This is an English text of the intervention of Joseph Cardinal Ritter of St. Louis Nov. 17 on the “Declaration on Christian Education” proposed to the Second Vatican Council.
The “Declaration on Christian Education” is very pleasing to me. The importance of the subject, Christian Education, can scarcely be exaggerated since it involves the command of Christ to go forth and teach all nations. The subject itself, as is quite evident, deserves a much fuller treatment than was possible in the “Declaration.”
Not only is the subject itself a very complex one involving a theology of education, a philosophy of education, and indeed special professional competence in the field of schools and universities, but also it is made more complex by reason of its universal worldwide importance and interest. No statement in detail could possibly be applicable to all countries or even almost all countries with their diverse cultures, standards of living, and legal status for schools and the Church itself.
Of particular moment in complicating the problems of such a document is the relationship of Church and State in each country, a delicate matter better solved country-by-country. Indeed, the school question with its diverse ramifications has become in many states the special practical test, the cause celebre, in the matter of the relationship between the Church and the State, between citizens and their government, between families and the society in which they live.
Rightly then does the Declaration call for a post-conciliar “ad hoc” committee to make the necessary surveys and research in a professional manner to produce a document on education not only worthy of the Council but of real and genuine value to men of good will everywhere. The commission rightly and laudably has eschewed a facile solution by compromise which would fit no country, help no nation, nor be of real value to any people, and indeed might even compromise the very freedom of education which all men of good will desire.
This post-conciliar “ad hoc” committee, if approved, deserves not only the support of the bishops but their cooperation in the research that they will make as a basis for a document suitable to our Vatican council. I wish to affirm my wholehearted support for this solution proposed by the Commission on Schools and Universities. Also, the commission proposes to leave to episcopal conferences themselves the specific application of the questions of Christian education in their own countries. This is certainly worthy of praise for the reasons I have already mentioned above.
I. It is noteworthy that the title of this Declaration has been changed from “De scholis catholicis” to “De educatione christiana,” a much wider term. The Catholic school is not and must not be the only concern of the Church. Most of the Catholic children and students in the world are in state schools and must be in fact the object of the solicitude of the Church, the family, and especially the teachers in these schools for their religious education.
This Synod should give a ringing endorsement to the work, particularly of the devoted laity of Christian education as effected by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, the Schools of Religion, the Newman Foundations, the Young Christian Students, and similar organizations around the world devoted to the religious education of students not receiving formal religious education in state or secular or neutrally religious schools.
II. Rightly does the “Declaratio” affirm the freedom of parents to choose the schools they wish for their children. However, freedom must extend not only to the choice of schools but also to the schools themselves. Within their own walls the Catholic schools must be models of Christian freedom in their administration, their teaching, and particularly in the interpersonal relationships among teachers, pupils, and parents.
The matter extends, too, to the pursuit of learning.
Often have we heard in the aula of the unity of the Church, of the unity of the people and family of God; there is also a unity of truth. Truth is one, integral, and whole because ultimately with its source in the One God, truth cannot and does not in fact contradict itself. Consequently our schools and their professors and students must pursue the truth boldly and freely without fear, confident that the truth they seek is none other than Christ Who described Himself as the way, the truth and the life, that the truth they seek is the truth which the Sacred Scriptures declare will make us free.
Therefore Catholic schools and colleges and universities must not only be free from unjust external coaction and coercion but must be models of Christian freedom within their own walls.
III. Our document on Christian education must emphasize that the Catholic schools do not exist to serve narrow sectarian purposes, nor to protect selfish interests of the Church as if they were weapons of defense, nor to shield boys and girls from the marketplace (forum) and public life. Rather they stand as an expression of the free choice and liberal sacrifice not only of parents but of priests, Religious, and devoted laymen and lay- women, for God and for country as well as for the families and the Church itself. Catholic schools indeed are and of their very nature must be of substantial benefit to the entire community where they serve and to society itself. Otherwise they would stand self-condemned and be unworthy of the title “Catholic.”
I warmly approve the solutions proposed in the “Declaratio” for a fuller schema and urge you, Venerable Brothers, to accord it a “placet” vote. Dixi.