Brian Mershon
Catholic homeschooling, Catholic education & charges of elitism and no vocations: Part II
By Brian Mershon
January 13, 2012

This second part examination of the charges by a prominent "conservative" Novus Ordo priest that Catholic homeschool parents are elitists will provide some specific criteria that my wife and I personally use when annually evaluating the best education choices for our children.

The Church authoritatively teaches that parents, under normal and ordinary circumstances, are to provide, first and foremost, delegated or not, for the Catholic education of their children. Parents, by the sacrament of matrimony, are endowed with this grave duty to beget and educate their children in the Truth of the Faith — with the guidance and assistance of the Church of course. The form in which this education takes place, whether the worn, outdated and dying Catholic parochial school system model which soon will be history; small, upstart independent Catholic schools formed by parents, or Catholic education in the home — with or without the assistance of co-ops or tutors — is a prudential judgment to be decided by parents through their state of grace from the sacrament of matrimony and their well-formed Catholic consciences.

Given: The Mershons evaluate on an annual basis which are the best education choices for each of our remaining six living children and are openly critical and open-minded about the weaknesses and flaws in our current homeschool arrangement. We openly discuss the pros and cons of the parochial school option and the lone high school option where we live, which has tripled its tuition and fees since our first son graduated in 2003. We have even tried to find a new job and move to a location where this might be more readily available. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, however, had other plans.

Fact 1: Catholic grammar and high schools in the United States today primarily serve middle and upper-middle class English speaking (outside of those left in inner-city major metropolitan areas) white students. Some people with objective minds would term this Catholic school model to be "elitist."

Fact 2: The vast majority of Catholic parochial and high schools in the Piedmont Deanery of the Diocese of Charleston (South Carolina) serve primarily two-income parents who have one, two or three children (of course there are a FEW exceptions, so please e-mail me if you are one of them!) — and most likely — by all visual evidence — are not living the authentic Catholic teaching of being open to life (I understand some people are open to life but are not blessed by several children and have had many miscarriages so please count yourself as one of those reasons I wrote "most likely" and "vast majority." You are the exceptions and God will bless you. However, most are contracepting according to polls of Catholics.) Those families who choose to have their mothers or fathers stay home with one bread-winner cannot afford Catholic schools — even if the academics and Catholic teaching were superb.

Fact 3: Most Catholic parochial and high schools in the Piedmont Deanery of the Diocese of Charleston provide minimal tuition relief for multiple children attending the same Catholic school. So much for encouraging Catholics to live "the culture of life."

Fact 4: The Church authoritatively teaches that males and females should be taught in separate classroom environments — and preferably — in separate schools. Read Divini Illustri Magistri.

Fact 5: No Catholics schools in the Piedmont Deanery, and very few in North America follow this authoritative Catholic teaching (Fact 4) to the letter. None. Zippo. Nada. And no, the two or three years in the local non-parish Catholic middle school in Greenville where they are separated temporarily each day in classrooms, but can intermingle with high school boys and girls otherwise outside the classroom does not count. Sorry to my friends who administer and teach there.

Fact 6: Summorum Pontificum and the entire traditional liturgical year as lived by Catholics for 1500 years until 1970 is a dead letter in the Piedmont Deanery and the Diocese of Charleston. Oh certainly, there are a very few pastors who occasionally offer a token bone (Mass only, an occasional baptism and a nuptial Mass) here and there in the entire diocese, but is this ingrained in the heart and rhythm of any of the schools for the younger generation? Nada. Zilch. Is this traditional Catholic life encouraged and fostered or merely barely tolerated? I know, my elitism is showing again.

Fact 7: Catholic culture and the Kingdom of Christ cannot be built "on earth as it is in heaven" in the Novus Ordo structure, using the Novus Ordo liturgies and devotions. It cannot. It will not. Forty years have shown the havoc the system has yielded and the destruction it has caused. Please do not e-mail me the accusation post hoc ergo propter hoc. Please refrain from that tired refrain. Sacred Scripture teaches: "You will know a tree by its fruits." [1]

Fact 8: The way the vast majority of even regular-attending Catholics in North America live their daily lives is indistinguishable from their Protestant, Jewish or secular counterparts — indistinguishable. Those few attending Catholic schools divorce and contracept at the same rate as their non-Catholic heretical, schismatic friends, workmates and acquaintances — sorry, I mean "separated brethren."

