Catholic Education is Not "the Other Side"
by Donald DeMarco
Heather Mallick, a columnist from Canada, has made a name for herself on the international scene by virtue of her merciless assault against Sarah Palin. The article “A Mighty Wind Blows Through Republican Convention”, in which Mallick skewered the then-US vice-presidential candidate, was widely circulated on the internet. (It was originally posted on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s web site, www.cnews. canoe.ca. The CBC later removed it and apologized though it is still on Mallick’s personal web site, www.heathermallick.ca).
Ms. Mallick’s words are high in shock value, though low in credibility and empty of civility. She questions why Republicans selected Palin as a vice-presidential running mate since they had already “sewn up the white trash vote, a demographic that sullies America’s name inside and outside its borders yet has such a curious appeal for the right”. And if her readers are unclear about the meaning of “white trash”, Mallick kindly elaborates: “rural, loud, unlettered, suspicious of the urban”.
Her appetite for vitriol being unsated, Mallick goes on to depict the Governor of Alaska as having “a toned-down version of the porn actress look”. For good measure, she throws in “Alaska hillbilly”, and adds, “No, she isn’t even female really”. Her vilification gets uglier, but her Dorian Gray portrait of Palin is unremitting and unequivocal.
Sarah Palin, nonetheless, is in good company. Mallick also despises the Catholic Church, contending that She has “no pity” for African women who, in the eyes of the Church, “don’t matter as much as a clump of cells”. On the other hand, Mallick holds Henry Morgentaler, Canada’s abortion guru, in the highest regard. He is “a fighter, survivor, lover of women and friend”, she wrote in an admiring column on Chatelaine.com. After all, she writes, Morgentaler has allowed Canadian women to use abortion as a “Get Out of Jail Free card” so they, as well as men, can now engage in “more and better sex”.
The focus of this article, however, is not Heather Mallick but the fact that despite her well-known and amply documented antipathy toward the Catholic Church, as well as her unsparing misanthropy toward decent human beings, she was invited recently to speak at a small Catholic school in Canada.
Inviting a speaker who represents the very antithesis of what a Catholic school should represent is by no means unique, or even uncommon. The good news in this particular case is that enough people protested her invitation that the school cancelled her appearance.
But the larger problem remains. Why do certain Catholic schools feel the need to bring the enemy into their homes? Apologists invariably say it is because they need to hear from the “other side”. Yet, could it not be evident to anyone with the slightest awareness of what is going on that we are drenched in secularism from the time we rise in the morning until the time we rest our weary heads on the pillow at night? At the same time, it is only too obvious that Catholics in general are woefully ignorant of their own faith.
The image comes to mind of two people standing on a small and diminishing ice floe. One person begins chipping away at the floe’s perimeter provoking the other to ask, rather heatedly, “What are you doing?” The response: “I am trying to give you a better view of the water.”
Secularism engulfs us. We do not need to maneuver and make sacrifices to get a better look at it. And if we do, we pay the price of losing our view of what we are supposed to be standing on.
Many small Catholic colleges have come into existence in North America over the past few decades to help make clear to young minds the beauty and truth and practical value of Catholic teaching, as well as the dignity, natural abilities, and moral responsibilities of the human person. They are trying to do what the secular world, given its obsession with money, power, and pleasure, is neglecting. G. K. Chesterton’s remark is worth re-stating: “The Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age” (The Catholic Church and Conversion).
In his best-selling book about education, Professor Allan Bloom complained about “the closing of the American mind”. Catholic education is anything but closed-minded, for it opens the mind to history, eternity, spirituality, morality, and the meaning of existence, without disregarding the practicalities of life. It is not, in Marxist terminology, “The opium of the people”, but “the opening of the pupil” (double-meaning intended). Believing that the unborn child is a “clump” and that Sarah Palin is not even “female” is hardly a triumph of the open mind.
Catholic colleges and universities should be true to their identity. Courting the opposition is not open-minded as much as it is self-defeating. Fidelity to their proper purpose is the only way they can be a real asset to the Church, to their students, and to the world. Let Heather Mallick and her ilk make their venomous attacks against the Church and even against life itself, but let it not be done under Catholic auspices.
Donald DeMarco is Professor Emeritus of St. Jerome’s University (Canada) and adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College & Seminary (Connecticut) and Mater Ecclesiae College (Rhode Island).
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