Anointed as Teachers
By Father Bob Papi
Parents sometimes have hearts filled with anguish. This comes about when, prompted by the Holy Spirit, they fulfill their sacred duty as the primary educators of their children and encounter systems and individuals who usurp in various ways this primary and sacred, this inviolable right and duty of parents.
Here, to assist parents, to encourage and comfort them, are some of the teachings of Holy Mother Church regarding this sacred parental right and duty.
It must be stated clearly that whenever these parental rights are denied, frustrated, belittled, usurped, or interfered with - assuming the parents are themselves being faithful to their commensurate duties which accompany these rights - then those persons or institutions placing themselves as obstacles to the parents also place themselves as obstacles of Christ, His Holy Gospel, and therefore against the Church as well.
This is a most serious matter, one which Holy Mother the Church Herself regards as very serious indeed.
That in many cases there exists a conflict between authentic parental rights and duties, between authentic Catholic teaching, morality, faith, and the notions of the modern era affecting educators and educational institutions, is but an example of the suffering of Christ within His Body the Church in our day.
In his Apostolic Exhortation: The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World, Pope John Paul II teaches: "...the mission to educate (of parents is rooted)... in their participation in God's creating activity...So great and splendid is the educational ministry of Christian parents that Saint Thomas has no hesitation in comparing it with the ministry of priests: 'Some only propagate and guard spiritual life by a spiritual ministry: this is the role of the Sacrament of Orders; others do this for both corporal and spiritual life, and this is brought about by the Sacrament of Marriage, by which a man and a woman join in order to beget offspring and bring them up to worship God.' " (#38) By the Holy Will of the Father Himself parents actively participate in God's creative activity and, with the Holy Spirit, seek to form their children as true disciples of Christ, branches of the Divine Vine, called to bear fruit. This parents share in the Divine authority over their children.
Church law itself, what is known as Canon Law, is binding upon ALL Roman Catholics, both individual persons and any and all entities claiming Roman Catholic as their defining title of existence. It is exacting in its clarity on the issue of parental rights and duties when it comes to the education of their children. Indeed Canon Law is equally clear in this regard as it pertains to the Church Herself, Bishops, Priests, Laity, institutions even the state.
For example Canon 793: "Parents ...(as well as those who take their place, ex legal guardians) have an obligation to ensure an authentic, Catholic education for their children." Canon 798 states "Parents are to send their children to those schools which will provide for their Catholic education. If they cannot do this, they are bound to ensure the proper Catholic education of their children outside the school." (emphasis mine.)
We Bishops, Priests, educators etc., must presume good faith, indeed fidelity to their vocation as the prime educators of their children, when parents make those choices vis-a vis particular schools, or even particular classes, for their children.
Canon 803: "...the teachers must be outstanding in true doctrine and uprightness of life."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks to this issue in numbers 2221 through 2231 and states in 2222: "Parents must regard their children as children of God and respect them as human persons. Showing themselves obedient to the will of the Father in Heaven, they educate their children to fulfill God's law."
And 2225: "Through the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children."
It is by virtue of this their sacramental grace of state that parents are the inalienable primary educators of their children. Educators and educational institutions are forbidden to usurp this prime parental right and duty.
Pope John Paul II in the cited Exhortation on the role of the family make this abundantly clear when he states in paragraph #36: "The right and duty of parents to give education is essential, since it is connected with the transmission of human life; it is original and primary with regard to the educational role of others, on account of the uniqueness of the loving relationship between parents and children; it is irreplaceable and inalienable, and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurpedby others."
Parents must accept then that any attempt to abandon their prime duty as educators of their children by actual or passive delegation to the school system, is a grave matter indeed. Likewise any attempt by the schools or teachers to deliberately or passively exclude parents, or usurp parental rights in this area is also a grave matter.
In paragraph #46 Pope John Paul II presents the Charter of Right of the Family which states the family's "right to exercise its responsibility regarding the transmission of life and to educate children" and "the right to bring up children in accordance with the family's own traditions and religious and cultural values, with the necessary instruments, means and institutions."
The educational system, including teachers, then work FOR the family, with the family, and must never, directly or passively work against it. Indeed, when parents send their children to school, in particular a Catholic school, the entire system, especially the teachers, must always be conscious that they act only as agents of the parents, only under the permissive authority of the parents, only as enablers of the sacred primary parental role vis–à–vis the education of the children.
In his Letter to Families, Pope John Paul II applies the principle, key to much of Vatican II teaching, of subsidiarity to the whole relationship between the prime parental rights, responsibilities, and the role of educators. (Subsidiarity: a simple definition of the principle is that, in this case, the 'larger, more powerful unit', as we might refer to the educational system, MUST place itself at the service of the 'smaller, more in need of assistance unit', the family.
The Pope teaches: "Parents are the first and most important educators of their own children, and they also possess a fundamental competence in this area; they are educators because they are parents. They share their educational mission with other individuals or institutions, such as the Church and the State. But the mission of education must always be carried out in accordance with a proper application of the Principle of Subsidiarity. This implies the legitimacy and indeed the need of giving assistance to the parents, but finds its intrinsic and absolute limit in their prevailing right and actual capabilities. The principle of subsidiarity is thus at the service of parental love, meeting the good of the family unit. For parents by themselves are not capable of satisfying every requirement of the whole process of raising children. Especially in matters concerning their schooling and the entire gamut of socialization. Subsidiarity thus complements paternal and maternal love and confirms its fundamental nature, inasmuch as all other participants in the process of education are only able to carry out their responsibilities in the name of the parents, with their consent and, to a certain degree, with their authorization." (#16)
To conclude I offer reference to the Holy Father's great teaching The Splendour Of Truth, in particular the section of the encyclical entitled Walking In The Light as a source of meditation and action by parents, educators and pastors of souls.
If parents, educators, and pastors are to be reunited in the care and education of our children AS children of the Light, bonded by the separable grace of Christ Himself; the Way, the Truth, the Light, and our own commitment to love and truth, then we must refrain from destructive power struggles and personal agendas. We must all become true, humble, loving servants, following the example of Christ Himself who came not to be served but to serve.
Father Papi serves in Peterborough, Ontario.
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