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April 1998 issue

Mothers Watch

Homeschoolers:

A House Divided


June 1998 issue

Catholic Family News

Homeschoolers:

Next Casualty?


Updates after "Homeschoolers and the Hierarchy"


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Home Schoolers

and the Hierarchy:

Coercion, Control

or Obedience? 

An edited version of this article appeared in

the July 1998 issue of Catholic Family News

written and © 1998 by Marianna Bartold

 

This one's long and also footnoted

but it's worth it the read!

It's also divided into links after the intro below...

 

In the article entitled, "Homeschooling: Next Casualty in the Post Conciliar Church?" (1) it was explained that the dilution of Catholic education within homeschooling has become an alarming trend, thanks in great part to the policies and actions of two interconnected homeschool groups, NACHE (National Association of Catholic Home Educators) and TORCH (Traditions of Roman Catholic Homes).

 

Not only do NACHE and TORCH favor "homeschool" sacramental guidelines in each diocese, but they have been encouraging TORCH homeschool chapters to approach their local bishops to establish guidelines. NACHE has announced plans to form some kind of ecclesiastically-approved International Catholic Homeschool (ICH) association. Such approval necessitates working in close union with diocesan bishops and/or Cardinals, a totally unnecessary action.

 

The study of Church documents will assist both parents and pastors in realizing guidelines are not necessary. Homeschool parents need not submit to them for the following reasons:

 

  • The procreation and education of children is the primary end of matrimony. The Sacrament of Marriage, one of the seven bestowed by God through His Church, provides the graces necessary to carry out the obligations of Catholic parenthood. Since marriage and its obligations and rights are already upheld and taught by the Church, no guideline statements to that end are necessary.

 

  • A policy statement, a set of guidelines, a list of procedures, etc. are not official Church mandates. Any guidelines can and ought to be studied by parents. Policies, guidelines and procedures are not laws written in stone (although some diocesan officials will try to convince parents otherwise). However, like "sex education" guidelines, "homeschool" policies are already being used to favor the community's "rights" over parental obligations. The usual end result is that a lay committee controls homeschool children's access to the Sacraments.

 

  • The Church teaches that the parish cannot monopolize or enforce uniformity when it comes to catechesis. With one exception, guidelines already in place basically do usurp parental subsidiarity. For the sake of "community," guidelines claim that parents must use diocesan-approved texts like the Benzinger series. Others insist or suggest parents must allow direct oversight by the DRE (Director of Religious Education), enter into a "written covenant" between the pastor, and their child, attend weekend retreats or participate in certain "liturgies." Parental non-cooperation results in their homeschooled children being denied the sacraments.

 

  • Further, the big problem with guidelines is that what is actually required is often tucked in between layers of suggestions. In some cases, the word "required" is used but the guideline itself is not in line with Church teaching. Some guidelines are stated in such a way as to appear like a commandment, like "Be involved," when in truth this is only another suggestion. Parents must know their rights - not only in accordance with state law but also in natural and divine law.

 

  • What appears to be "proof-texting" is showing up in some sacramental guidelines for homeschooling parents and children. Proof-texting is a term most commonly used to explain what non-Catholics do when quoting Scripture in order to prove their argument against the Catholic Faith. Scriptural passages are used out of context and given the wrong interpretation (an opinion) in order to strengthen the proof-texter's personal convictions against the true Faith. Catholics who know about this Scriptural proof-texting method realize that proof- texters are basing their beliefs on their opinions of what Scripture means, not what God intends them to mean.

 

  • Similarly, if such proof-texting is used when referring to Church documents during the writing of homeschool guidelines, those same Church documents will appear to mean what a particular diocesan committee wants or decides it to mean instead of what the Church intended. No lay person, no homeschool study group, no diocesan committee, no pastor, and no bishop or cardinal can lawfully do this.

 

The following reasons make it clear than an international association which desires to establish itself as a "juridic personality," as NACHE wishes to do, will offer benefits to no one except the organization itself.

 

  • An international association presumes there are other national associations with which to network. There are no national Catholic homeschooling groups in other countries at this time.

 

  • A relationship between homeschoolers and the Church already exists. However, NACHE claims their own international status would signify all homeschoolers' desire for a more direct connection to the institutional Church. Homeschoolers attend Mass regularly and many are otherwise active in their parishes, clearly showing their relationship to the institutional Church. No further "expressions" are necessary.

 

  • NACHE, a self-appointed organization mainly comprised of converts and "reverts," in virtue of its expressed desire to have some kind of juridic authority, also claims its international status will give it the potential to become an advocate or institution for homeschoolers within the Church. This clearly shows NACHE's ultimate aim to be the "official" Catholic homeschool organization over all others.

 

  • Such authority could easily lead to abuse. Already, without their desired pontifical status, NACHE and its mother/sister organization TORCH have publicly declared that those Catholic homeschool organizations and individuals who do not agree with them are working "outside the Church." This is a serious charge of schism.

 

  • Close study of NACHE's previous actions, including their dismissal of clear and recent opposition by the majority of homeschool leaders to pursue pontifical status, indicate NACHE will continue to represent its own interests.

 

This article continues

with the following subtitles:

 

The Mothers Watch Wallop

 

Homeschoolers: A House Divided

 

TORCH Accuses

But Can't Refute the Facts

 

A Behind-the-Scenes Look

 

Another Developing, Dangerous Situation

 

Cardinal Carries the TORCH?

 

Fr. Hardon says, "I am not privy..."

 

I Will (or Will Not) Serve

 

Will Two Groups Become One?

 

 


The Mother's Watch Wallop

 

In July 1998, NACHE's annual convention convened in Manassas, VA. Homeschoolers, alerted by a Mother's Watch (2) article exposing the partnership of two homeschool groups (TORCH and NACHE) with Fr. Kris Stubna of Pittsburgh diocese and Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore, MD, filled one particular NACHE workshop to overflowing. That workshop was given by Fr. Stubna in his talk entitled: The Pittsburgh Story: Working WITH Your Diocese (capitals included in the actual title).

 

The priest, who authored Catholic Vision of Love (CVOL), the "chastity-cloaked" sex education catechetical series, admits he works with a Pittsburgh diocesan committee which provides names and phone numbers of area Family Planning Clinics. Less than two years before, NACHE's Kimberly Hahn acted jointly with Fr. Stubna and others in Pittsburgh diocese, constructing homeschool guidelines. NACHE also ran at least one ad for CVOL and responded to homeschoolers' complaints by claiming CVOL is a "family life curriculum for Catholic schools," according to NACHE's newsletter editor, Lesley Payne.(3)

 

Interestingly, Mrs. Hahn's actions have been consistently defended by TORCH in the person of her co-author Mary Hasson, who also holds leadership positions in both TORCH and NACHE. All the while, Kimberly Hahn and Mrs. Hasson denied any knowledge of CVOL's contents. Now, however, as board members of an organization which asked Fr.Stubna to speak at the annual Catholic homeschool convention, surely both ladies have had ample opportunity to critique the sex ed series.

 

To date, however, neither they nor the homeschool groups they are associated with have retracted their earlier defense of chastity cloaked sex ed programs which they call "Family Life Programs."

 

Instead both TORCH and NACHE have begun openly attacking those who question their new vision which equates doctrine, dogma and discipline with diversity, divisiveness and dialogue.

 

Unable to refute the Mothers Watch (MW) chronological report providing the history of TORCH and NACHE's cooperation in the formation of homeschool guidelines, Mary Hasson wrote a rebuttal in the May 1998 TORCH newsletter but chose to ignore the MW article's background information.

 

Instead, the TORCH/NACHE leader turned a sacramental guideline debate into an obedience issue, claiming the divisiveness over it has the capacity to "wound the Church deeply." (4)

 

Homeschoolers: A House Divided

The Mothers' Watch article, which Mrs. Hasson airily dismissed as "sheer fantasy," focused on the question of legitimate authority behind sacramental guidelines. It offered an abundant amount of "behind-the scenes" information on the Catholic homeschool movement and the history of diocesan guidelines for homeschooled children. Exploring the connections and backgrounds of members of the Pittsburgh home study task force, the article also critiqued Homeward Bound, provided information on the 1994 NCEA (National Catholic Education Association) survey on homeschooling, and the subsequent reactions of the Round Table, TORCH, NACHE, and CHSNA (Catholic Home School Network of America).

 

It further asked "The Convert Question" on modern-day neophytes becoming Catholic experts while still new to the Faith, focused on the April 1996 NCEA workshop on homeschooling, and addressed Kimberly Hahn's involvement in the Pittsburgh, PA guidelines under Bishop Donald Wuerl and NACHE's subsequent, tacit endorsement of the Catholic Vision of Love series

 

It also brought up the issue of an officially approved national homeschool curriculum, as noted in the Boise, ID "sacramental" guidelines for homeschoolers. It further disclosed the alleged collaborations between TORCH, NACHE and Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore, reported by homeschoolers who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation by fellow TORCH members. (5)

 

Following the article written by Keeping It Catholic's Marianna Bartold, Mothers Watch editors Ann Polcha and Judith Ammenheuser added their own informative article entitled, "A Tale of Two Dioceses," spotlighting the sexology courses Bishop Wuerl and Cardinal Keeler allow in their parochial schools. In response to the information and chronological events provided, TORCH chose to categorically disregard all the compiled facts offered by Mothers Watch.

TORCH Accuses - But Can't Refute the Facts

"Riddled with factual errors, the article drew conclusions and made insinuations that are nothing less than sheer fantasy," countered Mrs. Hasson in her written defense of TORCH and NACHE. "On that basis alone, it deserves to be dismissed without a second look." (6)

Deploring the mindset of the article that at one point appealed to the issue of "the protection and support of homeschoolers' rights within the Church," Mrs. Hasson asked, "Are we as homeschoolers really meant to relate to our Bishops and priests the way a hostile labor union relates to management?" (7)

 

"The Church as I know it is not in the business of usurping or denying anything that is God-given," she further countered. "Nor do I believe that the Bishops spend their time weaving webs to ensnare and immobilize unsuspecting lay people. Where is the faith of those who regard our Bishops as enemies? Where is their trust in the institution Christ founded? Where is their fidelity to the Church? And who ordained them to pronounce on the orthodoxy of priests and of Bishops chosen by the Pope?" (8)

Mrs. Hasson ended her discourse, "As for me, I stand with the Church and invite those who have chosen to be adversaries of the Bishops and priests of our Church to take a step for unity and come back to the fold." (9)

 

One wonders what Mary Hasson thinks of her father, Dr. Charles E. Rice, a long time adversary of the bishop-mandated sex ed in the Catholic schools. In fact, Mrs. Hasson's father endorsed Sex Education: The Final Plague by Randy Engel which is a balanced, scathing critique of Cardinals and bishops who promote sex ed. Dr. Rice's endorsement reads with the the following quote,

"This book is uniquely indispensable in documenting the harm sex education does in public and Catholic schools." (10)

 

Meanwhile, the Mothers Watch article, entitled Homeschoolers: A House Divided, rekindled the national debate over diocesan sacramental, homeschool policies and who is constructing them.

