By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Holding together the obligation to protect and promote the Catholic identity of Catholic schools while reaching out to a wider community of students and teachers requires a commitment to dialogue, according to a new document of the Congregation for Catholic Education.
The instruction, “The Identity of the Catholic School for a Culture of Dialogue,” was signed by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the congregation, and was released by the Vatican on March 29.
The congregation, Cardinal Versaldi said, was asked to draft the document particularly “in view of the cases of conflicts and appeals resulting from different interpretations of the traditional concept of Catholic identity by educational institutions.”
The document, however, did not include any specific description of these cases, which presumably include controversy over the firing or non-firing of teachers for marrying someone of the same sex.
Those involved in hiring for Catholic schools, he said, are required to “inform potential recruits of the school’s Catholic identity and its implications, as well as their responsibility to promote this identity. If the person recruited does not respect the requirements of the Catholic school and their membership in the ecclesial community, the school is responsible for taking the necessary measures. Dismissal may also be resorted to taking into account all the circumstances on a case-by-case basis. »
At the same time, he said, “a narrow Catholic school model” is also not acceptable. “In these schools, there is no place for those who are not ‘totally’ Catholic. This approach contradicts the vision of an “open” Catholic school which intends to apply to the educational sphere the model of a “Church that advances” in dialogue with everyone.
The document insists that Catholic education is not strictly catechetical, nor a “mere philanthropic work aimed at meeting a social need”, but that it is an essential part of the identity and mission of the Church.
Catholic schools do not limit enrollment or employment to Catholics alone since, as the Second Vatican Council said, part of their mission is to promote “the complete perfection of the human person, the good of society terrestrial and the construction of a more Human world.”
To achieve this goal, the document says, Catholic schools must “practice the ‘grammar of dialogue,’ not as a technical expedient, but as a profound way of relating to others. Dialogue combines mindfulness with own identity with understanding of others and respect for diversity.
Everyone – administrators, teachers, parents and students – has “an obligation to recognize, respect and witness to the Catholic identity of the school”, which must be clearly stated in its mission statement and presented to future employees and parents of future students.
“In training the younger generations,” he said, “teachers must be exceptional in correct doctrine and integrity of life.”
But the whole school community is responsible for embracing and promoting the school’s Catholic identity, he said, so it cannot be “attributed only to certain spheres or to certain people. , such as liturgical, spiritual or social occasions, or at school function”. chaplain, religious teachers or school principal.
Taking into account the different contexts and laws in the countries where Catholic schools operate, the document urges schools to “formulate clear criteria of discernment regarding professional qualities, adherence to Church doctrine and consistency in life Christianity” of candidates for positions in Catholic education. schools.
When conflicts over “disciplinary and/or doctrinal” matters arise, all involved should be aware of how “these situations can discredit the Catholic institution and scandalize the community.”
“Dismissal should be the last resort, legitimately used after all other attempts at redress have failed,” he said.
Noting that “in many countries, civil law prohibits ‘discrimination’ on the basis of religion, sexual orientation and other aspects of private life”, the document nevertheless notes that where “State laws impose choices contrary to religious freedom and to the very Catholic identity of a school”, the rights of Catholics and their schools must be defended “both by dialogue with the authorities of the State and by recourse to competent courts in the matter”.