Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Can a Protestant Attend a Catholic School?

I think I failed to mention in yesterday’s post about DD’s visiting a Catholic school that we are NOT Catholic. We are actually Congregationalist (a form of Protestantism). As part of the consideration of this school, we have to consider the impact on DD’s religious development. Part of school means attending a Catholic mass daily and participating in Catholic religious classes.

We did have an opportunity to sit through mass during our visit yesterday. I’m not sure how the kids felt, but it was awkward. Not only were there parts of the service obviously different than ours i.e. genuflecting at you enter you pew, actually turning wine and bread into blood and body, reading from books that are not included in our Bible, but also in subtle ways: being refused communion since we are not Catholic, watching only men allowed to participate in the service, and hearing that God sanctified the first Pope, Saint Peter. Its greatest difference was that it wasn’t even introduced in our language, but in Latin. Now I must admit, this was kind of cool and I actually came home and wrote it on the kid’s Educational Accomplishments. This service not only let them peek into another world religion, but allowed my daughter to see that Latin was not dead. But it means that you are not 100% sure about what you are hearing or in essence agreeing to as you pray to God.

My brother went to a Catholic high school back in the late ‘80’s early 90’s, escaping with his protestant faith basically intact, so I know that it is possible. But intact and unaltered are two different things. While I do appreciate their basic morals and more modest approach to living, I greatly disagree with many of tenants. However, there is great benefit when a school’s largest class/teacher ratio is a 9 to 1. There is something to be said when moral rights and wrongs are clearly laid out. So the questions become – Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Should I be supporting a denomination that I disagree with? Should our commonalities be seen as greater than our differences? Should I consider these same questions when judging the public alternative?


Debbie said...

Why don't you find some Catholics to discuss this with? Maybe a teacher at the school? I think if you had more information, you could feel more comfortable with your decision.

Dawn said...

I feel even more comfortable after having her shadow at the public school today ; ) I will take your advise. Thanks.

Séamus Martin said...


I would like to address some of the points you raised.

"actually turning wine and bread into blood and body"

Mark 14:22-24

22 While they were eating, he [Jesus] took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this IS my body."

23 Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.

24 He said to them, "This IS my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.

"hearing that God sanctified the first Pope, Saint Peter"

Matthew 16:18-19

18 And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19 And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.

"reading from books that are not included in our Bible"

A pity they are not in most modern Protestant Bibles. The Deuterocanonical or Apocryphal books are found in the earliest Christian Bible, Saint Jerome's Latin Vulgate of 405 AD. They are also contained in Martin Luther's 1534 German translation of the Bible and in the King James Version of 1611 and nearly all other Protestant Bible translations of the Reformation era, either integrated into the Old Testament or placed between the Old Testament and the New. It was only in the 19th century that Protestant started abandoning them.

A modern Protestant Bible which includes these books is the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Common Bible.

Here are a couple of links:

My personal favourite book from the Apocrypha is Sirach, by Ben Sira, also known as the Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach, the Wisdom of Ben Sira, or Ecclesiasticus. It contains many pearls of wisdom and is similar to Proverbs in style and content.

I would be interested to know your response to my comments.

Séamus Martin said...

Some more thoughts directly on your family schooling situation and my own. I attended a Catholic primary school. There were four Protestant children in my class as the nearest state or Protestant schools were several miles away on the other side of town.

During RE, which consisted of indoctrination and rote learning of Catholic prayers rather than impartial factual information about world religions, the Protestant children remained in the room but were given other work to keep them busy. Then maybe twice per month a Protestant minister would come to see the Protestant children. They would all go to the headmaster's office, the headmaster would leave them there and they would receive their own religious instruction. The Protestant children were never made to participate in any Catholic Mass or religious activities.

On the other hand I know of another school (in a different country) where all children including Muslims and Jews are forced to attend assembly at least once a week where Christian hymns are sung.

Perhaps you should ask the school to what extent if any your child would be expected to participate in Catholic rituals. My experience of the mission statements on the web sites of Catholic schools is that religion comes first by a long shot and the provision of education is a distant second.

I have a friend from West Africa whose Muslim father sent her to an expensive Catholic boarding school in Switzerland. She lost her faith and became confused. The last I heard, she had become some sort of Christian though not a Catholic.

There are great dangers in sending your child to a school run by a religion or denomination other than the one your believe in. If you value your faith above all else, then a secular private school is the best option or, failing that, maybe your local state-run school.

Anonymous said...

What did you decide??

john o'rourke sligo said...

Hello there. First of all, I realise that this response is coming years too late. It's just that i found it going through tonight.

Anyways, the following must be remembered. Understanding who Christ Jesus is and receiving Him as Lord and Saviour is what is important...not denomination.

As regards your children attending a school that is different in beliefs, this can create some problems and solutions. The main difference really is with the Protestant church, they believe in sola scripture and the Roman Catholic church would go by tradition and scripture. Now, to the next point...I was brought up a Roman Catholic, baptised into the church...made my first Holy Communion and confirmation. None of all this done me any good. However, when I was 17 I came into a relationship with Jesus Christ. He became REAL to me. I was baptised after this. The problem with many churches....including protestant (and by the way, I attend an anglican church now, in which my son was baptised into) is that many people just attend. They are church-goers without experiencing the new birth.

Now...getting back to the school issue. I think personally if you truly believe in what you have been brought up in (and it is in The Scriptures) then continue in it. I wouldn't take the bread and wine in the Roman Catholic church as I don't believe it actually turns into the body and blood of my saviour (transubstantiation). I don't believe in the Immaculate conception of Mary. I see these issue as massive areas. Remember that Mary said: my soul doeth magnigy the Lord, and my Spirit rejoices in God my saviour. Mary brought two turtle doves as a sin offering for Her sin and the nation. Mary was born a say she had no original sin is blasphemous!!!

Please take note: this is not an attack on Roman Catholics. I love them very much, but Roman Catholis are thought that they must obey the sacraments to be saved. Salvation only lies in Jesus Christ my friend.

In can send your children to the school, and let them be friendly and mix with the staff and kids, but let them know that you have differences.

God bless you,

John O'Rourke