TCA Podcast, – “Conversations with Consequences,” Episode 69 – Church Vs. State: The Fight To Keep Catholic Schools Open This Fall

On this week’s Conversations with Consequences, Dr. Grazie Christie talks with Professor Chad Pecknold of Catholic University of America about getting kids back to school this Fall. With an uptick in private school enrollment, Heritage education expert Jonathan Butcher also joins telling us: “If summer 2020 was the season parents, students, and educators considered the cost of the pandemic, fall will be the time families seek value.

1. If Public Schools Are Closed, Should Private Schools Have to Follow?, By Ashley McGuire, Real Clear Education, August 14, 2020, Opinion

Teachers unions all across America are successfully shutting down public schools in the name of COVID-19. Now, under the guise of “equality,” they’re trying to shut down private schools, as well. 

The Maryland county where my kids go to school already tried.

But it was perhaps the most brazen attempt yet to hide this increasingly glaring reality: While public schools are closing for in-person learning, private schools are working hard – at great expense – to open safely in the fall for in-person learning. The upshot? The teachers unions and their apologists are now labeling private schools “engines of inequality.” That’s the false phrase of two authors in a recent New York Times article that framed school closures as a conflict between privileged parents and poor county families whose children will be victims of the failed experiment known colloquially as “distance learning.”

The problem is that the data simply do not support such a simplistic framing of the issue.

In the words of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: 

“Catholic schools are often the Church’s most effective contribution to those families who are poor and disadvantaged, especially in poor inner-city neighborhoods and rural areas. Catholic schools cultivate healthy interaction among the increasingly diverse populations of our society. In cities and rural areas, Catholic schools are often the only opportunity for economically disadvantaged young people to receive an education of quality that speaks to the development of the whole person.” 

And they still manage to produce enviable educational outcomes.

Catholic schools aren’t engines of inequality; they are accessible pathways out of poverty for some of America’s most disadvantaged students. 

Despite far fewer resources than public schools or their elite private counterparts, Catholic schools nationwide have spent the summer retooling their operational plans to get America’s most disadvantaged children safely back at their desks this fall where health and public policy experts all agree these kids belong. While the teachers unions have been lining up body bags outside of schools, Catholic school administrators have been working overtime – buying tents, reconfiguring classroom layouts, and installing air filtration and hand sanitizing stations throughout their schools. 

That Catholic schools have nimbly come forward with CDC-compliant reopening plans on shoestring budgets stands in stark contrast to the unions’ arguments that more money and outrageous demands are the solution to safely educating America’s children in a pandemic. They unmask in an unprecedented way the unions’ fraudulent claims that they have America’s neediest kids at heart. And, now, in trying to close down America’s Catholic schools, the unions are exposing themselves as the true engines of educational inequality in America. 

Ashley McGuire is a senior fellow with The Catholic Association and the author of “Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female.” She is the mother of three children in Montgomery County Independent Schools.

2. Kamala Harris exacerbates Biden’s existing problem with religious voters. He must work to reassure them., By Michael Gerson, The Washington Post, August 14, 2020, Pg. A21, Opinion

Whether Biden understands it — and whether he cares — the selection of Harris contributes to a Catholic problem that already existed because of Biden’s pro-choice views and his newly discovered support for federal funding of abortions. And this, by extension, is also an evangelical problem.

In 2018, as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Harris strongly suggested that being a member of the Knights of Columbus — a nearly 2 million-member Catholic social and charitable organization — was disqualifying for the federal bench. She posed a series of inappropriate questions to federal district court nominee Brian Buescher, who had joined the Knights at the age of 18: “Were you aware that the Knights of Columbus opposed a woman’s right to choose when you joined the organization? . . . Were you aware that the Knights of Columbus opposed marriage equality when you joined the organization? . . . Have you ever, in any way, assisted with or contributed to advocacy against women’s reproductive rights?”

Harris was effectively treating membership in a distinctly Catholic organization as if it were allegiance to a hate group. The full Senate eventually repudiated Harris’s attempt to apply a religious test for office.

Harris has co-written legislation called the Do No Harm Act, which would weaken the reasonable protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — protections requiring any government restriction of religious expression to demonstrate a compelling interest and employ the least restrictive means. Changing this standard would make it harder for many institutions to maintain their religious identity.

There will be, however, periodic, unavoidable issues related to religious liberty. And it is not too much to ask for Biden to provide assurance that he respects the rights of religious institutions and individuals, even when he strongly disagrees with them on divisive matters. This is what pluralism at its best is about.

3. Slew of church abuse lawsuits hinges on state court decision, By Mark Scolforo, Associated Press, August 14, 2020, 7:42 AM

Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic dioceses have been hit with about 150 lawsuits from people who say they were sexually abused as children by priests and hope a state court decision last year has shown a way around time limits for legal claims.

