Facing Dilemma of Keeping Kids in Catholic School

C4C has placed this comment in a post position. We think it reflects the struggle many parents are facing.

By Theresa, Guest Blogger

I have been grappling with this issue of stopping the money but wanting to keep our daughter in our parish school. I taught in four Catholic schools in the AD and also taught in a public school in Philly. To those here who say the public schools are safer, it was in the public school where there was an incident with a male music teacher and a student. The music teacher was simply reassigned. Sound familiar?

To those traditionalist Catholics who swear the schools were better off in the days when there were more nuns and priests teaching I would say I am much happier that all of my daughter’s teachers since preschool have been married laywomen. Yet when I taught in the public school I realized I did not feel like I could teach the whole child as I could in Catholic school. I realized just how much my faith was a part of me and how I needed to be able to share that with my students and weave it throughout the various subjects I taught. I want my child to be in a setting where she is free to learn and talk about God; where her spiritual side, the essence of her being, is not cut off from her intellect.

Yet as someone who has taught in the AD, and one who has seen the good that Catholic education can do, especially for children in the city, I am disgusted at the damage our hierarchy has done to the church but mostly the horrible damage they have permitted to occur to innocent children.

When I graduated from college (16 years of Catholic education) I served as a full-time volunteer with Covenant House. Shortly after my volunteer service ended, the founder, Fr. Bruce Ritter, was implicated in a scandal involving young men. My faith survived that experience because I thought it was the behavior of one disturbed priest. Again my faith survived in 2005 with the revelation that several priests I knew from my childhood and one who taught me in highschool were implicated in the first grand jury report. In 2005 my faith in the institution survived because I did believe what the AD told us and I willingly submitted to the training and background checks required of all of us parents to even set foot in our child’s school.

When the AD sent out their slick brochure for their capital campaign in the years between the 2005 and the 2011 reports, we chose not to contribute. I watched year after year where more and more schools in the city and now the inner ring suburbs were being closed. I was disgusted that the AD seemed to be following the money trail to Chester County where they perceived the more affluent to be moving and were going to spend millions on a new high school while closing one where my then students would have attended.

Within our parish we have had problems with a lack of support from the pastor for the school to the point that we decided to give what would have been our annual parish appeal contribution directly to the school in the form of art supplies. We have reduced our weekly contribution to the minimum required by our parish for our daughter to attend school, which is $15 per week, not 15%.

Lately I have been attending mass when I can at the Catholic university I attended as an undergrad. I feel like the priests do not talk down to me and they are somewhat removed from the AD.

I know some here would still consider me a pew sitter. I attended one rally this spring outside 222 and hope to attend more.

Sorry this comment is so long. I really appreciated this thread about having a child in the catholic schools. I admit I am really torn about what to do. My primary reaction has been to say they won’t force us out but then I ask myself how I can have my child be taught to respect the hierarchy when I no longer respect any of them? I’m also not sure if I can ever go back to teaching in the AD, at least not under it’s present leadership.

38 thoughts on “Facing Dilemma of Keeping Kids in Catholic School

  1. In the spirit of classical, consistent, Catholic church dishonesty, doesn’t it make sense that they say that the minimum required contribution to your parish for our daughter to attend school is 15 per cent when they meant 15 dollars?

    “…and there are no priests credibly accused of abusing minors in ministry”

  2. Patrick-It was another poster who earlier mentioned they were asked to contribute 15% of their income, somewhere in NY state I believe. Now I am the least likely person to defend our pastor these days given his almost sabbotage of our school but I will say we were never asked to give 15% but it has been clearly stated that parents of children in our parish school are expected to contribute $15 per week minimum to offset the parish subsidy. That is why I mentioned it in my post. We had been contributing more than that but given the findings of the grand jury report we do not want anything additional being sent to 222. We look at the $15 per week as additional tuition and in fact we have to sign off on this on our yearly tuition contract.

  3. Thank you Theresa for this insightful post. I could say “ditto” to all that you have expressed. My kids attend Catholic school with a wonderful staff of lay teachers and it all seems so far removed from the hierarchy but then I continue to go back to thinking if I am making the right decisions.
    I started my kids in Catholic school before all of the sex abuse -nationally and internationally- came to light. From your comments I think my children are older than your daughter-I have had to answer some questions from them for which there are no answers. I can tell you that they want to stay in Catholic school-they themselves seem to seperate the corruption and criminal acts of the hierarchy from the lay staff who they encounter on a daily basis. I am more than upfront with my kids about the problems that exist in the Church-I don’t hide it or shy away from it all.Luckily because of my kid’s ages they know the choice is theirs to stay or leave Catholic school so I won’t have to explain this to them as they get older.

