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The following articles on the Catholic homeschool issue of sacramental guidelines appeared in the Mothers Watch Spring 1998 issue. Permission to reprint or distribute copies is given only if articles are reprinted without change and with credit given to Mother's Watch. If articles appear in other publications, Mothers Watch would appreciate a copy. Mother's Watch is a non-profit, tax-deductible organization.
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NOTE: Although, Keeping It Catholic founder Marianna Bartold wrote the article entitled "Homeschoolers a House Divided" for Mothers Watch News, Mrs. Bartold is neither an editor nor a board member of the MW organization. Likewise, MW editors are not editors or board members of KIC.
However, KIC does endorse MW and congratulates its editors' principles and bravery in addressing parental rights and obligations (especially when it comes to sex ed and "chastity" education). KIC is especially pleased that MW addresses such issues in the light of official Church teaching.
As a side note of interest, one MW editor, Ann Polcha, is the homeschooling mother of seven children and she continues the long fight against sex education in the Catholic schools through Mothers Watch. Other MW moms are likewise "soldiers in the trenches."
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For some time Mothers' Watch moms have been hearing about the notion of diocesan "guidelines" for homeschoolers, but didn't know enough. Marianna Bartold is a lady "in the know." Her attempts to inform parents have met with cruel attempts to discredit her personally because her facts couldn't be discredited. She exposes the secrecy and the cooperation of NACHE and TORCH with the Bishops, who are determined not to let the homeschoolers "get away."
We believe this article is a necessary eye-opener!
As children, many of us heard the fairy tale entitled, "The Emperor's New Clothes." We all remember the very vain emperor who was tricked into believing that clothes being constructed for him were only visible to those who possessed virtue. The Emperor convinced himself that his tailors were creating extremely handsome clothes though he himself could not see them and he would not admit it. Nor would anyone dare admit they could not see the fine clothes. No one wanted to be accused of not being virtuous, nor did they want to incur the wrath of the Emperor.
Thus, the Emperor paraded through his domain, with much pomp and circumstance, unclothed before all the people who had to pretend they, too, saw his fine clothes. All the while they were wondering why their neighbor could see what they could not, and all were afraid to speak the truth for fear's sake.
One small boy was not afraid to speak the truth and he did this in front of the emperor's entire assembly of subjects. Everyone was totally shocked at first and tried to silence the boy. But he kept insisting about the truth, and soon everyone else was willing to admit the same. The Emperor had no clothes!
There are many lessons to this particular story but the one especially appropriate for this article is this one:
Don't be afraid to stand up and speak the truth
even if you are the only one willing to do so.
For the past three years, homeschoolers have heard rumors about diocesan sacramental guidelines. The issue has become a serious one within the movement, making wider and darker the lines of division that already exist. Those trying to either counsel others or report on the delicate situation "behind the scenes" have become "targets of distraction." In short, it is a case of shooting the messenger with a "whisper campaign."
It matters not to me that I am a prime target for such tactics. Children, especially those who are homeschooled, are the real targets. That is my concern. These are the children who have been removed from the influence of the neo-modernist, liberal agenda in the schools. Now sacramental guidelines for homeschoolers are attempting to coerce these children to be enrolled in CCD programs that are tragically infiltrated with "chastity" sex ed programs, feminism, watered-down dogma and doctrine, and "earth mother" (hug-a-tree CCD ) teaching.
Homeschooling families take their faith seriously, and diocesan guidelines have become the lasso to mainstream homeschooled children into the very programs from which their parents fled. Today, a number of well-known homeschool leaders are collaborating with dioceses to implement these guidelines.
The Pittsburgh Initiative
The increasing number of diocesan imposed guidelines for homeschoolers are due to the "success" of the so-called "Pittsburgh Initiative." This "initiative," as it was dubbed by Mary Hasson of NACHE (National Association of Catholic Home Educators) owes much, if not all, of its endorsement by NACHE and company to the cooperation of Scott and Kimberly Hahn, as well as Michaelann Martin, wife of Curtis Martin, Catholics United for the Faith's (CUF) president. Moreover, Kimberly Hahn now sits on the NACHE Board with Mrs. Hasson and they are both co-authors of Catholic Education: Homeward Bound.
The three homeschoolers, hailing from Steubenville, OH, played a pivotal role at a Spring 1996 "homeschool information meeting" in Pittsburgh Diocese. The meeting led to a "home school study group," which at various and diverse times was given the more formal name of "task force."
At least seven participants of the initial "homeschool information meeting" held on April 27, 1996 claimed to be homeschooling parents, thus supposedly representing the interests of Pittsburgh area Catholic homeschoolers. However, these seven individuals also hold posts on the Board of the newer parent based school, Aquinas Academy, located in the suburban community of Hampton Township, north of Pittsburgh, PA.
Also attending was Loretta Williams, editor of the homeschool newsletter Gabriel's Trumpet. This very same newsletter later reported on the initial meeting, especially on the Hahn's and Mrs. Martin's involvement.
Among those directly involved in forming policy and guidelines were Fr. Kris Stubna, who helped write Catholic Vision of Love (CVOL), the sex ed program mandated in Pittsburgh, and who also just happens to hold the post of Secretary of Education; Michael Aquilina, then editor of the diocesan newspaper The Pittsburgh Catholic and now editor of Our Sunday Visitor's New Covenant magazine; and Tammy and Keith Wieser, authors of The Incredible Gift: The Truth About Love and Sex (a book directed at teenagers). Mr. Wieser also held the post of Pittsburgh Diocese's Youth Minister. Our Sunday Visitor (OSV) publishes CVOL as well as Incredible Gift, and has given positive exposure to Pittsburgh's diocesan guidelines and other works of Bishop Wuerl.
The fruits of the study group? Diocesan guidelines for Catholic homeschoolers were implemented in Pittsburgh. Other dioceses like Chicago and St. Louis quickly came forward with guidelines, while others like Detroit are either following suit or beginning a similar "dialogue" process.
Within this time frame, OSV prepared a glowing article, (July 1996) on the newly released book, Catholic Education: Homeward Bound (co-written by Kimberly Hahn and Mary Hasson, printed by Ignatius Press, 1996).
OSV did not mention that many homeschoolers find the book a paradox. Claiming "everything that is true and beautiful is Catholic," the Homeward Bound book actually refers to anti-Catholic materials as viable resources for Catholic home education. While practically ignoring the importance of a Catholic curriculum, the book furnishes plentiful references to secular and Protestant publishers of homeschool materials. After providing a hardly noticeable disclaimer, the book recommends anti-Catholic publishers and home study programs like ABeka Books and the viciously anti-Catholic Bob Jones University.
Homeward Bound also positively spotlights Mary Pride (an ex-Catholic, who does not allow any Catholic advertisements in her Practical Homeschooling Magazine), Greg Harris of Christian Life Workshops (a strongly prejudiced anti-Catholic homeschooling speaker and workshop leader), and John Holt (commonly called a "secular" educator but most notoriously known as an atheist). It does not mention any of the Catholic trailblazers and active leaders in home education like Dr. Mary Kay Clark, Janice Smythe or Robert Brindle. It does list the Catholic curriculum providers in an index and provides a single footnote about one longstanding Catholic program, but that is the extent of giving any credibility to the original Catholic resources.
Finally, the book specifically mentions and gives contact information for NACHE and its sister organization, TORCH (Traditions of Roman Catholic Homes). However, the book makes no effort to list the prior and still existing Catholic homeschool support groups nationwide. This may be because the co-authors are both board members of NACHE and heavily involved with TORCH.
The history of homeschooling guidelines goes back to the National Catholic Education Association's (NCEA) Survey on Home Education in late 1994. Starting with a questionnaire sent to every diocese, Sr. Antoinette "Toni" Dudek, OSF, Assistant Executive Director of Early Childhood and Special Educational Services at the NCEA, later provided a memorandum with DRE responses to archdiocesan superintendents in February, 1995.
The survey's questions, as well as the answers, were prejudicial on their face. For example, 63% of the survey's respondents believed parents homeschooled due to a "desire to personally educate their children," while 74% classified homeschoolers as "Pre-Vatican II." Almost 100% described homeschoolers as "conservatives" or "fundamentalists." Nowhere did the survey give a definition of a "pre-Vatican II" Catholic, much less a "conservative" or "fundamentalist" one. It was the NCEA and the DRE's who drew the lines of division as to what "kind" of Catholicism a homeschooler embraces. No homeschoolers were ever contacted to provide input to this survey. Those who wrote letters were answered with silence, while phone calls were given vague and non-committal responses. This is not assisting parents - this is resisting parents!
Additionally, commentary provided from individual DRE respondents illustrated the fact that many diocesan officials were either ignorant of or did not appreciate the Church's teachings on the Sacrament of Matrimony. These teachings include the rights and responsibilities of parents, which are always primary. Others felt threatened by the "conservative" allegedly "pre-Vatican II" brand of Catholicism they believe homeschoolers espouse.
In the Summer/Fall 95 issue of The Catholic Family's Magnificat!, (a magazine I founded specifically for Catholic home educators), we printed the entire NCEA survey, DRE commentary, and my own editorial rebuttals refuting diocesan prejudice with Church teaching, which directed my readers to both encyclicals and Canon Law.
The diocesan officials decried the fact that "homeschooling is definitely increasing" and one of the reasons is that "parents want no part of Catholic Vision of Love." The diocesan officials were also concerned that homeschooling could "polarize Catholic parents," "undermine schools in an economic sense--tuition," "impact religious education programs," and allow parents to "preach their own version of Catholic doctrine."
Now, two years after this survey, "homeschool" or "sacramental" guidelines for home-educated children have been created in at least twenty dioceses, allowing the proverbial "foot in the door."
After watching this history unfold step by step, I offer the conjecture that, besides "sacramental guidelines," dioceses will not hesitate to issue policies on homeschoolers' entire curriculums! In fact, plans for this might even now be underway.
The recently released homeschool guidelines for Boise, ID state, among other things: "The issue of an official homeschool program, based on Vatican II and the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, is currently being addressed on the national level." No further information was provided as to who was addressing the issue, what questions were being raised, who was involved, etc.
The key words "based on Vatican II and the new Catechism..." should alert parents that the Baltimore Catechism, used by homeschooling parents, will most likely not be considered as falling within requirements! This is not because the Baltimore Catechism is "out of date." Church teaching cannot change. It is because the NCEA and the DRE's and, unfortunately, a good number of prelates have decreed all such resources - and even homeschoolers themselves - as "pre-Vatican II." This absurd statement implies that the Church did not exist before Vatican II. No one has ever defined the term "pre-Vatican II."
While homeschooling parents are not questioning the Church's duty to assure that proper catechesis is provided, the concerns revolve around the issues of legitimate authority and the methods used to "assist" parents. There is no question that parents must know the difference between what is actually required by Church law versus what is suggested or desired by diocesan personnel in guidelines, policies, or procedures.
Other guidelines already in place call for homeschooling families to either- use books given diocesan approval
- have their chosen books approved by the diocese
-insist that parents become "certified" catechists by the diocese
-"require" that pastor, parent and child enter into a "written covenant" in order to prepare a child for the sacraments,
-or attend retreats or participate in various ways with the "community."
None of these guidelines are valid or in accord with Church teaching. Homeschoolers (or any Catholic parent, for that matter) may use any catechetical book, which has previously received the approbation of the Roman Catholic Church, regardless of the texts' publication date. This means that the Baltimore Catechism, among others promulgated by the Church, cannot be denied approval for catechetical training. Further, Church law does not dictate that parents must enter any written agreement to catechize or teach their own children nor that must they be certified for the same end.
It is very possible that if homeschoolers do not comply with these kinds of "recommendations," provided by the "local Church," (as opposed to official Church mandates), they could be denied official status as a "Catholic homeschooler under the local church." Whether or not this is allowable under the true Church's teachings will not deter those dioceses that have previously implemented sacramental guidelines. As events unfold, homeschooling parents may be wondering: How did this happen?
Roundtable Response to NCEA
Homeschoolers were put on alert, October 1995, at a national Catholic home school leader's association meeting. The Round Table of Catholic Home School Leaders (RT), responded to the survey results with a firm letter to Sr. Dudek at the NCEA.
RT's letter reminded Sr. Dudek that the NCEA is a civil entity, holding no canonical or juridical status over parents or children -- including homeschoolers.
