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BALTIMORE (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholic schools need to renew the Catholic identity of their past for the New Evangelization.
That was the message of Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States, speaking to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) at their annual fall meeting on Monday.
He started by reminding the bishops of the primary means of growth for the Catholic Church in America according to its earliest leaders: education. The Faith spread in the United States "through the building of parishes with their own schools, together with the dedicated support of women religious."
"These schools became fortresses of solid Catholic formation for all those young people who would take their place in America's future," noted Abp. Viganò, who reserved special praise for the Jesuits. Perhaps surprising now, Viganò recalled that "it was this Order ... that was meant to build up and preserve genuine Catholic teaching to be infused into the culture of America's young society."
According to America's apostolic nuncio, Catholic schools attached to their own parishes were supposed to be the way families would come to their own "identity, meaning and nourishment" in a world of rapid change. "Education," he said, "was primary in the bishops' minds; it was an essential means for the Gospel message to be woven into the very fabric of our people's existence."
And thus, the path for America would follow the path of evangelization the Church had always relied upon to spread the Good News of Christ.
With the past laid out, Abp. Viganò then shifted his focus to the present.
"We are all well aware," he said, "that we are at a critical point now in the challenges that are brought to family life in our western world." Further, he explained that faithful Catholic families are where children really begin learning. In other words, he pointed out, good parents are "the best of teachers."
"They form a domestic Church," he said, "and they prepare their children for education in our Catholic schools on every level, from primary through University stages."
Archbishop Viganò believes the highly touted New Evangelization needs to take this route of having an emphasis on education — education in both schools and in the family. However, he is careful to add that its success "will exist only in proportion to its Catholic identity."
"If we are to preserve a moral order in our society," he insisted, "we cannot fall prey to the enticements and allurements of a secularized and increasingly pagan civilization."
Bishops, as shepherds, "have a tremendous obligation to watch over and protect families, and parishes and schools for the good of the people," Abp. Viganò reminded his fellow Church leaders. Therefore, he pointed to Pope St. Gregory the Great's rule against remaining silent — for "fear [of] losing the favor of men" — whenever errors are being taught under one's watch.
"Catholic colleges and universities, renowned for the professional formation of their students, should be encouraged to be faithful to the title of 'Catholic' that they bear," urged Viganò. Specifically, he called out the Jesuits, who have earned a bad reputation among orthodox Catholics as bastions of dissent from Church doctrine. Viganò hopes "that, with respect to their great tradition, after the example of our Holy Father, they would take again the lead in re-affirming the Catholic identity of their educational institutions."
"The course must always be set by Christ and His Church, never allowing influence and wealth to dictate what might be an improper orientation for a Catholic school or university," Viganò concluded, in words of advice to the Church as it navigates through "the storms of the present times."
Also of note is that before Abp. Viganò's address, he received two standing ovations from the U.S. bishops in attendance, largely for his unapologetic willingness to help Kim Davis, the Kentucky marriage clerk who went to jail for resisting same-sex "marriage." Mainstream media outlets pounced on Viganò after finding out he put together the private meeting between Davis and Pope Francis. Pro-LGBT activists were so outraged by Viganò's plan that they even petitioned the Holy Father to fire Viganò as papal nuncio.
To learn more about education in Catholic schools, watch our show Mic'd Up: Catholic School Daze: