The New York Times today is running a story that touts the success of the Catholic-to-charter conversion of schools in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., but you don't have to read between the lines to realize that the secular success of the schools spells failure for the Catholic mission. The story quotes one young boy who attended the school when it was Catholic last year and was "chided" for assuming his day would begin with recitation of the Our Father, as it always had in the past.
The 13-year-old boy said he was "shocked" that the Catholic elements of his school were gone and wondered, "How am I going to survive?"
Well, that's a question on many lips these days. How is Catholic education going to survive and remain Catholic? Certainly what's going on at these charter schools cannot be confused with teaching the faith, as they are state-funded schools where God can never enter the picture. Here's what kids at the former Holy Name School say instead of the Our Father each morning:
"I will arrive at school each day on time and ready to work. I will treat all with respect and dignity. I will solve any conflicts that arise peacefully. I will care for and protect our environment."
A far cry from the Lord's Prayer and a nice segue for the kids into the Gospel of Nice that is quickly replacing the Gospel of Jesus not only in former Catholic schools but in many homes. Another news story today reports that a recent poll shows an increase in the number of people who say they have no religion at all. Where was the growth? Among those who consider themselves non-denominational. In other words, the folks who say they are "spiritual" but not religious. Is that the mission of Catholic education? To raise nice people with no religion? Because it seems that's where we're headed.
This conversion plan is up for consideration in other dioceses. Most recently the Brooklyn Diocese announced that it might swap four of its parochial schools slated for closure for schools of the charter variety. But there, as in Washington, students will find a poor substitute for the Catholic education they once knew. The "10 core values" pale in comparison to the Ten Commandments.