Torch and NACHE Bow to NCEA
In what appears to be a counter-move to oppose the Round Table, on November 27, 1995, Michelle ("Miki") Hill, Co-Chairman of TORCH and NACHE board member, wrote to the NCEA saying,"TORCH would appreciate the opportunity to dialogue...and to provide you with data, resources, and contacts from the Catholic homeschooling network in the United States."
Via the TORCH Leader's News (only available to TORCH leaders of support groups), she also sent instructions to other TORCH leaders in the U.S. to write a similar letter to Sr. Dudek.
Upon learning of the TORCH offer to provide the NCEA with network "contacts," homeschoolers began questioning the group. For a time, TORCH deftly avoided answering inquiries and later denied it made the offer to provide names, although some leaders had copies of Mrs. Hill's letter to prove otherwise. Homeschoolers continued to ask "What else could contacts mean?" But TORCH would answer no more questions on the subject.
(Update Note: See the newer TORCH website which, at the end of August 1998, is now publicly answering some of the questions since this article was published in April 1998. Point your browser at www.catholic_homeschool.com)
Shortly after learning of the RT's response to the NCEA's survey, another national homeschool group, NACHE (affiliated with TORCH), also addressed the NCEA. Their letter dated December 6, 1995 contained a different twist. The letter was published in the Michaelmass 1995 issue of The Catholic Home Educator, NACHE's national newsletter.
NACHE claimed that it viewed homeschooling as a "...positive, effective educational alternative, not as a negative reaction to either public or parochial schools." (Emphasis the author's.) The organization's offer of cooperation was an apparent tactic to counteract the RT's firm letter, especially when NACHE wrote, "Unfortunately for the Catholic homeschooling movement in the United States, homeschooling families are too often assumed to be a homogenous group, cast in the image of its most vocal and critical members."
(It has become clear as time passes, that when any individual or association dares to disagree with TORCH and NACHE, a regular tactic is to let fly such adjectives like "fearful," "critical," "isolationist," "negative," "judgmental" or "reactionary" as well as "argumentative," "hostile" and its No. 1 favorite - "uncharitable.")
It seems NACHE has forgotten that the homeschooling movement was born of parents who were once looked at as radicals because they had the foresight and courage to remove their children from diocesan Catholic schools where disastrous sex ed and values clarification methods replaced Catholic teaching. Now that homeschooling has been proven successful, NACHE/TORCH are trying to make homeschooling appear a simple parental choice which welcomes the intervention of the NCEA and those bishops who had disregarded parental objections in the past.
NACHE's letter also invited the NCEA to its annual Catholic homeschool convention - yet another alarming incentive on NACHE's part. The "open to dialogue" missive was signed by NACHE president, William Bales, a convert of less than two years when he became NACHE's president. Incidentally, Mr. Bales was a personal friend of the Hahn's long before either family embraced the Catholic faith. (See Rome Sweet Rome by Scott and Kimberly Hahn, published by Ignatius Press, to verify this info.)
Despite the similar actions and slogans of both groups as well as the overlapping leadership of Hahn/Hasson/Hill, TORCH and NACHE continue to deny any alliance or collaboration of the organizations besides "a cross pollination of its members," according to Lisanne Bales, wife of William Bales, NACHE's president.
As far as anyone knew at the time, the NCEA did not respond to either TORCH or NACHE's offer of help. However, within four months, the Pittsburgh home school study group embraced the cooperation of Kimberly and Scott Hahn and Michaelann Martin. A real dilemma for homeschoolers seemed in the making.
What could be done to rectify the serious situation NACHE could incur for other homeschoolers if it cooperated with the NCEA or offered homeschoolers' names?
NACHE Spurns Questioners
In an effort to understand NACHE's actions, the Round Table committee wrote a letter of inquiry to the NACHE Board.
Mid-April 1996, the NACHE board faxed a short, curt response to the RT's earlier letter of inquiry concerning the NACHE letter to the NCEA. NACHE made it clear that it had no interest in "dialoguing" with the Round Table, claiming it was not NACHE policy to discuss homeschool concerns with anonymous persons. (The RT letter had been signed "Round Table Committee," since there is no board but a facilitating committee, a fact of which NACHE was aware, having attended previous RT meetings.)
NACHE's response to the RT completely dismissed what should have been the two groups' mutual concern - the protection and support of homeschoolers' rights within the Church. The faxed memo bore the name of William Bales, NACHE's president.
Attempts by a respected priest asking NACHE to take a stand against sacramental guidelines met with stern opposition from Kimberly Hahn. Mrs. Hahn insisting that he did not grasp the gravity of the situation and - using a popular Planned Parenthood slogan -said, "We must build bridges with our bishops." Mrs. Hahn denigrated the work of other Catholics who had gone before her as "ineffective" and proclaimed that her intention to help with the guidelines "...can't be stopped -- it must go forward!" (Curiously enough, her husband used almost the same words at the initial Pittsburgh homeschool meeting later that same month, per the report given by Loretta Williams, Gabriels Trumpet Newsletter, Mars, PA. )
Disregarding sound advice, Mrs. Hahn went ahead with her plans to cooperate with the Pittsburgh diocese.
The Convert Question
At this juncture, it must be asked why converts of less than five years - the Hahn's, the Bales, and others - have suddenly become authorities in all matters pertaining to the Catholic Faith - whether it is the Scriptures, the Mass, or the domestic church and the homeschool.
Traditionally, neophytes (i.e., new converts, and novices) were not allowed to preach or teach for quite a number of years after their conversion. (Today, we have Dr. Scott Hahn teaching theology at Franciscan University, Steubenville, appointed this position within a few years of his adult conversion; Dr. Hahn is also on the Board of Directors of Catholics United for the Faith, and he has produced numerous tapes, including an interpretation of the Holy Bible's Apocalypse; William Bales was appointed president of a "national homeschool association for Catholics" within two years of his conversion; Kimberly Hahn was speaking on the homeschool circuit as an "expert" within three years of her conversion; and the list goes on.)
Putting converts on center stage is not fair to them or to their Catholic audience. It places an unnecessary and even dangerous burden on the "celebrity converts" themselves. They end up on the speaking circuit, thus turning their Catholicism into a "career move," (an excerpted phrase from Mr. Fitzpatrick, The Wanderer). This is especially true for former Protestant ministers who were not trained to support their families in any other way except preaching.
