Two new pro-life educational programs were recently launched geared towards helping Catholic high school students understand Church teaching on the dignity of human life and the need to be actively involved in defending life.
The Catholic pro-life organization American Life League released a new program entitled “Who Was the Real Margaret Sanger?: A Look at the Woman Who Made Birth Control Popular in America.” And Students for Life of America (SFL) teamed up with Healing the Culture to bring their “Philosophical Foundations” resource specifically to Catholic high schools through SFL’s new “Faith Foundations” program. These new programs are among a growing number of pro-life resources developed for Catholic high school students. The Cardinal Newman Society does not endorse specific curricula or educational programs and published this report for informational purposes only.
Forming a Culture of Life
These high school educational programs are a sign of the renewal of Catholic education. Catholic schools have the mission to form students in Christ and impart the truth a Christian worldview. This mission cannot omit the important and fundamental truth of every human being’s inherent dignity and right to life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church holds that “human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception” (2270). Called to equip the next generation of people who will help form a culture of a life, these new pro-life programs are evidence of people trying to accomplish that goal in Catholic schools.
This responsibility of Catholic education informed the Newman Society’s newly released Catholic Curriculum Standards. The explanation of the Standards articulates that Catholic education “promotes human virtues and the dignity of the human person, as created in the image and likeness of God and modeled on the person of Jesus Christ.”
Denise Donohue, Ed.D., deputy director of the Newman Society’s K-12 Programs and co-developer of the Catholic Curriculum Standards, explained the importance of pro-life education in high schools: “In today’s culture, when a presidential candidate’s platform includes abortion, students need to see this type of thinking as an affront to the dignity of all human life. A good pro-life high school curriculum includes discussion on the morals and ethics of some of the most serious issues of life facing man today, such as in-vitro fertilization, human cloning and chimera research, gene therapy, frozen embryo adoption, stem cell research, and end of life terminations, among others.”
“Students will not hear these issues taught in the light of the Catholic faith from the secular media,” she added, “but will hear the Church’s message from well-grounded programs and curricula whose basis is a Christo-centric anthropology of man.”
“As an apostolate of the Church, Catholic schools [are] a vehicle through which pro-life teachings are conveyed and students are given the opportunity to defend the sanctity of life and dignity of the human person,” said Jamie Arthur, Ph.D, manager of the Catholic Education Honor Roll at the Newman Society, in an interview last year. She continued: “Working with schools throughout the nation, it is wonderful to see the effects of Catholic education through which educators are able to instill in their students the value and dignity of human life.”
“Who Was the Real Margaret Sanger?”
The new unit of study from the American Life League is a concentrated program for high school students that aims to inform students about the background, ideology and intentions of the founder of the contraceptive movement in America, Margaret Sanger. A part of the Culture of Life Studies Program, the unit “Who was the Real Margaret Sanger?: A Look at the Woman Who Made Birth Control Popular in America” includes a three-part video that addresses Sanger’s historical context, the details of her ideology, and her legacy in contemporary America through the use of colorful visuals, engaging questions and direct quotes.
First released two years ago, the varied units of the Culture of Life Studies Program are being used by Catholic grade schools, high schools and homeschooling co-ops around the country. According to Mary Flores, educational outreach coordinator for the Culture of Life Studies Program, St. Michael the Archangel High School in Fredericksburg, Va., will teach the “Margaret Sanger” unit to every student at the school this year through their Sacred Studies program.
“We are called to witness to the Gospel of Life,” Cathy Daub director of the Culture of Life Studies Program told the Newman Society in an interview last year. Daub observed, “We are called to stand up and fight. This battle will only be won by equipping the younger generations with absolute truth and the courage and wisdom to stand up for that truth. The best way to accomplish this is to bring together teachers with pro-life leaders and subject-matter experts.”
The DVD provided in the curriculum packet includes a 20-minute lecture by Brenden McGuire, Ph.D., associate professor of history at the Newman Guide-recommended Christendom College. In the talk, McGuire discusses Sanger’s influence on the understanding of sexual morality and how her thought and activism formed the basis for a moral justification for birth control and the legalization of abortion in the United States.
Lauren Castillo, director of “Faith Foundations,” told the Newman Society that SFL’s new program was designed specifically for extracurricular student groups at Catholic high schools.
“By educating students about the philosophical foundations behind the why of their pro-life beliefs and training them to articulate that message both compassionately and effectively,” Castillo explained, “we are helping put their faith into action.”
The program also uses selected resources from Healing the Culture’s “Principles and Choices” pro-life high school curriculum. “Principles and Choices” was designed to give students “a strong philosophical education in ten core principles that ground Church teachings on respect for human life, social justice, and many other contemporary issues.” The new program from SFL provides the first three books of “Principles and Choices,” a DVD explaining the four levels of happiness, and a CD and script for an audio drama.
Included among the provided materials is a book by Father Robert Spitzer, S.J., entitled Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues. Fr. Spitzer, co-founder of Healing the Culture and former president of Gonzaga University, assisted in the formation of the Newman Society’s Catholic Curriculum Standards.
So far, the “Faith Foundations” program is being used in 20 schools, and SFL has reported strong interest from five Catholic dioceses that want to implement the program.
The imprimatur, a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free of doctrinal or moral error, for the “Principles and Choices” textbooks was granted by the Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle.
Other pro-life educational programs for Catholic high school students that are already in use include “YDisciple” and “Called to Be More.”
Another option for parents to ensure their children receive a pro-life education is “YDisciple,” produced by the Augustine Institute.
Designed for use in small groups of teens organized by parents rather than in a high school setting, “YDisciple” is composed of 16 varied study programs that include issues of human sexuality, womanhood and manhood, and the sacraments. The program uses short videos, prayer and discussion to explore the various topics.
“There is no shortage of controversy related to the topic of life,” according to the “YDisciple” pro-life course description. “Reproductive rights, abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, embryonic stem cell research, defense against terrorism, justifiable war … the list goes on and on. What are followers of Jesus supposed to make of it all?
“The situations seem complicated, but answers do exist,” the description continues. “This YDisciple course untangles the issues in the light of Catholic teaching, which proves to be practical, relevant, and infused with the love and mercy of God.”
The “YDisciple” program includes materials for the group leader, the participants and the parents that cite Sacred Scripture, the Catechism, an explanation of Catholic social teaching from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the writings of Pope Saint John Paul II.
Sean Dalton, director of the “YDisciple” program, told the Newman Society that all the materials within the program have an imprimatur.
“Called to Be More”
Ruah Woods Press recently released a curriculum based on St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” entitled “Called to Be More.” The first four units of the high school curriculum are currently available online. Units for kindergarten through eighth grade are scheduled for completion in 2017 and 2018.
“Called to be More” is a program that can be adapted for online and offline use in the classroom. The program’s materials are being written, designed and edited by three graduates of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family Life at the Newman Guide-recommended Catholic University of America.
Within the second unit of the program, which focuses on the person of Jesus, the third lesson addresses pro-life issues. The materials for the lesson entitled “Receiving Life as a Gift” include the USCCB’s prayer for life, a case for life in the light of the Holy Trinity, a video testimony of a student recounting her experience of recognizing her own dignity as a child of God, the example of the martyrdom of Blessed Francesco de Paula Castelló Aleu and essay prompts.
The imprimatur for the curriculum series was granted by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Binzer of Cincinnati.