From James M. Bendell
P.O. Box 587
2535 Ivy Street
Fort Townsend, WA 98368
(360) 379-5221 Facsimile (360) 379-5319
November 13, 1998
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini
By Facsimile only
His Eminence William Cardinal Keeler
Archdiocese of Baltimore
Dear Cardinal Keeler:
I am writing this letter on behalf of Roman Catholic Faithful,
of which I am a Board Member and Legal Counsel. I am also a
It has come to our attention that certain persons and
organizations active in the Catholic homeschool movement are seeking
some type of "official" affiliation or recognition. At the same time,
there is a parallel trend toward the development of diocesan
"guidelines" to be followed by homeschooling parents, often with the
expressed or implied threat of the denial of the Sacraments to
children whose parents fail to "tow the line" with regard to these
guidelines or fail to utilize catechetical texts "officially
recognized" the diocese. RCF strenuously opposes both trends, and
hereby throws its hat in the ring along with those who will fight
against such trends for the sake of their children. Our reasons are
1. The Track Record of Officially Recognized Catechesis
During Past 30 Years.
Some things in life are very complicated, while others are more
easily solved. When it comes time for me to buy a new or used car,
the process is made easy by the fact that various consumer
organizations keep meticulous records of the rate of repair and
failure of all models of cars. By consulting such charts in consumer
magazines, can easily determine which cars are reliable and which
tend to be lemons.
The process of selection should be no less rigorous for the
education of our children. Accordingly, in determining whether it is
wise for the American hierarchy to become increasingly involved in
the minutiae of the parents' role as primary educators of their
children, I think we have to look at the track record of the
hierarchy and its officially sanctioned catechetical bureaucracy for
the last 30 years or so.
Msgr. Michael J. Wrenn, in his book Catechisms and
Controversies (Ignatius Press, 1991), summarizes this
"For it is only too true that catechesis, or the teaching of
the faith, has been a seriously affected by the unprecedented dissent
that has been evident in the Church over the past quarter century,
especially since the encyclical Humanae Vitae."
"This era has also been characterized by unprecedented
confusion in both the manner and matter of teaching the
faith...[Religious]education too often has been compromised,
as too often theology has been compromised over the same period, by
fashionable importations from the world; these importations have not
always been compatible with the authentic Catholic faith as handed
Our Holy Father has also addressed this controversy in his
apostolic exhortation, "Catechesi Tradendae," wherein he noted that
the present catechetical movement "brought with it articles and
publications which are ambiguous and harmful to young people and to
the life of the Church...and catechetical works which **bewilder the
young** and even adults, either by deliberately or admitting elements
essential to the Church's faith, or by attributing excessive import
to certain themes at the expense of others, or chiefly, by a rather
horizontalist overall view out of keeping with the teaching of the
Church's Magisterium."(emphasis added, Id. p.77)
In response to such a state of what may be termed
ecclesiastical malpractice, increasing numbers of Catholic parents
have elected to assert their rights under Canon Law and Natural Law
to assume the role of religious educator of their children. This
movement has borne great fruit, both in the children's level of
knowledge of the Faith, in the flourishing of vocations from
homeschool families, and in the creation of cultures of life within
the domestic church that forms the family.
We see no basis for the church bureaucracy (1) to resume the
helm of the ship of Catholic home education.
Foonote(1): I use the term "church bureaucracy" because, when such
initiatives are undertaken by American bishops, these functions are
routinely delegated to chancery aparachiks who often have doubtful
commitment to the authentic Catholic Faith.
2. The Failure of the American Bishops to Implement "Corde
It has been eight years since the Holy See issued this
Apostolic Constitution which was designed to address the crisis
brought on by the failure of Catholic colleges and universities to
follow the Magisterial teachings of the Church while instructing
young adults. After eight years, the American bishops have still
failed to implement this critical document. It would therefore appear
to be imprudent for the American hierarchy to tackle Catholic home
education when it has failed to follow clear and specific direction
from the Holy See regarding Catholic higher education.
3. The Disaster of the Pastoral "Always Our
As you know, the American bishops were subject to embarrassment
when the Vatican had to publicly correct certain errors in this
recent "pastoral" issued by the American bishops. Again, this was an
area involving the guidance and education of Catholic youth.
It therefore appears that a pattern has emerged in which the
American bishops have repeatedly failed Catholic youth in recent
years It is not the purpose of this letter to speculate on the
reasons for this failure. Catholic parents who love their children do
not need to speculate - instead they need to take appropriate action
in view of the conditions as they exist, regardless of why they
4. The Authoritarian Tone of Certain Self-Designated
Great diversity exists in the Catholic homeschool movement in
the United States. This diversity should be welcomed and cherished.
However, as the prospect of ecclesiastic intervention in home
education has loomed in recent months, a natural side effect of this
prospect has been the generation of feelings of division and mistrust
by some homeschoolers.
I would note particularly the strident tone of those speaking
on behalf of T.O.R.C.H. and N.A.C.H.E. toward those who question the
wisdom of bureaucratizing the Catholic homeschool movement.
Any type of official recognition of one of these groups will
necessarily be seen as a victory for one and a defeat for other
groups and will increase feelings of ill-will and combativeness in
the Catholic homeschool movement.
Footnote (2): T.O.R.C.H. publications have accused other homeschool
advocates as engaging in "sheer fantasy," questioned their fidelity
to the Church, and suggested that they don't "stand with the Church."
In doing so, T.O.R.C.H. has promoted itself as some type of American
Homeschool Magisterium. It is doubtful that the harm caused by this
posture can be undone.
5. American Bishops Should Instead Use This Opportunity to
Listen and Learn.
Doubtless you have read the statistics demonstrating that a
large percentage of Catholic students do not believe in the Real
Presence, who are unable to recite the Ten Commandments and Seven
Sacraments, and who simply lack a basic understanding of the Catholic
Faith. This phenomenon should be a cause for self-examination and
reflection by the bishops, not an occasion for spreading the
With all due respect, I humbly suggest that the American
bishops, instead of establishing guidelines and directives for
homeschoolers, should establish a study program in which the bishops
ask for help and advice from Catholic homeschooling parents on how
the bishops should change and improve religious education in Catholic
schools and CCD programs.
Humility is a difficult virtue. However, in the present
scenario, it is the bishops who should accept a role as students, and
allow homeschool parents to be teachers. Because priests devote
themselves to a life of celibacy and thus do not have children of
their own, they should be humble enough to know when they should stay
away from meddling with the domestic religious instruction of
children when their own track record has been so poor recent
I hope you will acccept this recommendation in the spirit of
charity and concern to which it is written.
In Christ Our King.
Roman Catholic Faithful, Inc.
Cc: Bishop Donald Wuerl
Fr. John Hardon
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