  4. Theresa, I second Kathy. I have two children in Catholic school, (in Chester County), one about to start high school. Also like Kathy, I think we have had some excellent teachers, not all but most. My difficulties have been primarily with the principal of our school and some clergy. My children have been enrolled since Kindergarten. So, I don’t really know how to respond to people who say, ‘if you are so upset, why don’t you just take them out of (Catholic) school?’. It doesn’t seem entirely fair to me, that my children and our family would have to change who we are, because we don’t agree with abuse and the covering it up of children. I like that my kids can go to school and talk about God, something they can’t do in public school.

    I also struggle with the contributions. Our parish has never given an established dollar amount, yet I believe 3%( of your annual income)is the standard (could be wrong). I have always given what I can. I attended our parish meeting in May, with questions about how we can continue to support the parish without funds going to the AD. No answers were given. It’s a concern, because they subjectively can charge families whose children attend the school more money and lable you as non-sustaining. I am willing to contribute some money to our parish, though tuition is expensive (especially the HS, which will be a financial burden for us). However, I feel my family has to work way too hard for our money for it to go to AD for things/people I cannot support.

    There doesn’t seem to be ‘one answer’ to this question, though. I have a cousin in the Collegeville area whose parish priest was arrested, and they had there parish meeting a week after the event (not 3 months like ours), and at that time they were told they could designate thier contributions for parish use only. Now, you are saying that your parish has indicated that you need to give $15 each week. I would really be interested in hearing what other parishes require.

    1. Our parish also requires $15 weekly donation if you have kids in the parish grade school and catholic high school. I am like Theresa, in the fact that we look at it like a part of tuition, and had to sign off on it. My parish is getting no more and no less.

    2. We are required to give $20 per week if our children attend the parish school. I gladly give because I feel this money is giong towards my children’s education — part of tuition, like others have here have stated. That said, this is all I give because, while I want to support our parish ( a lot of good is done here), I don’t feel good about feeding the Archdiocese.

  5. I also understand the struggle. I am a product of the Philly AD, but now reside in Camden Diocese. Before the scandal broke out, I struggled with the decision of Catholic school, not because of the fear of my child being molested, but because I remembered very well the corporal punishment and degrading verbal reprimands from my years in Catholic school. I was pleasantly surprised to see how schools have changed, and have been pleased with the majority of lay teachers. I stay involved and over the years, especially since the scandal reared its ugly head, I watch what goes on like a hawk. Not only is the sex scandal dispicable, the reaction of the bishops appalling, I’m also disgusted by how our diocese has handled other issues. Truly, I am very discouraged by the Old Boys Club.
    My children remained in Catholic school because on a very immedate level, we have been pleased with the lay teachers and few nuns on staff. We do our best to separate our feelings for the heirarchy from our love of the faith.

  6. If you can afford a Catholic elementary and high school education and your child does not need special academic attention, its a great environment. Many families these days are hurting financially and are cutting this expense. In the long run, parents are the first teachers of the family’s faith traditions so don’t worry if Catholic schools are not possible. Also, we have to watch our children wherever they go for their safety.

  7. The other important thing to remember is that the way the Church has handled abuse issues has put not just Catholic children at risk To laicizie abusive priests and put them back out into the community is a very serious risk for all children. because their crimes were either hidden by the AD or not reported by victims until after the SOL’s – they are not registered sex offenders on Megan’s law.
    The other problem is the prayer and repentance program where abusive priests have agreed to live in a program for the rest of their lives. The prayer and repentance program in Darby has something like 15 abusive priests who simply sign in and out of the facility-an honor sytem for pedophiles.What a novel idea. That puts all the children in the community at higher risk with a number of sex offfenders living in a facility right in the middle of a neighborhood.So it is not just Catholic children who we need to be concerned about-all the more reason to puch for the House Bills to get these sexual predators behind bars where they belong.

    1. Kathy-You bring up a great point here. If I don’t stay and fight for change but instead just walk away aren’t I just passing the problem onto someone else or hoping it will disappear?

      1. I think you can leave AND fight for change.

        I don’t think you have to stay in order to effect change. In fact, the Catholic Church has shown its own that it won’t listen to you…BUT, they do listen to attorneys and empty schools and pews, and dwindling collection baskets.

