In recent years, the Catholic church has repeatedly made headlines for covering up sexual abuse scandals, decrying the use of birth control, and maintaining a rigid social stance that seems out of touch with many of today’s pressing issues. However, the church maintains a strong dedication to education, is committed to social justice initiatives, and continues to expand programs that care for the poor. These efforts deserve greater attention and awareness, instead of being overlooked in favor of criticism.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress releases an annual report card that evaluates and measures the academic achievement of students in America. A comparative report from 2000-2005 demonstrates the differences in education between public and private schools, as well as between the most prevalent private schools, including Catholic, Lutheran, and conservative Christian. The findings indicate that private school students outperform public school students and that Catholic and Lutheran students score higher than Conservative Christian students. This report offers statistical data for student achievement in grades 4, 8, and 12 and highlights differences such as race/ethnicity, the education level of students’ parents, and the percentage of students eligible to receive free or reduced school lunches. These indicators portray the different socioeconomic levels of the students. It is important to note the differences between the public and private schools to understand the impact private and religiously-inspired educations are having on society.
The Catholic commitment to education maintains a rich history in the U.S., dating back to at least 1606. The missions of the Franciscans, Jesuits, and other orders laid an educational foundation that now boasts over 7,000 schools. While the educational structure has mainstreamed over the years to ensure consistency with the subjects and content of public schools, the education received at Catholic schools in the U.S. remains paramount in many aspects.
Additionally, the Catholic church is committed to social justice and providing aid and relief to those in need. The church has founded orphanages and schools all over the globe to provide food, shelter, and education to children. The church’s international presence inspires a commitment to social justice efforts in both developing and developed countries. For instance, the church has been active in combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, in decreasing poverty in America through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and in providing aid to large families, decrying the one-child policy in China, and opposing the Kerala Women’s Code Bill 2011 in India.
The Catholic church has consistently maintained a significant international influence and presence. Its efforts have been far-reaching, such as the Liberation Theology movement of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as personalized, such as offering help to specific families through the kindness of a parish. The heavy criticism directed toward the Catholic church and highlighted in the media is often applicable; however, we must not ignore the constant good works, practical aid, and hope that the Catholic church offers to billions of people.