Convenience versus conscience – the baptism debate

by DaniGirl on September 27, 2005 · 15 comments

in Uncategorized

Next year, Tristan will start junior kindergarten. Registration for Fall 2006 starts in February, which gives me four months to get off the fence and decide whether to enrol the boys in Catholic school or not. Four months to decide whether to baptize them or not.

I have no idea what to do.

There are practical considerations that make me favour the Catholic school system. The Catholic school is *right* across the street from us; I can see the schoolyard from my bedroom window. They are building a new public school two and a half blocks away, which is certainly convenient as well, and it looks like a lovely school, at least from an architectural perspective. So there’s no compelling geographical reason to choose one over the other, except the Catholic school is so close that the boys will be able to walk over by themselves sooner – assuming we’re still living in the house we’re in. Bobbie’s kids (my daycare provider) go to the Catholic school, which makes before and after school care a lot more convenient.

I went to Catholic school, and I truly believe that the quality of education is, on average, of a slightly higher quality in the separate school system. I can’t articulate exactly what it is that is better, and haven’t done a lot of research on it, but for whatever reason, it seems to be the case. (In Ontario, the public and separate/Catholic school systems are both publicly funded, so the Catholic schools are not private. There is no cost consideration for one school board versus the other.) The Catholic school across from us has a good reputation – not stellar, but above average, and the parents I talk to are generally happy with it.

So why am I waffling? Because I’m not a Catholic anymore – I call myself a recovering Catholic, in fact – and having the boys baptized smacks of hypocrisy to me. I’m divorced. I conceived my firstborn son in a petri dish. I believe in marriage rites for gays, birth control, abortion on demand and women in the clergy. I’m not even sure I believe Jesus Christ was god. I’m not exactly the poster girl for dogma.

Yes, I could put the boys in a Catholic school without having them christened. But among other things, they’d have to sit on the sidelines in Grade Two when all their friends are lining up to take their first communion, and I think it would really make matters more confusing than they have to be. If I put them in Catholic school, they should be brought up Catholic – at least in form if not fundamentally.

But what does that mean?

My folks let me make my own decisions. They baptized us, brought us to church when we were babies, and stopped sometime around the time we were old enough to squirm off the pew. We participated in all the religious rites, and my folks were always open about what they believed and what they didn’t. They taught me to be sceptical, and to think critically about matters of faith.

In grade school, there was a “all the cool kids are doing it” element to going to church, so I asked my mother to start taking me to mass on a Sunday morning, which she did without complaint. I grew out of that like most other phases. When I was old enough to drive myself, we used to congregate (nice pun, eh?) at the church on Saturday nights because one of my friends was an altar boy, so Saturday evening mass was the launch of the evening’s festivities. To be brutally honest, I had a crush on the altar boy. Church meant an hour being able to watch him without being weird about it.

And yet there are things about church that I miss. I miss the singing, the ceremony, the comfort of ritual, and the sense of community. I toy with the idea of bringing the boys to church because I genuinely think these are lovely things to expose them to.

But I so fundamentally object to some of the Church’s teachings that I can’t reconcile my objections with the desire to be part of a church community. Calling myself Catholic would be hypocritical, and standing up at my boys’ baptism and promising to raise them as Catholics would be an outright lie because I know that what the Church expects and what I intend are not even on the same ideological page.

I’ve been hedging on this for three and a half years… time is running out.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Barb September 27, 2005 at 1:52 pm

More or less the same dilema here although it is Dh who is Catholic and he hasn’t gone to church in years. We have yet to baptize Jo and are still on the fence about what to do. The kids in the Separate Board here do all the practical stuff for the First Communion and Confirmation at School, but then it is up to the parents to talk to their priest and set a date for said rites.
I think I have decided on the public system and so far there is no debate from Dh. The only question now remains…Complete french or french immersion…Still almost 2 years to decide

2 jo(e) September 27, 2005 at 2:57 pm

I had the same dilemma. I ended up sending all four kids to the small Catholic elementary school … and I switched them over to the public school in seventh grade. (My youngest son is in fifth grade right now.)
Many of the kids in the Catholic school here are not Catholic. But in this area, the Catholic schools are much smaller than the public schools and more academic. Parents have a big say in what goes on in the school, perhaps because they pay tuition.
I am pretty outspoken about all the things I see wrong with the Catholic Church, but the small school my kids go to is run by Franciscan sisters and lay people, and is surprising unaffected by the hierarchy of the church.
I suppose one factor for me was that this small Catholic school was also the school I attended as a child. And I really liked the idea of my kids going to a small nearby neighborhood school where we knew most of the families.

3 Running2Ks September 27, 2005 at 3:44 pm

I know you will make the right decision–whatever it is for you.
I was raised with open-ended religion (Jewish, with half of the family being Catholic). Now, my girls and I are Jewish, but we attend a Christian church.
They do take the early cues from the parents, but later will do as they please.
I hope you find a peaceful decision soon.

4 yvonne September 27, 2005 at 4:08 pm

Actually, you can postpone the decision until August. Registration starts in February but you can register and be entitled to schooling right up until the day school begins. Nice to be able to procrastinate a little longer.
There are reservations with having a brand new school: from someone who is living it. But you will have to be able to support your children’s learning (Christian or otherwise) or they will not be positioned for success in school. Whatever you choose will be right for you. And you will never have known the path for the other option…

5 SilverCreek Mom September 27, 2005 at 4:41 pm

NO time is not running out Dani. It’s something I don’t think you have to rush. And maybe it’s good to let the kids watch form the sidelines. Gives them a chance to make up their own minds. Yes this coming from a girl who has both kids baptizsed grew up going to the catholic church but went to a protestant School when there was such a thing IN quebec, and would get shot for saying alot of things I say and from the Hubby. We’ll talk.

