The Errors of the Congregation of Mary Immaculate on Vatican II and Education (Gravissimum Educationis)

IN this article linked here The Decrees of Vatican II on Education Compared with Past Church Teachings – CMRI: Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen the CMRI again make several mistakes when they invalidly critique Vatican II and accuse it of heresy.

CMRI Claim: Gravissimum Educationis #6 says “But it must always keep in mind the principle of subsidiarity so that there is no kind of school monopoly, for this is opposed to the native rights of the human person, to the development and spread of culture, to the peaceful association of citizens and to the pluralism that exists today in ever so many societies.

The CMRI writer then says “Ed. note: Although we agree that the state ought not to have a monopoly over education, we deplore this approval of pluralism. Attendance at public schools seems to be implicitly approved.” Quotes from Pius XI’s Divini Illius Magistri are then provided to show that the church has taught that Catholics should avoid public school (when possible) and that pluralism in school is bad (parents should strive for Catholic only schools).

Response: I advise the CMRI to step back and stop reading Vatican II as a break from faith and read it in light of the tradition. Thus, when I read paragraph #6 in Gravissimum Educationis I note that the footnote reference used in the very sentenced that the CMRI writer claims goes against Divini Illius Magistri is actually to that very same encyclical! The Catholic concept of subsidiarity mentioned in paragraph #6 is the idea that the lowest form of governing body should be in charge of the school systems. Vatican II stresses the point in Gravissimum Educationis that the parents are the primary educators and have a duty and right to select proper education for their children. GE #6 “Parents who have the primary and inalienable right and duty to educate their children must enjoy true liberty in their choice of schools.” Hence, applying all that is meant by footnoting Divini Illius Magistri and reading in light of tradition that means parents must provide a Catholic education. The concept of subsidiarity employed in the paragraph means that parents or at least local groups of them should be in charge of deciding what is taught. That Catholics can choose Catholic schools and that Protestants can do likewise for their children. The large central government should not impose a pluralist school on either. Hence, the pluralism of society is recognized but not promoted in school as the CMRI claim – the opposite is true paragraph #6 simply notes the obvious we live in a plural world.

Divini Illius Magistri was written in 1929. Vatican II had entered the era after WWII where Catholic run schools were become more and more scarce. Not only that, large percentages of the population (unlike in 1929 where most stopped school at grade 6) would require both Elementary (JK -Grade 6) and High School (7-12). Not only that many would even take post secondary studies something rather rare in 1929. As a result, Vatican II was not going to mention the same ideal that children go to Catholic only schools unless the ordinary approved when the ability to do so had become limited for many people. This value was implied by the footnote. In fact, when Gravissimum Educationis’s teaching was entered into the revised 1983 code after Vatican II we see its teaching sumarized in the following very Pius XII like comments.

Can. 798 Parents are to entrust their children to those schools which provide a Catholic
education. If they are unable to do this, they are obliged to take care that suitable Catholic
education is provided for their children outside the schools.

Can. 793 §1. Parents and those who take their place are bound by the obligation and possess the right of educating their offspring. Catholic parents also have the duty and right of choosing those means and institutions through which they can provide more suitably for the Catholic education of their children, according to local circumstances.

Yet, we have not even got to the best part of Vatican II yet. Not only did Vatican II affirm everything Pius XII did when read in light of the tradition but it also presented the faith in a modern way for modern people. It focuses on how the family has the primary role. This is a very important point since many families would not be able to find Catholic only schools it is an excellent reminder that schools are not nor ever where the most important part of Christian formation – Families were! That is the whole point, — the school system during Vatican II was not nor was ever going to be again like it was for Pius XII, so lets not focus on it. GE #3 “The family which has the primary duty of imparting education needs help of the whole community. In addition, therefore, to the rights of parents and others to whom the parents entrust a share in the work of education, certain rights and duties belong indeed to civil society, whose role is to direct what is required for the common temporal good. Its function is to promote the education of youth in many ways, namely: to protect the duties and rights of parents and others who share in education and to give them aid; according to the principle of subsidiarity, when the endeavors of parents and other societies are lacking, to carry out the work of education in accordance with the wishes of the parents; and, moreover, as the common good demands, to build schools and institutions.