In many instances, the convert speakers, given status as new "authorities" on the Catholic Faith, are asked difficult theological questions. Is it not possible they will subconsciously draw on their former Protestant teaching and attempt to "catholicize" the answer? Again, this is an unfair burden on the new Catholic.
The elevated status given converts further complicates certain problematic areas. While not questioning their love of God and the Catholic Faith, neophytes have not experienced the past 30 years of battles to "keep the faith," the difficulties in fighting sex education in parochial schools, or truly grasp the real need to give children a pure and authentic Catholic education especially in these troubled days. They are almost fundamentally incapable of grasping the defacto schism in the Catholic Church and the fact that there are dissidents within the hierarchy. It is difficult enough for cradle Catholics to understand these serious problems; how can we expect it of neophytes?
In their great zeal for the Church, they err when they deny the Church is in crisis or insist their plans will work in assisting the faithful. These are serious repercussions that will affect all the lay faithful, and this is becoming painfully clear with homeschoolers.
In the Meantime...
During the time I founded CHSNA (Catholic Home School Network of America) and served as its first president, I learned that TORCH and NACHE favored dialogue and cooperation with the NCEA when two TORCH leaders inadvertently slipped with the information that Sr. Dudek would try to pass her policy on homeschooling. Although TORCH knew of the plans, they did nothing to inform its own chapter leaders to proposals that could have a nationwide effect. I quickly notified my board members and they agreed with my suggestion that we alert homeschool leaders across the continental U.S.
As a result of CHSNA's national fax alert, Sr. Dudek at the NCEA received numerous phones and faxes from homeschoolers. Categorically denying the existence of any guidelines, Sr. Dudek instructed her secretary to say, "There are no guidelines or policy statements."
NCEA'S Homeschooling Workshop
In early April 1996, the NCEA held its annual convention in Philadelphia, PA. Mr. Joseph McCormick, a long time sex education adversary and father of 11, contacted me to share information he gleaned from Sr. Dudek's workshop on Catholic homeschooling. This workshop had not been listed on the NCEA's workshop agenda in any of its publicity pieces. It is believed that Sr. Dudek's presentation on homeschooling was pulled together as a last-minute stop gap measure, resulting from CHSNA's fax alert.
Sr. Dudek claimed she had been tracking the "homeschool phenomenon" for three years. Sister pointed to the alleged reasons why parents choose homeschooling: tuition, shortage of schools, lack of special needs programs, and -- what Sister claimed was becoming the fastest growing reason --quality education time.
Sr. Dudek asked her audience, consisting mainly of principals, if they received the same kind of information from homeschoolers. One nun responded, "We get phone calls all the time with parents saying, 'Your schools are not Catholic!'"
She then shared the fact that she had been deluged by faxes from concerned homeschooling parents. They were reminding her that the NCEA held no legal status over them and could not form guidelines. Sister shrugged her shoulders, claiming, "We never claimed to have juridical authority. There are no guidelines."
(Mr. McCormick, the gentleman who attended this workshop and reported these events to me, was quick to explain that this type of talk is the modus operandi of the NCEA and its cooperators. They purposely speak in the present tense to deflect inquiring parents - there is no program, there are no guidelines. They stop short of admitting that plans for guidelines and policies are underway. The history of the NCEA, as well as the sex ed bureaucrats and the liberals, illustrates clearly its effective strategy to counter the opposition.)
Later, in a telling moment, Sr. Dudek prompted her audience with the question, "How do we respond to these angry parents?" One man stood up and quickly proclaimed, "We have no control over them academically -- but they have to come to us if they want the sacraments!" Many people believe that this man was a priest, for only a priest would look at the situation from this point of view.
Sr. Dudek ended her presentation with these closing remarks, "Look for answers. It may be that transformational leadership may be a piece of it..." Sr. did not explain her use or definition of the word "transformational." Could it be that she meant homeschool leadership like TORCH, NACHE, Kimberly Hahn, Mary Hasson and their associates would become the "transformational leadership" in order to gain access to or influence with homeschoolers?
"Stay in touch and work with CAPE," Sr. Dudek advised. CAPE is the acronym for the Council for American Private Education. According to the March 7, 1996 issue of the Wanderer, "Gov. Engler's National Education Goals Panel also directs the U.S. Department of Education, and heavily influences the NCEA (emphasis mine) through CAPE and other nonpublic schools." It seems as though Sr. Dudek lent further credibility to the Wanderer's reporting with her advice to "work with CAPE."
Back to Pittsburgh/ The Hahn's Play a Key Role
Coincidentally, during the same month (April 1996), at SS Simon and Jude Church, (Pittsburgh Diocese) Fr. Kris Stubna was convening the aforementioned "home school study group."
Fr. Stubna gathered his hand-selected group with the cooperation of Scott and Kimberly Hahn. No explanation was ever given why the Hahn's and Mrs. Martin (all of Steubenville) were invited, much less accepted the invitation, to a meeting which was clearly outside their jurisdiction, competence and experience.
Michael Aquilina, then editor of The Pittsburgh Catholic and reportedly a homeschooling father himself, sent invitations to selected homeschoolers and diocesan officials. Bona fide homeschoolers, from Pittsburgh who asked for inclusion in the study group were categorically denied. The reasons cited included "space," "security" and the ridiculous claim that "homeschoolers only want to come because they want to rub elbows with Kimberly Hahn," according to Michael Aquilina during a phone call from this writer in the early weeks of April, 1996.
Gabriel's Trumpet, the previously mentioned Catholic homeschool newsletter in PA, provided a glowing report on the Pittsburgh home study group in its May/June 1996 issue including a quote from Mrs. Hahn who said that they "...did not start teaching at home as a reaction against anything ."
This consistent evasion that there are any problems within public or parochial school systems is troubling. Perhaps TORCH and NACHE believe such denials make it easier to "dialogue" with dissenting dioceses and prejudiced pastors, but it certainly makes others ponder what other truths they are willing to deny.
Michaelann Martin, dubbed an "Educator and Home Schooling parent," but not acknowledged in any way to be connected to Catholics United for the Faith (CUF) claimed that "...we as homeschoolers need support from the educators and fellow homeschoolers."
Gabriel's Trumpet also reported, "Some of the suggestions that came forth were as follows: ... networking homeschoolers at a diocesan level; teacher-in-service days for parents by religious educators; learning centers; options for ministry from home-schoolers in the diocese, Family Life Centers [sex ed?] ..."
These ideas are not original. They are the same types of programs that kept parents and children busy, running to all kinds of events that provide no sound faith formation. What could all this be but a plan to slowly pull homeschool families back into the web of parochial schools that are Catholic in name only?
Dr. Scott Hahn closed the meeting with remarks which included, "We do not want to have a parish in factions; this would be un-Catholic." Mr. Hahn also stated that Fr. Stubna was taking a risky step but it was a step "...too important to stop."
A Model to Follow?
Ironically enough, Gabriel's Trumpet went on to proclaim: "Our diocese could be the model for all other dioceses in the country to follow."
This appears to be exactly what is happening, and many homeschoolers don't believe it a coincidence. Since the first meeting in April 1996, the participants of the study group were reticent. None would shed light on the subject. Not until Pittsburgh released its guidelines a few months ago did anyone involved in their construction even acknowledge them, keeping the task force or "study group" cloaked in secrecy.
However, now that the guidelines have been unveiled, supporters like Mary Hasson joyfully proclaim "Pittsburgh's initiative" as though this diocese had done something positively innovative, or it was the first to gather information or make plans concerning homeschoolers.
Homeschoolers well remember the fiasco in Monterey, CA where homeschool parents cooperated with the diocese, only to be shocked when unlawful "guidelines" were later put in place. This event was reported in Catholic World Report, October 1995.
So Pittsburgh was not the first diocese to implement guidelines on homeschoolers. However, it was the first to be proclaimed a "model for others to follow." It was the first to receive the assistance of well-known names like the Hahn's, or the approbation of both TORCH and NACHE.
As for these two latter associations, both groups claim to be homeschooling groups serving other homeschoolers. Yet neither group has ever asked homeschoolers for their real input. These groups have put themselves in positions of authority, deciding what is best for homeschooling families and working covertly with dioceses to construct guidelines which will affect others.
It is abundantly clear that Pittsburgh received its notoriety with the help of Kimberly Hahn. Homeschoolers who, influenced by truth and justice more than namedropping, continued with their questions and were then labeled as "uncharitable," or the "critical few."
The Top-Heavy Study Group
The final Pittsburgh 'homeschool study group" is named and identified in the actual guidelines as follows: Michael and Teresa Aquilina (Homeschooling Parents), Kimberly Hahn (author, Catholic Education: Homeward Bound), Diana Baseman (Founder, PA Home Education Network, Homeschooling Parent), Charles Beaudry (Director for Educational Media), Jean DiDonato (Parish Director for Religious Education), Msgr. Daniel DiNardo (Pastor), Dr. and Mrs. Paul Hoover (Homeschooling Parents), Regina Labriela (School Principal), Fr. Ronald Lawler, OFM Cap (Director for Adult and Family Catechesis), Kimberly Lieb (Executive Director, St. Anthony School Program), Dr. and Mrs. John McKeating (Homeschooling Parents), Dr. Robert Paserba (Superintendent for Catholic Schools), Sr. Mary Elizabeth Schrei (School Principal), Msgr. Raymond Schultz (Pastor), Fr. Stubna, STD (Secretary for Education), Sharon Tyborowski (Director for Catechetical Ministries), and Fr. Brian Welding (Parochial Vicar).
The guideline credits given above did not mention that Michael Aquilina was at the time the Pittsburgh Catholic's editor and therefore an employee of the diocese. The PA Education Network, represented by Diana Basemen, is an "ecumenical" homeschool association. Fr. Ronald Lawler is general editor and promoter of CVOL who publicly told parents a few years ago that parochial school children can not "opt out" of the CVOL "catechetical" program because it is religious instruction. Dr. Robert Paserba was once Superintendent of Public Schools who decried OBE (Outcome Based Education). Now Superintendent for Catholic Schools, he has changed his stance and promotes "Total Quality" programs in parochial schools. TQ is a euphemism for OBE. And, again, Dr. and Mrs. John McKeating are associated with the allegedly "parent run" Aquinas Academy so they cannot be justifiably called homeschooling parents.
Such a number of diocesan people outweighing the actual number of homeschoolers brings forth numerous questions and concerns. Of those claiming to be homeschooling parents, Mrs. Hahn does not reside in Pittsburgh while Mr. Beaudry has only one child - a 3 year old. Others had ties with Aquinas Academy or were diocesan employees and personnel. Bishop Wuerl never attended any of the meetings - an important factor to remember - but left them to his trusted staff.
Honest Dialogue Never Happened
Two bona fide Pittsburgh area homeschooling parents, Tom and Carol Nypaver, also served on the study group, but they resigned at the last meeting stating that the Pittsburgh personnel reneged on an earlier agreement to a diocesan-wide open meeting with any interested homeschoolers. Diocesan officials claimed that such a meeting "would compromise the bishop's authority," especially if homeschool parents were allowed to review the guidelines before publication. "Honest dialogue never happened," Nypaver claimed.
Sex Ed Cardinal Keeler Addresses Homeschoolers
When the NACHE Convention convened in July 1997, Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore was seen strolling arm in arm with Michelle (Miki) Hill (NACHE board member and TORCH Chairman of the Board) and her husband, Tim Hill. A few years ago, the Hills - even then NACHE Board Members - were instrumental in the founding of the parent-run, Baltimore area school, Woodmont Academy, which was blessed by Cardinal Keeler, and which complies with archdiocesan guidelines concerning religious education, including "chastity" sex ed programs.
The Cardinal, listed as NACHE's keynote speaker, did not say anything to encourage or support homeschooling. Instead, the Cardinal spoke on the need to have "...a new openness to world religions" and added that people must guard against "sins against unity" and "work toward social justice." His speech contained references to his ecumenical activities, particularly working with Jews and Moslems on issues that included "...teaching virtues in public schools."
"I was talking earlier with Kimberly Hahn," continued the Cardinal. "Her father, the Reverend Doctor Jerry Kirk is the national co-chair of the Religious Alliance Against Pornography, which is an inter-faith group. I've been honored to be asked to serve as co-chair with him - to see if there is a way that we, as people of faith, who are disgusted with the spiritual pollution that comes with pornography, can work effectively and make a stand." The audience hesitantly applauded this announcement.
