Teaching the Catholic Faith to our children is our primary responsibility as Catholic parents. We must teach it mainly by good example, showing our children how to live our Faith each day in our daily situations. In addition, the Church declares we are to teach the Faith by “word.” This means we must teach it orally. Most of us use catechisms and other materials as well. What we must not forget, however, is that the Church is clear that all subjects should be taught from a Catholic perspective.
Back in 1864 and in 1875, and repeated in 1955, the Vatican sent instructions to the bishops of the United States, declaring that education in public schools was dangerous because of the lack of Catholic education. “To the Sacred Congregation, this method [of public education] has appeared intrinsically dangerous and absolutely contrary to Catholicism. Indeed, because the special program adopted by these schools excludes all religious instruction, the pupils cannot grasp the elements of the Faith, nor are they instructed in the precepts of the Church…”
In 1897, in the encyclical Militantis Ecclesiae, Pope Leo XIII declared: “A wide knowledge should go hand in hand with care for spiritual progress…religion must permeate and direct every branch of knowledge whatever be its nature…it has always been the Church’s intention that every branch of study be of great service in the religious formation of youth…” Obviously, in order for every branch of study to be of great service in religious formation, every branch of study must be taught with Catholic principles.
Pope Pius XI, in the great encyclical Christian Education of Youth, wrote of the need for religion to permeate the whole of the learning enterprise: “…it is necessary that all the teaching and the whole organization of the school, its teachers, syllabus and textbooks of every kind, be regulated by the Christian spirit, under the direction and maternal supervision of the Church; so that religion may be in very truth the foundation and the crown of youth’s entire training….” Obviously, every facet of education must be permeated with our Catholic Faith.
Christian Education of Youth continues: “It is therefore as important to make no mistake in education as it is to make no mistake in the pursuit of the last goal, with which the whole work of education is intimately and necessarily connected. In fact, since education consists essentially in preparing man for what he must be and for what he must do here below in order to attain the sublime goal for which he was created, it is clear that there can be no true education which is not wholly directed to man’s last end…. there can be no ideally perfect education which is not Christian education.”
Further on in Christian Education of Youth, Pope Pius XI declares: “From this it follows that the so-called ‘neutral’ or ‘lay’ school, from which religion is excluded, is contrary to the fundamental principles of education. Such a school, moreover, cannot exist in practice; it is bound to become irreligious.” In other words, if God and His Laws are left out of the instruction, ultimately students and the school deny God and His Laws. Certainly the American public schools are proof of the Pope’s warning.
Later in this paragraph, the Pope states that even if children receive Catholic religious instruction but receive other lessons that are not Catholic, it is not satisfactory. “Neither can Catholics allow that other type of mixed schools, where the students are provided with separate religious instruction, but receive other lessons in common with non-Catholic children from non-Catholic teachers.” The Pope here, under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, states that we cannot expect to raise practicing Catholics by teaching God only in religion class but ignoring Him in the rest of education.
Immediately following, the Pope declares “…it is necessary that all the teaching and the whole organization of the school, its teachers, syllabus and textbooks of every kind, be regulated by the Christian spirit, under the direction and maternal supervision of the Church; so that religion may be in very truth the foundation and the crown of youth’s entire training; and this applies to every grade of school, not only the elementary, but the intermediate and the high institutions of learning as well.
“To use the words of [Pope] Leo XIII: ‘It is necessary not only that religious instruction be given to the young at certain fixed times, but also that every other subject taught be permeated with Christian piety. If this be lacking, if this sacred atmosphere does not pervade and warm the hearts of masters and scholars alike, little good can be expected from any kind of learning, and considerable harm will often be the consequence.’”
In many documents, the Church commands us to use Catholic materials. Weaving the Catholic Faith throughout all subjects shows the child that the Faith is necessary in understanding all areas of knowledge. The omission of God in any subject sends a message that this subject can be properly learned without reference to God or the Church.