The completion of this building, its dedication to education, and the opening of its doors as a Catholic parochial school are matters of no ordinary significance in this community. By means of the present function we are publicly emphasizing the religious character of the educational work to be undertaken here. Due respect for the opinion of our neighbors and fellow-citizens seems to call for some statement from the standpoint of the Catholic laity in explanation of the reasons which have impelled a comparatively poor congregation to incur this great expense and to assume an obligation of future maintenance which year after year will constitute a very serious and increasing burden. It is indeed a striking event that a congregation, very few of whom have large means, should have erected and equipped such a building, costing over $150,000, and should have pledged itself to support the school and ultimately to discharge the remaining mortgage indebtedness of $50,000.

There is unfortunately much misunderstanding and criticism among our fellow-citizens of other denominations in regard to the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church towards the important and far-reaching subject of the education of children in the public schools, and the Catholic point of view is frequently misrepresented.

In the first place, it is constantly asserted that Catholics are opposed to the public school system of America. On the contrary, Catholics approve and support the public schools, and willingly vote and pay their share of the taxes necessary for the maintenance of these schools. They believe that the state should provide free common schools for the education of children, so that every American child not only shall have an opportunity of securing a free education but may be compelled to take advantage of the opportunity thus provided. They recognize that in this country it is generally impracticable in the common schools to teach the tenets of religious faiths, because to compel children indiscriminately to study the doctrines of any particular religion in which their parents do not believe would destroy all religious freedom and would be contrary to fundamental rights. They recognize further that to attempt to teach in the public schools the tenets of the Catholic, the Jewish and the numerous Protestant denominations, would be quite impossible and inevitably would lead to religious chaos. They realize that absolute equality or religious freedom can be secured only by making the public schools non-sectarian. Catholics, therefore, favor the maintenance of the system of free common schools; they have heretofore supported and will continue to support the system, although they object to some of the details of management, and they will send and do send their children to these public schools wherever there are no Catholic schools. In fact, fully one-half of the Catholic children of our country are now attending public schools because of the lack of Catholic schools.

Thousands of well-to-do Protestants and Jews—many in our own immediate neighborhood—send their children to private schools, whether day or boarding schools, in many of which the Protestant faith is taught. Yet no one suggests that, because these parents send their children to private schools, they are in any sense acting in hostility to the public schools, or to American institutions, or to the best interests of their own children. As parents, they have and ought to have the right to send their children to such schools as they think will afford them an education more complete and more conducive to the formation of moral character than they can secure at the public schools. Catholics are but exercising the same common right, and what, moreover, they believe to be their duty as parents, when they send their children to the parochial schools which are erected, equipped and maintained at their own expense.

Another misrepresentation, and one which Catholics resent, is the statement that the parochial and other Catholic schools do not inculcate patriotism, and that they teach anti-American doctrines. Any candid investigator will readily find that this charge is wholly unfounded. In Catholic schools, patriotism, obedience to the law and loyalty to the Constitution are taught as a religious even more than a civic duty; the best and highest ideals of American patriotism and citizenship are exalted. No true American Catholic can be other than a good and patriotic American citizen. Children are taught in these schools that loyal obedience to the laws and religious tolerance are the two essential elements of good Catholic citizenship, and in every form and aspect they are impressed with the obligation as a religious duty to render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's and unto God the things which are God's and to be ever thankful that in this country these two separate obligations are wholly reconcilable.

The fundamental and controlling reason or motive for the establishment and maintenance of parochial schools is the profound conviction on the part of all Roman Catholics, in which conviction clergy and laity are a unit, that the welfare of the state, the stability of the Union, the continuance of civil and religious freedom, and the lasting happiness of the individual depend upon the code and standards of morality, discipline, self-restraint and temperance taught by religion. The student of history well knows that social order and civilized society have always rested upon religion; that there has never been a civilized nation without religion; that free government has never long endured except in countries where some religious faith has prevailed, and that our own country for three centuries has been an essentially religious country, by which I mean that the great majority of citizens have been believers in God and in some Christian religion. When the Constitution of the United States was established, the Americans were a truly religious people, and as a whole held firmly to one form or another of Christian faith. It has been recently pointed out by Archbishop Ireland in the Cathedral of St. Paul that in those days, "to stay away from religious service on Sunday was to invoke upon one's self serious public criticism." It is quite true that the great majority of Americans were then Protestants, but they were a religious majority. The Catholics can never forget that they owe the blessing of the religious liberty and tolerance which they now enjoy to a generation that was overwhelmingly Protestant and that it was first granted at an epoch when religious liberty and tolerance were practically unknown in Europe, whether in Catholic or Protestant countries.

Lord Bryce in his great work on "The American Commonwealth" has reviewed the influence of religion in this country, and has declared that "one is startled by the thought of what might befall this huge yet delicate fabric of laws and commerce and social institutions were the foundation it has rested upon to crumble away." That foundation he recognized to be religion, and he admonished us that "the more democratic republics become, the more the masses grow conscious of their own power, the more do they need to live, not only by patriotism, but by reverence and self-control, and the more essential to their well-being are those sources whence reverence and self-control flow."[69] Catholics believe that those sources of reverence and self-control are to be found in religion, and that if we sow in irreligion we shall reap in irreligion. Hence the firm and uncompromising determination of Catholic clergy and laity that thorough and efficient religious instruction, so far as lies in their power, shall be a vital and essential element in the education of every American Catholic child.

I very much doubt whether any respectable number of sensible and reflecting American citizens in our day would challenge the truth that morality is essential to the maintenance of civilized society and government, that the greatest influence for morality is to be found in the churches of the various denominations throughout the country, and that in teaching morality the churches are rendering a patriotic service and promoting the best interests and the highest policy of the state. I venture to assert that the only reasonable difference of opinion possible among candid and just men is as to the best way of inculcating religion in the young and the extent to which religious instruction is essential as a part of the complete education of children. On the one hand, there are those who conscientiously assert and sincerely believe that their children can receive all the religious training they need at home or at Sunday school and that they do not require any religious instruction in the daily schoolroom; on the other hand, there are those who conscientiously assert and sincerely believe that religion is the most essential part of the education of the child and of the forming of its moral character, that few parents have the time or the ability to teach religion to their children, and that religion can properly be taught only by making it part and parcel of the early schoolroom and of every day's instruction and study, while the mind and character of the child are plastic. The latter view is that of Catholics and of constantly increasing numbers of Protestants who send their children to private schools in which the doctrines of their faith are taught.

In the Catholic view, the influence of the school upon the future manhood and womanhood and citizenship of the country cannot be over-estimated. The school is the nursery where the mind and heart of the impressionable child are moulded into enduring form; the subtle influence of daily religious surroundings, including example and suggestion in the classroom, is as strong and pervading as it is difficult to analyze; the lessons of the primary and elementary school are those that endure and in time dominate the child's mind; and the visible examples of daily discipline, uniformity of ideals, obedience, self-control and disinterested devotedness to Church and country, indeed the very atmosphere of the Catholic religious school, are of themselves formative and educative elements. It is the classroom that is the training field of character and good citizenship—of true manhood and womanhood. Yet many would wholly exclude and banish its most important and essential feature!

Catholics believe that religion and the philosophy of Christianity are not to be taught haphazard, at odd moments, or by untrained persons, and that a firm grasp of the truths of the Catholic religion—or in fact of any religion—by the immature minds and hearts of children cannot be secured by merely reciting abstract maxims of morality, or without constant example and precept, daily lessons, long training and thorough drilling. They further believe that, except in rare instances, this cannot be done by home instruction or by attendance at Sunday school once a week. The immense sacrifices that Catholics have made and are making all over the country ought to demonstrate how sincere is their conviction upon this point. We may form some idea of the extent of this sacrifice from this building and from the fact that the assessed valuation of the Catholic parochial schools in the city of New York is now over $30,000,000.

The story of the heroic struggles and sacrifices of Catholics in order to maintain their system of schools for the education of their children ought to be known to every American Catholic, for it is the most thrilling and inspiring page in the history of their church. The time remaining to me will permit only a brief review of the results accomplished. It is an accomplishment of which Catholics may justly feel proud.

The greatest single religious fact in the United States to-day is undoubtedly the Catholic school system maintained by private individuals. The Catholic parish schools now number over 5,000, and the academies and colleges over 900, with over 1,500,000 pupils in attendance at these schools and colleges. More than 20,000 Catholic men and women unselfishly devote their lives to the work of teaching in these schools, academies and colleges. The system is crowned by a great Catholic university at Washington with an attendance of nearly 1,500. This vast educational organization is maintained at a yearly cost of millions of dollars without any public aid whatever, except the exemption of school property from ordinary taxation. The efficiency of the Catholic schools and colleges has long been demonstrated by examinations and practical results, and it is at last generally conceded. The Catholic schools teach everything that is taught in the public schools and, in addition, they teach religion and religious morality. The standards of education in all secular branches are equal and in many instances superior to those of the neighborhood public or private schools. In other words, Catholic children are as well educated in the Catholic schools as in the public schools; they come from them as well trained and as patriotic as the children coming from any other schools, and in addition they are thoroughly grounded in the doctrines of their great religion. I say "great" because it is the great religion of all Christendom as well as of this country. When the Constitution of the United States was framed at the Philadelphia convention of 1787, there were only about 25,000 avowed Catholics in the whole Union. To-day they number 17,000,000. More than one-third of all who now attend Christian churches in the United States are Roman Catholics. The Catholic Church has several times as many members as any other religious denomination. The figures in the state of New York show that about 65 per cent., nearly two-thirds, of all regular attendants at Christian churches, are Roman Catholics, and that the remaining attendants are divided among many separate Protestant denominations. Hence the correctness of the assertion that the Catholic religion is the great religion of this country.

