Make That Two Harmful Cover-Ups by the Catholic Church in Philly
The Philadelphia Archdiocese took part of my childhood this year. It had already closed St. Philomena’s in Lansdowne. And now Monsignor Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast high schools in Drexel Hill will close.
I graduated from the all-boys Bonner in 1974 and worked as a custodial assistant at the all-girls Archbishop Prendergast my senior year. I have been a weatherman in San Diego—arguably the easiest job in the country—and I was host of Access Hollywood where I rubbed elbows with movie stars, but spending quality time in the hallways of an all-girls’ school at 17 years old is still the best job I ever had.
When I lamented on Facebook and Twitter that my grade school and high school will now be no more, I was stunned by the replies. So many people are experiencing the same double-barrel shot to their souls. A man who went to St. Michael’s in Levittown and then on to Bishop Egan wrote to me that he felt “betrayed” by his church and that his “faith is shaken.”
The passion is real. There is a deep and growing resentment toward a Church that was once immune to such feelings. A faithful following stayed with the Archdiocese through scandal, and now those faithful feel they are the ones paying for the failings of the fathers.
The faithful continued to send their children to be taught in the Catholic way despite the failings of the church, and now those children have an uncertain future. Think back to your school years when you were still trying to find your social standing and control your emotions. Now imagine being told that the school you called sanctuary and the teachers you trusted were all going away. Imagine being told you were all going to a new school where you will be forced to be “the new kids.” Many of the children will be going to rival schools. Good luck getting Bonner kids to fit in at Cardinal O’Hara. I can hear those children saying, “It’s just not fair.” And they are right.
And missing in the stories of the closings are the thousand-plus jobs that will be lost for teachers, custodians, administrators, cafeteria workers, etc. Many took substantially less money to work in a Catholic school environment because they had faith. What happens to them?
It was a so-called “blue-ribbon commission” that decided which schools would close and which schools would merge. The Catholic Church has always loved hierarchy. It would be wise, for once, to be more “blue collar” than “blue ribbon” on this one issue. The future of the Archdiocese hangs in the balance. The Catholic Church has never really been run by those in robes, fancy cloth and high hats. It exists because a hard-working family in Collingdale chooses to call themselves Catholic and send their children to parochial schools because they believe. If the Archdiocese loses that family, it might as well close up everything.
An appeals process has been announced by the “blue-ribbon commission.” It starts today. As is the Church’s way, strict rules have been announced. Only a small group of school administrators can attend, and they can only discuss possible errors in the findings of the commission. The rules were announced with the promise that this will not be a long process, which doesn’t signal much hope for those praying their schools will stay open.
The Church is handling this problem the same way they have handled the problems of the past, by closing its doors and dictating that it knows best. The Archdiocese would be wise to extend the appeals process and for once listen to the families and the children who have stayed with the church through its problems. The energy of their passion alone could save some schools. Allow them to work through this as a community. Allow them to believe in miracles. Allow them to believe that the Church they love also loves them. For if you lose those families and those children, the foundation of the Archdiocese, it will be more than just 49 schools that will be closing.