Archive for November, 2008

Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life) and Education

November 14, 2008

Who put the private in public education?

God is the source of human life.”  Pope Paul VI

The Catholic Church, “expert in humanity”, as Pope John Paul II described it, is rightly interested in education.  At marriage preparation and baptism, parents are reminded of their work to raise and to educate children.  There is a great tradition in Catholic education of defending both faith and reason.  The Church also has a vision for the proper use of education.

            Some trends in education give the impression that we are free to manipulate ourselves and our world in any direction we desire, for pleasure or for politics.  Catholic education offers a mature, cautionary voice of reason.  Motivated by obedience to God, we recognize “that there are some limits to the power of Man over his own body and over the natural operations of the body, which ought not to be transgressed.”  (Pope Paul VI, in Humanae vitae, Of Human Life)

Teachers and parents naturally want students and children to be obedient to their authority.  Governments naturally want citizens to be obedient to their authority.  The best guarantee of this acknowledgement of authority is for students, teachers, parents, governments alike to be obedient to God, to the “supremacy of God” as stated in the preamble to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  The first step is to side with faith over atheism.  The second step is to be obedient to our human nature rather than to use our education to fight it.

Students by definition are growing from immaturity to maturity.  As Pope Paul VI describes them, “human beings, especially the young, are so susceptible to temptation that they need to be encouraged to keep the moral law.”  Then, addressing parents and educators, he writes that it “is wrong to make it easy for them to violate this law.”  Faith often corrects education.  Privacy and relativism are two key principles of modern education.  By contrast, the Church teaches there is such a reality as objective truth, and that we are not alone in this world.  God is with us. 

While it is not easy in a culture of entitlement, the Church’s constant teaching is that we are not a million solitudes in this world.  Education remains, in it best tradition, concerned not with facilitating the disintegration of civilization, but with its improvement.  The Church is an essential tutor in the best use of all this education, and teachers are those “whose right and duty it is to be concerned about the common good.”

Fr. Jeffrey Stephaniuk