Perhaps the homeschoolers were aware of the pornographic pollution in Cardinal Keeler's own diocesan schools. (See the following Mothers' Watch article following this one.)
Baltimore Follows the Model
Could it be the Cardinal's association with Mrs. Hahn's father has made him accessible to certain TORCH and NACHE board members?
Certain allegations coming from TORCH members say that Cardinal Keeler, at the request of Miki Hill, has contacted bishops and suggested they meet with Mrs. Hill in Washington, D.C. to discuss "homeschool concerns."
In the late summer of 1997, a concerned East Coast area TORCH member, who asked to remain unidentified for fear of retaliation, came forward and reported an alleged secret meeting with Cardinal Keeler.
When catechetical texts were under discussion at this alleged meeting, the Cardinal was quoted as saying, "Books published before the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) are defective." He insisted texts currently in use be in conformity with the CCC throughout his archdiocese.
Of course, the Cardinal would be mistaken if he made such a claim concerning "defects." Any previously published catechism receiving the approbation of the Church cannot be defective. In truth, the current version of the CCC is not considered final until the Latin version is released!
If the Cardinal was quoted correctly, would his dictum then include as defective the Baltimore Catechism? Time will tell!
The Secrecy Continues
It was reported that Miki Hill (TORCH/NACHE) announced her role as facilitator of 6-8 people from among the TORCH leadership who would be chosen to continue meeting with the archdiocese. The aim is to develop homeschool guidelines in the Baltimore diocese. However, all the TORCH coordinators present were instructed not to discuss the meeting with others. The reasons given were that "other parents would get concerned," and "they might lobby against this." Is this parental collaboration?
A TORCH coordinator, who inquird at the time why secretiveness was deemed necessary, later asked to be included in the Baltimore study group. She was denied. It was also reported that, each time anyone asked questions which even hinted at opposition, Cardinal Keeler would interject, asking "And which parish are you from?" Cardinal Keeler answered questions that addressed the meaning of Vatican II with another question: "I was there. Were you?"
NACHE Blindly Promotes CVOL
At the July 1997 NACHE convention, both Mrs. Hasson and Mrs. Hahn were approached by a visibly upset homeschooling mother. Those nearby who overheard the conversation that ensued noted that the homeschooling mother was upset over the Catholic Vision of Love ad in NACHE's publication, which the mother apparently had just picked up at the convention. The woman was further concerned that Cardinal Keeler was the keynote speaker at the NACHE conference. She asked both Mrs. Hahn and Mrs.. Hasson if either had ever seen CVOL and both categorically denied doing so. (This information was confirmed later by the mother.)
The fact that NACHE styles itself as the "clearinghouse of information" for Catholic homeschoolers nationwide --while at least two of its most prominent board members claim ignorance to such basic knowledge --is worrisome, indeed. The fact that Kimberly Hahn claims never to have seen CVOL, after working with Fr. Stubna, is incredible.
CVOL, New Corinthians and NACHE
Between the Summer and Fall of 1997, experienced homeschoolers were complaining about NACHE accepting an ad for Catholic Vision of Love. In the Michaelmas 1997 issue of The Catholic Home Educator (NACHE's publication) one such letter of complaint was printed about the Catholic Vision of Love ad. Their editor, Lesley Payne, defended the decision in a public editor's note.
"Several people have complained about our accepting an ad for what they assumed is a sex education program. The Catholic Vision of Love does not teach sex education. It, like the Couple to Couple League's New Corinthians, is a family life curriculum for Catholic schools."
(See Mothers' Watch expose on CVOL and New Corinthians in past MW newsletters.)
However, just two months before, the friend of a NACHE Board member attended the Round Table of Catholic Home School Leaders meeting in Tampa, FL. After viewing CVOL contents at the meeting, the friend informed NACHE that CVOL really did contain objectionable material. The board member claimed there would be no more CVOL ads; however, as of this date, NACHE's Catholic Home Educator has not printed a retraction or admittance that the newsletter editor erred. Instead, editor Lesley Payne's explanation (per above) was printed.
This is the Reality of Guidelines
Below are a few excerpts from guidelines now in effect:
Palm Beach, Florida guidelines declare interviews must be held with "the pastor and/or Director of Religious Education and parents, discerning the reasons for not including their children with others of the parish." Additionally, the diocese cooperates with the state by refusing parents any access to their children's records. Instead, the Catholic school forwards records to the public school district, forcing parents to approach the public schools for their own children's parochial school records. It also brings the homeschooling family to the attention of the public school district without their consent.
A Newport, MI parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit claims "Only those religious materials recommended by the Pastor and the Director of Religious Education may be used in a Home School Religious Education program. Parent/Catechists who use other religious materials in lieu of what is recommended will forgo recognition in the program, and their children will not be considered prepared to enter a sacramental preparation program.... Sacraments belong to the community of the Church and not private families; therefore, sacramental preparation should be taught and evaluated within the community..."
Other TORCH Groups Report
In Trenton, NJ diocese, the TORCH affiliated CHAPLET (Catholic Homeschoolers in Allegiance with the Pope Learning and Educating Together) leader, who lives in Camden diocese, has suggested the group approach the bishop about sacramental guidelines. A member of this homeschool group is Joyce Lively, (mentioned in the Preface of The McHugh Chronicles by Randy Engel), Director of the Pro-Life Office under the jurisdiction of Bishop McHugh. Mother's Watch readers will know of Bishop McHugh's reputation and involvement with sex education, Planned Parenthood, SIECUS, etc.
In the southern states, long-standing groups who have recently affiliated with TORCH are dismayed at the quick insistence that the group approach the bishop on homeschool guidelines. The diocese has no guidelines and the bishop has shown no interest, negative or positive, in homeschoolers. The group's original founders see no reason to change matters or call attention to themselves. Yet the newer TORCH members, recently moved into the state and quickly introducing TORCH to the existing group, insist on both this and a leadership change.
In the Midwest, a TORCH leader wants to write a letter to the archdiocese's committee (responsible for the worst homeschool guidelines in the U.S.) and thank them for their efforts. The entire homeschool group voted no to this suggestion and yet the leader is insistent and continues to bring the subject up at subsequent meetings.
