"Perhaps the best way to appreciate the power of Catholic schools is to imagine the Church in the United States without them...
Will it be said of our generation that we presided over the demise of the most effective and important resource for evangelization in the history of the Church in the United States?
Will it be said of our generation that we lacked the resolve to preserve national treasures built upon the sacrifice of untold millions?
Will it be said of our generation that we abandoned these powerful instruments of justice that provide educational opportunity and hope for families otherwise trapped in poverty?"
Making God Known, Loved and Served: The Future of Catholic Primary and Secondary Schools in the United States. Notre Dame Task Force on Catholic Education Final Report; University of Notre Dame, December 2006
Ladies and Gentleman, here in the Brooklyn Diocese, which encompasses the mighty boroughs of both Brooklyn and Queens, that would be a "yes."
It's a "yes" even if you call it "Preserving the Vision."
Who knew the shepherds of Christ's flock would display such a flair for Orwellian Newspeak in a lame attempt to avoid distasteful controversy?
Oh, wait a minute...come to think of it...the guy who presided over this school system during the critical years of its decline was actually a master of it. (For a devastating example, set aside some spare time, don't eat first, and go here.) The legacy that followed him from Boston to Brooklyn was one of stunning moral torpor in regard to our children (coated with Teflon in regard to infamy, unlike his erstwhile boss, Cardinal Law). Is it any wonder that, while other dioceses around the country have saved their Catholic school systems through innovation and fresh ideas, ours continued to wither and shrink?
In contrast, his successor, a decent man by all accounts, seeks merely to shore up and consolidate the wreckage. It's a sadly limited vision compared to what Our Lord asked of the apostles, but I guess it beats being a facilitator emeritus of pure evil.
However, the Preservation of the Vision has just claimed my school and my daughter's in the name of a "vibrant future." St. Anastasia in Douglaston is toast, and Holy Name School is being merged with the school of an adjacent parish; the entire enterprise is, of course, being handled with the sort of Christ-like compassion and openness we have come to expect from the Kremlin the Diocesan Office.
When the guys in charge tell you how hard they tried to save them, just do me one favor: Don't believe a word of it.
Images: The Bells of St. Mary's; Associated Press
Update: On Friday, Jan. 23, I appeared on NPR's 'The Takeaway' to share these sentiments; I was indeed plied with sufficient coffee to compare the bishops unfavorably with the Blues Brothers in their commitment to Saving the Schools; go here to listen (I don't know how long that podcast will be available).