Parents have the God-given right to choose the education their children receive. When one wishes to retain a right, he must be responsible in carrying out the duties attached to the right. You have the right to a driver's license, but if you show you are not responsible enough to handle that right, your driver's license will be revoked. The roads you drive on belong to the community (i.e. city, state, or federal government) therefore the rules of the road are established by the state. The state does not own your children.
To whom does your child belong? Your child belongs to God and was created for the supreme purpose of eternal happiness with Him in heaven. So whose standards do you follow in order to responsibly raise and educate your child? Society's? The state's? Or God's?
What are God's standards? We must look to Scripture and to the Church to find God's rules governing parental obligations to their children. We do not look to state standards, federal guidelines, neighborhood fads, or the principal of the local public school. We do not look to the professors at the teacher colleges, to the public universities, or to the school psychologist. We do not look to other children, television, or to the football coach. We look to God. How are we then to know what God commands us to do? We know what God expects of us through the magisterium of His Church.
What does the Church have to say about parental responsibility and education? (Read More to find the answer.)
Beginning with more recent statements and the 1983 Code of Canon Law, and working backwards through papal encyclicals, the 1917 Code of Canon Law, and Church councils, we find the Church's stance on both the right and the duty of parents, and of the Church, regarding the education of Catholic youth.
Pope John Paul II: "The right and duty of parents to give education is essential, since it is connected with the transmission of human life; it is original and primary with regard to the educational role of others, on account of the uniqueness of the loving relationship between parents and children; and it is irreplaceable and inalienable, and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others"
1983 Code of Canon Law: "Can. 1366 Parents, or those who take the place of parents, who hand over their children to be baptized or educated in a non-Catholic religion are to be punished with a censure or other just penalty."
"Can. 226 §1 Those who are married are bound by the special obligation, in accordance with their own vocation, to strive for the building up of the people of God through their marriage and family. §2 Because they gave life to their children, parents have the most serious obligation and the right to educate them. It is therefore primarily the responsibility of Christian parents to ensure the Christian education of their children in accordance with the teaching of the Church."
What is meant by "Christian education" and "in accordance with the teaching of the Church"?
Pope Pius XI: "In fact, since education consists essentially in preparing man for what he must be and for what he must do here below, in order to attain the sublime end for which he was created, it is clear that there can be no true education which is not wholly directed to man's last end, and that in the present order of Providence, since God has revealed Himself to us in the Person of His Only Begotten Son, who alone is "the way, the truth and the life," there can be no ideally perfect education which is not Christian education." ("Divini Illius Magistri", 1929)
"There is no need to repeat what Our Predecessors have declared on this point, especially Pius IX and Leo XIII, at times when laicism was beginning in a special manner to infest the public school. We renew and confirm their declarations, as well as the Sacred Canons in which the frequenting of non-Catholic schools, whether neutral or mixed, those namely which are open to Catholics and non-Catholics alike, is forbidden for Catholic children, and can be at most tolerated, on the approval of the Ordinary alone, under determined circumstances of place and time, and with special precautions. Neither can Catholics admit that other type of mixed school, (least of all the so-called 'école unique,' obligatory on all), in which the students are provided with separate religious instruction, but receive other lessons in common with non-Catholic pupils from non-Catholic teachers. For the mere fact that a school gives some religious instruction (often extremely stinted), does not bring it into accord with the rights of the Church and of the Christian family, or make it a fit place for Catholic students. To be this, it is necessary that all the teaching and the whole organization of the school, and its teachers, syllabus and textbooks in every branch, be regulated by the Christian spirit, under the direction and maternal supervision of the Church; so that Religion may be in very truth the foundation and crown of the youth's entire training; and this in every grade of school, not only the elementary, but the intermediate and the higher institutions of learning as well. To use the words of Leo XIII: It is necessary not only that religious instruction be given to the young at certain fixed times, but also that every other subject taught, be permeated with Christian piety. If this is wanting, if this sacred atmosphere does not pervade and warm the hearts of masters and scholars alike, little good can be expected from any kind of learning, and considerable harm will often be the consequence." ("Divini Illius Magistri", 1929)
1917 Code of Canon Law: "Can. 1374 Catholic children should not frequent non-Catholic, neutral, or mixed schools, namely those that allow non-Catholics to attend. Only local Ordinaries can make decisions in accord with instructive norms from the Apostolic See concerning circumstances of things and any necessary precautions that will prevent the danger of perversion, [and] whether these things can be tolerated and such schools used."
Leo XIII: "Christian parents especially should not entrust the education of their children to uncertain schools." ("Custodi Di Quella Fede", 1892)
"For our children cannot go for instruction to schools which either ignore or of set purpose combat the Catholic religion, or in which its teachings are despised and its fundamental principles repudiated. Wherever the Church has allowed this to be done, it has only been with pain and through necessity, at the same time surrounding her children with many safeguards which, nevertheless it has been too often recognized have been insufficient to cope successfully with the danger attending it. Similarly it is necessary to avoid at all costs, as most dangerous, those schools in which all beliefs are welcomed and treated as equal, and if, in what regards God and divine things, it makes no difference whether one believes rightly or wrongly, and takes up with truth or error. You know well, Venerable Brethren, that every school of this kind has been condemned by the Church, because nothing can be more harmful or better calculated to ruin the integrity of the faith and to turn aside the tender minds of the young from the way of truth." ("Affari Vos", 1897)
Pope Pius IX in the Syllabus of Errors: The ERROR that "Catholics may approve the system of educating youth unconnected with Catholic faith and the power of the Church, and which regards the knowledge of merely natural things, and only, or at least primarily, the ends of earthly social life." was CONDEMNED by Pope Pius IX in the Syllabus of Errors, Dec. 8, 1864.
To Be Continued...
In the meantime, you might read about the importance of Catholic educational materials in all subjects and this article, "Read This: If you Love your Children" submitted to MyCatholicSource.com by an anonymous contributor, signed "SIS"