Fact 9: Catholic homeschoolers, in some dioceses where homeschooling is welcomed and encouraged, produce vocations to the diocesan priesthood or for traditional orders at a much higher rate than the average Catholic male graduate from Catholic parish schools. This is a hunch, but I'm willing to bet money I don't have that — percentage-wise — it is absolutely true.

Fact 10: Many Catholic homeschoolers choose to explore their vocations in one of the Traditional societies of apostolic life like the Institute of Christ the King (ICR) or the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP). Many Catholic homeschoolers explore vocations with the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).

Fact 11: There are very few authentically traditional Catholic grammar or high schools — aside from a handful of boarding schools provided by the FSSP and the SSPX where a traditional Catholic formation can take place separately for boys and girls.

Fact 12: In general (there may be a few exceptions of which I'm unaware), the individual bishops in their individual dioceses in the United States have made absolutely no concrete plans or taken even tactical steps to provide authentic, affordable Catholic education to the influx of Catholic immigrants from Latin America. In the early 1900s through the early 1960s, the Catholic Church in the United States provided, by and large, opportunities for the poorest of the poor immigrants from Europe and elsewhere with affordable Catholic education. How about now for our Catholic brethren from Latin America? Zilch. Nada. Nothing. And of course, this is now impossible since so many teaching nuns and brothers have abandoned their vocations with no one but laymen (who often earn less than half of what they can earn outside of Catholic schools) to replace them, which keeps the entrance to education too expensive.

Fact 13. Outside the Church, there is no salvation. Sorry, but it is dogma — and perhaps the one most denied within the Church today by clerics and laity alike. Catholic education is the best opportunity to catechize and evangelize future generations in the traditional Catholic Faith. Thousands of souls are damned every day (see many of the Saints pious reflections on "the fewness of the saved") because the Church has abandoned its primarily apostolate and seems to be stuck in its outdated parochial school model that is imploding around them.

Fact 14. Young men are disproportionately not attending or graduating from colleges and universities. The numbers attending 4-year colleges/universities now stand at around 40 percent male and 60 percent female. What are our Catholic priests, bishops, archbishops and cardinals doing to assist the men who are supposed to be the next generation of spiritual leaders in their homes and parishes as fathers or Fathers? Again. Nada. Zero. Zilch — with the exception of a very select few traditional priests and diocesan pastors in the Novus Ordo structure. If you're one of them, e-mail me and tell me what you're doing concretely to form young men especially to love Christ and the Church on a daily basis. What are you doing personally for them every day? I know the SSPX priests are. So are the majority of FSSP and ICR priests. There is a crisis of manhood as well as womanhood and knowledge of true femininity. But unless the crisis of manhood is addressed primarily and now, the crisis of femininity will only accelerate.

So, in the end, every year, my wife and I, with two nearly graduated and out of the house, but with five left, including four boys, sit down and evaluate. What would it take for us to decide to educate our four boys and one daughter substantially differently than the way we do now? What are the key elements such a Catholic school would have to offer?
  1. The Traditional liturgical year, Divine Office and devotions are absolutely essential to provide the basis of the entire curriculum. This is the heart and soul of authentic formation. Where does this exist? My hunch is perhaps at St. Gregory's Academy (which after all these years has produced one lone vocation to the priesthood in a traditional order and not for the FSSP) and some SSPX chapel locations. Also, to be fair, if one could figure out how to make a living there, another splendid location would be near the Benedictine priests of Clear Creek monastery in Oklahoma, but no formal Catholic school exists — so home education would be greatly supplemented there.

  2. Male schools and curriculum for males. Female school and curriculum for females in complete accord with authentic Church teaching. Where is there such a Catholic school?

