Monday, September 01, 2008

Religious Exemption and the Catholic Church Teachings

In the Old Dominion, we have an option to apply for "religious exemption from attendance at public school" as one way to legally homeschool:

“A school board shall excuse from attendance at school any pupil who, together with his parents, by reason of bona fide religious training or belief is conscientiously opposed to attendance at school.” § 22.1-254(B)(1). Homeschoolers may receive an exemption under this statute according to § 22.1-254.1(D). This exempts them from all requirements under the home school law. § 22.1-254 (H)(5). …

Homeschoolers choosing this option, therefore, need to prove: (1) they have sincere beliefs that are (2) religious, not merely philosophical, which (3) demonstrate their objection to attendance in the public schools. To satisfy this, homeschoolers should prepare a letter describing their religious beliefs which make them opposed to sending their children to public school and submit to the school board. Also, homeschoolers should include an affidavit from their pastor (or other religious expert or authority) stating that their beliefs concerning education are religious in nature, and two or three letters from friends who can vouch for their sincerity.

So, what we have to prove is that sending our children to public school would be against God's will and therefore a sin. We don't have a problem with public schools -- there is a need for them to educate. However, for OUR FAMILY, we have the God-given obligation to teach our children and must have them learning their Catholic faith along with their regular school work. This means that we would either homeschool them (which is what we do with our younger children) or send them to Catholic schools.

We don't want public schools to take over the role of religious education. Whose religion would be followed? What would be taught? How could all religions be addressed? The mind boggles.

I'm so thrilled to be living in a State that recognizes that for some, religion is a very importat aspect of raising children and should be addressed in the education of the children. Mandatory schooling in order to have a literate populace is very important. But to give parents the options of public, private or home education is a very rational way of addressing the needs of all.

Asked by our county to complete a statement of our religious beliefs, with reference to the teachings of the Catholic Church, we came up with the following Scripture and catechetical references that we believe convince us of our obligation to not send our children to public school.

As Roman Catholics, we look to Scripture, the Church’s Magisterial teachings (the Popes, Canon Law, and Catechism of the Catholic Church) and Tradition (the transmission of the truth) for understanding and direction in what we are supposed to do.

Scripture (the New American Bible) helped us decide about homeschooling back when we first started:
Romans 12: 2 -- Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Here are some of the Scripture quotes that convicted us to form our children in the same religious convictions which we hold dear:

Proverbs 22:6 -- Train a boy in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not swerve from it. and Ephesians 6:4 -- Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord. and Proverbs 6: 20-23 -- Observe, my son, your father's bidding, and reject not your mother's teaching; Keep them fastened over your heart always, put them around your neck; For the bidding is a lamp, and the teaching a light, and a way to life are the reproofs of discipline;

We firmly believe that God says we must teach our children to seek the true good when they are little so that as they mature, they can live the truth in the world with grace, peace and love and with a full grounding in the Catholic faith which they can “fasten over their hearts always” (Prov 6:21).

Deuteronomy 6: 6-7 -- Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest. and Joel 1: 3 -- Tell it to your children, and your children to their children, and their children to the next generation. and Psalms 78: 2-7 -- I will open my mouth in story, drawing lessons from of old. We have heard them, we know them; our ancestors have recited them to us. We do not keep them from our children; we recite them to the next generation, The praiseworthy and mighty deeds of the LORD, the wonders that he performed. God set up a decree in Jacob, established a law in Israel: What he commanded our ancestors, they were to teach their children; That the next generation might come to know, children yet to be born. In turn they were to recite them to their children, that they too might put their trust in God, And not forget the works of God, keeping his commandments.

We must, as parents, teach the stories, the traditions of the Catholic faith to our children. In the ancient Church, the first 300 hundred years in fact, the Faith was passed on through learning at home and great saints appeared then, as now, in the Church. That tradition continues to this day. We are convinced that teaching our children at home is how God wants us to teach our own children. We want to form saints living in the happiness of holiness.

Proverbs 1: 7-8 -- The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; wisdom and instruction fools despise. Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and reject not your mother's teaching; and Proverbs 6: 20-23 -- Observe, my son, your father's bidding, and reject not your mother's teaching; Keep them fastened over your heart always, put them around your neck; For the bidding is a lamp, and the teaching a light, and a way to life are the reproofs of discipline;

These quotes show us that our children are directed to listen to our teachings as the way to ultimate joy and fulfillment. Our children have a greater chance of understanding and living a full Catholic adult life if we ground them in the faith when they are young.

