Abp. Cordileone: “Catholic schools exist to help young people attain holiness in their lives…to become saints.”

Teachers "in a Catholic school are not allowed to speak against" Catholic beliefs "in the school…"

This past Friday, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco gave an address to the Catholic High School Teachers Convocation titled, “Knowledge, Virtue, and Holiness”. Here are a few excepts:

The three factors – high academic expectations, faith and reason, and teachers interacting with students both in and outside the classroom – contribute to building a Catholic worldview.  All of this, of course, must be reflected in the school’s mission statement.  Catholic schools have mission statements that focus on these factors and what the goal of Catholic education is.  Mission statements that are clear and compelling help students, faculty, staff and parents alike to know that they are working in a Catholic educational environment and to understand what that means. 

In what has become by now a classic phrase in the world of Catholic education, Catholic schools help students to excel in life because of our understanding of what our schools are all about: education of the whole person.  As we know from science, philosophy and our Catholic faith, the whole person, especially the whole person redeemed by the Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, is wonderfully complex.  The root meaning of the word “educate” is “to lead out from.”  That is, a Catholic education draws out all the potential in the whole person of every student, leading the student to true human flourishing and thus becoming the person God has created them to be.

As the Fathers of the Church emphasized, human potential increased greatly with the coming of Christ, the New Adam.  By being baptized in Christ Jesus, Christians participate in the divine life of Christ.  Because of this, every Christian has the calling to be holy – certainly one of the truths of our faith emphasized at the Second Vatican Council.  A Christian – teenager or adult – is expected to use all the means available to them to fulfill this vocation common to every Christian.

So the challenge is a complex one.  The whole person involves the intellectual, physical, emotional, social, moral and spiritual dimensions of each student.  A Catholic high school is certainly an educational institution, but it is also has the charge of instilling in its students morality and growth toward holiness.  God speaks directly and indirectly to students through the moral challenges they face, through prayer, through study, and in the sacraments. …

Our Catholic schools exist to serve the Church’s mission of sanctification and evangelization.  This mission indicates that some widely esteemed achievements in secular society are inadequate goals – not in themselves contrary, but inadequate – for Catholic youth.  They become goals contrary to the Catholic mission of a school if they become separated from the call to holiness and the mission to evangelize. 

This means that Catholic educators will look at secular achievements in a different way: under the light of faith, that is to say, with a view to the spiritual, transcendent dimension of the human person. …

In the end, our Catholic schools exist to help young people attain holiness in their lives, that is, to become saints.  An outstanding career is not a sign of having reached or even drawn near to the goal.  Holiness is extraordinary, but it is usually achieved in ordinary circumstances.  The first place in which that happens is in the context of one’s vocation.  Fidelity and perseverance in one’s vocation is a sign of growth in holiness.  We speak of the four traditional vocations in the Church: marriage, priesthood, religious life and single life in the world.  But vocation also carries with it the sense of using one’s talents – especially any extraordinary talents that God may have given – for the service of God in the work that one does.  In this sense, one’s career can be part of that vocation, but not simply measured by material success.  I’m sure many of you feel your life as a teacher is not simply a profession but a vocation: you cannot be true to yourself if you do not teach, and so you give yourselves generously to your students through sharing your time and talent with them.  It places demands on you, it requires sacrifice, and you could be making more money doing something else with your talents, but you experience blessings from God in return that are beyond material measurement.  This is also part of what it means to be faithful and persevering in one’s vocation, leading to growth in holiness. …

Chastity is also obviously central to the vocation of priesthood and religious life.  Also in these cases, candidates for these two vocations have to integrate well their sexuality with their interior life.  If this does not occur, the priest, nun or brother will not be able to interact well with other people. 

We certainly want to encourage among students vocations to be priests and religious. But most of them will be called to marriage, and marital chastity is equally central to a couple’s happiness and perseverance in their vocation.  Our young people will simply not find true, deep happiness in life if they do not acquire the virtue of chastity.  I would say, then, that one barometer that could be used for gauging a young person’s prospects for attaining true, deep happiness in life and perseverance and success in their vocation is their capacity for fidelity in marriage, regardless of what their vocation is.

Chastity, then, together with humility (without which chastity – and all other virtues – is impossible) is what enables a person to live beyond a mere superficial, banal existence to one which is other-centered and open to the transcendent; it enables one to look beyond the surface, beyond the physical, to the other’s interior life.  And it lives these deep human goods in very concrete ways, in the body. …

Secondly, no teacher is being asked to sign a statement of faith or belief.  No teacher has to change his or her beliefs.  The belief statements that will be in the faculty handbooks begin with the phrase “we, the institution, affirm and believe.”  The point of these formulations is twofold.  The first reason for the language is to signal to the outside world that, even as many people change their minds about traditional beliefs, the archdiocesan Catholic schools are still fully Catholic.   The institutions still profess these beliefs.  And the second reason is to alert teachers to the fact that these affirmations, which are related to hot button topics in secular society and in the Catholic Church, remain the teachings of the Catholic Church.  Therefore, teachers in a Catholic school are not allowed to speak against these important beliefs in the school, nor are they allowed to act in a public way contrary to those beliefs, as this would compromise the Catholic mission of the school.  Most teachers in our Catholic schools already behave this way.  Inserting the language in the handbook is simply one way to memorialize the professional approach already taken by the teachers in our Catholic high schools.

Read the entire address on the Archdiocese of San Francisco website.

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About Carl E. Olson 1197 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.