Rejoice with us! Today is the feast of our holy father Saint Dominic, and so I send you special greetings as the Dominican family throughout the world celebrates our patronal feastday.
Saint Dominic conceived the idea of an Order of Preachers when he encountered the errors of the Albigensian heresy in southern France. To those who love Christ, who is truth, error is the enemy. And those who have been seduced by error are the object of their concern, their prayer, their apostolate. And the principal weapon to be used against error is truth. And we learn truth through proper education. That is why Saint Dominic did what no other religious founder had done before his time: he sent his followers to the best schools that existed in those days. Bologna, Padua, Cologne, Paris, Salamanca, and Oxford were the principal universities of Europe, and all of them taught Catholic theology along with all their other subjects. So from the beginning, there was a connection between Dominicans and study.
Let us bring these considerations down to our present time. In the eight centuries since Saint Dominic’s time, education has branched off into secular schools and religious ones. And our Catholic educational system has been the pride and joy of the Church for years. However, in the past half-century, many so-called Catholic colleges and universities in this country have given up their Catholic identity and are, in fact, no more Catholic than their secular counterparts. In 1990, Pope John Paul II issued an apostolic constitution called “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” meaning “From the Heart of the Church,” having to do with the duties and responsibilities of real Catholic schools throughout the world. If they do not teach authentic Catholic doctrine and morality, then they are failing of their purpose and cheating the parents of those young people who are going to those schools presumably to learn Catholic truth.
Some Catholic schools have proven their loyalty to the Holy See by implementing that apostolic constitution; others have not. Many schools in this country which have been Catholic schools since their beginnings are Catholic in name only. A young man whom I know attended Loyola University in New Orleans where he was taught Zen Buddhism by a Jesuit priest who had embraced Buddhism, but insisted that you can be a Catholic and a Buddhist at the same time. That priest is now dead, after having left religious life and priesthood and gotten married. That young man left the Church and was practicing Buddhism for a time. I think that he has given that up, but has not returned to the practice of Catholicism, and is probably drifting in a state of religious and spiritual confusion. This is the kind of horror story that we hear all too often in today’s world. Just a few years ago, the pastor of one of the largest Catholic parishes in Houston warned his parishioners from the pulpit about the kind of education being dished up by a high school owned and operated by the Dominican Sisters of Houston. He suggested that if they really wanted their daughters to get solid Catholic teaching, they send them elsewhere. How very sad!
I speak of these things because we need to be aware of the dangers of the world in which we are living. We must do what we can to combat error wherever we find it, including in “Catholic” schools. We might well pray today through the intercession of Saint Dominic that our “Catholic” schools will return to the truths of the Church and take seriously their responsibilities and obligations to proclaim the gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is their only reason for existence in the first place. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.