Catholic Education: The Rock on Which the Whole Church Structure Rests

By Stephen D. Mumford, DrPH | 12 May 2015
Church and State


Excerpt from Chapter 7 of our Chairman Dr. Stephen D. Mumford’s book, American Democracy and the Vatican: Population Growth and National Security (1984). The book is available at Kindle here and to read for free here.

I was raised in a Catholic neighborhood. I walked past a Catholic elementary school in order to reach my own public elementary school. Some of my closest friends were Catholics who attended Sts. Simon and Jude Elementary School in Louisville, Kentucky. Yet, I never realized that there were any significant differences between our schools. It has been only in the past few years that I have discovered that there are major differences. This discovery was prompted by my observation that some (but certainly not all) Catholics in the population and environmental fields simply do not complete their thought processes in instances in which the Catholic Church might be threatened. They will start, taking one logical step at a time, until they reach a point where it is evident that the outcome will probably point to the Catholic Church as culprit and then quickly abort the entire thought, frequently citing some kind of dogma. I found their behavior most perplexing. Then, with more experience, I began to recognize a pattern. These people included only those who were instructed solely or for the most part in Catholic schools and universities. Exceptions to the pattern were few.

Recognizing this pattern over the past few years, I decided that I must examine the Catholic education system in an attempt to understand these differences in behavior. In most public schools, children are encouraged to think for themselves; they are given empirical knowledge and taught the meaning and value of the U.S. Constitution. In Catholic schools, children are taught that they owe “complete submission and obedience of will to the Church and to the Roman Pontiff, as to God Himself.”[19] They learn that the pope “should rule America in moral, educational, and religious matters,”[20] without having it made clear that all matters can be interpreted as moral matters. They are impressed with the Catholic Church as a sovereign power. Indeed, “it has the three requisites of a sovereign power, legislative, executive, and judicial, including the power of coercion. The ruler of the Church, the pope, claims sovereignty by divine right.”[21] It is a power that extends “everywhere where there are Catholics. It claims that it is a supernatural institution with complete territorial jurisdiction.”[22] “If there is a dispute between the Catholic Church and the state over the right to rule any specific area, the Church and the Church alone has the right to decide who wins. And ‘the Church’ means Rome….[23] In effect, it is claimed that it is the supreme ruler of the United States:

In particular areas the authority of the Church is superior to that of the United States government and of all governments, and no government is conceded the moral right to deny this. The pope is a kind of special world monarch who rules a synthetic moral empire that overlaps and penetrates the sovereignty of all earthly governments. His special territory is religion, education, and family life, but he also has supreme power over a vaguely defined area known as “morals.” Also he has special and exclusive jurisdiction over any matter which may affect the life of the Church either directly or indirectly….

In practice, “immoral and irreligious laws” are sometimes laws that non-Catholics consider supremely moral. Under the theory of two powers, divine and civil, democracy is simply one of a number of acceptable types of civil government which may exist side by side with the divine kingdom of the Church. As far as the hierarchy is concerned, the acceptability of a form of government depends upon its attitude toward the Church. As Leo XIII said in his encyclical on Human Liberty, “It is not of itself wrong to prefer a democratic form of government, if only the Catholic doctrine be maintained as to the origin and exercise of power.” If a democracy favors the Church, then the hierarchy tolerates it; if it opposes the Church, then that proves that the government is godless and lacks the necessary divine authority. If a democracy in Spain expels the Jesuits and seizes Church property, then it is a murderous outlaw. If a democracy in The Netherlands supports all the Catholic schools with taxpayers’ money and pays the salaries of the priests, its divine right to govern is recognized as authentic….

There is a certain understandable shrewdness in this attitude toward the democratic welfare state. If the hierarchy once conceded that ultimate sovereignty lies wholly in the people, anything might follow. The state might then rightfully expand its jurisdiction over many fields of authority now claimed by the Church. Because of this danger, the American Catholic bishops who praise democracy always utter their praises with an important mental reservation, that the real source of the authority of the American government and of all governments is God and not the people. And when the bishops use the name of God in this connection, they do not mean a genial or undenominational deity of all the people; they mean the particular Catholic Deity who established Roman primacy through St. Peter, whose vicar on earth is the pope.[24]

Catholic school children are taught that the concept of the separation of church and state is an error[25] and that no Catholic may positively and unconstitutionally approve the policy of separation of church and state.[26] Also they are taught that the government has no primary right to educate at all and that that right has been given by God, the source of all governmental power, to the Roman Catholic Church.[27] They are taught that submission to Church authority is the essence of freedom and that true freedom comes to men only through the Roman Catholic hierarchy:

Freedom of thought in the official Catholic system means freedom to accept Catholic truth, not to reject it. The Catholic Almanac defines freedom of thought as follows: “liberty to think the truth. In our day the expression has come to mean liberty to think as one pleases; this is an error. Our rational nature demands that we think only the truth, whatever the impact of outside forces or our own appetites.” And, of course, supreme religious and moral truth comes to men only through the Church. Such truth is an ecclesiastical entity, unchanging and unchallengeable, over which the Church has a permanent monopoly.[28]

To accept these teachings requires a great deal of faith and, as the old saying goes, “Great is the power of steady misrepresentation.” Catholic children are conditioned and indoctrinated systematically in the educational system from the kindergarten through the university or seminary. In other words, the school system is designed to form Catholic minds, to prepare children for the Catholic way of life as opposed to the American way, the democratic way, of life. The system serves to condition children to accept and endure priestly control. Few Americans appreciate how completely the Catholic school system is an instrument of the Catholic hierarchy.

