I’ve been asked a couple of times about why I insist on a Catholic curriculum, especially when it comes to history and science. Not often, but I was thinking about this recently.
The biggest reason I’ve stuck with Catholic-based history and science is because I want my girls to be proud of their Catholic heritage.
When I was in school – and it was public school – there was little discussion of the Catholic Church. But the few things that my history classes taught me about my Church in history included that we were the aggressors in the Crusades, Luther was heroic for standing up to a Church that sold indulgences (and let you buy your dead relatives out of Hell – I don’t recall if Purgatory was mentioned), and the Catholic Church persecuted scientists like Galileo and Copernicus (and that the Church was and is, in general, anti-science).
When I started educating my girls, I wanted to have a Catholic perspective in education. I wanted them to have a Catholic school at home, basically. And it was then, reading their elementary school textbooks from Seton, that I learned the truth about many things I thought I knew from my public school history classes.
The Crusades were less about attacking Muslims than they were about helping pilgrims make safe journeys to and from the Holy Lands. And, incidentally, the Holy Lands were Catholic places before Mohammed came along and started terrorizing people. (Yes, I used that word. I mean it. Conversion by the sword has never been a part of Catholicism, but it is called for specifically in the Koran.)
Luther disregarded doctrines within the Catholic Church that he didn’t like much, and his separation was not heroic. It tore the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church in half. The separation of the Orthodox Church was bad enough. But Luther was a monk! He broke his vows and lead people away from the Church. Indulgences were never sold (not by decree or permission from the Church, anyway; if it happened, it was done by rogue priests who were abusing their positions and vocations). And an indulgence isn’t about “getting someone out of Hell.” That’s impossible. And purgatory is about as misunderstood as indulgences are. (For a good explanation of indulgences, I recommend Catholic Answers’ site. Most Catholics couldn’t explain them to you, which is why, when I mentioned to my father this tidbit of information, he couldn’t explain why the description in my textbooks were wrong. So I offer two links: the first is a primer on indulgences, and the other debunks some of the myths about this ancient – and current! – practice of granting indulgences. Trust me, it’s worth the read to have a better understanding of the idea.)
And the most surprising thing I’ve learned is that not only has the Church not persecuted scientists, but She’s had quite a few in her own clergy! (Here is an excellent summary on Galileo, the ignorants‘ favorite example.) I didn’t know until quite recently that Gregor Mendel was an Augustinian priest!
But my girls know these things. They’re learning them as we learn about the famous people who make up our Western Civilization’s history. They’re learning that the first religious ceremony in what would become the United States was a Catholic Mass. They’re learning that Florida, Mexico, South America, and the western areas of the United States were explored by Catholic nations and had countless missions dotting the wild frontier. They’re learning that there were brave priests and sisters and brothers and nuns who came to this country to serve others and set up schools (long before the government was in the business of education) and offer hospital care and feed the poor.
What they’re learning is what I did not learn until I was an adult.
To be Catholic is to have something to be proud of. Our Catholic heritage is rich. It’s full of amazing people and wonderful discoveries and moving tales of charity and love and forgiveness. (Read some of the stories about the French Jesuits who were tortured by the Indians and begged to be sent back to be missionaries so they could save souls. Read about those who came after them and became martyrs, not because they were cruel or slave-masters, but because they would not abandon their Lord. And then read about the conversions that were made possible by tireless religious who risked their lives to share the Good News with those who had never heard it before!)
So what I am giving my children – what they gain from studying science and our history from a Catholic perspective – is something to be proud of. They’ll hold their heads up when they say they’re Catholic because they will have learned the truth:
The Catholic Church has done some pretty wonderful things. It’s like a well-kept secret, but I’m determined to let that secret out!