Committee to Save Black Catholic Schools Asks Pope to Prevent Closure of DC Catholic Schools

An organization fighting to keep Catholic schools open in the District of Columbia has asked Pope Benedict XVI to intervene in the Washington Archdiocese’s decision to close seven schools and take specific steps to keep the schools open in the District, and help Catholic schools across the country continue to educate minority students in urban areas.

In a letter to Apostolic Nuncio, who is the Pope’s highest representative in the United States, the Committee to Save Black Catholic Schools encouraged the Holy Father to support an annual national collection for urban Catholic education. The letter also requested that Papal Nuncio ask Pope Benedict XVI to require Archbishop Wuerl to take steps to keep the schools open. “Out of respect for the Holy Father and because of your demonstrated willingness to work with us, we did not organize a formal demonstration about Catholic education in the black community to coincide with the Holy Father’s visit,” said the letter to Papal Nuncio.

“Instead we request…that you inform the Holy Father about the situation in the Archdiocese of Washington Catholic schools in the black community.” The organization wrote that Archbishop Wuerl is setting “an unfortunate precedent” for the American Church by closing the schools, noting that the Archdiocese of Washington led the integration of Catholic schools even before desegregation of public schools was the law of the land.

Further, it noted that in 1948 Archbishop O’Boyle’s integration efforts were studied by the U.S. Supreme Court and helped to shape the landmark Brown vs. The Board of Education decision in 1954 that integrated public schools in the U.S. “Sadly, we believe Archbishop Wuerl is setting a new precedent in reducing the presence of Catholic education in the Nation’s Capital,” the letter said.

“Rather than pioneering methods to keep Catholic schools open, Catholic and affordable — as is being done in the Dioceses of Wichita, Kansas and Memphis, Tennessee — Archbishop Wuerl is closing high performing, 80% capacity filled, inner-city Catholic schools.” In September, Archbishop Wuerl proposed that eight Catholic Schools with predominantly black enrollments be closed or turned into public charter schools, contending that the Archdiocese of Washington had run out of money to sustain them.

Even though, parents, alumni and parishioners across the region joined together to find ways to help the institutions continue as Catholic Schools, the Archdiocese decided to convert or close seven of the schools.

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