While claiming that membership in TORCH offers real advantages, the leadership is keeping its own agenda under tight wraps and attacking anyone - even its own members - who dares to ask for a peek. NACHE hides or denies the fact there are serious problems with CVOL and feels no compunctions to silence other, more experienced Catholics who have tried to first privately warn them of the consequences of their actions. I only wish to ask, "What of the children?"
Please continue below for Mothers Watch editors additional article related to these issues.
Bio note with article above:
Marianna Bartold is the founder/ president of Keeping It Catholic! P.O. Box 381224, Clinton Twp., MI 48038-0078 (Keeping It Catholic! Web Site address is http://members.tripod.com/~catholic_homeschool/index.html
(E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Phone (810) 412-1959
FAX (810) 412-3973
Mrs. Bartold was the founding publisher of The Catholic Family's Magnificat! Magazine,
served as home school editor to Sursum Corda,
and she has founded three different Catholic homeschool organizations.
MW Editors' Note: Last summer, Mother's Watch wrote to Fr. Hardon expressing concern regarding his continued association with NACHE as their spiritual advisor. We received no response.
Why this continued association? Ask Fr. Hardon.
Editorial articles by Ann Polcha and Judith Ammenhauser of Mothers Watch Newsletter
A Tale of Two Dioceses
We at Mothers' Watch are also very concerned that TORCH and NACHE efforts are closely tied to two dioceses, Pittsburgh under Bishop Donald Wuerl and Baltimore under Cardinal William Keeler. Because TORCH and NACHE are now promoting "guidelines" that would place homeschoolers ultimately under the authority of the Bishop, parents need to know what kind of programs or ideologies may be foisted upon their children if forced to become aligned with the diocese. Thus we bring to your attention a sampling of what has been going on in the Archdiocesan bureaucracies in Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
- Bishop Wuerl mandated his sex education program, Catholic Vision of Love (CVOL), in guideline form with media resources and the teacher training becoming the curriculum. CVOL includes "In God's Image" video series by PP trained, AASECT certified sex educator Patricia Miller and consists of explicit materials and an unhealthy acceptance of homosexuality.
Other sex education materials used in the Pittsburgh diocese include:
- Sharing the Christian Message by Thomas Zanzig has students come up with as many slang or street words as possible for penis and vagina in three or four minutes. When brought to the attention of Frs. Lawler and DiNardo, the parent was rebuffed and the textbook continued in use.
- Sex and the Teenager by Kieran Sawyer teaches reliance on feelings and personal choice while students make a list of their own personal commandments (God's commandments not mentioned) and teaches that homosexual union "may" become "admissible with one committed partner."
- AIDS: Understanding and Prevention, Merrill Wellness Series provides explicit information on anal, vaginal, and oral intercourse complete with videos on the use of condoms.
- Learning About Sex, film used in first grade describes sex organs in human reproduction.
- "Master Catechists" train diocesan teachers. One such catechist from 1986-90, Sr. Marguerite Kropinak, was Pittsburgh's "Dignity" chaplain and National Coordinator of SIGMA (Sisters in Gay Ministry Associated). More recently Sr. Marguerite has been a diocesan Adult Religious Speaker and Parish Social Ministry Director of Catholic Charities.
- Pittsburgh has been host to several so-called "Catholic" homosexual conferences above much protest from area Catholics. In 1991 Jeanine Gramick (signer of NY Times abortion ad) and Robert Nugent were speakers at St. Mary's Convent. Also in 1991, Dignity co-sponsored a lesbian, homosexual and bi-sexual youth-oriented workshop with Catholic lesbian activist Dr. Virginai Urible, founder of Project 10 an in-school homosexual recruitment program for youth. 1997 once again saw Pittsburgh host a large homosexual conference.
- Fr. Stubna, CVOL writer and NACHE collaborator, admits that he serves on the board of the Pittsburgh Family Health Council's Adolescent Resource Network Advisory Committee. One of the "resources" of the committee is a booklet for students, which provides names and phone numbers of area Family Planning Clinics.
- Cardinal Keeler mandates sex education for diocese and strongly pushes New Creation Series where sexual body parts are taught in grade one and intercourse in grade three.
- Cardinal Keeler allows "anatomically-correct" rag dolls to be used with Kindergarten and first grade children.
- Patricia Miller's "In God's Image" program is used; Miller was also in Baltimore teaching diocesan principals, teachers and DRE's the Bishops' 1991 Human Sexuality document, while promoting non-discrimination toward homosexuals and making scandalous remarks about our Blessed Lord.
- Fr. Robert Nugent and Jeanine Gramick, SSND. head the homosexual "New Ways Ministry" based in Baltimore. Nugent pushed for the new "pastoral," Always our Children and travels talking on it. This duo has also appeared at Pittsburgh homosexual "Catholic" workshops.
- In 1995 when Loyola College students protested the showing of pornographic films which depicted intimate sex acts of men and women including gays and lesbians, Cardinal Keeler reportedly mentioned some "concern" (Sun 2/18/95). However, when parents discovered the same pornographic film Not a Love Story featuring live sex acts and torture, part of the curriculum at Notre Dame Prep High School, the reaction from the chancery was unconscionable. Cardinal Keeler ignored letters and refused to hear the parents. Instead he sent in an "assessment team" which included Dr. Ronald Valenti, head of Catholic Education and James DeBoy (see below). The result of the meeting said, "Our group found that NDP is offering a sound religious education and said that the film's purpose was not to arouse, but to anger students about what's accepted in society" (Wanderer 5/25/95). Dr. Valenti reportedly attended a TORCH/ Baltimore diocesean meeting.
- Lucy Strausbaugh, Religious Department Chair at Notre Dame Prep is a signer of the NY Times Call to Action Ad, "A Call to Reform the Church."
Other sex ed materials found in the Baltimore Archdiocese include:
- Becoming a Man by William J Bausch which describes how to masturbate, calling it a "comfort thing" and refers to chastity as "not always attainable for some gays."
Secrets, a controversial condom-promoting, "safe sex" play sponsored by Kaiser-Permanete.
Understanding Sex and Sexuality, by Nancy Hennesy Cooney, signer of the NY Times "Catholics for a Free Choice" ad. The book is a new version of her censured book Sex, Sexuality and You.
