Catholic School Matters

March 1, 2021

Collective Conscience

Dr. Katherine Greiner of Carroll College (MT) helps me to explore section five of Fratelli Tutti (chapters 7-8) on this week’s Catholic School Matters podcast. A former high school theology teacher at a Catholic all-girls high school, Dr. Greiner has a unique perspective as a theologian.


We began exploring truth, justice, and mercy. Pope Francis writes, “Truth, in fact, is an inseparable companion of justice and mercy” (227). Greiner asks, “Can we really have restorative justice without truth?” We explored how in South Africa, truth & reconciliation were intertwined, as it is now on the Native American reservations. In this section, Francis unites his concern for mercy with knowing the truth of our world as well as our common history. Mercy can only become transformed into justice (as opposed to simply charity) without truth.


We spend a little time talking about examples of our common history that impact today’s world. Catholic schools and churches owned slaves, for example, and Catholic European nations destroyed each other in two world wars. But Greiner rightfully points out the importance of the local as well, mentioning that coming to grips with her own family’s history (the local) helps her understand the world’s history (global). Francis addresses this in paragraph 249:


Nowadays, it is easy to be tempted to turn the page, to say that all these things happened long ago and we should look to the future. For God’s sake, no! We can never move forward without remembering the past; we do not progress without an honest and unclouded memory. We need to ‘keep alive the flame of collective conscience, bearing witness to succeeding generations to the horror of what happened,’ because that witness ‘awakens and preserves the memory of the victims, so that the conscience of the humanity may rise up in the face of every desire for dominance and destruction’


We need to appreciate the history can be manipulated and the truth is important. We explore the idea of “penitential memory” (226) which calls us to remember the past, acknowledge the errors, and move forward.


It’s also important to recognize the theme of nonviolence in this section. Francis is clear that “Jesus never promoted violence or intolerance. He openly condemned the use of force to gain power over others” (238). He goes on to declare that war might never be considered just and capital punishment is against church teaching. These ideas will make many Christians very uncomfortable—especially those who espouse a militant Christianity.


We then talk about how to approach dialogue and then Dr. Greiner closes the conversation with song. It’s the first time I’ve ever convince someone to sing on the podcast! Enjoy the podcast and look to the study guide for more resources.


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Dr. Tim Uhl

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Catholic Schools Closing & Opening

  1. Trinity Catholic HS of St. Louis to close after this school year
  2. Trenton Catholic HS (NJ) set to close in June


Here is the curated list of Catholic schools closing at the end of the 2021 school year and new schools opening for the 2021-22 year.

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Catholic School Matters podcast

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What I'm Reading

    The Last 5 Books:

    1. The Church's Best-Kept Secret: A Primer on Catholic Social Teaching (2020) by Mark P. Shea
    2. The Gunning of America: Business & the Making of American Gun Culture (2016) by Pamela Haag

    3. Nuance: Why Some Leaders Succeed & Others Fail (2019) by Michael Fullan

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            A couple of years ago I set out to write a book which would explore the challenges of Catholic school leadership. My premise that there are no easy answers and that we have to learn from our (and other's) mistakes in order to form a mindset appropriate for orchestrating conflict proved prescient as we all faced completely new and unexpected challenges in 2020. The book,Orchestrating Conflict: Case Studies in Catholic Leadership is now available on Amazon or on the Barnes & Noble site in print or e-book formats. The book explores issues in Catholic school leadership and the tensions between building community and following Church policies and introduces deliberate practice as a method for leadership formation.