We then turn to the Catechism of the Catholic Church for direction as the Catechism states in paragraph seven,
7 "Catechesis is intimately bound up with the whole of the Church's life. Not only her geographical extension and numerical increase, but even more her inner growth and correspondence with God's plan depend essentially on catechesis."10

Here are direct quotes from the Catechism which assist us in our belief that teaching our children at home is God’s will. It would be a sin for us to ignore what we know to be true:
1656 In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith. For this reason the Second Vatican Council, using an ancient expression, calls the family the Ecclesia domestica.168 It is in the bosom of the family that parents are "by word and example . . . the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. They should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each child, fostering with special care any religious vocation."169
1657 It is here that the father of the family, the mother, children, and all members of the family exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way "by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active charity."170 Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and "a school for human enrichment."171 Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous - even repeated - forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one's life.

So we are “heralds of the faith”, the “first school of Christian life and ‘a school of human enrichment”. We are called to teach our children at home, not only the Catholic faith, but also life’s lessons about perseverance, joy of work, fraternal love, etc.

In paragraph 2207 of the Catechism we read: The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society.

We must teach our children at home as an initiation into society, an initiation strengthened by our Catholic faith.

Also from the Catechism, in paragraphs 2221 and 2222 we read: … The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable.30 Parents must regard their children as children of God and respect them as human persons. Showing themselves obedient to the will of the Father in heaven, they educate their children to fulfill God's law. Paragraph 2224 goes on to say, The home is the natural environment for initiating a human being into solidarity and communal responsibilities. Parents should teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies.

So we, as the parents, must educate our children to fulfill God’s law; if we ignore or disobey God’s law, we sin. We must teach our children in a Catholic environment which avoids “the compromising and degrading influences” which would occur in public schools.

In the Apostolic Exhortation from Pope John Paul II written in November 1981, Familiaris Consortio (about the role of the family in the modern world), we read in paragraphs 4 and 5 that:
… it is the families involved in the present conditions of the world that are called to accept and to live the plan of God that pertains to them.
FC 5. Christian spouses and parents can and should offer their unique and irreplaceable contribution to the elaboration of an authentic evangelical discernment in the various situations and cultures in which men and women live their marriage and their family life. They are qualified for this role by their charism or specific gift, the gift of the sacrament of matrimony.(15)

We seek the truth revealed by both faith and reason. From the preface of the encyclical Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason proclaimed by Pope John Paul II in September 1998), we read:
Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves (cf. Ex 33:18; Ps 27:8-9; 63:2-3; Jn 14:8; 1 Jn 3:2).

Turning to other Catholic Church documents, we find the Vatican II document “Declaration on Christian Education” (Gravissimum Educationis proclaimed by Pope Paul VI in October 1965). This document explains Christian education and all Catholic parents’ responsibility for their children’s education.
Section 3 – The Authors of Education
Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators.(11) This role in education is so important that only with difficulty can it be supplied where it is lacking. Parents are the ones who must create a family atmosphere animated by love and respect for God and man, in which the well-rounded personal and social education of children is fostered. Hence the family is the first school of the social virtues that every society needs. It is particularly in the Christian family, enriched by the grace and office of the sacrament of matrimony, that children should be taught from their early years to have a knowledge of God according to the faith received in Baptism, to worship Him, and to love their neighbor. Here, too, they find their first experience of a wholesome human society and of the Church. Finally, it is through the family that they are gradually led to a companionship with their fellowmen and with the people of God. Let parents, then, recognize the inestimable importance a truly Christian family has for the life and progress of God's own people.(12)

So, although we do this in our home, we have the grace of our sacramental marriage to help us as well as the Catholic Church and her agents to help us. Further, because God has given both of us the gift of the ability, learning and willingness to educate our children, we must not ignore this gift by sending our children to public school.

We want to teach our children to know themselves, to know what God made them to do and the truth about the meaning of their lives. Gaudium et Spes (a pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world proclaimed by Pope Paul VI in December 1965) puts this very clearly in paragraphs 22 and 24:
22. The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come,(20) namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Him all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown.
24. Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, "that all may be one. . . as we are one" (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God's sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.(2)

The Catechism directs (in the following quotes) that we must choose the school setting appropriate to help us to educate, form and raise our children to be active participants in society with a strong footing in the Catholic faith. This right to choose is a God-given right and further, we must discern the best option for our children – discernment through prayer, reading and discussions with Church members leads us to discern that we must choose not to send our children to public school.

2228 Parents' respect and affection are expressed by the care and attention they devote to bringing up their young children and providing for their physical and spiritual needs. As the children grow up, the same respect and devotion lead parents to educate them in the right use of their reason and freedom.
2229 As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators.38 Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.

1 comment:

Michaela said...

A wealth of information.
I'm printing now!