Loyalty to the educational aims of the Catholic school demands constant self-criticism and return to basic principles, to the motives which inspire the Church's involvement in education. (Sacred Congregation for Education, The Catholic School, n.67)
Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has called for the renewal of Catholic education at all levels, from grade school through the research university. The Church has warned that Catholic schools must not be just secular schools with a Catholic name and a religion class. They must draw on the rich heritage of Catholic education to form an educational community that is fully Catholic.
Such an outlook calls for courageous renewal on the part of the Catholic school. The precious heritage of the experience gained over the centuries reveals its vitality precisely in the capacity for prudent innovation. And so, now as in the past, the Catholic school must be able to speak for itself effectively and convincingly. (Sacred Congregation for Education, The Catholic School, n.3)
This is by no means an easy task. Currently, Catholic educators have few resources that will help them to understand what a Catholic school is, can be, should be. The dominant models for education are all fundamentally secular. The practical demands of running a school leave teachers and administrators little time to discover the basic principles of Catholic education.
The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education exists to help Catholic educators answer the Church’s call. We are devoted to understanding the Church’s educational tradition that stretches back to the very beginnings of the Church and its encounter with the highly developed classical system of education. We study carefully the Magisterial documents on education and the contemporary situation so that we can see how today’s Catholic schools can benefit from the strengths of the tradition. We look at secular education to discover what can be learned from it while avoiding the dangers of pluralism, relativism, and vocationalism.
The Institute is dedicated to presenting our understanding of full Catholic education. But even more, the Institute intends to help Catholic educators understand, experience, and share our vision with their students and schools. Through its efforts, the Institute looks forward to the fulfillment of Christopher Dawson’s hope expressed in 1961.
...As education reaches a certain point of development, it opens up new and wider cultural horizons. It ceases to be a utilitarian parochial effort for the maintenance of a minimum standard of religious instruction and becomes the gateway to the wider kingdom of Catholic culture which has two thousand years of tradition behind it and is literally world-wide in its extent and scope.