        If they had listened to the people in the pews…they wouldn’t be in the mess they are in right now…there wouldn’t be a second grand jury report essentially telling the world they didn’t listen to the victims, their families, or the people in the pews.

  8. I was sexually/physically abused by a Catholic priest while attending Catholic school. I am warning you to stop sending your kids to Catholic schools to be unsupervised with Catholic priests, nuns, and laypersons. Myself included, I know many men who were victimized in school or on school grounds. It’s the easiest place for a pedophile priest to get to your kids. While in school, the priest doesn’t have to worry about “grooming” the child’s parents or sneaking away to abuse the child. He can simply keep a kid for detention, give him private tutoring, call the child to his office. Without parents around, priests in schools have a closer target and can easily manipulate the child without anyone every knowing about it.

    A few months back, I saw a priest walking across an intersection with two young boys toward a Church and school. Immediately red flags went up in my mind and for a minute I wanted to call the police. That’s how paranoid and afraid I am of priests. When I see one, I immediately think the worst, and when I see one who a child, I feel like I have to do something about it. Granted, those boys may have been “okay” with that priest and I think they were probably walking back from the playground down the street, but my memories serve me well.

    Tonight, from 7pm – 9pm, online chat room meeting for victims of abuse, family members, and supporters. Why don’t some of you stop by and offer your advice and listen to what victims have to say? Just go to http://www.Victims4Justice.org and click on the category “Chat Room.”
    I’m very interested in hearing (or reading) what some of you Catholics have to offer.

    1. I will be there! Thank you for this opportunity and invitation.

      7-9…Philly time? Which would be what for Central time? 6-8?

    2. Do you think people(parents, teachers) are more aware and will report suspcions earlier to police now with all the scandals going on…….. ? Do you think we view priests , nuns and teachers as more human and less as someone on a pedastal? then in the past……making us more likely to question authority figures?We have all lay teachers at our school and they are very caring as I volunteer and am at school alot. Also no kids are allowed at rectory or with priest without a chaparone which I have seen the school following. Even confessions are out in the open with teachers watching. I also would never have my children be altar servers as many abused have been altar servers. I think because of stories like yours some things are changing and kids are becoming safer but alot more needs to be done.I actually think we should hire victims like yourself to write the guidelines for catholics schools and safety.

      1. Treat priests as more human? They were never human to me to begin with. They are something else. The word “human” doesn’t quilify for those who rape children and those who know children are being raped and do nothing.

      2. I understand and hear you. I mean many catholics of older generations and even some now obeyed priests and nuns without question as if they were gods. I think trust and respect needs to be earned not blindly given. And you are right the ones that abused you acted like animals devoid of a soul.

      3. Even animals know better. Don’t put them in the same category with priests.

  9. It is so comforting to hear others expressing the EXACT thoughts and dilemnas that my husband and I have been experiencing since this whole awful reality came out into the open. We have the same issues re. our children and Catholic school and are keeping them there for the sames reasons Theresa, Kathy, Deidre and “mimz” stated. We also have the same “torn” feelings about sending our children to schools that are essentially controlled by people we do not respect anymore (the AD hierarchy). But we have been very happy with many of the lay teachers we have encountered who are really very much like us…..caring parents.

    At our parish, we have never even HAD a meeting regarding this issue. Our leadership is lacking. It’s just been swept under the carpet (so they think), but it has not for me and for many others.

    1. Wait until you find out just how many issues you have if you kids get abused in Catholic school like I was. Wait and see how many issues they have after being abused in Catholic school just like the mountain of issues I have now. The amount of problems I have had since being abuse in Catholic school by a Catholic priest I could just about squeeze into the Grand Canyon.

  10. options:

    Homeschooling – could dothis yourself or group together – maybe even get a college student for those subjects you need help. See School district for details.

    Cyberschools – children and teens can use the latest tech to learn. Not sure of details, but may be oblicated to give speech and other services as required on an IEP.

    Charter Schools – another option to “public schools” – charter schools are public schools and are obilgated to offer certain services.

    Used several of these options so my children did not have to attend philly public schools. Also, Education Law Center is a good source of help with educational issues. No experience with Catholic Schools with my kids – too dumb for the Catholic School( all graduated from at least a two year college) – don’t get me started on incident reports with any institution – signed a few non-disclosure agreements to settle problems and Philly SD coerced their employees not to file them. Woman had her clothes ripped off in front of her first grade class, refused to file because she needed to support her family. Just one of many that happened at one school.

