President/CEO of Ignatius Press on 3 basic issues in Catholic education

In an commentary piece, “What Makes Catholic Education Catholic?”, published recently on the National Catholic Register site, Mark Brumley, President and CEO of Ignatius Press, asks three questions about the mission and nature of Catholic education:

“Catholic education” seems like a known commodity. How can we have serious questions about it, given the array of Catholic schools in this country? Surely, the history of Catholic education has clarified the matter. Unfortunately, things
aren’t so simple.

Recently, Kolbe Academy-Trinity Prep — a classical, liberal arts K-12 school in Napa, Calif. — asked me to participate in a faculty in-service discussion. Given that it was the start of the school year, I took the opportunity to re-examine the mission of Catholic education.

There are three basic issues in Catholic education: What is education? What is Catholic education? And how do the “education part” and the “Catholic part” fit together? This last question is what I call the “two friends keeping each other honest” part of Catholic education.

What Is Education?

The Second Vatican Council’s Gravissimum Educationis (Declaration on Christian Education) insists that “a true education aims at the formation of the human person in the pursuit of his ultimate end and of the good of the societies of which he as man is a member and in whose obligations as an adult he will share” (1).

The same document speaks of helping young people “to develop harmoniously their physical, moral and intellectual endowments,” and it insists that because young people need moral formation, “together with a deeper knowledge and love of God,” public authority should make sure they get what they’re entitled to.

The Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education defines a school as “a place of integral formation by means of a systematic and critical assimilation of culture” (“The Catholic School,” 26). Integral means all the pieces are there and they fit together. Formation means education concerns the kind of person one becomes, not just what one knows.

In other words, it concerns intellectual and moral knowledge but also virtues — habits of acting for the true, the good and the beautiful. Integral formation also includes spiritual formation.

Education involves the systematic and critical assimilation of culture. It’s not a haphazard and uncritical endeavor.

“The Catholic School” continues:

Read the entire essay at

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About Carl E. Olson 1227 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.