denominational school. Bear in mind most private schools have much more generous financial aid that can often bring the cost down to comparable with public colleges, and out of state tuition even in public colleges approaches the cost of private schools, so money is not always the main factor.

PP is right that in my day (or my parents) US bishops mandated Catholic schools except in grave cases. When the bishops stopped backing Catholic schools that disappeared, and also meant that without the oversight of the bishops many parochial schools also are “Catholic-in-name-only” and parents need to exercise caution in those choices as well.

Please always add the caveat when citing from the OCE it was written 100 years ago, and when it describes canon law it is referring to the old code.

In this case it’s more the Church and Catholic culture (something which hardly exists anymore) doing th pressuring, rather than the parents per-se. Basically, think of a situation where you’re born Catholic, announce you’re going to college, people ask where and you say Harvard. Imagine now, your peers rather than giving you a slap on the back saying “way to go Champ!”, rather look at you in horror and say “you’re going where?!?”.

I’d imagine this was really more the type of enforcement going on here, not necessarly just a dominiring parent at home pointing their finger in your face saying “I’m cutting you off if you don’t go to Belmount Abby”.

I think why this is no longer exhorted, and certainly couldn’t be enforceable anymore is due to the fact that not only is there no Catholic culture anymore, but really there’s hardly any culture at all… Or more accuratly, the values of culture aren’t to exhort to higher achievement, higher moral standard, conformance to society etc… Rather it’s just to do whatever you darn well please. If it feels good, do it. Thus there’s no Cultural backbone to exhort Catholic youngsters to go to Catholic schools.

Shame, because at one point the culture at large was able to recognize moral problems and do something about them… Now people just shrug and say “well if that’s what they want to do, then that’s their choice”.

Nor would I!

I would also add that in times past it was not always the case that 18 (in the United States anyhow) was the age of adulthood; it was once the case that one was not considered a full legal adult until age 21. I wouldn’t be surprised if it may have been the case that students would not have been legally allowed to attend college without the permission of the parents —at least not younger students. The Church would have expected the parents to exercise whatever rights of influence over their children that the state granted.

Granted, a young person’s “right” to attend college without parental approval is subject to the young person’s financial independence. And since very few young adults have the means to attend college without parental assistance (or at least the parents’ cooperation in turning over financial records) the parents do have a lot of power over what colleges the young person can attend.

Are we sure this is a good translation? The Spanish word for High School is collegio (dimly remembered) and Latin might be something equally confusing. In 1917, the Know Nothings were a not very distant memory in America and I could sure see something like this being in place at the High School level.

We forget that not all that long ago, the PUBLIC schools were routinely calling the pope a Roman Tyrant and generally doing their best to smear the catholic church in favor of protestantism. This is why dirt poor immigrants banded together to build the mightiest private educational system in the world!

Public schools are often just as hostile to catholicism today, but in favor of secular humanism instead, so catholic parents (in spite of being comparatively RICH), don’t much notice or care.

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