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PAPAL TEACHINGS ON EDUCATION

1. About the Necessity of Catholic Teachers and Textbooks

For the Catholic, there is only one true religion: the Catholic religion; hence, in doctrinal, moral or religious matters, he cannot accept or recognize anything which does not spring from the very sources of Catholic teaching.

Hence the necessity to have Catholic teachers, reading books and textbooks approved by the Bishops, and to have the freedom to organize schools so that the teaching may be fully in accordance with the Catholic faith and its consequent duties. [Leo XIII, Encyclical Affari vos, December 8, 1897 —to the Bishops of Canada]

Dear sons and Venerable Brethren, that We may not compromise Our conscience, We have to state most solemnly, in this matter, that, it is absolutely necessary that Catholic schools be in the hands of teachers, who not only profess the Catholic faith, but have all the qualities demanded by their office. It is therefore equally necessary that these teachers be formed in special centers of formation, where guarantees have been given that Catholic teachers will have an education of mind and heart which responds to the special needs of Catholic schools.

In the absence of these centers of formation, it is only with great difficulty that we can form teachers suitable for our needs. If, further, there is a complete lack of these teachers, it is difficult to imagine how Catholic schools can continue to exist and respond adequately to the high standard that is expected of them. [Pius XII, Letter Die Gluck-und Segenswunche, February 12, 1955 —to the Bishops of Germany]

We do not wish to say that We are intractable on this point, for one reason because intractableness is not a virtue, but only intransigent, just as We must be intransigent when asked what is the sum of two plus two. It is four and it is not our fault that it is not three, or five, or six, or fifty. When it is a question of the salvation of some soul or of preventing greater evils from befalling souls, We feel courageous enough to deal with the devil in person.

We have spoken to you about intransigence when principles and rights that are beyond discussion are being dealt with. We must add that we do not dispose of the material means to sustain this intransigence. Nor, on the other hand, does this displease Us, for truth and justice have no need of material forces, as they have their own irrefutable, irreplaceable and irresistible qualities. [Pius XI, Allocution to the students of Mondragone College, May 14, 1929]

2. Against Secularism in the School Curriculum

The mere fact that a school gives some religious instruction (often extremely stinted), does not bring it into line with the rights of the Church and of the Christian family, or make it a fit place for Catholic students. To be this, it is necessary that all the teaching and the whole organization of the school, its teachers, syllabus and textbooks of every kind, be regulated by the Christian spirit, under the direction and maternal supervision of the Church; so that religion may be in very truth the foundation and crown of youth’s entire training. [Pius XI, Encyclical Divini illius magistri, December 31, 1929]

An education whose sole interest lies in knowledge of natural things and in the aims of human society, and which, moreover, departs from the truths revealed by God, inevitably falls under the yoke of error and falsehood.

But if this detestable method of instruction, severed as it is from the Catholic faith and the Church’s authority, is the source of evil for the individual and for society, when it is a question of the arts and sciences, and of the education which the better classes of society obtain, who will fail to see that this method will produce much worse results if it is applied to schools for the children of the people? [Pius IX, Apostolic letter, Quum non sine, July 14, 1864, to the Archbishop of Fribourg]

Religion must not be taught to youth only during certain hours, but the entire system of education must be permeated with the sense of Christian piety. If this is lacking, if this holy spirit does not penetrate and inflame the souls of teacher and pupil, small benefit will be derived from any other sort of education; instead damage will be done.

A wide knowledge should go hand in hand with care for spiritual progress; religion must permeate and direct every branch of knowledge whatever be its nature, and by its sweetness and majesty must make so great an impression on the minds of youth as to be an incitement to better things. [Leo XIII, Encyclical Militantis Ecclesiae, August 1, 1897]

To do this, the exterior organization of the school, its discipline and its curriculum, must constitute a framework adapted to its essential function, and the school must be penetrated, even in its apparently most humble and material details, with an authentic spirituality.

In any case, the efficiency of an educational system depends, in the final analysis, on its complete faithfulness to the main goal it has set for itself. The Christian school will justify its existence in so far as its teachers ―clerics or laymen, religious or secular ―succeed in forming staunch Christians.

The pupils of a Catholic school should not regard their future career as a simple social function; on the contrary, they must always think of it as the exercise of a personal responsibility in the work of saving the world. [Pius XII, Allocution to the International Office of Catholic Teaching, September 14, 1958]

3. About the Importance of Religious Instruction in the Secondary School

It is absolutely necessary that those who study sciences and letters should receive timely instruction in the knowledge and cult of religion, since nature both obliges and binds them not only to serve the country, but also, and in a far greater degree, to serve God.

