The right to educate a child



To Deacon John Needham, I say “thank you” for your many years of service as a public school educator but now that you are a deacon (and thank you for your service to the church too), we hope that you will be a little more influenced and enthusiastic about church teaching than that reflected in your statement “vouchers…, while they may have merit, simply decrease desperately needed revenue to public schools.”

I draw your attention to the Declaration on Christian Education proclaimed by Pope Paul VI in 1965 where he states that “parents who have the primary and inalienable right and duty to educate their children must enjoy true liberty in their choice of schools. Consequently, the public power, which has the obligation to protect and defend the rights of citizens, must see to it, in its concern for distributive justice, that public subsidies are paid out in such a way that parents are truly free to choose according to their conscience the schools they want for their children.”

The pope also told us that “it must always keep in mind the principle of subsidiarity so that there is no kind of school monopoly, for this is opposed to the native rights of the human person, to the development and spread of culture, to the peaceful association of citizens and to the pluralism that exists today in ever so many societies.”

I am not implying that vouchers as a public policy equals church teaching on this subject. How policy makers implement the pubic subsidies referred to is a prudential judgment. Some might judge tuition tax credits or some other public policy tool as preferable. But it is pretty clear from the statement above that the church teaches that public subsidies are involved to reflect distributive justice in this matter.

William P. McKenna