    1. Ed, thanks for listing the options other than catholic or public schools but when you work full time like I do, homeschooling or cyberschools are not an option. Additionally, all the charter schools in my area have waiting lists, and kids are admitted on the “who do you know” factor. So again, if you live in the city…limited options are available. There is no other choice than the parish school or local catholic high school.

      1. 4 out of the 6 of my mom’s children teach/taught in the AD. Also helped in many capacities as Catholics so I am not knocking Catholic Ed., just giving other options instead of “public schools”. Actually when I taught at one AD high School I realized that some of the older lay teachers have learn to be very suspecious of certain behaviors, a far cry from what my friends experienced when the same teachers were younger and didn’t realize the abuse that was happening. Also, be at peace with your decision, parents wouldn’t be on this site unless they weren’t concerned and wish the best for their kids and support those who have been abused.

  11. Kathy is absolutely correct about the danger presented to society, that doesn’t just effect Catholics. She’s also right in saying that the only place for sexual preditors, is behind bars. Amen. Not some honor system coming and going as you please, unbelievable.

    I’m standing by the Catholic education, for now. Particularly elementary.

    And victims4, I can totally understand why you feel the way you do. I think today, there are so many lay teachers that the exposure to the clergy isn’t maybe as much as it was years ago (thus the increase in tuition, etc.). I do, however, have concerns about how confessions are handled at school, and will not have my youngest be an alter server.

    I’m not sure I will ever let my guard down around clergy again. Maybe if the RCC makes some serious changes. But where my kids, or anyone elses are concerned, I remain on high alert.

  12. I am a Catholic school principal who is struggling right along with all of you. I remind myself that Catholic schools are hard at work forming the future leaders of our church. I appreciate and respect the parents who trust us with the care of their children. The Catholic school experience is unique as we address the whole child in a caring environment. I know the Holy Spirit is with me in all I do.

    1. I don’t trust you people as far as I can throw you. I believe if you know of a child being abused, you will cover it up. You can’t convince me you will do the right thing and expose the perpetrators, because no Church management has ever exposed the perps.

  13. I’ve visited this thread so I could get some perspective on the thought process of parents who keep their children in Catholic schools. There are a myriad of reasons, but essentially, they boil down to the belief that the odds of your child being abused are unlikely or the risk of your child being abused is less likely than the risks associated with sending your child to another school system. Is this correct? (I’m asking, not challenging).

    I was raised in the Catholic education system. Our oldest went to Catholic elementary school. I’ve taught in both public and Catholic…and I’m now teaching at a college (not Catholic). Our children still in elementary will never be sent to a Catholic school.

    There seems to be an “elitist” mentality among Catholic parents in our area. They believe they are “protecting” their children from the riff raff of the public school system. Our public school system (with all it’s flaws) is excellent compared to what is offered at the Catholic school. But, parents believe otherwise. So, as long as parents believe it, then it must be so, right?

    Sitting with a group of Catholic parents at high school graduation as they pointed out how many of “ours” were among the honor roll. Did they fail to see that statistically, “our” children were the vast minority…that the children who excelled came from families that fostered education, among other things. Did they fail to see that the students living out their faith at that school WEREN’T only the Catholic students from Catholic families who sent their children to the Catholic school? Yet, they believed the Catholic school was better. I’ve been on both sides as a parent and as a teacher…I will be held accountable when I knew better and put them in harms way anyway.

    “I just didn’t know,” will no longer be an excuse.

    1. I have heard from friends whose children have either left Catholic school or began school in the publis school system-of the attiude they have often received from other Catholics.I have nothing against public school education. My husband who is a convert, went all through public school.He wants our kids in Catholic school for exactly the sentiments Theresa described in her post when she writes :
      I want my child to be in a setting where she is free to learn and talk about God; where her spiritual side, the essence of her being, is not cut off from her intellect.
      I started my kids in Catholic schools so that is where we will stay however knowing all that I know now – I would have explored options such as a Quaker Friends school or a private Episcopal Academy nearby.

    2. I taught primarily in the city of Philadelphia in parochial and public schools. My experience in the public school was a nightmare beginning with no walls between 5 fourth grade classes-an “open pod” setting left over from the 60’s. My experience going from an inner city catholic school to the public school was eye opening. The children had no consumable books and I had to buy cases of paper at Staples out of pocket for my class. I truly believe within the city catholic education is far superior to what is offered by the public schools-at least in Philadelphia.