It is true and should be added that Catholics hope that the day will come when the people of all denominations will more adequately appreciate the fact that religious instruction tends to promote the best and the most loyal citizenship, that the Catholic parochial schools are, therefore, rendering a public service, and that as such they should be allotted a reasonable part of the public educational fund raised from general taxation, measured by and limited to the actual saving to that fund, provided also that a required standard of education be maintained. In England, for example, the Catholic parochial schools receive grants of public moneys if they fulfil certain conditions of efficiency in secular instruction, staff qualification and equipment, and the extent of these grants is approximately the actual saving to the public fund. In the Catholic diocese of Long Island, in which we live, there are now over 68,000 children being educated in the Catholic schools and colleges, and in Greater New York there are more than 130,000 children attending the parochial schools. All these children would have to be educated in the public schools and at the expense of the taxpayers if the Catholic schools did not educate them, and this Catholic education involves an immense direct saving to the public school fund. Statistics recently submitted to the Constitutional Convention sitting at Albany showed that the immediate saving to the city of New York alone from the parochial schools was fully $7,500,000 per annum, and that not one penny of this saving was being contributed by the city or the state to the cost of educating and training these Catholic children. Consequently, it is not unreasonable to believe that justice and tolerance will finally prevail, and that the day will come when it will be recognized as equitable and as a wise and enlightened public policy to provide that whenever any denomination, whether Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish, is, in addition to giving religious instruction, educating and training large numbers of children according to satisfactory secular standards and tests, and is thereby relieving the public educational fund, every such denominational school should be granted out of the public funds some part of the actual saving so made, because it is rendering a public service. A basis of adjustment will, I am confident, be ultimately worked out, which will be fair and just to all denominations. But in the meantime the private schools where both secular and religious training are given to children, including the Catholic parochial schools, must continue to be erected, equipped and supported wholly by the members of the various denominations. There are now numerous Protestant private schools where the Protestant faith is being taught; and what is true of the Catholic parochial schools is also true of the Protestant schools.

We are all so accustomed to the blessings of absolute religious liberty that we really find it difficult to imagine that any other condition could ever have been tolerated in the free air of America, and we are very apt to overlook or minimize the value of the most precious privilege we enjoy. Yet, it is only a few generations since religious intolerance prevailed in the United States and Catholics were mercilessly and barbarously persecuted. The first constitution of the state of New York in 1777 discriminated against Catholics by permitting only Protestants to become citizens of the state, and this was done notwithstanding the fact that the Continental Congress had three years before entreated the states to bury religious intolerance forever in oblivion. At one time in the colony of New York Catholic priests were hunted as criminals, were condemned to perpetual imprisonment if apprehended, and were to suffer the death penalty if they broke prison and were retaken. Catholics could not hold civil or military positions, and could not even worship God according to their faith without becoming criminals and liable to imprisonment. The only period of full religious tolerance and liberty in our colonial history was for a short time during the term of Governor Dongan, who was a Roman Catholic.

All this intolerance has happily passed away never to return, and religious liberty is now firmly established. I recall the past only in order to impress upon your minds that we should treasure this blessing and be ever grateful to the generation of Americans, overwhelmingly Protestant, which gave us religious freedom and in doing so went far toward atoning for the past persecution of Catholics.

In conclusion, I must add that we Catholics of the Parish of St. Patrick of Glen Cove should acclaim our appreciation of the great service and unselfish devotion of the one person whose whole-hearted energy has made this school possible and without whose example we should despair of maintaining it. Long may this beautiful building endure as a splendid monument to the faith and patriotism of a Catholic priest, our beloved pastor, Bernard O'Reilly. We must also voice our cordial welcome and pledge of support to the Sisters of Notre Dame, worthy members of a great American Catholic sisterhood devoted to the education of children, who are now about to take up among us the task of teaching our children. They will labor week after week and year after year, devotedly and unselfishly, for a pittance barely sufficient to supply their absolute physical needs, with little or no expectation of public recognition. They will seek and find their reward solely in the inward satisfaction of the day's work and duty well done and in the inspiring and quickening maxim of their order and of their whole daily life that their holy task is ever
Pro Deo et Ecclesia et Patria.

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