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 homeschooling parent.

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 as follows:

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 performance:

"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 down." (Wrenn,p.76).

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 Ecclesiae."

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 Children."

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 exist.

4. The Authoritarian Tone of Certain Self-Designated Homeschool Experts

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. (2)

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 ignorance around.

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 years.

I hope you will acccept this recommendation in the spirit of charity and concern to which it is written.

In Christ Our King.


James Bendell

Roman Catholic Faithful, Inc.


Cc: Bishop Donald Wuerl

Fr. John Hardon


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