  3. Priests who serve and model chivalry, devotion, sanctity, heroic virtue and above all, manhood. Where? Real, true men who'll get out with the boys and play football. They'll teach them how to box. They had some brothers growing up and actually had an occasional fistfight or two. Please advise where you are located. Again, I've seen them at the SSPX, FSSP, ICR nearly exclusively, and perhaps there are some diocesan priests somewhere. Please e-mail me if you are one. Remember, requirements No.1 and No 2. above are all inclusive with No. 3. If you allow female lectors and/or "extraordinary mistresses" or women to handle/clean the sacred vessels, you do not qualify. Sorry. How tiring and disordered it gets to attend "reform of the reform" parish daily Novus Ordo Masses where the woman lector reads, "I Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ..." Come on. It's not even good theatre, Fathers.

  4. The priest does not take multiple exotic trips, for weeks at a time each year, often called "pilgrimages," leaving the stranded "second-class" citizens with no Traditional Latin Mass for weeks while well-to-do parishioners pay $3,500 or more each so Father can go for free. Is four weeks of vacation at one time a little too much for a priest who has no parochial vicar? How about 11 weeks gone in one 52-week year? Man! If this is the new way to promote and encourage vocations to the priesthood, please sign me up! Oops! Too late! Note: I know, I'm such an "elitist" to expect my parish priest to reside in residence (Note: Council of Trent and Bishops not residing in their dioceses. Do we need to address this topic again?) and tend to his flock and not be on vacation or otherwise away from his parish for more than 20 percent of the year.

  5. The traditional Catholic formation, education and liturgical year is led and encouraged and fostered by the priest — not merely tolerated. He hires top-notch principals and teachers — preferably from traditional orders that teach — only the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary as far as I know — or at least well-formed traditional Catholic laymen and women from University of Dallas, Thomas Aquinas College, Wyoming Catholic or Christendom College (even though two of these college administrations have NOT, more than 3 years later, implemented Summorum Pontificum at their colleges).

  6. For boys schools, a qualified sacred music and chant instructor would form the boys from the earliest years in Gregorian Chant and the traditional Divine Office. Boys would have some select, but outstanding outdoor programs, camping, Scouts, sports and leadership programs to form virtuous, chivalrous, manly character. Baseball, of course, being God's game with the emphasis on "sacrifice" and the object to "go home" (symbolic of the Church or heaven — sorry George Carlin) ,[2] would be enshrined with "pride of place." Baseball is tradition. It is what we were. Football is modernism. It is what we have become. And sorry, no soccer either. You've got to be kidding me to even ask.

  7. Tuition is affordable so we can still eat and have a modest roof over our home with four boys jammed into one room. Tuition is not geared only to "elitist" Catholic DINK or DILK families who can afford it, but also open to the poorest of the poor and our Latin American Catholics who are currently outpopulating the Anglo Protestants and Catholics in the United States.
There. Those are our requirements to change substantially the manner in which we educate our children. Any takers?

Probably not. I'm probably just another "elitist" homeschool family that cannot produce vocations to the priesthood or religious life per the well-known "conservative" Novus Ordo priest.

Unfortunately, aside from a select few families who are open to life and do not choose to homeschool — for whatever reason, those of us who homeschool may have the only offspring among the remnant Catholics left to do spiritual battle with the Muslims over the next 40 or 50 years. Perhaps our "elitist remnant" force will win victories like those elitist Catholics years ago at LePanto?

Who knows?

Repent, pray and fast. But especially as Americans — let's fast. As traditional Catholics, we need to truly fast and stop being Americanists, but Catholics whole and entire.

Repent, pray and fast.


[1]  Matthew 7:16.

[2]  "In football, it's the punt. In baseball, it's the bunt. In football, the object is to get the pigskin in the end zone through the blitzes and use of bombs (paraphrase — sorry!). In baseball, the object is to go home. I want to go home!" From a George Carlin bit — entire skit not recommended for children or teenagers other than the "football vs. baseball" analogy. By the way, my boys play football, basketball and other sports as well. The baseball — football analogy was tongue-in-cheek...partially.

© Brian Mershon


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Brian Mershon

Brian Mershon is a commentator on cultural issues from a classical Catholic perspective... (more)


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