I found myself in the middle of a discussion with an earnest gentleman about the Catholic schools in our area. I admitted there are times when I believe that we need to admit that our schools are no longer Catholic, and we should stop treating them as such and calling them such. Maybe we should just declare them a write off and start over.
But he protested about that. What about that one kid, he said, that one kid who doesn't get religion from anywhere else, that one kid whose curiosity is piqued even by the crumbs of Truth that reach his ears through the Catholic school system, even if unintentionally on the part of their teachers- that one kid who does find the Faith through the schools. Aren't they worth keeping for that?
It is an interesting way to phrase the problem. That one kid- it brings up echoes of the God shepherd, who leaves his ninety nine sheep to go searching for the one lost one, and rejoices to find that lost sheep. It echoes the statement that there is more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner, and so on. All very worthy. After all, how can we put a price on that one human soul? Is not each soul beyond all price, worth more than the world itself? How could we possibly say that one soul is not worth saving?
We can't. Obviously we cannot say that. But we can say they are using a false analogy.
It is not a case of one lost against ninety nine who never strayed. That is not even close. It is not a case of one repentant sinner against those who never sinned. That is not even close either. We are not dealing with one lost soul but tens of thousands of lost souls. For that one who finds faith there are tens of tens of thousands whose faith is not nourished at all at these schools. Not one student who graduates from these schools knows enough of the faith to defend against the constant attacks they will see on the news, on the streets, on tv or on the internet daily. They do not know enough to hold fast against the snickers and jeers and ridicule that members of the faith will face in their daily life. It is hard enough to stand firm against a fierce enemy, sword in hand. In many ways, it is even harder to stand against the laughter of a friend. If these kids do have enough knowledge to defend their faith, they learned it elsewhere. If they have the strength to stand against all temptation, it is not because of the best effort of our schools, but despite them.
Can we look at the one kid who comes to the Faith through our schools? Sure, wherever and whomever that hypothetical kid may be. But can we also talk about the tens of tens of thousands who are being given nothing? Can we not aim to provide for them, too?