The Closing of City’s Catholic Schools: A Long Way From Resurrection

Pardon me if I write with an uncommon rage, but today as the Cardinal announces the closing of every archdiocesan high school in Detroit the heavens are crying out for justice.

Today the Church has spoken clearly and unequivocally. Kids of color and kids without money now know where they stand in the eyes of a Church that has spent millions restoring its showcase cathedral, defeating Proposal 2, and maintaining a suburban golf course.

Today our students know that as far as the Church sees it, “We ain’t crap.”

Today my heart is breaking for kids who literally have nowhere to go after June.

Detroit Public Schools is closing 35 schools, including Chadsey here in the neighborhood, and the next closest school has a long waiting list. Our students are justifiably wary of charter schools, and most of our students cannot afford the tuition at distant suburban Catholic schools.

Some of them today said that they’ll simply drop out.

Today the Church turned its back on a school that accepts students that have failed elsewhere.

Today I think of B. who came to us as a sophomore with a sub-zero grade point average and then went on to attend UM on a full scholarship after graduating as valedictorian.

And I think of the kids we held as we buried their brothers lost to the streets and kids we hugged as they received diplomas against all odds.

Today I think of the 90 percent college placement rate at our school, the state-of-the-art engineering lab set up by Sr. Liz, and the art that sprang to life from students who believed they have no talent.

I think of the box of letters I keep from unlikely kids in their twenties thanking us for making a difference.

Today a thousand hearts in the city of Detroit are shattered.

Today I am struggling – and beg your prayers – to find a way to deal with a white-hot rage that burns to the bone. 

In today’s paper, the Cardinal was reported as saying, “This is a sad day, but we believe in the resurrection.”

The resurrection??

No one except these kids has the right to speak of resurrection. Resurrection?  This is akin to an abusive husband telling his partner, “I know it hurts, but keep your eyes on the resurrection.”

To wrap a calculated business decision in theological garb is the lowest blow of all.

All day long I reflected on the fact that yesterday’s scripture reading in the little black book that many of us are using for Lenten prayer was the crucifixion itself. Then they crucified him. Did the Cardinal see the irony here?  

No, we’re a long way from resurrection right now.

Today I put aside any pretense of piety and told my students that this is what sin looks like and that they are worth fighting for even if the battle is already lost.

Today I told them that the man in charge of our local Church lives in a mansion and doesn’t have the courage to look them in the eye before axing their futures.

Today I told them that the Jesus who overturned tables in the temple is walking with us.

Today I realized how much I love them.

Although the decision to destroy Catholic education in Detroit is a done deal, I am begging you, friends and holy rabble-rousers, to raise your prayers and voices against this injustice.

If nothing else, the students who are being affected need to know that there are people who are willing to stand in solidarity with them.

Please keep all of the young people of Detroit in your prayers and on your agenda.