Catholic Schools Week comes and goes the last week of January without mention here or fanfare anywhere else.
This year is different. The celebration of more than 6,000 pre-secondary schools comes a week after portions of the mainstream national media and other left-wing activists rushed to smear Catholic schools as bastions of monstrous white bigots who disrespect minorities.
The pack media's frothing-at-the-mouth joy in defaming a few kids, to make Catholic schools the symbol of white privilege and intolerance, culminated with New York Times reporter Dan Levin trolling for an even bigger pile-on. He asks "Are you in your 20s or younger who went to a Christian school? I'd like to hear about your experience and its impact on your life" in a tweet that includes "#exposechristianschools."
The hashtag Levin promotes from the media's flagship began as an activist's fishing trip for Christian school grads to tell "how traumatizing those bastions of bigotry are."
There's no need to belabor details of the video edited to create an illusion of Catholics from Covington, Kentucky, antagonizing an elder American Indian. Suffice to say media types are deleting tweets, retracting and apologizing under threats of plausible defamation suits. Covington Bishop Roger Foys issued a written apology after falling for the media scam and facing litigation, and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar deleted her judgmental tweet.
The whole distorted affair had high-profile professionals showing callous disregard for a handful of kids who may never salvage their reputations. Nearly all accusers seemed unconcerned with a group of grown men yelling homophobic insults at the kids before the Native American man approached them. Apparently, these arbiters of morality care little about blatant homophobia when given opportunity to make a teenager's smirk prove their worst stereotypes about Catholics and their schools.
"This is a contrived and false episode pounced on by people who hate religious white Catholics," said the Rabbi Aryeh Spero, an acclaimed scholar and public speaker. "It is all part of the anti-Christianism by many segments in today's leftist America and media collaborators."
We worry about the students and the scar this mangled story leaves on Catholic schools. Though no school is perfect — and the Covington kids needed better supervision and better behavior — the greater institution of Catholic schools has fought segregation and racism since priests and nuns established schools to help settle 17th-century colonies.
Since then, Catholic schools have provided education to those deemed unworthy by the establishment. They are the opposite of "bastions of bigotry."
Catholic schools educated immigrants and black children turned away by public schools before courts ordered desegregation. They educated girls when other schools would not have them. Catholic schools in poor neighborhoods formed the rationale for the modern U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows tax-funded vouchers to pay sectarian tuition.
At issue in the 2002 case Zelman v. Simmons-Harris were state vouchers created by the Ohio legislature to correct for urban public schools that fail minorities. The majority opinion said the voucher program provides "educational assistance to poor children in a demonstrably failing public school system.?"
The graduation rate in Catholic schools is 99 percent, with 86 percent going on to four-year colleges. By contrast, only 84 percent of public school students graduate high school and of those only 44 percent go on to colleges.
Data reported by the liberal Jesuit magazine America show non-white students comprise nearly 30 percent of Catholic school students in the United States. This number surges in poor urban neighborhoods. Nationwide, minority enrollment is on the rise primarily as Hispanic families turn to Catholic schools. More Catholic schools are establishing LGBT student support groups with the blessing of Pope Francis.
The list of successful Americans who attended Catholic schools, including former President Barack Obama as a young child, is long, impressive and far from a list of white-privileged bigots.
Catholic schools aren't only for Catholics. Many Jews, secularists, atheists, Protestants and people of all religious and ethnic backgrounds choose Catholic schools for their reliably high educational standards and social justice values.
Our amazing melting pot provides a large and growing variety of public and private schools as diverse as our increasingly diverse population. Throughout this country's history, Catholic schools have provided an option for all those left behind because of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender or immigration status. These schools are "bastions of bigotry," indeed — in the minds of anti-Catholic bullies and bigots.
REPRINTED FROM THE COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE