AUSTIN, Texas, May 30, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Following the controversy over a statement from the Diocese of Austin deriding homeschooling, the head of the world’s largest international pro-life organization has defended the decision to homeschool, especially in cases where faithful Catholic schools are not available.
“There is absolutely no obligation for parents to send their children to a school that is academically poor or that is confused in its presentation of the faith,” said Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro-Carambula, interim president of Human Life International. “These parents must have the option to educate their own children.”
Last month, a minor controversy flared between advocates of homeschooling and parochial schools after the publication of a letter from Superintendent of Catholic Schools Ned F. Vanders of the Diocese of Austin.
The Holy Family Homeschoolers Association had asked Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin to celebrate a Mass in the fall to open the school year.
In his reply for the bishop, Vanders said Vasquez was declining because his presence would “convey a contradictory message equating the importance of Catholic school education with Catholic homeschooling.”
“Bishop Vásquez believes Catholic education, and in particular Catholic school education, is an essential part of the life of the Diocese of Austin,” he wrote. “As you know, Catholic schools are at the heart of the mission of the church.”
The diocese declined LifeSiteNews’ request for comment from Bishop Vasquez or Vanders.
In an article by Our Sunday Visitor last week, the diocese’s stance was supported by Fr. Peter M.J. Stravinskas, executive director of the Catholic Education Foundation.
According to Fr. Stravinskas, the Fathers of the Church stressed that catechesis should be carried out by the whole Church, and is the primary domain of the pastor rather than the parents.
He said keeping one’s children home rather than sending them to the local Catholic school can give the children the idea that their parents do not trust the Church and the parish priest to hand on the faith. He said this can create a “subtle anti-clericalism” (in OSV’s words), which he claims is revealed by a lack of priestly vocations from homeschoolers.
“On the same property where they go to church on Sunday is a school where the parents don’t wish to send them,” he said. “Why would you want to join the club if its members can’t be trusted to their jobs?”
He took issue particularly with homeschoolers who have no problems with the teaching at the school, but are concerned about exposing their children to other kids with values at odds with their own.
“That sets up an elite, a church within a church, and that is to be avoided,” he said.
Msgr. Barreiro emphasized that the Church has not declared children must be taught in Catholic schools, though he said they should be if there is a school available that is affordable, high-quality, and - most importantly - faithful.
“Many families lack the means to send their children to such schools, and many more are faced with the option of mediocre education, or unfortunately, with a weak Catholic identity,” he said. “There are some excellent Catholic schools, but there are some poor ones, and sadly, many Catholic children are losing the faith, and parents too often outsource their faith formation to dissenting or lukewarm teachers, and often don’t feel the need to closely monitor what their children are learning.”
Msgr. Barreiro also contested the claim that children’s education rests especially with the pastor, saying that “it is absolutely clear that parents are the primary educators of their children” and the pastor instead shares in this responsibility.
The Servant of God Fr. John Hardon, S.J., a theologian who championed homeschooling for decades, believed it was firmly rooted in the Church’s ancient tradition and is an essential means of preserving the Catholic faith in our times.
“Home schooling in the United States is the necessary concomitant of a culture in which the Church is being opposed on every level of her existence,” he said. “As a consequence, given the widespread secularization in our country, home schooling is not only valuable or useful but it is absolutely necessary for the survival of the Catholic Church in our country.”
Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin
6225 Highway 290 East
Austin, TX 78723-1025
Phone: (512) 949-2400
E-mail: Use this form.
Fr. Peter M.J. Stravinskas
Catholic Education Foundation
500 Linden Oaks
Rochester, NY 14625
Phone: (585) 899-1245
Fax: (585) 899-1265
E-mail: Use this form.