Loyalty to the educational aims of the Catholic school demands constant self-criticism
and return to basic principles, to the motives which inspire the Church’s involvement in education.
– Sacred Congregation for Education, The Catholic School, n.67 –
Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has called for the renewal of Catholic education at all levels, from grade school through the research university. The Church has warned that Catholic schools must not be just secular schools with a Catholic name and a religion class.
The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education was founded in 1999 to help educators renew today’s Catholic schools by drawing on the Church’s tradition, which frees teachers and students for the joyful pursuit of faith, wisdom, and virtue. Our goal is different from that of secular schools, therefore our approach should be different. Through the Institute’s many programs, services, conferences, retreats, and publications, we immerse educators in the philosophy, the content, and even the tools of teaching and learning that lead to a deeper encounter with Truth, who is Jesus Christ.
The task of rebuilding Catholic education upon its foundational principles is urgent. Evidence shows that young Catholics are falling away from their faith in alarming numbers, and those in Catholic schools have fared no better. For too long, we have taken our cues and curriculum from the troubled secular model without realizing their corrosive effect.
Today’s teacher training programs, professional development opportunities, and curricular materials are rooted in a pragmatic philosophy of education that emerged a century ago as a rejection of the successful 2,500-year-old tradition that preceded it. For millennia, education was seen not as mere job training but as a search for wisdom and virtue. The Catholic Church took up this classical tradition in the liberal arts and sciences and ordered it toward Christ, producing some of the finest minds and the wisest saints in history. At the heart of this flourishing is a clear conviction about the nature and purpose of reality, of the human person, and of God — all of which are undermined by secular progressive education and its industrialized methods.
The best-kept secret in Catholic education today, after five decades of plummeting enrollment and waning belief, is that the remedy lies not in secular solutions but in the Church’s own proven wisdom in the formation of the whole person. The evidence is growing. Dying schools are revived. New ones are launched. Entire diocesan school systems are re-oriented. Teachers, students, and parents find deepening faith and renewed joy in learning.
The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education is privileged to serve these dedicated teachers and school leaders who are restoring the unity of faith and reason in their communities. Through our shared work, we have witnessed a transformation in ourselves, in our students, in the schools we assist, and even in our own children.
The greatest challenge to Catholic education in the United States today, and the greatest contribution that authentically Catholic education can make to American culture, is to restore to that culture the conviction that human beings can grasp the truth of things, and, in grasping that truth, can know their duties to God, to themselves and their neighbors.
– Pope St. John Paul II, Ad Limina visit of the Bishops of Chicago, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee, 1998 –