The Identity of a Catholic School for a Culture of Dialogue

On 29 March 2022, the Congregation for Catholic Education issued an Instruction on the Catholic identity of the educational institutions of the Church around the world. It had been signed by Cardinal Versaldi, the prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education on January 25, 2022. The full document can be downloaded from the Vatican website. Some highlights are outlined below.

14. [One of the fundamental principles of Christian education in schools] is the initial and permanent formation of teachers[10]. “The Catholic school depends upon them almost entirely for the accomplishment of its goals and programs. They should therefore be very carefully prepared so that both in secular and religious knowledge they are equipped with suitable qualifications and also with a pedagogical skill that is in keeping with the findings of the contemporary world. Intimately linked in charity to one another and to their students and endowed with an apostolic spirit, may teachers by their life as much as by their instruction bear witness to Christ, the unique Teacher”. Their work “is in the real sense of the word an apostolate […] and at once a true service offered to society”[11].

16. 16. As far as Catholic schools are concerned, the conciliar declaration [Gravissimum educationis] represents a turning point, since, in line with the ecclesiology of Lumen Gentium[14], it considers the school not so much as an institution but as a community. The characteristic element of the Catholic school, in addition to pursuing “cultural goals and the human formation of youth”, consists in creating “for the school community a special atmosphere animated by the Gospel spirit of freedom and charity”. To this end, the Catholic school aims “to help youth grow according to the new creatures they were made through baptism as they develop their own personalities”, as well as “to order the whole of human culture to the news of salvation so that the knowledge the students gradually acquire of the world, life and man is illumined by faith”[15]. In this way, the Catholic school prepares pupils to exercise their freedom responsibly, forming an attitude of openness and solidarity.

19. … The school must be the first social setting, after the family, in which the individual has a positive experience of social and fraternal relationships as a precondition for becoming a person capable of building a society based on justice and solidarity, which are prerequisites for a peaceful life among individuals and peoples. This is possible through a search for truth that is accessible to all human beings endowed with rationality and freedom of conscience as tools useful both to study and in interpersonal relationships.

20. …  a Catholic school is endowed with a specific identity: i.e. “its reference to a Christian concept of life centred on Jesus Christ[22]. The personal relationship with Christ enables the believer to look at the whole of reality in a radically new way, granting the Church an ever renewed identity, with a view to fostering in the school communities adequate responses to the fundamental questions for every woman and man. Therefore, for all the members of the school community, the “principles of the Gospel in this manner become the educational norms since the school then has them as its internal motivation and final goal”[23]. In other words, it can be said that in the Catholic school, in addition to the tools common to other schools, reason enters into dialogue with faith, which also allows access to truths that transcend the mere data of the empirical and rational sciences, in order to open up to the whole of truth so as to respond to the deepest questions of the human soul that do not only concern immanent reality. This dialogue between reason and faith does not constitute a contradiction, because the task of Catholic institutions in scientific research is “to unite existentially by intellectual effort two orders of reality that too frequently tend to be placed in opposition as though they were antithetical: the search for truth, and the certainty of already knowing the fount of truth”[24].

22. A distinctive feature of its ecclesial nature is that it is a school for all, especially the weakest. This is testified to by the “establishment of the majority of Catholic educational institutions [in response] to the needs of the socially and economically disadvantaged. …

More to follow…

Leave a Reply