When Catholic Statues Attack

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2017/09/01/when-catholic-statues-attack/

A Catholic school is removing its Catholic statues to be more inclusive. While this sounds like another action in the continued debate over controversial monuments, this is more a trend of religions, especially Catholics, hiding their beliefs, or watering them down enough so as not to be a bother.

It reminds me of a time I toured Georgetown University with my daughter on a fine spring day years ago. She had been accepted for the fall and we were checking out the campus.

When most of the tours and talks were over, I walked toward the common area, and the smell was overwhelmingly delicious.

Thick burgers on the grill.

It was a Friday during Lent, the only time when Catholics are supposed to abstain from eating meat on Fridays. Georgetown is a Catholic school. Yet the Grill Club was allowed (encouraged?) to take over the common and serve up forbidden fruit.

Two points here:  Georgetown obviously has plenty of non-Catholics on campus; and:  eating meat on a Friday during Lent may not seem like grounds for damnation.

However …

Why would a Catholic school sponsor (directly or indirectly) a campus-wide event that its Catholic students could not (at least, should not) participate in?

If it is so easy to ignore a rule of the Church – and observing days of fasting is a precept (i.e., a minimum requirement) of the Church – where would it stop?

If I sent my son or daughter to a Catholic school, wouldn’t I presume it to be, you know, Catholic? I wouldn’t expect school officials to shove their beliefs down my child’s throat, but nor would I assume that they would ignore their traditions (a subject I’ve touched on before; as well as the issue of actual commitment).

Maybe, instead of breaking the rules of a Catholic fast (and it’s a light fast at that), why not use it as a teaching moment? The rules and traditions have a reasoning behind them.

And that brings us to San Domenico, the K-12 Catholic school in California that is removing most of its saintly statues from campus. According to an article in the Marin Independent Journal, the school identifies as both a Catholic and independent institution.

But the school’s website states that it was “founded in 1850 as California’s first independent school …” Nothing about Catholic.

The school’s history does mention the Dominican sisters. But that connection now is loose at best. The school’s removal of statues (most, but not all) actually makes sense when you consider the direction the school is taking. It seems like a fine independent prep school (and at $42,825 tuition for high school – more if they’re boarding – it better be) with a sprinkling of religious studies classes.

One reason for the removal of statues was sensitivity to other faiths. Amy Skewes, head of the school’s board of trustees, told the newspaper that “if you walk on the campus and the first thing you confront is three or four statues of St. Dominic or St. Francis, it could be alienating for that other religion.”

Alienating? Yes, why would someone expect to see Catholic statues in a Catholic school? And her use of the word “confront” makes it sound as if the good saints, Dominic and Francis, are poised to attack.

But confrontation is one reason for Catholic statues, to challenge us to live a saintly life.

A faith that does not challenge you is not much of a faith.

It would be better, and honest, if the school ended its “Catholic identity.” If you have to hide it, just stop pretending in the first place.


Kevin Thomas is a writer and former teacher, living with his wife and children in Standish, Maine.