Dear Friends and Benefactors,
Co-education, educating boys and girls together, has always been condemned by the Catholic Church. For instance, Pope Pius XI on 1929 called it a "pernicious error, which, to the immense harm of youth" is "spreading far and wide among Christian peoples". Why then can many "Catholics" today not see what is wrong with it? Because it naturally follows from four great false principles of the modern world, universally held to be true.
The first and most radical of these false principles is religious liberty. If the State cannot decide which religion is true, then religious ideas are not that important, so we don't need no education (unless it's material), we don't need no thought-control, "truth" is just opinions, strawberry fields for ever, and school-time has no reason to be anything other than one long parry for boys and girls together.
Now when this way of thinking is laid out so crudely, no self-respecting Catholic can think he is affected by it. However, just how seriously do our "Catholics" take education that is not material or technological? Judge by their pocket-books, or wallets, not by their words. Which in fact comes first? That expensive car, or that expensive Catholic tuition for the child? Things spiritual like old-fashioned Catholic education get lip-service, but things material get the real service. So, the drive of boys towards girls and of girls towards boys being an unalterable given of human nature, then to deny its easy gratifications to one's youngsters requires a higher motivation, otherwise the lower drive will take over. Co-education betrays a lack of such motivation, a lack of belief in the seriousness of life. Had I anything really serious that I wished to teach these boys or girls, then the first thing I would do, if I could, would be to separate them. The army and navy are no longer serious, so now they are mixed. American football is still serious, so who ever heard of mixed American football training camps?
Second great modern principle: relations between the sexes are not a social matter with which, for instance, schools should concern themselves, they are purely a private matter for the individuals concerned. Therefore education has no business to be getting in between the sexes, and liberty requires that they be free to mix with no interference from school.
It is an enormous error of our age that relations between the sexes are a purely individual affair. True, by the pleasures attached, insofar as the individuals alone concerned can enjoy them, those relations resemble eating and drinking, but as to the purpose governing these pleasures, those relations are wholly different. Whereas eating and drinking are ordered to the survival of the individual, those relations with their whole range of material arid spiritual pleasures are ordered to the survival of the species, or mankind. Therefore they are a matter of society's survival, and of its legitimate concern. The society that refuses to interfere in the individuals' use or misuse of those relations and what goes with them is a society like our own, committing suicide.
Again, the problem lies rather in the disappearance of higher belief and motivation than in the constant reappearance of lower drives. Just as the jagged rocks on the sea-floor of a tidal harbour are no problem at high tide when the ships float freely above them, but at low tide, without their having moved an inch, they paralyze shipping, so if men are spiritually motivated they can sail above their lower instincts, but if that motivation ebbs away, they fall foul of those instincts which have not changed. Modern co-education betrays modern society's lack of spiritual or intellectual motivation, or faith.
Third great modern error behind co-education: the denial of original sin. "Boys and girls are just friends". "The more they are mixed together, the less they notice one another". "Separation is artificial". "Mixing is necessary to teach and test virtue". "Amongst Catholics everything should be fine". And, of course, "MY children are angels".
Well, as the saying goes, if you believe that, you can believe anything. Yet it is astonishing how many "Catholic" parents do believe it! They have all learned about original sin in their catechism, but of course the catechism is only a book and their children are of course the exception! I can remember how, when the mother of a teen-age girl wanting to hang around seminarians tried to re-assure the suspicious Seminary Rector that her daughter was "not like that", he snorted. "Oh," she pouted at him, "I do wish you wouldn't be like that!" He snorted again.
In what world do these parents live? Answer, in a foolish world which all around them affirms the innate goodness of man. ("Ah, but America is different" - I suppose you are talking about Bill Clinton?) What grasp then does the Catholic catechism have upon the minds and hearts of such "Catholic" parents? Poor things. Not much. But then, as everybody knows, religion is only for Sundays mornings. Alas! Catholics immersed in a Protestant culture, as in English-speaking countries, must exert themselves constantly not to become Protestants who merely go to Mass on Sundays, even if it is the true Mass!
