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Yeshiva model for Catholic education

May 1, 2015
Antoinette Doyle
San Rafael

Re “Supporting doctrinal integrity,” April 17, letter by Tom Spencer, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah:

My first reaction to Archbishop Cordileone’s letter to Catholic high school teachers was perplexity. Reading Mr. Spencer’s letter I wonder, however, if it might be time to consider the radical idea of transforming Roman Catholic education by creating private, orthodox elementary and secondary schools staffed only by bona fide practicing Catholics who, indeed, would be certified as “ministers” vs. as lay teachers.

The model could be borrowed from Jewish Hasidic tradition: Concerned with keeping themselves spiritually clean, the Hasidim are focused on biblical concepts of purity and contamination. “In this ordering of values, separation from outsiders is inevitable and understandable: It is a mode of self-protection, as well as a keeping straight of categories. They preserve their orthodoxy through a separate school system. In fact, one of the very first things the Hasidim did upon settling in America was to found schools and yeshivas” (“Life Apart: Hasidism in America,” PBS broadcast, Aug. 25, 1998).

Such private Roman Catholic schools would accept students based upon parental signed agreement to adhere to the canons of Roman Catholic moral teaching as mandated by episcopal authority in their own lives and the lives of their children. Tuition and tuition assistance would be underwritten by private payment and private philanthropy; no government funding would be sought or accepted.

Of course, the archdiocese would have to reevaluate its mission of education – for the many or for the few? Orthodoxy has its place; presumably truth no longer would be trumped by apostasy. But do we really want to become an island unto ourselves? 

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