Tag Archives: demographics

Low times for Catholic Highs

North Catholic students in 1954 during the school’s heyday


The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced the other day that two of its long time iconic high schools, North Catholic and Cardinal Dougherty, would be closing at the end of the current school year.

Reaction from students and their families at the two schools, each of which had once held the distinction of being the largest Catholic high school for boys by attendance in the world, as well as from alumni of the two schools, came swift and strong.

Many of the students had dreamed of graduating from North and Dougherty, some of these students as ‘legacies’ who were the sons and grandsons of alumni. The loss of the schools would break family traditions stretching back for generations.

There would also be day-to-day changes for the students, such as travel arrangements to new schools and trying to fit in socially at an entirely new environment.

For alumni, the issues included the loss of tradition and a perceived elimination of a large slice of their own teenage memories. These former students and graduates had walked the ‘hallowed halls’ at North and Dougherty. They had competed for the sports teams, participated in the clubs, attended the religious services, and got their groove on at the dances and proms.

When North Catholic opened in 1926 it enrolled approximately 450 students. By the post-World War II years the school enrollment had swelled to more than 4,000 young men. By 1953, that enrollment had grown over 4,700 students, and North Catholic was recognized as the largest Catholic high school for boys in the entire world. It was a slow downhill from there as far as attendance figures.

By the late-1970’s, with North Catholic celebrating its 50th anniversary, total attendance had fallen to about 2,700 students. The total dropped below the 2,000 mark by the early 1980’s.

Though there are now approximately 40,000 alumni of North Catholic high school, the actual 2008 attendance had plummeted to just 750 total students.

The story is similar at Cardinal Dougherty, which opened in 1956. By the 1960’s, Dougherty enrollment had swelled past the 6,000 mark as the school took over the title of largest Catholic boys school in the world. But attendance plunged in the same way it would over at North. By 2008, there were just 784 total students at Dougherty.

When you consider these figures, it is really not that hard to figure out why buildings and facilities originally created to hold between 4,000-6,000 students and now held a little more than 700 each could not continue.

But many students and alumni are placing the blame elsewhere. The rise in tuition costs. The cost of legal defense for Catholic priests accused and convicted in the sex abuse scandals.

Sadly, these Catholics are completely missing the real reasons why enrollment has plunged to the point that schools need to be closed.

For the America of the ‘Baby Boomer’ years during the two decades immediately following World War II, the Catholic Church was a major institution and a concrete part of family life. Families were still together, and many of those were large and thriving.

Divorce was almost unheard of at that time, and a typical Catholic family would have four or five children or more. These kids grew up to attend the neighborhood Catholic elementary and high schools as a matter of course.

Tuition in the 1960’s was approximately $200-250 per student at most Catholic high schools in Philadelphia. Today those figures have risen into the thousands, in some cases to more than $10,000 per year.

Of course, people who earned a salary of $5,000 per year back in the 1960’s are now making $50,000 in those same jobs today. Few people ever consider this fact when harping on tuition rises. The fact of the matter is that costs have soared for most of the same inflationary reasons that salaries have soared over the past five decades.

Catholic schools have an additional burden in that they continue to provide the best educational opportunities and resources. That includes the quality of teachers, facilities, programs, and the overall learning environment.

The cost of providing that quality is, however, now spread out over hundreds of students rather than the thousands of students attending the schools in earlier generations.

There is one major reason for all of the problems that leading to not only the anticipated closings of North Catholic and Cardinal Dougherty high schools here in Philadelphia, but also to closings and mergers of other Catholic elementary and high schools in recent years.

This one major reason also applies to the merger of my own alma mater, St. John Neumann boys high school in South Philly, with St. Maria Goretti girls high school back in 2004.

That one major reason is that Catholic families simply have fallen down on the job.

Catholic families began to have fewer and fewer children, to the point now where most Catholic families have approximately two children rather than the half dozen or more kids that was common a half century ago.

Reproductive demographics is only a part of the problem,  just a symptom of the bigger problem that I personally believe is spiritual in nature. Catholic families have not drifted away from the Church over the decades, they have sprinted away.

According to the results of a Gallup Poll released in April of 2009, attendance at Catholic churches has leveled off at approximately 45% after falling slightly below that figure in the immediate aftermath of the priest abuse scandals. In 1955 that figure had been a full 75% attendance for weekly Mass services.