CMRI Claim: The decree first advocates a false moral freedom: GE #1 “This holy Synod likewise affirms that children and young people have a right to be encouraged to weigh moral values with an upright conscience, and to embrace them by personal choice…” [i.e. no longer are they to be taught an absolute code of right and wrong, which they must accept.]

Response: Unfortunately for the CMRI argument they cut off the last part of the text which goes a long way to refute their claim by itself. GE #1 “This sacred synod likewise declares that children and young people have a right to be motivated to appraise moral values with a right conscience, to embrace them with a personal adherence, together with a deeper knowledge and love of God.

Is saying that children have a right to appraise moral values with a right conscience together with love of God a false moral freedom that the CMRI claim? No first off it says right conscience — such that there are wrong consciences. Hence, children are free to choose to adhere but that does not make them right, they simply should be given a chance to accept them on their own before being forced to follow. Second the quote clearly connects love of God with this acceptance. If it is true love of God how crazy is this freedom?

CMRI Claim:  GE #7 “To those large numbers of them students] who are being trained in schools which are not Catholic, she needs to be present with her special affection and helpfulness.” [Ed. note: Here is not mentioned the past practice of the Church to forbid her children to attend non-Catholic schools, which are a danger to faith and/or morals.]

Response: First the Ed. note is incorrect. The Church never forbid children to attempt non-catholic schools it only strongly encouraged. See the quote from Pius XI “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. There is no need to repeat what Our Predecessors have declared on this point, especially Pius IX and Leo XIII, at time when laicism was beginning in a special manner to infest the public school. We renew and confirm their declarations, as well as the Sacred Canons in which the frequenting of non-Catholic schools, whether neutral or mixed, those namely which are open to Catholics and non-Catholics alike, is forbidden for Catholic children, and can be at most tolerated, on the approval of the Ordinary alone, under determined circumstances of place and time, and with special precautions.” These very same circumstances of place, time and permission have been largely occurring since 1929 when Pius XII wrote that. Vatican II say that and focused on the general case where Catholic education is not present the second best thing to have is a school where religion can be taught. (it is best to have Catholic schools – as GE #3-6 show and point out by references to Pius XII encyclical but when not possible it is better to have some instruction than a state that does not allow any religion at all to be taught.

That is why after going through the typical Catholic school first ideal in #3-6 by footnoting Pius XII, Vatican II then says in #7 the paragraph in question there is a special affection for those not in Catholic schools. Why ? because the idea is to be in a Catholic school. The CMRI cannot explain this if they make the claims that they do.

GE #7 “Feeling very keenly the weighty responsibility of diligently caring for the moral and religious education of all her children, the Church must be present with her own special affection and help for the great number who are being trained in schools that are not Catholic.

CMRI Claim: “Co-education is equally condemned: “False also and harmful to Christian education is the so-called method of ‘co-education.’ This, too, by many of its supporters, is founded upon naturalism and the denial of original sin; but by all, upon a deplorable confusion of ideas that mistakes a leveling promiscuity and equality, for the legitimate association of the sexes. The Creator has ordained and disposed perfect union of the sexes only in matrimony, and, with varying degrees of contact, in the family and in society.” from Pius XI’s Divini Illius Magistri

Response: Really? If you are claiming Vatican II taught error because it did not condemn boy-girl schools I think you have miss-stepped somewhere along the lines. I am not even going to offer an argument as to why such a thing is silly to banter about. Clearly boy-girl school are acceptable. Vatican II does not need to meet the requirements of every single sentence of every encyclical. Encyclicals are not infallible (by themselves) only seriously weighted below exhortations, council, and several other documents.


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