Since values are spoken of so much today, I give my appraisal of them:
It is we who give value to a thing. Values are relative because we are continually making choices. So, values are also relative to objective truth. However, there are certain basic goods and values that flow from the human person, which always have to be respected. If they are not respected it is quite possible to hold and teach false values. Human values, if they are true, will lead to the person’s true good. If they are false, they put the person’s true good in jeopardy.
True human values flow out of the reality of human nature (all human faculties) and its true end (communion with God and one another.) We can summarise human values as:
· The value of life in its physical and moral integrity.
· The value of the procreation and education of children, and therefore of the family also.
· The value of truth and knowledge.
· The value of religion.
· The value of work, and therefore of leisure.
· The value of society.
· The value of friendship.
· The value of the common good, and therefore of justice.
None of these values is something that we have created because of circumstances, they all flow out of the reality of human nature. Re-assessing human nature does not necessarily lead to a truer understanding of the person, because you cannot use science, or history, or culture to construct an image of the person. Human beings are the authors of science, history and culture, not their servants. Human development follows from the moral strengthening of human nature as a whole. In other words, truth enables us to see who we are, and how to embrace that identity more fully.
The Catholic vision clearly presents the truth about human beings and their genuine moral unity and integrity. On the other hand, the secular vision has separated the inner and outer worlds of human experience; matter and spirit are dislocated. People who seek to shape public opinion today use this dislocation to separate particular values from their true context and then to explore how a new idea of the person can be construed. Ideology, instead of objective truth, can easily become fashionable. Even so, there is much in contemporary culture which should be redeemed – because, if redeemed, it can contribute to our true good. The truth about human beings reveals what is truly of value and what takes value away.
What is that makes a Catholic school Catholic? There are various takes on this: its vision, its ethos, having Mass celebrated there publicly, and calling itself ‘Catholic’.
My answer to the question, what makes a Catholic school Catholic, is: It is the staff who make a Catholic school Catholic. By that I mean that the staff are people who are evangelised and who live their faith, that they are formed in their appreciation and engagement with the life and mission of the Church, and that they are commissioned to teach, in the name of the Church, by a Catholic bishop.
The recent Council had the vision for Catholic schools and Catholic teachers; there it is for us to take up and put into action today.