For example, a quick look at the Pittsburgh homeschool "task force" showed "homeschool father" Michael Aquilina was also an employee of the diocese as he was then editor of The Pittsburgh Catholic, the diocesan paper.

 

Mr. Aquilina wrote a freelance article for Our Sunday Visitor on homeschooling and the book, Catholic Education: Homeward Bound, yet he focused primarily on Kimberly Hahn and neglected co-author Mary Hasson. Mr. Aquilina has since become a bona fide employee of Our Sunday Visitor, which also publishes Pittsburgh's sex ed catechetical series Catholic Vision of Love. Mr. Aquilina was recently given the editorship of Our Sunday Visitor's New Covenant Magazine and has become more involved with TORCH, even to endorsing a TORCH leader's poor attempt to "Catholicize" the popular American Girl series and advertised on the internet. (11)

 

House Divided exposed that requests to be included in the study, expressed by Pittsburgh area homeschoolers, fell on deaf ears. A few articles by study group participant Michael Aquilina in The Pittsburgh Catholic claimed the task force's goals were three -

"...to provide homeschoolers with information and resources for the teaching of the Catholic faith; to foster positive relationships between homeschooling families, their parishes, and the diocesan Church; and to address issues in sacramental preparation." (12)

 

The end result was the sacramental guideline document entitled "Faith Education in the Home," which were proclaimed a "model for all dioceses." (13) The document's list of names includes Kimberly Hahn, Fr. Kris Stubna, Michael Aquilina and his wife Teresa, and Diane Basemen (Catholic founder of the ecumenical PA Home Education Network). It also included large number of diocesan employees, including Fr. Ronald Lawler, general editor and promoter of Catholic Vision of Love and Dr. Robert Paserba, Superintendent of Catholic schools. Of the three homeschooling couples on the task force, Mrs.Hahn did not reside in Pittsburgh, one had only a three year old child, and another had ties with Aquinas Academy, a newer parent-run school. (14)

Behind-The-Scenes Look at the Pittsburgh Story

Tom and Carol Nypaver, two bona fide Pittsburgh area homeschooling parents who participated in all the meetings, resigned from the task force at the end of the "dialogue" process. Their names do not appear on the final Pittsburgh guidelines document, and the Nypavers explain why.

With the Pittsburgh personnel reneging on an earlier agreement to a diocesan-wide open meeting with any interested homeschoolers, the Nypaver's reported the diocese used Bishop Wuerl as the excuse. Although the bishop did not attend one "dialogue" session, diocesan officials claimed that such a meeting "would compromise the bishop's authority," especially if homeschool parents were allowed to review the guidelines before publication. (15)

 

In addition, the Nypavers reported statements in the document's final version were made without formal discussion, study or verification from homeschoolers within the diocese. Yet the statements in the Pittsburgh guidelines are presented as thoroughly researched facts.

 

For example, the document states "as a whole [Catholic homeschool families] reflect the Catholic population in general, varying in their practice of the faith" and "The home education movement is broad-based, and as it grows it takes in more Catholic adults who are not attending Sunday Mass and who may not be well-schooled themselves in Catholic doctrine." Finally, the Nypaver's said the diocese stuck to its own outlined agenda, leaving no room for the introduction of valid points, such as the reason why parents choose home education in the first place. (16)

 

"Honest dialogue never happened," Nypaver claimed in an Our Sunday Visitor (OSV) article. However, OSV - again, publisher of Pittsburgh diocese's Catholic Vision of Love - was quick to counter that "even" Dr. Mary Kay Clark of Seton Home Study School had a "warm response" to the Pittsburgh guidelines. (17) Dr. Clark claims her words were taken out of context, making it appear she wholeheartedly supported guidelines.

 "I don't welcome guidelines which can be used and will be used to pressure parents," she says. "Guidelines should be simple and not include excess verbiage. Such verbiage could easily be used by DRE's and CCD teachers and pastors who haven't read it carefully. Guidelines can be used to pressure homeschooling parents to do that which is not required, like attending CCD classes - which include sex ed materials approved by the diocese," Dr. Clark warns.

 

As for homeschool groups which, like TORCH, want to approach their diocese about guidelines, Dr. Clark says, "They have to realize that, in most cases, they won't be seeing the bishop, but the people in the Diocesan Office of Religious Education. They must be careful who they send and not allow themselves to be manipulated by these politically prepared appointees. These homeschoolers are in a dangerous situation because not only will it affect them but all homeschoolers in the diocese. That is a heavy responsibility to accept. They will have to realize many people won't like what they did and won't like the results, and they might not be happy with themselves in the long run."

 

Another Developing and Dangerous Situation

 

Without asking or being asked, Kimberly Hahn and the entire NACHE board have clearly accepted the heavy responsibility to speak for and represent homeschoolers nationwide. In April 1998, at the invitation of Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore, MD, the entire NACHE board (sans Mary Hasson) flew to Rome. There they met the Cardinal, who accompanied them on their official visit.

 

It was in Rome that Kimberly Hahn asked Cardinal Keeler his views on an international homeschool association directly under statutes. Kimberly Hahn reports the Cardinal replied "enthusiastically" and that he immediately offered to directly oversee a pontifical lay association for homeschoolers. According to NACHE, they even broached the subject with Cardinal Trujillo of the Pontifical Office of the Family, who also responded "enthusiastically."