6 UberGeek September 27, 2005 at 5:24 pm

Combine the two.
A nice red sacramental wine should go well with your Pastafarian beliefs.
Hmm look at that lovely storm cloud with those nice lightning bol….
crackle, crackle, hiss…
That stung.

7 UberGeek September 27, 2005 at 5:29 pm

ok serious post. At the very bottom of the pile, there is a lot of good moral teaching in Catholic Dogma.
Just ween out the offensive bits and have intelligent discussions with your kids when they are old enough to start having their own questions.
Ok back to non serious posting. Imagine the PTA meetings if they ever consider the idea of teaching ID?
eww better yet, let me explain the lack of female authority figures in the RC Church.
Well Tristan, after Eve betrayed Adam to Satan, God realized that women were only usefull for one thing.
I kid, really I kid… put down you pitchforks.

8 Beanie Baby September 27, 2005 at 6:45 pm

I have to admit I’ve never even considered Catholic school. The last thing I’d want is my child’s school teaching them I’m a satan worshipper–it doesn’t seem right, somehow. I’m lucky enough that both are about equally distant from our house adn I’ve heard great things about the public school already.
Not that I don’t get a little regretful twinge every morning when I drive by the two or three private schools that line the route. If only we were millionaires–but alas. Public it is, I think.

9 BeachMama September 27, 2005 at 6:58 pm

I hear your dilema and I second that one. We are in not Catholic, we are Christian (non-Denominational). Up until last year I had not even considered Catholic School and have not heard such good things about Christian Private Schools, so I was wavering on Public. Then, my older sister made a point. At the Catholic School the kids would at least be able to talk about God and ask questions and say prayers. At the Public schools they aren’t allowed to anymore. Religion is such a personal thing it would be really hard if you didn’t agree with what the teachers were teaching. Best wishes with your decision, we are a couple of years behind you, but along the same path. Except I can see the public school from my house and the Catholic school is a short walk.

10 bart September 27, 2005 at 10:30 pm

Having been brought up strictly Protestant, I recognise a lot of what you’re saying here. My life has digressed/degenerated in so many ways but there’s still an undercurrent of things I value from my upbringing…

11 twinmomplusone September 28, 2005 at 5:07 am

amazing how your kids make you constantly re-evaluate a lot of your values
school selection is a constant topic with many moms I know, something parents agonize over endlessly, seems there are just TOO many choices these days
we struggled with your exact same issues Dani and ultimately convenience won…the Catholic school bus comes at 7:15 a.m. whereas the public school bus comes at 8:30 a.m., the latter worked better for us as a family unit:)
new schools are great, they have the latest of everything and are clean and spacious BUT it may take a while to get programs/activities/library/etc set up and going
my kids go to a public system, not because we are agnostics but more because we do “religion” on our time and our own way, principles. I do believe that children should be exposed to some religion as a part of their general education, making them aware of a bigger self. Being in a french public system, there are still loads of Catholics in the school and they do their catechism before school once a week. And there are quite a few kids who moved from the Catholic school to the public one because the parents didn’t agree with the extent and amount of religion taught.
which school is better academically? another tough question, the curriculum is the same in both so ultimately its the actual teacher that’s important
as for baptism, we did that too for all 3, being comfortable with that idea and getting them at least started in their spiritual journey whichever way they want to lead it later
not sure if my late-night ramblings make any sense but wishing you the wisdom needed to come up with whatever solution workes best for you all

12 Jerri Ann September 28, 2005 at 2:01 pm

I am about to do a paper for my graduate degree on the Catholic religion. Would you allow me to “interview” you?

13 Danigirl September 28, 2005 at 4:42 pm

Such great feedback – thank you all, even you Übergeek. I am especially grateful that none of you called me a hypocrite for even considering it – I am so lucky at the exceedingly high quality of commenters I have around here. So very genteel and non-troll-like!
Jerri-Ann, I’m not too sure what quality I could contribute, but sure, you can interview me. If you like, you can send your questions to my e-mail addy at danigirl (at) canada (dot) com.
One of these days, I should just make an appointment and go talk to the priest about all this… THAT should be a fun conversation, and definitely blog-worthy.

14 Ingrid October 2, 2005 at 2:52 pm

I’ve been reading this blog for a few months and the topic of education just MADE me have to respond. With 3 children in 3 different schools(the youngest just started JK, the oldest in Grade 11), I have lots of experience in the schooling debate, and could go on and on (but I won’t).
What I have learned over the years is:
1. Each child has his/her individual needs for learning;your 2 boys may not do the best in the same environment.
2. These needs change from month to month, year to year
3. You have to listen to your child’s educational needs; use your parental instincts to guide you.
4. If something is wrong school wise, don’t procrastinate; stay on top of it, and use all resources to fix it/make it better
5.Fight tooth and nail for the best education your child can get; sacrifice what you can to achieve this
6. Start with your own school values, and then go with the flow; be prepared to change (see #1-5).
7. Be prepared to supplement the school system, whatever it may be, with lots of supervised homework (we completed all the curriculum of grades 2-6 with 32 child), tutoring, mentoring, etc.
8. Finally…what you think is best today, may not be true in 12 years from now…be prepared to doesn’t really end (Sorry!)
Go with your mommy heart – it is a wise path to follow, Dani!

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