Official Church teaching has repeatedly and consistently reaffirmed the vital importance of Catholic schools and school choice. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, "Parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own personal convictions. This right is fundamental," and "public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and ensuring concrete conditions for its exercise" (CCC #2229). Additionally, the Code of Canon Laws emphasizes, "The Christian faithful have the right to a Christian education by which they are to be instructed properly to strive for the maturity of the human person and at the same time to know and live the mystery of salvation" (No. 217).
Listed below are a series of quotes from Church documents spanning more than 125 years that acknowledge the critical role of Catholic schools and school choice:
People Leo XIII, in his 1885 papal encyclical On Christian Education, recognized the crucial import of Catholic schools by noting, "for it is in and by these schools that the Catholic faith, our greatest and best inheritance, is preserved whole and entire." The benefits of such schools extend not only to the Church but to society at large, as “it is by these schools that good citizens are brought up for the State.”
In 1965, the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Christian Education stated, "The public power, which has the obligation to protect and defend the rights of citizens, must see to it, in its concern for distributive justice, that public subsidies are paid out in such a way that parents are truly free to choose according to their conscience the schools they want for their children."
To Teach as Jesus Did (1972) called on the entire Christian community to make a "generous effort" to support parents in educating their children and communicating the faith and to provide education programs that “correspond with the ideal of Catholic education."
The Holy See’s Charter of the Rights of the Family (1983) affirmed that "public authorities must ensure that public subsidies are so allocated that parents are truly free to exercise this right [of educating their children] without incurring unjust burdens. Parents should not have to sustain, directly or indirectly, extra charges which would deny or unjustly limit the exercise of this freedom."
In 1987, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith articulately communicated that "whenever the State lays claim to an educational monopoly, it oversteps its rights and offends justice… The State cannot without injustice merely tolerate so-called private schools. Such schools render a public service and therefore have a right to financial assistance."
In Support of Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools (1990) explained that the "Catholic community needs to enter seriously into both national and state educational discussions” because of the importance of “assuring that all parents have a meaningful choice of schools.”
Principles for Educational Reform in the United States (1995) asserted that "parental rights are natural and inalienable and should not be limited to the economically privileged."
Pope John Paul II, in his 1999 exhortation The Church in America, said, "It is essential that every possible effort be made to ensure that Catholic schools, despite financial difficulties, continue to provide a Catholic education to the poor and marginalized in society. It will never be possible to free the needy from their poverty unless they are first freed from the impoverishment arising from the lack of adequate education” (no. 70).
The 2004 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church focused attention on the lack of public funding for non-public schools, stating, "The refusal to provide public economic support to non-public schools that need assistance and that render a service to civil society is to be considered an injustice."
Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Schools in the Third Millennium (2005) identified the importance of school choice for all parents, saying, "[It is the] responsibility of the whole Catholic community to strive towards the goal of making Catholic elementary schools available, accessible, and affordable to all Catholic parents and children."
Pope Benedict XVI, in a 2008 Address to Catholic educators, declared, "[E]verything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that [Catholic schools] are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation."