- Gravissimum Educationis: Golden Opportunities in American Catholic Education 50 Years After Vatican II ed. by Gerald M. Cattaro and Charles J. Russo
“Beautiful indeed and of great importance is the vocation of all those who aid parents in fulfilling their duties and who, as representatives of the human community, undertake the task of education in the schools. This vocation demands special qualities of the mind and heart, very careful preparation, and continuing readiness to renew and to adapt” (vii). This prescient passage from the only document on education to emerge from the Second Vatican Council is the epigraph for this interesting and informative collection of scholarly articles compiled by Gerald M. Cattaro and Charles J. Russo, two leading authorities on the foundations and administration of Catholic schools.
The first three chapters of the book provide something of an overview of the topic. Cattaro focuses on the purpose, presence, and prophecy of the Catholic schools. He addresses the challenges and opportunities faced by the Catholic education establishment and how these experiences tie past to present and inform the future. Russo adds to Cattaro by concentrating on the legal issues that have insured the rights of parents to educate their children in Catholic schools, but also on how the law has put limits on these rights. Russo is particularly effective at succinctly summarizing many of the major Supreme Court cases that have affected Catholic education. John Mary Fleming [End Page 79] continues the summarization by articulating the twelve principles in the document Gravissimum Educationis and showing how these principles were enhanced in further education documents issued by the Vatican Congregation of Education and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The next three chapters touch on issues that persist and sometimes plague the contours of American Catholic education. Dale McDonald writes about the demographic shifts in the Catholic population and the implications of these shifts for the future. In the fifth chapter, Regina Haney and Karen Ristau take on the persistent challenge of expanding and improving lay governance over Catholic schools. American Catholic higher education is scrutinized by Michael J. Garanzini in chapter six.
The last three chapters take on the broad implications for the moral character of Catholic education in the United States. Shane P. Martin and Jordan Gadd write about Catholic education and the preferential option for the poor. Bruce Cooper and Ming Zhu concentrate on faith-based schools and their implications for the future of American Catholic education. Finally, John J. Convey addresses the many ways and means that Catholic schools contribute to the common good. Too often we forget what substantial contributions these institutions make to the quality of life in the United States.
The final chapter by Cattaro and Russo is a brief reprise of the work of their colleagues and articulates recommendations to ensure that Catholic education can thrive in the manner called for in Gravissimum Educationis. This chapter is both a summation and a call for further work. It is as if the editors are saying that American Catholic education has come far since Vatican II but that the journey is not over. There is much more to be done.