Why Catholic schools are shutting their doors

By Tatiana Schlossberg

The Record (Hackensack, N.J.) (MCT)

Published: Saturday, April 27 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

Catholic school teachers and superintendents said that they don't believe the cases of priest sex abuse have had a significant effect on parents' decisions on what schools to choose.

Goodness also said that settlements in the abuse cases did not divert resources from Catholic schools or other ministry services, such as tending to the poor.

Aside from the economy, demographic shifts in the American Catholic landscape have posed some problems for Catholic schools.

In place of the Catholic immigrants who came to this country, and to New Jersey, at the turn of the 20th century from countries such as Ireland, Poland and Italy, Goodness said, "now in some places, like Hudson County, an area that may have been traditionally one ethnic group that was Catholic has changed to two or three ethnic groups that are not even Christian."

Or, some immigrants who are Catholic — coming from Latin America or Asia — are often used to state-sponsored education, religious or not, and might be unable to afford a Catholic education, Goodness said.

Another challenge is that many new immigrants are sending a lot of their money back to the old country to support family, Goodness said.

In an earlier America, anti-Catholic sentiment was a powerful social force and drove many Catholics to take their children out of public schools and put them into Catholic schools where they would be among their own kind, and likely to succeed, without voices of discrimination around them, Goodness said.

However, some parishes and schools have long been making a concerted effort to include Spanish-speaking Catholic immigrants in their communities.

Goodness said that in some areas, "outreach to people in the mother tongue is very strong," and often effective. That speaks to the church's willingness to adapt to its changing population, which is welcomed by members of the Hispanic community, and may prove to be even more fruitful, given the election of Pope Francis, the first pontiff from Latin America.

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