And as they grow up, this instruction must never stop, but must go hand in hand with civil culture: if anything, it must be insisted upon even more, both because, in these times of feverish study the passion for knowledge fires youth increasingly from day to day, and because this passion is full of ever greater perils for the faith, which has already had to deplore considerable losses in so serious a matter. [Leo XIII, Encyclical Caritatis providentiaeque, March 19, 1894 —to the Bishops of Poland]

An ever-increasing development of your historical, literary and scientific acquirements without an adequate and corresponding deepening of religion, which is truly necessary, could be highly dangerous to your souls.

Do not let yourselves be satisfied until you have penetrated, as far as possible, into the intimate meaning of religious truth, and until the truth itself has not penetrated you —your intelligence, your imagination, your heart and your whole being. [Pius XII, Allocution to the winners of the Veritas contest, September 30, 1953]

4. The Curriculum must be Classical, i.e., Centered on the Humanities

Technology is beginning to change the psychic structure of man, but it must not be permitted to change the Catholic ideal of education. [Pius XII, Letter to the Third International Congress of the World Union of Catholic Teachers, August 5, 1957]

Classical studies remain unequalled for the exercise and development of the most valuable qualities of the mind: penetration of judgment, broadmindedness, finesse of analysis and gifts of expression. Nothing helps to understand man today as much as a profound study of history. Nothing can teach one how to weigh the value of words, to grasp the nuances of an expression, the logic of an essay and the strength of an argument as well as the exercise of versions and themes in classical languages. [Pius XII, Allocution to the Minor Seminaries of France, September 5, 1957]

5. About the Catholic Perspective in History

When you learn history remember that it is not a simple enumeration of more or less bloody or edifying facts, for one can easily see in it a structure which should be studied in the light of universal Divine Providence and the undeniable freedom of man’s actions. You will particularly note how you would see the events of the past two thousand years with different eyes if you were to consider them as the development of Christian civilization, starting with those events which marked the dawn of the Church, dwelling upon the great and unsurpassed syntheses made in ancient and medieval times, giving some thought to the painful apostasies but also to the great conquests of modern times, and looking with confidence at the many signs of rebirth and recovery. [Pius XII, Allocution to Secondary students in Rome, March 24, 1957]

Very often, the textbooks provided for the children are full of falsehoods, which they are bound to absorb, especially when to these is added the teaching of a corrupt or superficial teacher.

Upon leaving the first classes, they frequently encounter even graver dangers, the reason being that in higher studies, the narration of facts is followed by a study of their root causes. From these causes are deduced at will laws and historical theories which very frequently are quite openly opposed to revealed doctrine, and whose only aim is to dissemble and conceal the great and beneficial influence which Christian institutions have had on social life and on the entire course of human events. In short ―the entire teaching of history is directed to this end: to make the Church suspect, the Popes an object of disapproval…

And therefore, once the poison has been swallowed in the early years of life, it is impossible later on to find a suitable remedy. There is little hope that, with the passage of time, they will acquire a clearer power of discernment and unlearn what they have learned at the beginning.

It is therefore of the greatest importance to avoid so pressing a danger and to see that, at any cost, the study of history ―in itself so dignified ―should no longer be twisted so as to become a cause of such grave damage to society and private individuals. [Leo XIII, Letter Saepenumero, August 18, 1883 —to Cardinals de Luca, Pitra and Hergenroether]

6. Concerning the Importance of Latin in the Secondary School

We are not unaware also of the present tendency of techniques to prevail more and more on speculative sciences. The danger would be if you were to immerse yourselves so strongly in the material elements as to lose or diminish the sense of Christian culture, so rich in values of truth and wisdom and saturated with what ancient times had of eternal worth. But such a danger will be more easily avoided if you will consider it worth your every effort to master the Latin language. [Pius XII, Allocution to Roman students, January 20, 1949]

7. About the Separation of Boys and Girls in the Secondary School

False also and harmful to Christian education is the so-called method of "co-education." This principle, with due regard to time and place, must, in accordance with Christian prudence, be applied to all schools, particularly in the most delicate and decisive period of formation, that, namely of adolescence; and in gymnastic exercises and deportment, special care must be devoted to the Christian modesty of young women and girls, which is so gravely impaired by any kind of exhibition in public.

Recalling the frightening words of the Divine Master: "Woe to the world because of offenses!" We most earnestly appeal to your solicitude and your watchfulness, Venerable Brethren, against these pernicious errors, which, to the immense harm of youth, are spreading far and wide among Christian peoples. [Pius XI, Encyclical Divini illius magistri, December 31, 1929]