Finally, we get to another article published in The Catholic Answer on the topic of homeschooling, written by Msgr. Hettinger, a retired priest of the Diocese of Peoria, IL who holds a licentiate in canon law and served in various capacities in the diocesan tribunal, including judicial vicar.
Introducing Msgr. Hettinger's article was a note from the editor (Fr. Stravinskas) in which he revealed that the responses to his own homeschooling comments (see the post immediately below) were "massive, indeed." He stated that he had never before received such a "volume of mail on one answer except to my remarks on Medjugorje. Interestingly, the tenor of the correspondence was quite similar - angry, disrespectful and anti-clerical."
Regrettably, not one of those "angry, disrespectful, anti-clerical" letters out of the "massive amount" received by Fr. Stravinskas was published.
Fr. Stravinskas then made what certainly appears to be a very self- serving observation that there was "one" exception to all the responses, "a woman who expressed her hurt about my attitude, but indicated a desire to be enlightened according to the mind of the Church. To help her and any other HONEST seekers (emphasis KIC's), we are publishing this brief article." What is most disconcerting is that Fr. makes his opinion equivalent to the "mind of the Church."
What followed was simply an updated version of Msgr. Hettinger's views on Canon Law in regard to homeschooling. To sum up Msgr.'s interpretations of canon law, parents have no right to make any judgments on the "Catholicity" of a parochial school, and there is nothing in the canons that allow for homeschooling. (KIC NOTE: Neither is there anything in the canons which forbids homeschooling.)
Of special interest are the following excerpts that lead up to Msgr.'s opinion that, in what he terms "exceptional" or "borderline" cases, parents should seek a "dispensation" to homeschool. This means that, in Msgr.'s view, only a few parents might consider homeschooling but, before they do, they should seek a "dispensation" from the Church (i.e., the bishop of their diocese).
After quoting from Canon 226.2, "Because they gave life to their children, parents have the most serious obligation and the right to education them" and Canon 793.1, "Parents, and those who take their place, have both the obligation and the right to educate their children...And the right to choose those means and institutes which, in their local circumstances, can best promote the Catholic education of their children," Msgr. Hettinger continues:
"Despite first appearances, however, parents do not have carte blanche for homeschooling any more than they have for public schooling. Canon 226.2 states, 'It is therefore primarily the responsibility of Christian parents to ensure the education of their children in accordance with the teaching of the Church.' To be in accordance with the teaching of the Church means to be submissive to te Church. There is, though, a Church-parent partnership: 'Because the Church has generated new creatures through Baptism, she together with the parents have the duty to care for offspring's Catholic education (ORIENTAL Code, Canon 628.1)"(all emphasis KIC's)
(KIC Note: Interestingly, while Msgr. expresses one opinion above - that parents do not have carte blanche to homeschool, "any more than they have for public schooling" - he did NOT pronounce the Church practice, never officially abrogated, that parents who wish to place their children in a public school must seek permission from their local bishop. Considering that the ratio of Catholic students attending public schools is much higher than those who are homeschooled, one wonders why Msgr. is not much more interested in promoting that teaching.)
Other excerpts of interest include the following:
---"Canon 797 points out parents' rights to enjoy true freedom in the choice of schools, but NOT THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE BETWEEN SCHOOL AND HOMESCHOOLING."(All emphasis KIC's)
---"Canon 798 states the general obligation to use Catholic schools: 'Parents are to send their children to those schools which will provide for their Catholic education.' The Church presumes (KIC emphasis) that such schools present orthodox Catholic teaching. If one thinks this is not the case, the remedy is not to remove the children from the school. It's your school. Fight for it. Go for relief first to the school authority and then, if necessary, to the diocese."
---"Canon 798 also gives a general directive for exceptional cases, where no Catholic schools are available: 'If they cannot do this, they are bound to ensure the proper Catholic education of their children outside the school.' If they cannot, the principles on physical and moral impossibility need to be implied. Canon 798 NEITHER AUTHORIZES PARENTS TO MAKE A JUDGMENT ON THE SUITABILITY OF A SCHOOL TO PROVIDE A FULLY CATHOLIC EDUCATION NOR OFFERS A OPTION TO SUBSTITUTE HOMESCHOOLING. The law imposes a reasonably limited, but serious obligation. In borderline cases, where the existence of moral impossibility is doubtful, requesting a DISPENSATION would be the solution." (All emphasis KIC's)
And finally, the conclusion of the article:
---"Canon 212 suggests (KIC emphasis) action which any Catholic can take in battling for his or her school. While 212.1 calls for 'Christian obedience' to the diocesan bishop, 212.2 gives everyone of the faithful the right to reveal to the bishop their concerns about spiritual matters and even their desires. The parochial school might be such a concern."(All emphasis KIC's)
Homeschoolers might carefully consider the opinions of these two priests in regard to homeschooling, and ask themselves why Fr. Stravinskas, as editor of The Catholic Answer, chose to continue the debate over homeschooling after the topic came up in the November/December 2002 issue.
Might Fr. Stravinskas be "lifting the veil" a bit about some unknown plans for homeschoolers in regard to "dispensations"? Let's not forget the increasing role of "homeschool sacramental guidelines," kick-started by the 1995 NCEA homeschooling survey results that were, as a majority, not favorable toward homeschooling.
In case you haven't seen it yet, you might want to read my 1995 article on that homeschooling survey, entitled What Your Diocese Had to Say to the NCEA.