Lynn's letter evoked a revealing response by Fr. Stravinskas, which was published in the same issue of The Catholic Answer (May/June 2003). Immediately following Fr. Stravinskas' response to Lynn was an article by Msgr. Clarence Hettinger, which appears to be a "back up" of Fr. Stravinskas' opinions in the form of Msgr.'s interpretations of Canon Law. Excerpts of that article, entitled "Canon Law on Homeschooling," will follow shortly.
Fr. Stravinskas began his response by informing Lynn that he printed her letter "because it encapsulates so much of what I find problematic in so much of the homeschooling movement." He then summarized his viewpoints, using Lynn's reasons for homeschooling as the excuse to condemn homeschooling in general. Father's summary was made up of nine points.
To quote excerpts from this public, published reply from a Catholic priest, who "should" - as an "alter Christus" - always respond with wisdom, understanding, prudence, and, above all, charity:
"1. Coming across loud and clear is an attitude which suggests that you and your husband (and family) are better than the rest of the sinners in your parish. Proof of that fact is that you participate in weekly Eucharistic Adoration and practice NFP..."
"2. Doing things 'on the spur of the moment' is not particularly conducive to the development of healthy patterns of behavior for life. Discipline and routine must be learned at any early age. The great failure of so much nonsense that passed for education in the 1970's was imbued with the same psychology you are espousing now: Johny should feel free to do what he wants when he wants. You're just adding your own whims to Johny's."
"3. You assert that if you had 'even the most orthodox Catholic school' you would not use it. That is disobedience to the will and law of the Church. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council...are eminently clear on this point: Catholic schools are to be used by Catholic parents whenever and wherever such schools are available."
"4. You speak of 'hand[ing] over' your children to the Church as though she is a monster who cannot be trusted. A truly Catholic attitude sees the Church as the family of God. Indeed, the family of the Christian home obtains its identity from the family, which is the whole Church - not the other way around. I would speak of 'handing over' children to an institution I did not trust (like a government school) but not to that body which Sacred Scripture tells us is our Mother and Christ's bride. It is not an accident that Catholics refer to their full-time workers in the apostolate by family names (Father, Sister, Brother, Mother), thus underscoring that all life in the Church is essentially familial. That notion never surfaces in your comments."
"5. Regarding daily Mass for grade-school children, I would make two points. Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, I never heard of children being taken to church every day or even once a week....Personally (both as a priest and an educational psychologist), I am not at all in favor of daily Mass for little ones. I do favor making it available for those in junior and high school. Familiarity breeds contempt, in my judgment and experience."
"6. You speak of some homeschoolers as being 'independent-minded.' With all due respect, I must say that the entire tone of your presentation is nothing but 'independent-minded.' You say that you don't want to be alienated from the bigger community of the Church, but apparently the way that should happen is by everybody else coming around to support your agenda. That's independence, writ large, in my estimation - a rather Protestant trait, too."
"7. Your criteria for even considering a Catholic school have no correspondence to reality...St. Thomas More wrote a book about a place he called 'Utopia': it seems you wish to create it in your own set of circumstances."
"8. If Catholic elementary and secondary schools are such a source of temptation to apostasy, why would you even be interested in Catholic institutions of higher learning, which, objectively speaking, have caused serious difficulties in all too many places over the past 35 years? While I nearly unconditionally recommend Catholic grade and high schools, I am always much more cautious at the next level because of the track record..."
"9. Finally, as regards The Catholic University of America...some of your concerns strike me as odd. What's wrong with discussing evolution? The Pope himself has talked about it freely and positively (within the proper parameters). The government doesn't force (and can't force) a professor to discuss a topic he doesn't wish to entertain. When I was a high school administrator, dances were the bane of my existence...I did everything possible to stave off "bump and grind" displays, but every so often "even Homer nods." Again, that's a part of life in an imperfect word and, yes, to some degree, an IMPERFECT CHURCH." (emphasis KIC's).