 

"As a result of our meeting this past April with Cardinal Lopez Trujillo of the Pontifical Council on the Family, we have decided to pursue status as an association of the faithful," revealed the NACHE board in a letter to a group of homeschool leaders. (18)

"He [Trujillo] enthusiastically encouraged us to pursue this status, and his direct support is a strong factor in our decision. While we have not worked out the details yet, we expect to make progress towards implementing this decision in the coming months."

 

The progress of which NACHE refers to is the following of recommendations received during "dialogue" with Cardinal Keeler and his appointees.

 

Cardinal Carries the TORCH

Although both TORCH and NACHE established their groups around 1992 in Baltimore, MD and Manassas, VA, neither group showed any public association or preference with Cardinal Keeler until recently.

 

On a related note, according to Cardinal Keeler, Mrs. Hahn's Protestant father approached him to join an "interfaith group."

 

" I was talking earlier with Kimberly Hahn," said Cardinal Keeler at the 1997 NACHE Convention to an audience of Catholic homeschool families. (19) " Her father, the Reverend Doctor Jerry Kirk, is the national co-chair of the Religious Alliance Against Pornography, which is an inter-faith group. I've been honored to be asked to serve as co-chair with him - to see if there is a way that we, as people of faith, who are disgusted with the spiritual pollution that comes with pornography, can work effectively and make a stand. " He asked for support from parents in this and said it "seems to work best" when we "go city by city in an organized way, then community by community."

 Yet not only does Cardinal Keeler allow sex education in his diocese, but he has developed a strategy to "wear down Catholic parents who object to explicit sex education." (20) The Cardinal also turns a blind eye to "dirty dollies," specially hand-sewn anatomically correct rag dolls which also feature working orifices.(21) The dolls are used to show kindergarten and first grade children how to engage in various intimate acts. (22)

 

Cardinal Keeler also favors "horizontal inclusive language,"(23) reported Fr. John Fessio, S.J. Cardinal Keeler also publicly states, as he did at the1997 NACHE Convention, the idea that Catholics must have "a new openness to world religions," adding that people must guard against "sins against unity" and work "toward social juctice." (24)

 

 "They are incapable of dialogue," claim Baltimore parents embroiled in years' battles with Cardinal Keeler's diocesan schools for years. (25) "Keeler is just like Bill Clinton. All he cares about is money and power. He's like Clinton in that he thinks quickly on his feet. He tells people what they want to hear. But he shows absolutely no consideration for Catholics who hold traditional views," said one Catholic father in a Wanderer interview. (26)

 

"He can lie and stonewall and talk about 'common ground,' just like Clinton does, but when a Catholic asks a question about any of his policies, he might as well be excommunicated. There's no dialogue. There's no more room for that person in his Church," the father concluded.

 

"The diocese and the schools will not let parents be the primary teachers," said Michael Karcher, who engaged in six years' of correspondence with Cardinal Keeler and his appointed representatives over the sex education New Creation series. (New Creations features crudely drawn black and white drawings of male and female genitalia at different stages of development, including an obstetrician's view of a woman during a gynelogical exam.)

 Yet this is the prelate that both TORCH and NACHE feels will be open to homeschoolers, most of whom have rejected sex education and the euphemistic "Total Quality" (outcome based education) programs in private and public schools.

 

"After all, the Pope did appoint him Cardinal," said Rachel Watkins, NACHE Board Member, in response to homeschoolers' objections over Cardinal Keeler's invitation to speak last year. "And we look at this as a wonderful opportunity to introduce him to the idea of homeschooling."

 

"He's a saint," stressed Miki Hill, another NACHE board member to a protesting parent. "I'm telling you, I know him! He's a saint! You can't listen to that other side," she emphasized. Presumably, Mrs. Hill was insinuating the "side" that points out the cardinal's blindness to the immorality and the values clarification classes with which Baltimore parochial schools are permeated.

 

Imitation - the Sincerest Form of Flattery

 

Further confusion reigns now that two International Catholic Homeschool (ICH) associations may be under construction. As noted previously, NACHE informed some homeschool leaders they would pursue some kind of international status.

 

The fact is NACHE announced their plans on the very day another group of leaders convened in Seattle, WA to discuss and possibly found another international group of Catholic homeschoolers. NACHE was well aware of the other group's intentions and had been in regular contact with them.

 

An estimated two hundred homeschoolers, in and out of the United States, were contacted a mere three to four weeks before the May 29, 1998 Northwest Catholic Family Education Conference. These two hundred people received a special nvitation to attend a post-conference dinner and meeting, hosted by Ann and Michael Malone of Arizona, and Julia Fogassy, conference coordinator and proprietor of Our Father's House (a small homeschool business). The letter bore the names and email addresses of the three initiators.

 

Referring to a presentation made by canon lawyer Philip Gray at the fall 1998 Round Table meeting in Tampa, FL, the letter claimed the Malones and Fogassy were intrigued by Mr. Gray's dissertation on the "discipline of the Church on Associations of the Faithful. They offered a summary of his talk and why they were interested in it. That letter also invited homeschool leaders to either attend the meeting in person or to submit a written statement on the pro's and con's of an ICH association.

 

"In his experience with homeschooling issues, Philip consistently finds that parents do not use the resources of the Church available to them," the letter continued. "Most parents loosely affiliate with others and never seek any level of recognition by Church authorities. As a result, when conflicts occur, both internal and external, associations usually do not have adequate structure to address the problems.

Anyone who begins a business without obtaining civil recognition places the business in danger. It is the same in the Church. Canon law makes it explicitly clear that no association can have recognition within the Church without its statutes being reviewed by competent authority."(27)

 

The letter then divided the problems they felt Mr. Gray saw into three basic groups: "First, no instruction from Rome exists that specifically address homeschooling."

 

"Second, in the absence of such instruction, bishops are left to their own discretion in interpreting the disciplines of the Church. As a result, concrete applications by bishops across the world are as varied in each diocese itself."

 

"Third, Catholic homeschooling parents are divided on many issues, including the desirability of recognition by legitimate, episcopal authority." (28)

 

The following paragraph surprised not only homeschoolers, but the priest to whom it refers:

 

"Father John A. Hardon, S.J. has also specifically encouraged homeschooling parents to draw up statutes for an International Lay Association and advises that these statutes be submitted to competent Church authority for review. He believes this process could provide the necessary grace and structure for the continued growth and development of the homeschooling movement." (29)

 

 

 

However, Fr. Hardon emphatically contradicted the statement given above. Not only did he know nothing of the Seattle based group's intentions, he also denied any knowledge that NACHE had gone to Rome or that NACHE wanted to form an international association of homeschoolers.

 

Mrs. Fogassy, who initiated the Seattle meeting and who had used Fr. Hardon's name in a letter of invitation, was alerted to that effect by this writer.

 

Following up on the information Keeping It Catholic provided her concerning Fr. Hardon's statement, she found the information was correct and publicly retracted her earlier support for statutes and apologized for using Fr. Hardon's name without personally getting his endorsement. Claiming she had tried to contact him without success, Mrs. Fogassy says she "foolishly" believed Fr. Hardon's "silence meant consent." Mrs. Fogassy still intends hopes to form or assist in forming some kind of ICH organization for homeschoolers. (Click here to see Mrs. Fogassy's recent submission of a Solidarity Pledge which has been endorsed by TORCH-- just weeks after this article was published in Catholic Family News.)

 Fr. Hardon Says, "I Am Not Privy"

to NACHE's Actions

Meanwhile, Fr. Hardon added his own comments. "I have not been privy to the forming of any international association for homeschoolers," said Fr. John Hardon in a telephone interview. "In fact, you may say that I am not consulted by the NACHE board. You may also say I was even told by NACHE and the bishop's committee (National Council of Catholic Bishops), that I was not to be included in their private meetings to discuss homeschool concerns."

 

Fr. Hardon is referring to a Washington, D.C. luncheon meeting between a few bishops and NACHE in March 1998. When he learned of the meeting and understandably expected to attend as NACHE's spiritual advisor, Fr. Hardon was told by NACHE he would not be welcome.

 

"It seems I still have some use as a mascot. They told me I'm only their spiritual advisor," he commented wryly. "They reminded me I'm not on the NACHE board, and they said only the NACHE board could be at the bishop's meeting. You know, I helped them found that organization but they voted me off the board. That was a decision these so-called Catholics made among themselves years ago."

 

When questioned why he remains the group's spiritual advisor if his counsels are ignored and/or disregarded, Fr. Hardon replied, "I have a mission from the Holy See to catechize parents and to work with homeschoolers. I still hope to be of some influence to NACHE."

 

As for the NACHE/NCCB meeting, no other independent homeschooling organization was invited, much less informed about it. However, Miki Hill of NACHE requested the presence of Dr. Mary Kay Clark, known to be associated with the Round Table, a group that NACHE has philosophically opposed throughout the years.

 

"Msgr. McDade called me at the request of Miki Hill, after he had called Miki Hill at the request of Card. Keeler," says Dr. Clark, director of Seton Home Study School. "Cardinal Keeler requested Msgr.McDade to set up the lunch with three bishops on the NCCB Education Committee." Dr. Clark declined the invitation, adding, "I don't know if the luncheon meeting actually happened."

 

Cardinal Keeler's office twice declined interviews about the March 1998 bishops' meeting or the international association proposed by NACHE. Claiming time constraints could not allow even a telephone interview, Cardinal Keeler's assistants said they could not reply to questions about NACHE's trip to Rome or the Cardinal's plans to sponsor their international endeavor.

 

This "curtain of silence" is exactly the same modus operandi used when Pittsburgh guidelines were under construction with the help of Kimberly Hahn and Michael Aquilina - total silence from all participants and no dialogue with "outsiders" until the "unveiling" of guidelines.

 

In the meantime, word of the Seattle meeting began to spread. Homeschool leaders with email access corresponded with each other and Mrs. Fogassy daily. The idea of an international association was politely debated. A good many made it clear they were not opposed to the authority of the Church or her hierarchy but to abuse of that authority or the methods used to assist parents.

 

Consequently, the level of concern rose when it was discovered NACHE had approached Cardinal Keeler to form their own "pontifically recognized" association of homeschoolers. In fact, Mrs. Fogassy had first promised Kimberly Hahn she would publicly invite those who attended her Seattle meeting to consider joining NACHE's efforts with Cardinal Keeler. After learning Fr. Hardon did not endorse the proposal, however, she reneged. She even wrote this writer via email, who she knew was writing this article, to say she was trying to find a way to gracefully withdraw her offer to Kimberly Hahn. On the very day the Seattle meeting opened, NACHE sent a letter disclosing their intentions to forge ahead with their own international association.

 

"Although this is an oversimplification," wrote the NACHE board, " we might regard one group as believing that Catholic home schoolers should work in close collaboration with the institutional church, best articulated by TORCH and NACHE." (emphasis mine) (30)

 

It was the first time the NACHE board had openly acknowledged that they and the TORCH national chapters are closely affiliated.