Original sin is for real! Since when has throwing young men and women together been anything other than like tossing lit matches on a heap of dry straw? Since modern times when mankind is so advanced? Oh yeah? Ask the U.S. Navy, since it began a few years ago sending scads of young sailoresses to sea together with the young sailors to port turned into love-boats, and half the ratings have to be dismissed for pregnancy!
"Oh, bishop, I do wish you wouldn't be like that!" Pleeeeeeease! Where has the common sense gone? Since when, if you wish to keep two magnets apart, do you put them close by one another? In truth, co-educators do not want the young magnets to stay apart, they are quite happy to see them clinching. After all, "Mixing is necessary to learn to inter-act normally", and "They will mix all their lives so they might as well start now", and "To condemn casual mixing is just being hyperreactive", and after all, "Catholics must not be too different from the world around them". Oh no? Alas, the denial of original sin is so embedded in the proud modern world that not all the mockery in China will prise it out again. "The facts can go to blazes! Our dream is so much nicer! We are now God!"
However, almost as catastrophic as the denial of original sin is the fourth hidden principle of co-educators, namely that between the two sexes - let the crudity of the expression awaken to the shocking stupidity of the error - there are only minor differences of plumbing! In our enlightened age, so runs the argument, girls are no longer inferior to boys but are interchangeable with them, so it is against equality to educate them separately or train them for different functions, especially when the rising divorce rate may require either to perform what used to be regarded as the other's functions.
But if the divorce rate is so rising, is not one of the main reasons precisely this scorn for the God-given distinction and complementarity of the two sexes? Children especially need a manly man to be their father and a womanly woman to be their mother, but of course the modern world thinks it knows better. There are volumes to be written on this subject, so often addressed in these letters, but space is running out. Here is how Pius XI summed up the error in his 1929 Encyclical on the Christian Education of Youth, quoted above:
"Co-education... is founded... upon a deplorable confusion of ideas that mistakes a leveling mixity and equality for the lawful association of the sexes. The Creator has ordained and disposed perfect union of the sexes only in marriage, and, with varying degrees of contact, in the family and in society. Besides, there is in nature itself, which fashions the two sexes' quite different organisms, temperaments and abilities, nothing to suggest that there can be or that there ought to be mixity, and much less equality, in the training of the two sexes. These, in keeping with the wonderful designs of the Creator, are destined to complement each other in the family and in society, precisely because of their differences, which therefore ought to be maintained and encouraged during the years of formation, with the necessary distinction and corresponding separation, according to age and circumstances. These principles, with due regard to time and place, must, in accordance with Christian prudence, be applied to all schools, particularly in the most delicate and decisive period of formation, that namely of adolescence ...."
Of course, Traditional Catholic schools today, especially when they are starting out, must make do and mend, and they may not have the means to establish immediately all separation desirable of the sexes. But let Catholics at least not approve in principle of any mixity they may be obliged to put up with for the time being in practice. Nor let them say that Pius XI was speaking for 1929 but not for 1999 (what makes the difference? - Vatican II??), or that he was speaking for Europe but not for America (did the Freemasons change human nature?).
In sum, education of youth is much too serious to allow for fooling around with mixity. Co-education is not just a matter of individuals' free choice, it is an issue for society and its schools. Co-education is a massive occasion of sin, given the weakness of human nature due to original sin. And co-education massively disrespects God's design in the natural distinction and complementarity of the sexes. On this last point read also the texts enclosed of the wonderful end-of-school-year speech given in 1997 by Schwester Michaela, headmistress of the Society's secondary school for girls in Germany.
Also enclosed is a Seminary Continuous Support Fund form, enabling you to receive this letter first class each month, and facilitating monthly contributions to the Seminary. We are always grateful to benefactors, especially to those of you who have faithfully helped us now for years on end. The other card, inviting you to list names of departed souls, will, if you return it, be placed once a month on the Seminary altar for a Requiem Mass offered for all such souls. These cards have genuinely accumulated also for years on end. Only with the millennium will they be replaced!
Finally a few dates for next summer. June 26, priestly ordinations. July 1-4, women's retreat. July 5-10, men's doctrinal session on the family. July 12-17, men's retreat. July 19-30, priests', seminarians' and lay-teachers' literature session (Dr. David White).
With all good wishes arid blessings, in Christ,
+ Richard Williamson