Prelate Calls for Christ-Centered Catholic Schools


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LONDON, JUNE 9, 2009 ( The archbishop of Westminster is underlining the importance of teaching virtues to children in Catholic schools based on a study of the way Jesus lived.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols affirmed this June 3 in a conference on "Education and Young People" given at the University of London's Heythrop College.

He addressed an audience of Catholic school heads, parish catechists and religious, stating that "the key to Catholic education is provided by the dimension of faith."

The prelate affirmed that "the complete understanding of our created world, of ourselves, of our growth, of our relationships, of our society is to be found within the living wisdom revealed in the unique Word of God."

The person of Christ, he said, "is at the center of Catholic school life" and is a "manifesto of our humanity; but a manifesto that is not a pamphlet but a person, and therefore the relationship that each of us has with that person is our key distinguishing feature."

The archbishop continued: "When we look at the starkest, most plain revelation of the humanity expressed in this Incarnate Word, in Christ, in his moment of full self giving, we find an interpretative key for so many of our dilemmas today.

"In the crucified Lord we see leadership and power exercised always and ultimately in the service of others and not, when the chips are down, in a self protective, self promoting way.

"When we look at the figure of the crucified Christ, the full picture of human love elevated to its fullness; a love that is faithful until death and a love that is the source of new life."

"It is that this brings in an entirely new calculus into the practical judgments that shape all of our lives," he affirmed.

Life-building habits

Archbishop Nichols stated that this conviction, the "supreme advantage of knowing Christ, gives rise to a way of life which we believe fosters true virtue, true, steady life-building habits of mind and action."

He acknowledged that "there are plenty of indicators in our society today that we need such civic virtues in addition to regulation."

"Schools are the places where such virtue is generated or where it is neglected," he added.

A "good" school, the prelate asserted, "will have a coherent moral discourse; it will be able to present not just its codes of conduct, but also its moral reasoning, why these things are held to be crucial in the enterprise of education."

"I would trust that a Catholic school is certainly able to do this," he added.

The archbishop noted, "Today we live in a society which tends to 'instrumentalize' everything."

He explained: "In other words, everything is broken down to clear objectives and attainments and each is given its price.

"Once this really takes hold, then education has truly entered the market place and its entire ecological system is threatened with pollution. When everything has a price then nothing has lasting value."

Places of growth

However, Archbishop Nichols affirmed, "our society also needs places which are neither commercial nor political, places which nurture what are so rightly called 'civic virtues.'"

"These virtues," he stated, "such as trust, respect, fundamental honesty, a genuine concern of the other, and for the common good, are essential."

The prelate continued: "Both commerce and political life depend upon them. Yet neither commerce nor political life is aimed at generating these virtues -- although that can indeed happen.

"Rather the generators of civic virtue are precisely the other aspects of life: charities, voluntary and faith-based groups, the family and, of course, the school."

"Our schools are places of a covenantal agreement," he said, "where we stand together with families, parishes and local communities, to create social solidarity: those bonds between us in which true human flourishing can take place."

"This is one of the reasons," the archbishop concluded, "why our schools are a genuine service to our society at large."