Structuring Catholic Schools: Creative Imagination Meets Canon LawReport as inadecuate

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Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry and Practice, v13 n4 p467-508 Jun 2010

This paper will explore the underlying requirements of canon law for establishing and administering Catholic schools, with a view toward helping to arrive at creative solutions to the question of how best to structure these schools civilly and canonically in order to ensure their temporal, spiritual, and religious well-being, and to assure that they can continue to make the kind of significant contributions to fulfilling the Catholic Church's educational mission in the United States that they have throughout U.S. history. This paper will first consider what a Catholic school is, canonically speaking. After taking a look at what canon law says a Catholic school is, it will consider the canonical role of the diocesan bishop in Catholic schools; both the minimal role that canon law anticipates for a bishop with respect to the Catholic schools in his diocese, and also the more enhanced role that he may wish to play and the schools may wish him to play. It will then move on to consider the kind of structures that are available in civil law for giving legal identity to a Catholic school, and how best to correlate the civil option chosen with the requirements of canon law and the desired ecclesial structure and juridic status. In doing so, it will highlight that in both canon and civil law school governance and the ownership of school property are central issues. It is hoped that both a fuller and a more particular understanding of what canon law actually says about Catholic schools will help to dispel the sense that canon law is an obstacle to creative school reorganization, and demonstrate instead that it can be a useful tool for structuring Catholic schools creatively and establishing norms of governance and administration that will enhance the security and smooth functioning of the school and assure that it is capable of delivering quality education and faith formation in an atmosphere imbued with a truly Catholic spirit. (Contains 45 notes.)

Descriptors: Catholic Schools, School Organization, Administrative Organization, Laws, School Law, Decision Making, Power Structure, Governance, Catholics, Educational Quality

Boston College. Roche Center for Catholic Education, 25 Lawrence Avenue, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467. Tel: 617-552-0701; Fax: 617-552-0579; e-mail: journal[at]; Web site:

Author: Brown, Phillip J.


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