Are Your Kids Safe in a Catholic College?

Deal W. Hudson

Let me warn you up front: You’re not going to like this one bit.

Last time I wrote to you, I mentioned the great success of the March for Life. To me, one of its most successful aspects was the huge crowd of young people it attracted. The event was a family affair, but more than anything you got the feeling that the teens in the crowd were going to be the torchbearers of the pro-life movement.

Well, if a recent study is to be believed, many of those same pro-life teens who go to Catholic colleges won’t come out that way.

The Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA compared results of a survey administered to college freshmen in 1997 with a survey given to these same students as graduating seniors in 2001.

The results? Students attending Catholic colleges are more likely to increase support for legalized abortion and same-sex marriages than students attending private four-year colleges. See for yourself:

* After four years at a Catholic college, student support for abortion increased from 46.3 percent to 60.1 percent, a sharper increase than among students at private colleges (51 percent to 62.2 percent).

* With regards to same-sex marriage, Catholic student support jumped from 57.3 percent to 73.5 percent (80.4 percent among women). Students at private schools saw less of an increase, from 55.7 percent to 67.3 percent.

* Catholic college students increasingly agreed with the following statement after four years at school: “If two people really like each other, it’s all right for them to have sex even if they’ve known each other for only a very short time.” Agreement rose from 32.8 percent to 54.3 percent (68.6 percent among men), compared to only 51.8 at four-year colleges (62.5 percent of men).

* The number of students professing to be Roman Catholics at a Catholic college dropped from 73.4 percent to 68.8 percent. At the same time, students professing no religion rose from 6 percent to 10.9 percent.

What’s happening here? Parents used to worry that Catholic colleges would be no better for their children than regular four-year colleges. Now it seems that some Catholic schools might actually be worse!

Certainly, this isn’t the case at all Catholic schools. Places like Thomas Aquinas, Ave Maria, Christendom, Steubenville, and the University of Dallas all maintain a strong Catholic identity, and parents would have little to fear if their child attended these schools.

But this is only a handful of smaller schools in a much larger field of colleges and universities across the nation. The fact that a majority of them can’t be trusted to deliver a quality Catholic education is unsettling.

To tell you the truth, it really bothers me. My own daughter Hannah will start her college search in a couple of years, and it looks like her options for a good Catholic school are shrinking. There’s plenty of room for diversity, but how much diversity can there really be if a majority of the schools can’t be trusted?

First, there was the problem with professors at Catholic colleges not seeking a mandate from their bishops saying that their teaching would be in line with Church doctrine. The deadline for acquiring the mandatum has come and gone, and still many professors have refused to comply.

Then more recently, we learned that some Catholic colleges were providing links to Planned Parenthood from their Web sites. Most of the links have been taken down now but only as a result of media attention and pressure from outraged Catholics.

Many people argued that these approaches were pluralistic and allowed for a freer range of thought on college campuses, but it seems to have had only a negative effect on the minds of the students. These are undoubtedly some of their most formative years, and the reality that they might not be safe in a Catholic institution – even less safe than at a secular four-year college – is outrageous.

Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to tell if the school your child is attending is up to par or not. Sometimes the school’s reputation precedes itself, but sometimes that’s not enough. The school might have a very strong president, but if the professors aren’t in line, then the administration will make little difference. Having strong professors is a better sign of health, but even then, a “progressively-minded” administration could end up stifling their good intentions.

The best way to protect your children is to arm them with a solid foundation in Catholic morality and theology BEFORE they go to college. You simply cannot assume that the “Catholic” college they’re heading off to will form them in the faith. More often than not, they won’t.

College is often the first real test of a young person’s values and integrity. Sadly, we can no longer be confident that Catholic colleges will help him pass that test.

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