Joint Pastoral Letter
on Catholic Education
Mindful of our responsibilities to the little ones of our flock, and conscious of the pressing obligations of our office, we address this joint pastoral letter on the Catholic education of youth, to our faithful people.
Twenty-five years ago Pius XI of glorious memory spoke to the whole Catholic world on the Christian Education of youth. The educational problems which occasioned the appearance of that Papal Encyclical are pressing upon us in the Philippines more than ever today.
Leaving to parents, school administrators and teachers the fruitful task of studying once again in its entirety the Papal Encyclical on the Christian Education of youth, we will limit ourselves here to the recalling of some of its salient truths and to the application of them to the concrete circumstances of the Philippines today.
The Nature of Christian Education
Christian Education is integral education, for it takes cognizance of the whole man — all his powers, all his needs, all his strivings. It seeks to develop the physical, mental and moral faculties of the child in such a harmonious way that he may be prepared not only for the pursuit of happiness in this life, but especially for external happiness in the life to come. It trains man’s intellect in right habits of thought and enriches it with the truths about God and man that are our cultural and religious heritage. It directs the will by holding before it worthy ideals and powerful, lasting motives for right human conduct. It disciplines man’s emotional powers by subjecting them to a will motivated by Christian principles and by forming them in habits of appreciation for what is the truly good and the truly beautiful.
Such an education enables man to live not in some imaginary world, but in this world. It prepares a man for his particular calling, and disposes him to achieve an excellent personal and social life within the framework of that calling. By thus training him for the proper conduct of life in this world, it prepares him for everlasting life in Heaven.
The Use of the Necessary Means
To accomplish these exalted aims, Christian Education utilizes all the necessary means. The best methods known to man for training the youth through the arts, sciences and humanities are not only utilized by the Christian educator, but in a special way, owe their development to the Catholic Church. Even from the merely natural viewpoint, Christian Education is surpassed by no other system of education in the success with which it trains the youth “for the making of a living and the living of a life” — for the living of a happy useful life in this world, in this human society, in this nation. Nor does the Christian educator rest content with the natural methods he has thus far devised. He knows that education, like the student himself, is capable of greater and greater perfection. He is alert to the value of new ideas and new methods. He will, however, remove from them any evil exaggerations to which they may be prone and convert them to the greater glory of God.
But a natural view of man and his education is a very incomplete view, yes, a distorted view. No education is truly integral unless, by supernatural means, it develops in the youth supernatural life and thus directs him to his supernatural end. This is the necessary element in true education and the distinctive feature of Christian education. The child is taught the truths of the supernatural religion founded by Jesus Christ. They, and they alone provide him with adequate motives for right moral conduct; they purify the mind, chasten the heart, tame the passions and give strength to the will. Jesus Christ becomes the Model of the child; imitating Him, he acquires virtue. And the use of all the means for acquiring divine grace, through prayer and the sacraments, is an essential part of Christian Education. Without this grace man cannot attain his true happiness to which education is supposed to lead him. Without this grace, he cannot properly develop his moral faculties. With it, he can become the “well-integrated man” of which modern educators speak with evident admiration. The Papal Encyclical presents this doctrine clearly in this classic description:
• “The proper and immediate end of Christian education is to cooperate with divine grace in forming the true and perfect Christian, that is, to form Christ Himself in those regenerated by baptism… The true Christian, product of Christian education, is the super-natural man who thinks, judges, and acts constantly and consistently in accordance with right reason illuminated by the supernatural light of the example and teaching of Christ; in other words, to use the current terms, the true and finished man of character.”
In the Home
Christian education must begin in the home. The most important role in education belongs to the parents. It is during the plastic years of infancy that the foundation for future Christian character is laid. The parents who have given life to their children have not finished when they have brought them into this world. They are bound to rear their children and to watch over them with loving care, to train them and develop their latent powers. Thus they are educators in the true meaning of the term. They educate their children by word and by example. From them, the children learn first of God and of the things of God, of His Commandments, of His love for them and of their need for Him. By imitating the example of Christian mother and Christian father the children become more like to Christ. Words enlighten their minds and example draws their heart. Parents who neglect their duty as educators must one day render an awful account before God’s tribunal.
In the School
But the parents cannot provide for the full Christian education of their children within the narrow confines of the home. Their parental responsibility impels them to seek in a school the completion of the Christian education begun in the home.
In the concrete circumstances of the Philippines today, there are four types of schools which profess to aid parents in the education of youth: the Catholic school, the Private schools of other religious groups, the non-sectarian private school and the public schools. It is of the utmost importance for the salvation of youth and the glory of God that not only parents but also all Catholics clearly understand their obligations and duties relative to all these types of schools.
The Catholic School
The Christian education of youth, as we have already described it, is the proper function of the Catholic School. The objectives of Christian education are the objectives of the Catholic School; the means for accomplishing these objectives are present in sufficient abundance only within the Catholic School. We know from sad experience that an integral Christian education is ordinarily attainable, as a matter of fact, only in the school operating under the auspices of the Catholic Church. Only in such a school can purity of Christian doctrine be preserved; only in such a school is there the general Christian atmosphere, the daily sacramental life, the consistent Christ-like example of teachers and guides, the text-books and curriculum permeated with a Christian spirit that are requisites for a truly Christian education.
It follows that Catholic parents, on whom is the serious obligation to procure the Christian education of their children, have the duty to send their children to Catholic schools whenever their financial status allows them to do so. This obligation, confirmed by the positive prescriptions of Canon Law and reiterated by the Supreme Pontiffs, carries with it the correlative right in the parents to send their children to Catholic schools. This right is based on natural law; it is confirmed by positive Divine law, and it is recognized by the Constitution of the Philippines.
We have added to our above statement on parental obligation the proviso: “whenever their financial status allows them to do so.” It is unfortunately the fact that some parents, due to no fault of their own, are prevented by financial reasons from sending their children to Catholic schools. Let us here caution parents not to lightly assume that his condition is verified in their case; let them remember that they must answer to God, not to men. But granted that such is often the case, this necessity gives rise to certain obligations on the other Catholics of the Philippines.
According to their respective capacities, the Catholics of the nation, clergy and laity alike, should do everything possible to increase the number of Catholic schools and to bring their Christian education within the financial means of all Catholic parents. That even the present inadequate number of Catholic schools is able to continue in existence under their tremendous financial burdens, is due in large measure to the self-sacrifice of our secular clergy and of the religious congregations of men and women which conduct so many of these schools. Proportionate sacrifice on the part of other Catholics would greatly extend the benefits of Christian education.
Let all realize that the Catholic schools of the nation, without benefit of support by public funds, are making a tremendous contribution to the education of Philippine youth and are thus of great benefit to our beloved Republic. They are unsurpassed in the type of education which they give to the youth even if viewed from a purely secular viewpoint. Any measure which would hamper the Catholic schools in the pursuit of their rightful educational objectives, is a disservice to the cause of Filipino nationalism; its effect is to impede the parents of the nation in the exercise of their God-given and constitutional right to obtain for their children an integral Christian education. With full realization of these rights, the Catholics of the nation will defend their Catholic schools with the same unselfish patriotism, far-seeing wisdom and courage, and for the same ultimate reasons, as they would defend their homes and their altars.
Private Schools of other Religious Groups
Little remains to be said about the Catholic’s duties relative to the private schools conducted under the auspices of other sectarian groups. Canon Law (1374) expressly forbids Catholic children to attend these non-Catholic schools. The reasons for this prohibition are clear from what we have already said about the nature and means of an integral Christian education and the obligation of parents to provide it for their children. Only the Bishop of the Diocese can permit an exception in particular cases, and this only for weighty and sufficient reasons.
The Non-Sectarian Private Schools
Many Catholic children are in private schools not under the auspices of the Catholic Church nor of any religious group. The extent to which the education imparted in these schools falls short of the requirements for an integral Christian education varies greatly in degree. If the Catholic parents of these children are unable, because of circumstances, to send their children to Catholic shools, there remains upon them the obligation to see that the education of their offspring approximates as nearly as possible the conditions of Christian education. They must intensify their educational efforts in the home and use all possible means to improve the education in the school in question. For similar reasons, the Catholic owners, administrators and teachers in these schools should do all in their respective powers to remedy the situation. In this connection, we warmly commend the zealous efforts of Chaplains, faculty members, Catholic Action groups and other individuals and organizations engaged in apostolic work in some of these institutions. May their efforts increase and prosper to the greater glory of God.
The Public School
That no Catholic parent should be compelled to send his child to a public school is perfectly obvious. On this subject, the Papal Encyclical on the Christian Education of Youth expresses the doctrine in this fashion:
• “Accordingly, unjust and unlawful is any monopoly, educational or scholastic, which, physically or morally, forces families to make use of government schools contrary to their Christian conscience, or contrary even to their legitimate preference.”
Actually, however, a large percentage, indeed, the vast majority of our Catholic children are attending the public schools. Almost four fifths of our Filipino children go to the public schools. In most cases the compelling cause is economic.
It is therefore evident, that our pastoral solicitude should be concerned, most of all, with our children who are forced to attend the public schools. We cannot remain unconcerned about the spiritual welfare and eternal destiny of these little ones. We cannot stand idly by and see them grow up as lost sheep, with false notions of Almighty God, with little knowledge of Jesus Christ and His commandments, with no love for the Virgin Mary and woefully ignorant of religious truths and fundamental moral principles. We must not delude ourselves into thinking that training in “good manners” or “ethical culture” or a course in “religion in general” can adequately supply for training in the doctrine and religious moral principles of their Catholic Faith.
In his “farewell address”, Washington gave these words of wisdom to the American people. “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles.”
Good manners cannot replace morality. “Men must be governed by God, or they will be ruled by tyrants.” Moral religious principles are necessary to hold in check the passions of men. When these safeguards are thrown away there is no force capable of curbing the rapacity of the human heart. Cardinal Newman has vividly expressed this truth in the following words: “Carve the granite with a razor, moor the vessel with a thread of silk, then you may hope with such keen and delicate instruments, as human knowledge and natural reason to contend against the passions and pride of men.”
And here, we appeal, with all the earnest as we can command, to our Legislators and civil authorities to make actual and effective the constitutional provision for optional religious instruction in our Public Schools. We would remind them that apart from their often repeated pledges to implement religious instruction in the public schools, they have a sacred duty not only to God, but also to our country, to strengthen and protect the moral fibre of our youth. Much still remains to be done to implement fully the provision of the Civil Code. What is needed above all, is vigilance and insistence that the responsible officials should not merely give lip service to the constitutional provision, but should loyally and wholeheartedly put it into execution. We cannot ask for less, we will not ask for more.
Pastors must recruit and prepare catechists to teach in Government schools, even in the remote barrios of their parishes. They should be helped by Catholic Actionists, by other religious organizations, and by the religious congregations of men and women.
The parents or others in loco parentis should avail themselves of the provisions of the Civil Code by applying for religious instruction for their children, and see to it, with firmness, that their children loyally attend such instruction.
Instructors in Religion should be given the proper time, suitable rooms and all necessary facilities for the religious training of their pupils. Superintendents of schools, supervisors and other school authorities should be reminded that, as servants of the people, they should do all in their power to assist the parents in the exercise of their God-given and constitutionally recognized right, to make adequate provision for the Christian education of their children.