Lawyers involved in the litigation say they were still getting notified about new cases on Thursday and expect dozens more.

The rush to the courthouse is tied to a landmark grand jury report issued exactly two years ago that documented seven decades of child molestation within the Catholic church in Pennsylvania. State civil litigation rules generally require legal action to be initiated within two years from when someone realizes they’ve been harmed.

The state Supreme Court in March said it would review the Superior Court’s decision that gave Rice, now 52, the ability to sue for abuse she said occurred for several years when she was a child, ending in 1981. The high court could hear oral arguments in the case as early as October.

4. Catholic leader accuses Kamala Harris of being ‘ringleader of anti-Catholic bullying’ in Democratic Party, By Morgan Phillips, Fox News, August 13, 2020

Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow at The Catholic Association, accused Kamala Harris of being the “ringleader of anti-Catholic bullying that increasingly defines the Democrat party.”

McGuire, in comments to Breitbart News, pointed to Harris’ treatment alongside Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, of U.S. District Court nominee Brian Buescher. The pair questioned whether he was fit for the seat because he is a member of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic charitable organization.

In December 2018, Hirono, as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked whether Buescher would be able to decide cases such as abortion and same-sex marriage “fairly and impartially.”

Harris asked the Nebraska lawyer whether he knew Knights of Columbus “opposed a woman’s right to choose” and were against “marriage equality” when he chose to become a part of the organization.

Buescher responded that his involvement in the group consisted mostly of charitable work and community events at his local Catholic parish. He indicated he would abide by judicial precedent regarding abortion.

McGuire told Breitbart Harris “has built a career out of opposing the work and values of Catholics.”

She also criticized Harris’s prosecution of David Daleidien, who made secret recordings of Planned Parenthood, under and eavesdropping law, and her support of efforts to force the Little Sisters of the Poor, to cover contraception, like birth control pills, in health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act.

“One can only expect her to continue to do so in an elevated position of power,” McGuire added of the California senator. “It is equally disappointing to see Joe Biden tout his Catholic faith while picking as his running mate someone who has made her anti-Catholic bona fides clear.”

5. More US churches sue to challenge COVID-19 restrictions, By David Crary, Associated Press, August 13, 2020, 8:16 PM

Churches in California and Minnesota, backed by a conservative legal group, filed lawsuits this week against the governors of their states challenging restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus outbreak that they contend are violations of religious liberty.

They’re the latest in a long series of legal challenges, many of them in California, pitting clerics and houses of worship who believe they should be exempt from certain restrictions on public gatherings against governors who insist the measures are needed to rein in the pandemic. Most of the suits have been rebuffed; some have succeeded.

6. US Senator asks attorney general to fight anti-Catholic vandalism, By Catholic News Agency, August 13, 2020, 8:16 PM

A United States senator has asked the nation’s attorney general to intensify efforts to fight the vandalism that has been carried out against Catholic places and statues throughout the country in recent months.

“The trend of desecrating Catholic spaces and property must stop,” U.S. Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) wrote in an August 11 letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr.

“Catholics are under attack in America,” he said, referencing “at least nineteen attacks on Catholic churches, statues, businesses, cemeteries, parishioners, and personnel” since May.

7. Pope cleans house in Poland after abuse, cover-up scandal, By Nicole Winfield and Vanessa Gera, Associated Press, August 13, 2020, 12:19 PM

Pope Francis continued cleaning house in Poland on Thursday following revelations of clergy sexual abuse and cover-up, replacing the powerful archbishop of Gdansk on his 75th birthday.

While all Catholic bishops must offer to retire when they turn 75, it is highly unusual for the pope to accept such a resignation on a prelate’s actual birthday. Doing so suggests that Francis was keen to send a signal showing his seriousness about ending the culture of concealment within the Polish church hierarchy.

8. Nebraska passes dismemberment abortion ban, By Catholic News Agency, August 13, 2020, 12:52 PM

The Nebraska legislature on Thursday passed a ban on dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions in the state, a move hailed by the Nebraska Catholic Conference.

“Life has won today in Nebraska. By ending dismemberment abortion, our state has demonstrated and reaffirmed its deep respect for the human dignity of preborn children and their mothers,” said Marion Miner, Associate Director for Pro-Life and Family at the Nebraska Catholic Conference, on Aug. 13.

According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, to date 11 states have passed bans on dilation and evacuation abortions, though because of courts blocking the measures, the bans in two states, Mississippi and West Virginia, are currently in effect, and an appeals court recently ruled to allow Arkansas’ ban to come into effect on Aug. 28.


TCA Media Monitoring provides a snapshot from national newspapers and major Catholic press outlets of coverage regarding significant Catholic Church news and current issues with which the Catholic Church is traditionally or prominently engaged. The opinions and views expressed in the articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Catholic Association.
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