 

Like Cardinal Keeler, TORCH and NACHE feel they can dismiss or "excommunicate" those who hold traditional Church teachings dear. The following direct attack on the Catholicism of either other national Catholic homeschool organizations or their founders was proclaimed by Kimberly Hahn, Bill and Lisanne Bales (fellow converts and friends of the Hahns), Mary Hasson, Michelle and Timothy Hill, and Rachel and Matthew Watkins. All emphasises below are mine.

 

"On the other side you have the view that given the present ecclesial situation in the United States, families will best [be] able to pass on the faith if they remain apart from the institutional structure, as articulated by CHSNA and the KIC [Keeping It Catholic] website." (31)

 

It is clear to see that NACHE did implicitly, if not outright explicity, acknowledged there is some problem with the "present ecclesial situation" - but failed to outline whatever that "situation" is. Additionally, NACHE totally ignored the teaching of subsidiarity, parental obligations and the nature of marriage - all upheld by the Church.

The Keeping It Catholic Website defends those teachings, including direct quotes from Pope John Paul II, previous popes, the encyclical Christian Education of Youth and even Canon Law. (32)

 

Yet NACHE again misconstrued the words and intents of fellow Catholics when they wrote:

 

"We firmly believe that Catholics should not choose to separate themselves from the existing lines of hierarchical authority. The Bishops and Cardinals in communion with the Pope are not a superfluous layer within the Church. Some of the statements over the past month indicate an unwillingness to adhere to or submit in any way to the authority of the hierarchy in America--as if the American hierarchy were somehow separate or different from the Church itself. This attitude has the potential to lead into the dangerous practice of each person becoming an authority unto himself--deciding for himself the "true" interpretation of Catholic doctrine and rendering himself the authentic judge of which bishop or priest is to be obeyed. With prayerful concern we encourage all homeschoolers to reject this mindset." (33)

 

NACHE's insistence on obedience vs. interpretation is ironic, considering the organization's consistent disregard of its own spiritual advisor, Fr. John Hardon, S.J. Further, TORCH and NACHE might want to consider for themselves the words of their board member Mary Hasson who wrote, "All the good motives in the world - defending the Church, preserving the purity of our children - don't justify slandering or imputing bad motives to those with whom we disagree." (34)

 

 

I Will (or Will Not) Serve!

NACHE continued, "We expect that some homeschoolers, priests, and current leaders in the Church will disagree with our decision. We respect their right to disagree and presume they are motivated by the same love for God and His Church that we are. Our intentions are simple--to be faithful to the Church, to work within the Church, and to serve homeschoolers in whatever way we can. We invite like-minded Catholics to do the same." (35)

 

 By completely dismissing the expressed concerns and objections of other Catholic homeschool leaders (local, state and national), NACHE's very words belay the fact they wish to "serve homeschoolers in whatever way" they can. Further, they disparage "like minded homeschoolers" who disagree with NACHE with one of two methods.

 

The first tactic is to proclaim any given homeschool issue one in which parents are free to disagree, while at the same time articulating their hope that those who oppose NACHE share the organization's purity of intent, love of the Church, and faithfulness. The second tactic is one in which the association turns the debated issue into a matter of obedience. NACHE appoints itself as the final arbitrator on such issues, refusing to answer any further questions of those who do not agree into which camp the issue was placed. These same methods were used to establish sex education in the Catholic schools.

 

It is clear that TORCH/NACHE aligns itself with the most influential names it can, using those names to their own best advantage. Using Fr. Hardon's name as a respected theologian gave the organization time to grow stronger in reach and influence. Kimberly Hahn was asked to join the board around the time she cooperated with Bishop Wuerl's diocesan committee. Now NACHE, with the help of Kimberly Hahn, approaches Cardinal Keeler while actively cooperating with the American Church hierarchy's modus operandi. TORCH and NACHE's mission of late seems to be convincing homeschoolers that the "bishop always knows best."

 

One can only wonder what is the two groups' official view to the bishop's pastoral letter Always Our Children. Fr. Hardon said, "That so-called pastoral letter defends homosexuality. That is absolutely, utterly, totally anti-Catholic."

 

TORCH/NACHE also ignore the reality that they themselves are the main cause of the divisions in the homeschool movement. This is best illustrated by NACHE's history of consistently refusing to acknowledge or collaborate with other homeschool groups - besides its own mother/sister group, TORCH. Though two separate legal entities, the TORCH/NACHE associations share a "cross-pollenization" (36) of board members, a fact that NACHE disregards as "a situation not uncommon in the corporate world." Both openly proclaim the same philosophy of uninformed, blind obedience, push a message of "unity and charity," and close ranks against other Catholic homeschool organizations.

 

For example, Mary Hasson was seen and overhead as she personally approached Bishop Bruskiewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, asking him to construct homeschool guidelines in his diocese. She made this attempt after a homeschool conference in which she was invited to be a speaker. Homeschoolers in the area were shocked that she neglected to even consult with them. She simply acted on her own perceived authority as a TORCH and NACHE board member.

 

It could be that TORCH believes if they can begin a public dialogue with a conservative bishop like Bruskiewitz, the criticisms leveled at them for interference will decrease.

 

Both also show a penchant for disregarding facts, using known and respected names to promote their own agenda, attack those who defend the Church's teachings ignored by some prelates, cry for obedience to bishops, and, when closely questioned, claim they are "just homeschooling mothers" who don't have time to fight off "false" allegations against them.