For God and Country
From first to last, the general principles which should govern the Catholic’s attitude and actions with regard to the education of our Catholic youth are simple and coherent. It is our duty and our right to obtain for the children an integral Christian education. Such an education must begin in the home but, for its adequate fulfillment, it needs the Catholic schools. Parents therefore have the duty and the right to send their children to Catholic schools. If circumstances over which they have no control prevent parents from sending their children to Catholic schools, then the utmost caution must be used, to see, that as far as humanly possible, religious instruction is given to those children. If the great majority of our children are forced by economic reasons to go to public school, then the public schools must be made to correspond as nearly as constitutionally possible, with Catholic educational requirements. That provision of the Civil Code on religious instruction be made actual and effective, is of paramount importance.
In so insisting upon the need for the Christian education of youth, We, the Bishops of the Philippines, are conscious, first and foremost, of our sacred duties before God. We hearken to the words of Christ: “Suffer the little children to come unto Me and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of God.” (Mk. 10:14) Our hearts are warmed by the words with which He depicted the sublimity of the Teacher’s vocation: “And whoever receives one such little child for my sake, receives me.” (Mt. 18:5) And we, with all men and women responsible for the well-being of these children, tremble at Christ’s words of condemnation of those who put obstacles in the way of their salvation: “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it were better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Mt. 18:6)
But we are conscious also that, in so urging the Christian education of youth, we are doing the greatest service to our beloved Philippines. These words of the Papal Encyclical are our words too:
• “Let it be loudly proclaimed and well understood and recognized by all, that Catholics, no matter what their nationality, in agitating for Catholic schools for their children, are not mixing in party politics, but are engaged in a religious enterprise demanded by conscience. They do not intend to separate their children either from the body of nation of its spirit, but to educate them in a perfect manner, most conducive to the prosperity of the nation. Indeed a good Catholic, precisely because of his Catholic principles, makes the better citizen, attached to his country, and loyally submissive to constituted civil authority in every legitimate form of government.”
The product of a truly Christian education is well prepared to make his due contribution to the social, economic and political life of his country. In an eminent way, the Catholic School is qualified to “develop moral character, personal discipline, civic conscience, and vocational efficiency, and to teach the duties of citizenship.” (Philippine Constitution, Article XIV, Sec. 5) It instills in its product the knowledge and respect for human dignity upon which the preservation of the country’s liberties depends. It combats the spread of a materialistic philosophy and inculcates spiritual values, without which communism or some other type of state tyranny is the logical outcome. It has produced in the past our greatest leaders and patriots — Rizal, Burgos and Zamora, the forerunners of Filipino nationalism, were brought up in the Catholic Schools. It will continue to produce good citizens, leaders of the people, men and women dedicated to the service and love of God and to the honor of our country.
Given in Manila on Easter Sunday, on the 10th day of April, in the year of Our Lord, 1955.
(Sgd.)+JULIO R. ROSALES
(Sgd.)+SANTIAGO C. SANCHO
(Sgd.)+JAMES T.G. HAYES, SJ
(Sgd.)+PEDRO P. SANTOS
(Sgd.)+JOSE MA. CUENCO
(Sgd.)+RUFINO J. SANTOS
(Sgd.)+CESAR MA. GUERRERO
(Sgd.)+LUIS DEL ROSARIO
(Sgd.)+MANUEL M. MASCARINAS
(Sgd.)+MIGUEL F. ACEBEDO
(Sgd.)+MARIANO A. MADRIAGA
(Sgd.)+ALFREDO MA. OBVIAR
(Sgd.)+JUAN C. SISON
(Sgd.)+VICENTE P. REYES
(Sgd.)+PEREGRIN DE LA FUENTE
(Sgd.)+TEOPISTO V. ALBERTO
(Sgd.)MSGR. CHARLES VAN DEN OUWELANT
(Sgd.)MSGR. PATRICK CRONIN
(Sgd.)MSGR. GREGORIO ESPIGA INFANTE
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Joint Pastoral Letter on Catholic Education