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Demagoguery Defined

Creativity in feature writing may or may not be a skill of Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman (Minnesota's own Frank Rich). While he is willing to stretch a story to almost impossible dimensions to wring a controversy from it, he is running out of things to talk about. It appears that his repertoire is now limited to finding anything that pertains to Catholicism and trying to degrade it. Ol' Nick is not unique in this trade, as many a recovering Catholic seek to cut the Church down to size (Mo Dowd, anyone?). It's more disregardable this way.

In his latest screed, Nick has found a sympathetic "plaintiff" to make his case against the Church. It is stock in trade to take a story out of context, and then note how the sympathetic victim's faith has been "shaken" by the mean ol' Church. Usually, this happens every year where someone with celiac disease learns that the Church won't provide them with a rice wafer or some non-wheat substitute. The media does an "expose," and reports how the poor victim has left the Church.

Coleman seems to have found a case where a Catholic high school has denied admission to a kid with muscular dystrophy. Incidentally, the kid is currently a student at my sister's Catholic primary school (since not all Catholic schools are so mean). It turns out that Holy Angels did not have the resources to accomodate all of this child's needs. Considering what they charge for tuition, that seems to be an odd claim, but it is a very old building. Additionally, the school is not noted for its orthodoxy, and is a hotbed for social justice activists turned teachers who wish to "educate" the wealthy students who attend the school. So it's not as though the school doesn't "care," being more progressively-minded. However, the general public can't make this distinction. All they know is that those Catholics are being mean and insensitive again.

The question is, how far does a school need to go to accomodate a child with special needs? I'm sure there are plenty of instances where those expensive, progressive prep schools have turned away students just like this kid. But it's just so much more interesting when it is the Catholic school.

And really, it's quite a cheapshot and rather lame to report that someone's faith is shaken (even if it is) because someone sinned against them (assuming the school is clearly in the wrong, which we hardly know to be the case). This adds the spine-chilling effect of evil that these sorts of articles require. Obviously, when Christians sin, it means the religion is false, because Christians claim they never sin and profess to be perfect. Additionally, Coleman notes that the kid won't miss religion class since the whole episode has taught him enough about "religion." Lame, again.

I do feel for this family and their plight, but it just seems to be another episode where when something bigger than ourselves won't bend to accomodate our particular wish list, we cry foul. There are plenty of other Catholic high schools in town where her son could have attended. Did they abandon ship when one couldn't accomodate them? This story just seems a little cooked.

Where is Paul Harvery for the rest of the story?


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Comments (4)


How can you even read that guy? Its a near occasion of sin for me just to lay eyes on the paper box on our way to church. The only thing that will out a leash on Coleman is cancelled subscriptions. There can be no doubt that Kersten owes her new gig to Power Line and their relentless coverage of the Strib's journalistic crimes. But its not enough to have a token conservative who is conveniently a woman (diversity!). They need to admit their animus against all things conservatives and then either put a little donkey in theoir masthead or purge their staff.

As one who attended Catholic school from 1st to 4th grade (both learning disabled and gifted), I say that Catholic schools are the best place to send average kids (relatively no exceptionalities, good or bad) for a mediocre education. And public schools try to give all students a mediocre education. But at least public schools take seriously their responsibility to educate ALL students, while Catholic and other private schools pick and choose which students to educate. If catholic means universal, most Catholic schools fail the test (i.e. they are merely parochial) when it comes to who they choose to educate. And since Frank Sheed's day, they have also failed to teach religion, to propose the faith to their students.

Parents must take charge of their children's education and ensure that they receive supplemental education in religion and other areas in order to grow toward excellence.


As one who attended Catholic schools for over 16 years, I surely benefited from, and am grateful for, the education I received there. Now, as the parent of a disabled child, I see Catholic schools from a whole new perspective; I wish you could too. Do you not see any hypocrisy in the FACT that my son's only chance at education and help is at a public school (where there can be no mention of Christ) and he is not welcome or aided in any way by a school run in the name of Christ?



The aim of the post seems to point out the usual demagoguery of Nick Coleman and his trite bibes at "religion" in general, and Catholicism in particular, as though the legitimacy of the Catholic faith hinges upon the actions of one school administrator. However, both the article and your comment raise interesting questions. First, is it the case that your child is unwelcome in ANY Catholic school, or just one in particular. What are the reasons for refused admittance? Is it discrimination based on disability? Does the school have the resources to accomodate the child with special needs?

Frankly, if it is Holy Angels, I think you have a legitimate complaint with the amount of tuition they charge at that school. It is an old building, but they could probably manage (although I'm not sure what sort of services your child requires). Many other Catholic schools could not accomodate a child with certain needs, nor should they be expected to. I don't think it is an issue of discrimination. The only saint most Catholic school kids know about these days is St. Martin Luther King, so the issue is more likely to be tight budgets.

Your circumstances must be difficult, and I am thankful I have not been given the cross you have (at least not yet). However, the problem raises questions of the common good. We can't expect everyone to afford us accomodations just because we require a certain level of care. If there were no other Catholic schools in the area to accomodate your child, you would have a very legitimate complaint that needed to be addressed. However, I suspect a number of schools can accomodate your needs. Correct me if I am wrong. If I am, this is a sad situation indeed.

Furthermore, Catholic schools these days don't have great track records as it is of teaching the faith. Mass and religion class once a week don't cut it. Your child might even benefit from avoiding the liberal social activism that substitutes for catechism. I'm sure you would do an excellent job of supplementing whatever is missed in a public school.

I wish you the best in the education of your child. God bless.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 19, 2005 9:53 PM.

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