      In the inner ring suburbs where we are many of the public school districts are of high quality but I admit I was scarred by my experience in the public school in Philly. Up to now we have been happy with the small classes, warm environment, and loving Christ centered teachers we have found in our parish school. The fact that our parish business manager sees the school as a financial burden and would like to shut it down or constrict to one class per grade and the fact that he has the ear of the pastor is where many of our issues have been prior to the lastest grand jury report.

      The only reason I left teaching in the city and took a position in a suburban catholic school was due to constriction to one class per grade. The policy is to lay off the most recently hired teacher and it was only my first year at that school.

      There are other reasons specific to my child that I would not like to have to transfer her to a new school. Having changed schools in the middle of my elementary years due to a move I think this would be even more difficult for my daughter due to her background.

  14. My kids go to catholic school and they know all about child molesters and bad priests and I am constantly talking to them about personal boundaries etc. They also know we put my husbands predator in jail. I have told both priests at my parish this .Aso I will call the cops if anything ever happened God for bid not report it to the pastor or diocese.I also volunteer at the school and am very involved with my kids . Kids need to be informed because where ever they go there are predators we know this unfortunately because my husband was molested but not by a priest. They are everywhere and to think otherwise is naive.I understand the coverup issues and I think the courts will make necessary changes in the laws to help prevent this in the future. Secrecy allows this to continue and whether it is a church, family, sports team etc. talking about , bringing it out in the open and taking action (calling the police and changing laws) puts an end to sexual abuse and stops it and ultimately keeps it from happening. So don’t keep silent speak the truth.It is your most powerful weapon besides prayer. I put my kids in catholic school because my catholic education help me put a predator in jail while caring for my dad who was dying of cancer and I witnessed many miracles during this time Yes there is evil in this world but also beauty and love beyond my understanding.

  15. Obey-Pray-Pay….. I “love” the $15 weekly “contribution”… Catholic grade & high schools nickel and dime us to death…You would think they would just include ALL the fees in the tuition however one would see what it really costs..That being said I sent a letter to our Monsignor (West Chester) stating our family (six kids) will not be paying the weekly contribution unless we could be given some assurance that none of it would end up downtown. Our Monsignor came right out and said he could not do so and that he understood our position. He also noted a number of families have done the same thing. We realize this is a small number ($$) in the scheme of things however it is a start. Now before everyone blast us it should be noted we give the rectory a gift card (Visa) every month this way our weekly “contribution” stays within OUR parish…By the way, we know some of our tution goes down town..

    One final item, the high school teachers have voted to strike in August should a new contract not be in place thus another item for “the crew” on Race street to deal with it…The Flyers blew up their roster maybe it is time for us to due the same….

  16. We were also told that a percentage of our contributions would definitely go to the AD. Nothing has been addressed for those of us who would support our parish (and school), but not the AD. But also, conveniently, we are told that our parish and school are separate (issues concerning one or the other, etc.). If that is so, why is it always the tuition paying parents that must bear the financial burden of supporting the parish?

    I see how some have said here that they gladly pay it, because it supports the school. Do any of you really KNOW how much of what you contribute supports the school, the parish, the AD?

    It has been a struggle too the way tuition has increased every year since I have had children enrolled (last 9 years). My family has been through job loss, and financial crisis (like many). Yet now we are expected to understand how several schools in the Phil AD have needed to close, but there is pleanty of money for lawyers, payouts to victims (not saying it isn’t justified), etc.? It’s hard to swallow.

  17. Since this topic is about our children’s Catholic education, their safety and protection and the MONEY required and/or requested to support them in Catholic elementary schools and high schools, it is interesting to note that those working for the leadership of the archdiocese are doing quite well, thank you, as a result of their relationship with Rigali and Company.

    Here’s the kind of political cash we are up against:

    -William Sasso, board chairman at Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young law firm in Philadelphia. Sasso is a prominent Republican fund-raiser and was a co-chair of Corbett’s transition team. The Stradley firm contributed $173,000 to Corbett. As an individual, Sasso donated $23,000 to Corbett’s attorney general and gubernatorial campaigns.

    This is just one example of just how powerful, influential and connected the Chairman and the law firm that is primary counsel to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia really is. Remember Mr. Sasso is an “Innocence Protector” so he must be using his influence in Harrisburg to do what is right for the Commonwealth’s children. Of course, correct me if I’m wrong.

    1. And those are the numbers you are aware of at the moment.

      That’s chump change when your talking about people sitting in positions that vote or overrule or uphold.

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