Background of Council Document On Education

The spectacle of nations throughout the world which are spending every effort to bring education to their people has spurred the Second Vatican Council to speak on the Church’s own responsibilities in the field of education.

This is the explanation given in the council hall by the representative of the council’s Commission on Education in presenting the draft document on Christian education to the council Fathers.

Bishop Jules Daem of Antwerp, Belgium, pointed out that education is part of the Church’s general mission, which is the sanctification of the world and of life. He said this sanctification presupposes a synthesis between human things and divine things, and that modern science and techniques have made this synthesis available to all, especially youth.

Bishop Daem, touching on the history of the schema, said its previous title “On Catholic Schools” was dropped in favor of the present title “On Christian Education” because the Church’s educational mission could not be circumscribed by academic education alone. Much of Christian education is given outside of the school, for example in the family, he noted.

The immensity of the field of education also prompted the commission to avoid details, leaving them to a postconciliar commission which would undertake a thorough study and reach reliable conclusions, he said.

(At the U.S. bishops’ press panel, Msgr. Mark J. Hurley, chancellor of the diocese of Stockton, Calif., pointed out that when the commission’s members arrived at the third session they were presented with a schema in the form of a set of propositions, which they found inadequate. The result is an expanded schema. It is no longer a set of mere propositions, but a draft declaration, he said.)

As for the human and social dimensions of education, Bishop Daem said, the task of the Church is to work for the formation of a society where all men live together peacefully. The Church’s means are the message of Christ’s salvation and the witness of His life. The Church must also emphasize every human and divine value. The Church must give its approval to every valid effort in education from whatever source it comes, he stated.

In the apostolic dimension of education, the Church aims at forming perfect Christians and making them conscious of the apostolate to be carried on in the world.

This requires close cooperation between families and educational institutions, he went on.

Still within this same apostolic dimension, the Church must follow Christ’s example in its special love for children, delinquent youth, the poor and the sick, he said.

The relator (as the commission’s representative is called) said that regarding the juridical dimension of education, the commission wanted to draw attention to rights and duties. History teaches how much humankind has suffered, and suffers even now, from a lack of tolerance or from outright contempt of rights, he stated.

The text, therefore, speaks of the inalienable rights of parents and of the Church to educate their children and to start schools, with due regard for the requirements of civil society and of the common good.

The schema, said Bishop Daem, speaks of the rights of parents to entrust their children to the schools selected by their own free choice. Mention is also made of the duty of civil society, without prejudice to its own rights, to help parents discharge their duty in this regard.

Other points made by the schema, aside from those indicated by the relator, can be summed up as follows:

It suggests that an ad hoc committee be created to draw up principles concerning Catholic education. This committee is to draw on the help of experts, including laymen.

Application of these principles is to be left to the bishops’ conference of each country.

The Church, realizing the importance of education, wants to be at the service of society. Catholics must therefore cooperate and see that good schools and teachers are provided.

The Church will use all means of social communications in the apostolate of education.

Because of the primary right of parents to educate their children and therefore to choose their own schools, they should be treated equally by the law of the land. There should be no monopoly of education.

The schema speaks of the serious obligation of parents to see to the religious education of all their children who are not getting a formal religious education at school.

The states which help in this matter are to be praised. Wherever possible, children should be sent to Catholic schools.

Schools are a real apostolate worthy of priests, men and women Religious, and lay people.

The Church favors so-called special schools such as those for the handicapped, for adult education, and for remedial training.

Universities and colleges should enjoy freedom of scientific enquiry.

One of the tasks of higher institutes is to show the concord between religion and science.

In education, quantity must not be achieved at the expense of quality.

There should be cooperation at the national and international level among institutions of higher learning.

At the end, the schema reiterated that Christian education, especially schools, is a great apostolate to be recommended highly for priests, Religious and lay people.

Msgr. Hurley, a member of the press panel, said three cardinal points of the schema were:

— Emphasis on the rights of parents in education, including the right to select the school for their children.

“The schema does not ask the state to give money for the Church school,” Msgr. Hurley said.

“It asks for recognition of the right of parents to equal treatment under the law.”

— Emphasis on concern for the religious education of children studying in non-religious schools. This is the duty of the parents primarily, although the Church stands ready to cooperate in this.

— Emphasis on the genuine worth of schools as an apostolic activity. The schema states that this apostolate is worthy of all: priests, Religious and lay people.

A vital part of the schema, according to Msgr. Hurley, is its recommendation that an ad hoc committee be set up to establish further principles and particulars.

Patrick Riley
NCWC News Rome Correspondent

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