In December of 1998, I had the privilege of attending the first papal Mass celebrated in Cuba since the Revolution. Present with the pope that day were eighty thousand Cubans, the largest group of Catholics to gather in Cuba for four decades. I was particularly impressed by the explosion of applause from the audience when the pope spoke firmly to the question of education, telling them that parents should be able to choose for their children how they should be educated.
It is a sad reality that a valid comparison can be made between the United States and Cuba in the area of education. But year after year, countless American–and Cuban–families experience the largesse of a government-imposed monopoly that dictates where and how their children are educated. This monopoly usurps the fundamental responsibility of parents for their children's educational needs. The words of Pope John Paul II make the case for what most Americans, believer and unbeliever alike, already know intuitively: It is the responsibility of parents to decide how their children are to be educated and to what end.
Our Institute's namesake, Lord Acton, once said, “Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.” This deceptively simple statement is particularly relevant to issues of education. Educational choice promotes responsible liberty among families, enabling them to exercise their right to be their children's first educators. After all, the family, John Paul says, is “the first … and fundamental school.”
Over the past ten years the Acton Institute has advocated a free and virtuous society, where religious values guide people in their decisions to do what they know is right for themselves, their families, and their businesses. I look forward to your continued support as we bring this vital message to the religious leaders of tomorrow.
Fr. Robert A. Sirico