On December 31, 1929, Pope Pius XI issued an encyclical letter on the topic "Christian Education of Youth." According to the Pope, the letter was to be "the record of Our Sacerdotal Jubilee [a year of priestly special indulgence] which, with altogether special affection, We wish to dedicate to our beloved youth, and to commend to all those whose office and duty is the work of education" (37). Although the church had long pursued a role in the education of youth, at the time of this encyclical--a decade following World War I ("the war to end all wars")--and "Western civilization seemed to all but a few prophets to be generally on the right track, needing only a little adjusting here and there" (Ryan, 1972, 2), the church saw a rising tide of change beginning to overtake religious education. As Pius XI wrote:
never have exponents of new pedagogical theories been so numerous, or so many methods and means devised, proposed and debated, not merely to facilitate education, but to create a new system infallibly efficacious, and capable of preparing the present generations for that earthly happiness which they so ardently desire (37).
Obviously, the church believed (as it continues to believe today) that its role as Supreme Educator is divinely ordained, and "Hence, it is evident that both by right and in fact the mission to educate belongs preeminently to the Church, and that no one free from prejudice can have a reasonable motive for opposing or impeding the Church in this her work . . ." (Pius XI, 1929, 44). In Pius XI's view, "the rights of the family, and of the State . . . not only are not opposed to this preeminence of the Church, but are in complete harmony with it" (45).
The encyclical is devoted to establishing a paradigm for Catholic Christians setting forth the need for parents to be responsible to God by placing their children in the church's schools, colleges, and seminaries, in order that they might be prope...