In faithful Catholic education, we don’t just teach skills, facts, and figures. We strive for “integral Christian formation,” helping students know, love, and serve God in this life and enjoy eternity with Him in the next. Our student policies, therefore, should promote virtue and holiness.
The formation in Catholic education is integral because it engages the whole student as a unity of mind, body, and spirit. We cultivate the human power of reason, train the will for moral action, and order the passions toward true goodness. We don’t adopt harmful practices, and we don’t permit harmful behaviors.
Our formation is Christian, because it embraces the dignity of every student as made in the image and likeness of God, called to communion with Him through redemption in Jesus Christ.
This agitates modern sensibilities. Today, families are constantly exposed to the rhetoric of division and resentment inspired by critical race theory, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), and gender ideology. Some consciously adopt these non-Catholic worldviews, while others succumb over time to the unrelenting pressure of media and entertainment, especially on the internet and social media. They may even sue Catholic educators to force changes that compromise Catholic teaching and prevent true Catholic formation.
Of course, all this presents opportunities for us to present the Gospel and God’s loving plan for His children. As educators, we don’t shrink from proclaiming this message. Instead, we take up our role in the Church’s mission of evangelization.
One way to counter the ever-pressing culture is to produce and implement truly Catholic policies related to student formation and student conduct. The clarity of such policies and their consistent implementation will not only avoid conflicts and lawsuits, but will give the school or college strong credibility when claiming rights of religious freedom.
Start with Admissions
To conduct a review of your student policies, a logical place to start is admissions. Sharing the mission and vision of a school and its accompanying behavioral expectations in introductory meetings can greatly reduce the likelihood of moral confusion, sinful behavior, or future scandal. In cases of students struggling with same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria, policies should ensure attendance is an option if and only if the student is open to formation aligned with Christian anthropology and does not promote or overtly express disordered inclinations.
Human Sexuality Policies
Human sexuality policies can help guide school operations and interactions with students and all members of the educational community. These policies should explain that the institution will relate to all persons according to their biological sex at birth and maintain appropriate distinctions between males and females, especially in matters of facilities use, athletics teams, uniforms, and nomenclature.
Catholic educators teaching about human sexuality should ensure that all materials and instruction are carefully vetted for fidelity to Church teachings, taught by qualified and committed Catholics, and targeted to the appropriate age and developmental stage of the student. These materials should be shared in advance with parents, giving them ample time to withdraw their child from the program should they so choose.
Also included in these policies should be a prohibition against advocating for moral behavior at odds with Catholic Church teaching or participating in activities that tend to encourage immoral behavior.
Policies related to athletics are also critically important, as sports uniquely involve the whole person—mind, body, and spirit. In addition, while sporting activities often cast the broadest net for interaction and are highly valued in our culture, we have seen how they can be distorted to promote a disintegration of the mind, body, and spirit. These are most evident in today’s gender-ideology-fueled controversies. Catholic education sports policies must be articulated to address these concerns.
Policies should guard against exploitation or idolatry related to the body and protect the body not only from physical injury but also from any attack on its physical, spiritual, and psychological integrity.
Policies should also ensure that all personnel and players are formed in a Christian and virtue-based approach to sport. Introducing virtues such as justice, with its emphasis on fair play and respect, or temperance, with its emphasis on modesty and self-control in action and speech, especially in moments of pain and tension, provides lessons carried far beyond the playing field.
The benefits derived from well-written student policies are increasing. Not only do they help form a Christian community by setting clear expectations for student conduct, but they also differentiate Catholic education from secular options, all too willing to adopt the moral whims of the day. In this aspect, policies are tools of evangelization.
If you’ve procrastinated writing or refreshing your school policies, delay no longer! Clear Catholic policies will serve as pillars supporting your claim to religious freedom when a lawsuit arrives.