What does this priestly control of education mean in terms of intellectual freedom? The question can be answered by listing samples of Catholic popular beliefs that no teachers in the Catholic school system dare to challenge publicly without danger of penalties:

1. The pope is the infallible leader of mankind, and, when he speaks for the Church in matters of faith and morals, he cannot make a mistake.

2. The Virgin Mary returned to the earth six times in 1917 and told three peasant children of Fatima, Portugal, what the Western world should do to avoid destruction by Soviet Russia.

3. It is a grave sin for an American Catholic deliberately to join the Masons or Odd Fellows.

4. No good Catholic may positively and unconditionally approve of the principle of separation of church and state.

5. Thomas Aquinas is the greatest philosopher of all time.

6. It is a sin to teach the evolution of man as a whole from animal life.

7. In general, no Catholic has a moral right to secure a divorce and remarry even if married to a syphilitic, insane, or adulterous murderer; and any Catholic who does remarry after such a divorce is guilty of adultery.

8. The Reformation was a backward step in human history, and many of the worst evils of fascism and communism flow from it.

9. It is a grave sin for a Catholic under ordinary circumstance knowingly to own or use a Protestant Bible.

10. The pope is the head of a sovereign temporal state which has coequal rights with that of the government of the United States.

11. The rights of the Church as educator are prior to and superior to the rights of the state as educator, and no government has the legal right to infringe upon this divine prerogative.[29]

Bishop John F. Noll of Fort Wayne, founding editor of America’s most noted Catholic family paper, Our Sunday Visitor, summed up the priestly apprehensions about the American public school by writing a pamphlet called Our National Enemy No. 1—Education Without Religion. Its public enemy No. 1 was the American public school without Catholic religion. The Jesuit magazine, America, declared in an editorial: “That the Catholic and non-Catholic school systems are absolutely irreconcilable is an indisputable fact.”[30]

Catholic schools really are different from public schools and these differences account for the different behavior of many trained scientists in population and related fields. In the next chapter, we will elaborate further on these differences in training and behavior. We will examine how they are accounting for the rejection of the relationship of overpopulation and national security and why some Catholics feel justified in their efforts to undermine population growth control efforts.

*19 Paul Blanshard, American Freedom and Catholic Power (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1950), p. 338. [Quoted from Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical, Chief Duties of Christian Citizens.]
*20 Ibid., p. 339.
*21 Ibid., p. 40.
*22 Ibid., p. 41.
*23 Ibid., p. 45.
*24 Ibid., pp. 45-47.
*25 Ibid., p. 22.
*26 Ibid., p. 340.
*27 Ibid., p. 65.
*28 Ibid., p. 294.
*29 Ibid., p. 76.
*30 Ibid., p. 82. [Quoted from the Jesuit magazine, America.

Dr. Stephen Mumford is the founder and President of the North Carolina-based Center for Research on Population and Security. He has his doctorate in Public Health. His principal research interest has been the relationship between world population growth and national and global security. He has been called to provide expert testimony before the U.S. Congress on the implications of world population growth.

Dr. Mumford has decades of international experience in fertility research where he is widely published, and has addressed conferences worldwide on new contraceptive technologies and the stresses to the security of families, societies and nations that are created by continued uncontrolled population growth. Using church policy documents and writings of the Vatican elite, he has introduced research showing the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church as the principal power behind efforts to block the availability of contraceptive services worldwide.

In addition to his books on biomedical and social aspects of family planning, as well as scientific articles in more than a score of journals, Dr. Mumford’s major works include American Democracy and the Vatican: Population Growth and National Security (Amherst, New York: Humanist Press, 1984), The Pope and the New Apocalypse: The Holy War Against Family Planning (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: Center for Research on Population and Security, 1986), and The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: Center for Research on Population and Security, 1996).

During the formative years of the World Health Organization (WHO), broad consensus existed among United Nations member countries that overpopulation is a grave public health threat and would be a major cause of preventable death not too far in the future. One of the founding fathers of the WHO, the late Milton P. Siegel, speaks to Dr. Mumford in 1992. He explains how the Vatican successfully stymied the incorporation of family planning and birth control into official WHO policy. This video is available for public viewing for the first time. Read the full transcript of the interview here.

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  1. I went through 12 years of Catholic education in the 60's and 70's and I find this article almost completely without merit. We were taught evolution just like the public school, (by Sister Maureen, habit, veil, the whole thing). Yes, the bible was the word of God, but not to be taken literally. For instance, Adam and Eve were to be looked at as the first homosapiens along the line that were intelligent enough to realize the existence of morality, and the necessity of acting accordingly. That still makes sense to me.


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