 

Cardinal Keeler is a well-known name that NACHE clearly believes can foster the organization's growth. However, knowing now that the majority of homeschool leaders will protest their alliance with Cardinal Keeler, NACHE may very well attempt to extricate themselves from previous arrangements made with the cardinal. Instead, they may pursue sponsorship with another prelate who won't bring forth such a strong "negative reaction."

 

Nonetheless, NACHE may find that Cardinal Keeler is not like Fr. Hardon, S.J. who suffered in silence for years as they ignored his advice. Charismatic and benign as the Cardinal may appear, he is a primate of the United States and could very well use his own influence on any bishop they may choose to replace him.

 

To further complicate NACHE's difficulties if they should hope to withdraw from any previous agreements with the Cardinal, NACHE board member Miki Hill has been part of a task force in Baltimore to institute homeschool "sacramental guidelines." Mrs. Hill and her husband recently resigned as TORCH's co-directors for many reasons, including time to pursue "other apostolates to which the Lord has called them." (37) The Hills' TORCH resignation coincides with NACHE's decision to publicly pursue the "apostolate" of either a pontifical or private international association of or for homeschoolers.

 

The initial information from the TORCH/Baltimore diocese meeting was revealing. It was reported that Cardinal Keeler said he would like to send students for which there is no room in parochial schools to homeschoolers, in order to "to elevate homeschool parents to the status of Catholic schools." Cardinal Keeler did not mention that marriage was elevated to a sacrament by Our Lord Himself, with all the graces necessary for parents to educate children religiously, civilly, morally, academically, etc.

 

In addition, the Cardinal insisted he needed "vocations, vocations, vocations" as well as teachers, principals and catechists in CCD programs - trained in the new Catechism and using materials approved by him. Claiming that homeschool parents have a vocation as teachers, he further stated such parents should be teaching in his CCD programs.

 

Will Two Groups Become One?

 

Meanwhile, the two ICH proposals may very well merge forces. In a letter shortly before the May 29th meeting in Seattle, WA, the following email message was distributed among leaders:

 

"Based on the responses from TORCH and NACHE, I know that someone will do what we have proposed," wrote Phil Gray, canon lawyer at CUF. "There may even be more than one group. This should be welcomed. I do not believe it necessary that only one association exists. That would limit the Spirit's movements. (emphasis ours) We have one Church, and she recognizes unity in diversity."

 

Mr. Gray, who works and moves in the same mileu as the Hahn's in Steubenville, OH, and was simply a consultant, used the word "we" when answering questions or concerns. He was absolutely correct that "TORCH and NACHE" would "do what we have proposed."

 

"I know you have done well to keep out of the political muck as much as you have been able," he encouraged Mrs. Fogassy. "We (emphasis mine) need to keep doing that. It may be that the meeting will produce several groups that will simultaneously seek approbation at different levels and with different bishops from different countries, etc. That should not be seen as opposing each other, but rather enhancing the life of homeschooling and helping each other."

 

"From reading your responses and knowing your desires, I know why God chose you to start organizing this," Mr. Gray flattered Mrs. Fogassy. " Don't fool yourself, this isn't too big for you, because you have God on your side (not to mention me and a couple of crazy Irishmen in Arizona)," the latter being a joking reference to Mrs. Fogassy's collaborators, the Malones.

 

Nonetheless, the true aim of the ICH association was never made clear among all the leaders participating in the Internet email forum. The discussions touched upon many aims for the organization such as seeking "pontifical" status which would have the organization report to Rome under a cardinal or bishop, founding charitable works, collecting donations, building up unity between the dividing lines among homeschoolers, "feeding the sheep" by offering spiritual help to others, or even becoming some kind of lay religious order.

 

No specific agenda or purpose was agreed upon before the May 29th meeting convened in Seattle. Further, the sole fruit of the Seattle gathering was to send one of their participants, Mr. Paul Brazier of the St. Joseph Foundation of Australia, to meet with NACHE board members Kimberly Hahn and Mary Hasson in Steubenville on June 4, 1998. On the spur of the moment, CHSNA (Catholic Home School Network of America) board members Katie Moran and Virginia Seuffert joined the meeting. (38)

 

The end result was an agreement to give Kimberly Hahn of NACHE time to obtain from Cardinal Keeler his exact vision of an international association for homeschoolers. It was decided NACHE would announce its further plans after holding their board meeting, which was held the same weekend as their annual homeschool convention. (39)

 

Homeschool leaders are now in a state of flux. Some remain convinced nothing will come of the ICH organization. Others prefer to remain mute as they await Kimberly Hahn's and Cardinal Keeler's next step. Still others, not privy to the email communications, know nothing of the NACHE/Keeler collaboration. And there are those who believe they may have to capitulate to NACHE in order to survive and homeschool in some semblence of peace.

 

Meanwhile, grass-roots homeschooling Catholic parents continue to live their daily lives, unaware that a handful of self-appointed leaders are even now making unilateral decisions for them. Those decisions could very well affect today's children and a generation yet to be educated, whether at home or in the school.

