Educational Philosophy of the American Catholic Hierarchy in the 20th Century: An Analysis of Vatican and American Official Statements

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The task of this book is to describe the contemporary educational philosophy of the Catholic magisterium. This review is based upon official Catholic magisterial documents. Documents have been limited to the last century, focusing particularly on documents since the Second Vatican Council. Special attention is given to statements of the United States Catholic Conference because the expected audience for this book is Catholic educators and researchers working in the United States. Three elements make up the educational philosophy of the Catholic magisterium: education as social, the presence of God in the daily world, integration of every available element in an effort at holistic education. Catholic education hands over a cultural heritage as well as the Faith. It is aimed at building a better society and protecting certain eternal truths from popular false teachings. The Church has not only a right to educate, but also a duty to do so. The theme of “integration,” or “holistic education,” is very important in Catholic education: integration of faith and knowledge, integration of the home and the school, integration of faith and lived experience. All persons have a right to education, including religious and moral education.


“Michael Maher’s compendium of Twentieth Century educational philosophy of the Roman Catholic hierarchy embraces statements from the church universal and from the local church of the United States. … Numerous statements from the church universal and from the church in this country are included in this study … This corpus of statements reflects the educational philosophy of the Roman Catholic hierarchy … Maher identifies three important foundational elements in the magisterium’s philosophy of education … admits to the many educational philosophies that are at work within the educational institutions and communities of United States Catholicism … There is an identifiable and operative philosophy of education of the Catholic hierarchy, and he presents the primary sources that manifest that philosophy … This volume [is] extraordinarily useful to Catholic school administrators, to pastors and their pastoral staffs, to principals, to college and university campus ministry personnel, and to students of the American Catholic experience.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Dr. Peter Gilmour, Associate Professor of Pastoral Studies, Loyola University Chicago

“Michael J. Maher provides a scholarly point of access to the overall mission of the church by organizing the breadth of official documents related to educational matters. Maher recognizes that Catholic theology not only asserts a hierarchy of truths, but also has a hierarchy of documents. For each topic under consideration, four types of documents are cited: statements by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Vatican documents, papal documents, and conciliar documents … This reference book will be a valuable addition to university libraries and attractive to philosophers of education, educational historians, and even Catholic school administrators.” – Rev. Ronald J. Nuzzi, Ph.D, Director, ACE Leadership Program, University of Notre Dame

“This book brings into focus the unity, breadth, and comprehensiveness of contemporary Catholic teachings on education … The goal of the book is to identify and describe relevant passages from magisterial documents pertaining to key themes in the presentation of a Catholic philosophy of education … This book will serve well as a handbook to the large collection of teachings on education issued within the Catholic Church over the last one hundred years, enabling readers to identify key themes in Catholic educational philosophy and then to locate relevant sections of a variety of magisterial documents. We now have a comprehensive but concise reference work that will serve as a lens bringing into focus a coherent Catholic educational philosophy emerging from the collective voices of the Catholic hierarchy.” – Michael C. Jordan, Ph.D., Professor, Department of English, University of St. Thomas

Table of Contents

1. Education as Divine Mission
2. Faith, Culture, and the Future
3. Rights and Duties of the Church, the State, Parents, and Students
4. Parents, Teachers, and Students
5. Integrating the Faith with Life
6. Community, Service, Message, and Worship
7. Preference for Catholic Schools
8. Higher Education

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