How Woke Catholic Schools Counter the Catholic Mission

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Noelle Mering, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, gives a withering analysis of woke ideology infecting some Catholic schools. She cites Loyola Academy in Illinois as an example of how diversity consultants brought in to teach diversity, equity and inclusion (the Holy Trinity of “wokeism”) can destroy the unity of a Catholic school’s community. It was a creeping infestation, not an all at once onslaught. Mering writes, “The high-paid diversity consultants brought in for the sake of training faculty and students were an early warning sign. Teachers including their gender pronouns in Zoom meetings was another. Students were racially segregated for school assignments on privilege. A working-class student was bewildered to learn that because of his skin color he is an oppressor to his peers, some of whom live in multi-million-dollar homes.”

The introduction of this political and social ideology has had a terrible influence on the school environment. Mering writes, “Once unified, many families report the school now is fractured and marked by suspicion.” Mering quotes a mother of a Loyola student, “People did not feel the school was ripped apart by racism, but now they do. It is heartbreaking. … There are a handful of people who are driving this and not allowing moderating voices. This doesn’t represent the community or many of the teachers, or the coaches. This is not a racist institution. Our families have always stepped in and stepped up to make sure everyone feels included and is looked after.”

Justice and racial equality are noble goals and worth working for. However, the Catholic faith tradition, Mering points out, has a plethora of teachings and tools to do just that. Why would a Catholic schools, instead of harvesting from their own rich tradition, turn to secular ideologies, including those rooted in Marxism, to champion the cause of justice?

Mering astutely points out three areas where woke ideology counters Catholic teaching: A rejection of the person, a rejection of reason, and a rejection of reverence.

First, woke ideology’s goal is not the enhancement of the person, but of the ideology. As such, it conflicts with the parent’s natural goal of desiring that their child become the best person he or she can be. Because woke ideology’s goal is the enhancement of the ideology itself, and not the child, parents are often portrayed as antagonists against their own children. “In a woke institution,” Mering writes, “parents are a threat to the school’s mission.” A Catholic institution works with parents to form the student according to “the moral, intellectual and theological virtues.” But, the goal of a woke institution is the power of the ideology. Suddenly, the parents and the school have two different goals in mind for the school and for the children, and they end up at loggerheads with each other.

Second, woke ideology replaces critical thinking with critical theory. The distinction is important, Mering says. “The purpose of critical thinking is to arrive at what is true. Because of this goal, a critical thinker welcomes every possible objection to his position. Without this discipline, the human desire to be right easily corrupts our thought processes. In contrast, the purpose of critical theory has as its end not truth, but power. This disparate end radically shifts the methodology. Dialogue and intellectual rigor are demanded if one’s aim is truth. Suppression of dissenting voices and coercion are demanded if one’s aim is power.” This is why it is so difficult to carry on a meaningful, respectful conversation with someone committed to critical theory. The goal of the conversation for the critical thinker is the discovery of truth. The goal of the conversation for the critical theorist is power and domination over others.

Third, Catholic tradition sees the human person first and foremost as one who is loved by God, while woke ideology sees the human person first and foremost as one who is hated by society. Catholic tradition sees all persons as made by God and in relation to each other as children of God. Woke ideology sees persons in perpetual conflict with each other, divided into oppressed and oppressor, victim and victimizer. Mering writes, “From that redefinition flows two very different missions. The Christian mission is to know, love and serve God, spreading the good news of who he is, and who we are called to be. The woke mission is to spread the bad news of woke ideology by persuading certain groups of people not that they are loved, but that they are hated, and by convincing another group of people of the hidden hatred lurking in their hearts.”

Why would a Catholic school adopt woke ideology? I can only think of one reason: because they have lost faith and confidence in their own Catholic tradition. It is the responsibility of Catholic parents, working with faculty and staff, to ensure that a Catholic school maintains its Catholic identity and Catholic mission. Catholic parents should never surrender their responsibility in this effort.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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