Unless you're a redhead, in which case sometimes you don't know whether to storm around angrily, or...storm around angrily.
Which was my reaction to this article, generally speaking. (Hat tip to Creative Minority Report.)
Oh, I have no real problem with Father John Yockey's decision to crack down on the scofflaws in his parish and make sure that people who try to claim that they are parishioners at St. Jerome Parish in order to get a tuition discount at the parish school actually attend Sunday Mass at least 70% of the time (though the very legalistic part of me asks the following question: if he's the pastor, and is allowed to dispense his parishioners from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass under some circumstances, isn't he giving at least implied permission for his parishioners to miss Mass 15.6 Sundays of the year? Hmmm.)
No, my problems start to surface with some of the article's other details. School at St. Jerome's Parish School can begin as early as age three if you're tired of the hassle of dropping little Johnny off at daycare before driving his big sis to school! And for the K3 and K4 years, the registration fee's only $50.00, though it jumps to $100 for K5-8th grade. But the article doesn't mention whether the littlest kiddies pay the same $4500 per year per child tuition to go to St. J's, though the school website is pleased to mention their after-school daycare program!
God has, so far, blessed the Cardigans with only three children--but that tuition would cost us $13,500 per year, not including the registration fee and all the little extras that crop up. Which would make tuition cost more than our mortgage payments, assuming St. J's will let you pay the monthly sum of $1125 instead of demanding the whole wad of cash up front.
But wait! If the Cardigans could prove to Father Yockey's satisfaction that we were willing to show up for Mass on Sundays, we could shave off $1400 per child, dropping our tuition costs to a mere $9,300 a year, or $775 a month--which is what our mortgage would cost us in any other state than Texas, since we pay an extra $300+ per month on top of that amount to cover the property tax.
The tone of the article makes it seem almost as though Fr. Yockey was disappointed that people didn't openly complain about the new policy, or refuse to show up for Mass and pay the extra tuition:
"Celebrating the Eucharist at Mass is a core part of being Catholic, Yockey said. The new policy also addresses a matter of truth and fairness. It's "a grave injustice" to the parish - which dedicated a new school at a new location in Oconomowoc in 2004 and is now building a new $12 million church and parish center there - to subsidize families that are not part of parish faith life, he said. Most of the school's 200 families could afford full tuition, he estimated. Only five, including some non-Catholics, pay it. About 30 families get financial help beyond the subsidy."
Poor Fr. Yockey. Most of the school's families could afford to pay full tuition, and that $900,000 a year would go a long way toward paying for that new twelve million dollar church and parish center. I suppose it's nice that they let those thirty families who need financial help go to school at St. Jerome's, though if I met any of their parents I'd love to talk to them about how the scholarship kids and their families get treated, a subject which was very manifest to me in my formative years.
Of course, as the article puts it, "Many Catholic priests complain at priests' gatherings about the abuse of the tuition subsidies and how money could be used for pressing needs and ministries, he (Fr. Yockey) said." It's bad enough that they have to help out poorer families from time to time, but all those rich people taking advantage of tuition subsidies! It's as bad as pouring a costly jar of oil over Jesus' feet, instead of selling the jar and the perfume and giving the money to the poor, isn't it?
But the most ironic detail of all isn't present in the main article. Fr. wants people to attend Mass, right? He wants them to know how important Mass is, right? What was that quote again, about how celebrating the Eucharist at Mass was...how did you put it, Father?...a "core part of being Catholic..."
Check out this page of the Parish website, my friends. Tell me how you teach people the importance of Mass by scheduling daily Masses twice a week at the parish church, once at a hospice, once in the school gym--and substituting a communion service on Mondays and Saturdays--at a parish that has a pastor, an assistant, and a retired priest in residence.
My point here isn't to rail at the parish itself; I'm sure there's plenty of good at St. Jerome's. But it disturbs me to see a pastor apparently more concerned about people "cheating" to get a tuition discount than endangering their souls by a casual attitude toward Mass attendance; and it bothers me even more to find further evidence to support my theory that Catholic schools encourage dual-income families with few children by their high tuitions and conformity with secular education ideals and goals (Kindergarten for 3-year-olds? State testing statistics touted with pride on the school's website? etc).
The glory days of Catholic education are long over. In our little family schools at home, we have become like the monks of St. Benedict's day, keeping the flame of faith alive for the generations to come after us. Because in the face of evidence like this as well as the story of St. Jerome's, I honestly believe that although diocesan Catholic schools may produce students who take their faith seriously and remain committed Catholics all their lives, it happens in spite of, not because of, the Catholic school.