Parents, Education, the Church, and the State

“The right of the Church to have schools is entirely in concord with the right of parents to educate their children.  What is incumbent upon the parents in all questions of natural life is incumbent upon the Church with regard to the supernatural life.  Parents are prior to the state, and their rights were always and still are, acknowledged by the Church.  The prerogative of parents to educate their children cannot be disputed by the state, since it is the parents who give life to the child.  They feed the child and clothe it.  The child’s life is, as it were, the continuation of theirs.  Hence it is their right to demand that their children are educated according to their faith and their religious outlook.

It is their right to withhold their children from schools where their religious convictions are not only disregarded but even made the object of contempt and ridicule.  It was this parental right which German parents felt was violated when the Hitler government deprived them of their denominational schools.  The children came home from the new schools like little heathens, who smiled derisively or laughed at the prayers of their parents.

You Hungarian parents will likewise feel a violation of your fundamental rights if your children can no longer attend the Catholic schools solely because the dictatorial State closes down our schools by a brutal edict or renders their work impossible.”  Josef Cardinal Mindszenty, “Statement given on May 20, 1946,” in The Heritage of World Civilizations, 8th ed. Vol.2, p. 1022.  [Emphasis added]

Josef Mindszenty, a Roman Catholic priest, became Primate of Hungary and then Cardinal in the mid-1940s.  He spoke against Communist oppression of the Roman Catholic Church and their Socialist expropriation of Church schools in the 1940s.  The Communist officials imprisoned him from 1948 to 1956.  During the Hungarian Revolution he was released, but he sought asylum in the US Embassy in Budapest where remained for 15 years.

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