 *******************************

 

 

Footnotes

1 M. Bartold, Catholic Family News, June 1998, Cover.

2 M. Bartold, Mothers Watch, Spring 1998

3 Lesley Payne, The Catholic Home Educator, Michaelmas 1997

4 Mary Hasson, TORCH News, April 1998, p.2

5 Marianna Bartold, Mothers Watch, Spring 1998, pp. 1-9

6 Ibid, p. 1

7 Ibid, p. 2

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid, p. 3

10 Randy Engel, Sex Education: The Final Plague (Gaithersburg, MD: Human Life International), back cover)

11 Michael Aquilina's endorsement can be viewed on the internet at http://members.aol.com/EcceHomePr/EcceHomoPress.html

12 Michael Aquilina, The Pittsburgh Catholic, July 12, 1996)

13 Homeschooling parents who wish to read the Diocese of Pittsburgh's guidelines for catechesis or for sacramental preparation, or the instrument for evaluation of catechetical materials, may find copies at the Learning Media Center at St. Paul Seminary. Parents who wish to buy copies of these documents may do so by contacting the Secretariat for Education at (412) 456-3100.

14 Bartold, op. cit, p. 7

15 Ellen Kramer, Catholic Homeschoolers of PA Newsletter, July/August 1997

16 Ibid.

17 Our Sunday Visitor, October 5, 1997

18 Email Letter of May 29,1998

19 Audiotape "Homeschooling in the Heart of the Church,, NACHE 1997 Convention

20 Paul Likoudis, The Wanderer, May 25,1995

21 Ann Polcha and Judith Ammenhauser, Mothers Watch, Spring 1998, p. 10

22 Ibid

23 John Fessio, S.J., Catholic World Report, January 1996, p. 34

24 NACHE Audiotape, op. cit.

25 Paul Likoudis, The Wanderer, April 20, 1995

26 Paul Likoudis, The Wanderer, March 6, 1997

27 Letter of April 25, 1998 from J. Fogassy/A. Malone

28 Ibid

29 Ibid

30 NACHE, Email Letter of May 29, 1998 to Leaders

31 Ibid

32 Keeping It Catholic Website at http://members.tripod.com/~catholic_homeschool/index.html

33 NACHE, op cit.

34 Hasson, op cit.

35 NACHE, op cit.

36 Author's tape, October 1994 RT, quote from Lisanne Bales of NACHE

37 TORCH News, May 1998, cover page

38 Conversation with Katie Moran, CHSNA president

39 Email of June 7, 1998 from Julia Fogassy to Leaders

 

 

 

An edited version of this original article appeared in the July 1998 issue of The Catholic Family News

Reprints of the edited article (and subscriptions) can be ordered by calling

(905) 871-6292

or writing Catholic Family News,

MPO Box 743

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UPDATE

Without mentioning the veracity of Keeping It Catholic's summer reports, NACHE has confirmed information earlier provided via the KIC network. The NACHE organization finally announced their plans to attain Church recognition as a lay association of the faithful, with Cardinal Keeler acting as their sponsor.

In the Michaelmas 1998 issue of their newsletter, The Catholic Home Educator, NACHE wrote it was their intention that "we might be a bridge, working with the hierarchy and assisting homeschoolers." NACHE also verified Keeping It Catholic's summer 1998 reports that they had met with bishops this past spring, that Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore, MD had volunteered to sponsor their organization, and that their board flew to Rome in April.

There was, however, no mention of their spiritual advisor, Fr. John Hardon, or his participation in any of these events.

 

 While NACHE continues to insist that guidelines are a "mixed blessing," and starts to build its bridge, one must ask:

Since NACHE continues to insist there are no problems between homeschoolers and the hierarchy, why do we need a bridge?

Why does NACHE continue to insist that those who do not agree with their views are in opposition to the Church?

Why do they feel free to excommunicate others who do not agree with them? And if they do so this now, what are they capable of if they feel they have Church recognition?

NACHE also claimed in their recent newsletter that they "look forward to continuing and enriching the strong relatiohships we have built with other homeschool leaders...We welcome the inquiries and suggestions of all homeschoolers - help us serve you better!"

Yet NACHE continues to ignore KIC's private, concerned, and charitable attempts at communication. NACHE chooses not to answer privately, but publicly they issue vague "damage control" statements in their newsletter, speaking of "detraction" and "criticism." KIC sadly notes that NACHE board members continually show themselves not open to any true communication, much less any "dialogue" process.

 

Consequently, Keeping It Catholic totally opposes NACHE's pursuit to become "the" Catholic homeschool organization that decides it shall be the liason group between Catholic homeschooling families and priests, bishops and cardinals. As KIC has shown on our other website pages, no real benefits are to be seen but the potential for abuse is far too great.

Say NO to NACHE.

 

Meanwhile...

As foreseen by KIC and other homeschoolers, NACHE recently endorsed and published the "Pledge of Solidarity" in their latest issue (Michaelmas 1998) asking all their readers to "abide by its principles."

Incidentally, TORCH - the group that is associated with NACHE but continues to deny it except to admit that they both share Mary Hasson on their two boards - earlier published and endorsed the same "Pledge of Solidarity" allegedly submitted by Julia Fogassy of Our Father's House and her associate Katherine Eames.

The "Pledge" was released exactly one week after a "deadline date" in July, 1998 -- which coincided with the annual NACHE convention. It was also the date that NACHE was to inform CHSNA, which allowed itself to be lulled into an attempted "dialogue" with NACHE, whether or not they would continue their plans to work under the direction of Cardinal Keeler. The negotiations were later cut off when it became apparent that NACHE was only interested in silencing any opposition to their actions.

Most interesting of all, the "Pledge" appeared just a few weeks after the article above was printed in the July issue of Catholic Family News. It must be noted, however, that Mrs. Fogassy, one of the two women who submitted the pledge to the homeschool organizations TORCH and NACHE, has recently responded to Keeping It Catholic's Mrs. Bartold. Mrs. Fogassy claims she is not in favor of the kind of international association NACHE is currently purssuing.

 

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