- Operating in the geographical diocese is the National Council for Pastoral Leadership, formerly Time Consultants, a for-profit conference business. The founder, Timothy Ragan, founded the organization to admittedly dissent against Pope John Paul II (Annapolis Capital 10/22/89). Their conferences include the East Coast Conference and Future of the American Church. James DeBoy is a speaker at the conferences. Other speakers have included Hans Kung, Charles Curran, Bishops Gumbleton and Untener, Patricia Miller (In God's Image sex program author) and Richard Reichert (New Creation Series author). Under Cardinal Keeler, James DeBoy continues to hold the position Archdiocesan Director of Religious Education -- a job he has had since 1979.
The lists could be much longer, but these are the kinds of disgusting conditions that caused parents to flee from the Catholic schools and take on homeschooling. Randy Engel, in her book, The McHugh Chronicles, talks about the ruin of souls.
She says, "French writer, Claude Tresmontant states in this treatise on bad catechetics, that it might be more merciful to simply drop a bomb on the children since the latter results in mere ''physical destruction' or 'physical death' while the former results in 'interior destruction' and 'annihilation.' " Parents homeschool to save their children from just such dangers.
Guidelines to Bait and Catch Homeschoolers
Homeschoolers who believe they have found sanctuary in teaching their children at home are being faced with a new threat -- so-called "Sacramental" guidelines. These guidelines are being established under the guise of actively bringing homeschoolers into the parish "community."
Interestingly, some guidelines already in place in many dioceses across the country contain all or some of the following requirements including that: homeschooled children be enrolled in the parish sacramental classes, use diocesan approved materials, or materials approved by the pastor or Director of Religious Education (DRE). A few go so far as to say that homeschooling parents are to be enrolled in diocesan "Catechist certification" programs. Some guidelines are not as specific as others, but read them carefully.
Marianna Bartold's article warns of these guidelines and is especially concerned with the guidelines issued in the Pittsburgh diocese. While they appear innocuous on the surface, they are not. The Pittsburgh guidelines refer to other diocesan documents that contain requirements or policies regarding Sacraments and Catechesis.
Remember too, Bishop Wuerl has his own mandated sex/chastity program which is referred to as "catechesis." In many dioceses, calling sex education "catechesis" is very common and sex ed activities may also be found as part of sacramental instructions or retreats. Many parents of CCD students have long complained that CCD instructions are infiltrated with sex ed.
Will homeschooled children across the country now be required to be sexualized as a means of being catechized? Guidelines, once instituted, are there to stay and while they may appear harmless at the onset, they can be made more restrictive at the stroke of a pen.
Without a doubt, some of the most courageous parents of this modern day are those that pioneered homeschooling. The majority of those home schooling have been doing so because there was no other alternative.
Sex education and a plethora of "socio-political" programs entered the schools thirty years ago and turned the classrooms into experimental laboratories with the students as guinea pigs. These programs were wrapped in a new methodology called values clarification, which plays upon the emotions of a child to create a new way of thinking and behaving, with tragic effects. Religion is pushed aside and modernized and obedience to God's law has given way to lessons encouraging acting on feelings and personal choice. Humility is no longer virtue, but a symptom of poor self-esteem. Academics too have paled in light of the new curriculum. Pleading with school administrators, pastors, bishops, and the Vatican hierarchy did nothing to stop, or even slow, the dangerous direction Catholic schools have taken.
A select number of neophyte leaders in homeschool organizations, NACHE (National Association of Catholic Home Educators) and TORCH (Traditions of Roman Catholic Homeschoolers), are supporting diocesan guidelines. In their most "charitable manner" TORCH's newsletter berated the opposing veteran homeschoolers saying "the biggest stumbling block" to working with the Bishops is " the background clamor of a few argumentative and hostile homeschoolers," and that those parents protesting guidelines are "aggressive, demanding, [with a] high-decibel style," and are "perhaps driven by fear or distrust," and that these same parents display a "lack of charity and lack of respect for the hierarchy, or their representatives," and have "caustic and critical attitudes," and that they are "not only wrong, but inevitably ineffective" [Torch newsletter 10-97].
Mothers' Watch must strongly disagree. The Catechism states that: "[lay people] have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and they have a right to make their opinion known to the other Christian faithful..." (N. 907). Why then is it that parents who speak for the hearts and souls of children are always labeled as fanatical or the "bad guys"?
Mothers' Watch would argue that when TORCH bends over backwards to "build bridges" with many of the same Bishops who force abusive sex ed on children, and when the NACHE philosophy specifies that homeschooling is a mere "educational option...not...a negative reaction against the public or parochial schools..." TORCH and NACHE are indirectly putting their stamp of approval on Catholic school curriculum. This makes it so much easier for Bishops to continue to allow watered down religion, values clarification, and the sexual and moral abuse of children in "Catholic" classrooms. By denying the reality of these horror stories of the past 30 years, do not these organizations literally abandon the children who remain captive in these classrooms to more of the same? Fortunately, their children are now safe in the homeschool!
The Bishops' guidelines are not examples of the dioceses working with parents, but of the Bishops trying to gain control of parents just as they did with sex education mandates. To see NACHE and TORCH spokespeople willing to capitulate to diocesan guidelines could only be that they do not fully understand the history of the problem, and those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat its errors. When it comes to school policies, it does not take long to find out that parents may be allowed to sit in on certain meetings, but that the policies that appear to be open for discussion have already been decided upon. Such meetings can be compared to those that precede certain sex education programs. They do nothing but tell the parents that the program is going forward.
The Catechism quoting Prov. 14:15 states: "the prudent man looks where he is going" (N. 1806). How prudent is it for the few "elect" home schooling representatives to have allowed themselves to become entangled in the Bishops' web? How could they not have the foresight to see that "sacramental" guidelines will, in fact, usurp or deny the God-given duty of parents to educate their children?
Although the neophyte leaders say they seek to "propel the [homeschool] movement beyond its initial narrow roots into a more mainstream option for Catholic families," (National Catholic Register, 8/25/96) many homeschooling parents know all too well that problems remain in Catholic schools and CCD programs. Knowledgeable parents will not readily turn their precious children over to the very bureaucracy that led them to homeschool their children in the first place. These parents know their God-given rights and duty and will not be threatened by those who try to negate, neutralize or infringe upon those duties. They will stand up and they will be counted.