The fact was, if you were a Catholic in our grandparents day, you went to Mass on Sunday – it was obligatory. The sad fact today seems to be that people take Mass attendance far too casually.

Also, where in those previous decades the idea of divorce was almost unheard of, today approximately 21% of Catholic Americans have been through a divorce according to religioustolerance.org figures.

The combination of the deterioration of Catholic family size, structure, and practice is at its core a spiritual problem.

Many Catholics have become more self-centered, more materialistic, more cynical and more willing to surrender to or flee from the problems posed by evil in the world rather than standing by their faith and fighting back. They have fled to other Christian denominations, or to no religious practice whatsoever, and have taken their smaller families along with them.

It is easy for people who want to assign blame, whether it be in the current struggles of the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia or in any other area of life, to point at others. There may even be some validity to such accusations. But those same people need to sincerely look themselves in the mirror and ask some hard questions of the person looking back at them.

Do you go to Mass every week, or at least most weeks? Do you make it a priority for you and your family? Do you receive the Sacraments, especially Communion, but also including Confession/Penance?

Are you committed to your family, and especially if a young Catholic, are you committed to growing that family in number and raising your children as strong Catholics?

Did you, do you, or will you send your children to Catholic schools? Do you find a way to support the Church outwardly and proudly despite the shortcomings of some of its leadership?

If you can look yourself in the mirror and answer all of these questions positively, then congratulations, you are not really a part of the problem. But unfortunately you are also not in the majority of American Catholic families over the past few decades.

The answer to the problems which are now requiring the closings of North Catholic and Cardinal Dougherty, that required the merger of Neumann and Goretti, and that have required the closings and mergers of other Catholic elementary and high schools can be found within ourselves, not in protest or in demonstrations.

We the people who make up the body of the Church need to return to our basic fundamentals of faith, prayer, and support for the Catholic Church. If we are not willing to do that, then more and more Catholic schools will meet the same fate in future years.

The official school motto at North Catholic is “Tenui Nec Dimittam” which translates to “What I have, I will not lose” which should be taken on as the new motto of all Catholics in Philadelphia and all across the United States of America.

We’re not supposed to mention race…but I’m gonna

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Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama at Democratic primary debates in Philadelphia during October 2007


When evaluating someone as a person, or professionally, or for a position, their race should not matter, right?

Almost everyone would agree with this statement. Not all people, but most everyone, no matter their background. Certainly this would be most folk’s public posture. Race should not matter. But does it?

I put it to you that it most certainly does, and for proof we need look no further than yesterday’s Democratic Party primary on the Democrats side.

In that primary there were two candidates. Two “people” were battling for the votes of the Democrats in the Keystone State. One “person” was named Hillary Clinton; the other was named Barack Obama.

That’s who was running…two “people.”

So why then did exit polling show that 92% of black voters cast their ballots for the candidate named Obama? What did this “candidate” have that the other did not to gain that large a backing from any single constituency?

Did this candidate support a position that they so agreed with, more than the other candidate, that such on overwhelming degree of support resulted?

Was this candidate just so much better that anyone with half a brain could see it, and thus predict a landslide of such epic proportions across not only the black community, but across the general electorate?

Why, if indeed this candidate were so obviously superior, everyone should see it clearly, and then of course this candidate won the primary by a landslide, right?


This “candidate” named Obama did not win the primary battle in Pennsylvania. In fact he lost by ten full percentage points, a margin of over 200,000 votes across the Commonwealth.

How can that be? How can someone receive more than 9 out of 10 votes from a large constituency, and yet still lose the election?

Was the fix in? Did “the Man” rig the vote? What magic, what deception, what larceny could possibly have caused this travesty?

No travesty. No deception. No larceny. No magic. This race was decided on one overriding factor: race itself.

In my local newspaper of record, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the paper displayed a graphic on page A9 that, if you know anything at all about Philly demographics, tells the entire story. It breaks down the vote for either Clinton or Obama by voting Wards. Clinton support is shown in blue, Obama support in tan coloring.

Clinton won, and by huge margins, in the largely white sections of South Philly, Fishtown, Port Richmond and throughout the Far Northeast.

Obama won West Philly, Center City, and North Philly up into Germantown. If you are from Philly, you tell me what that tells you about the support that they each received. Honestly.

When 92% of any single constituency votes for any one candidate in an election that is seen by most observers as evenly matched, there is some overriding consideration being given by those voters.

When large sections of a city are so clearly divided among two candidates, and those sections of town have an overriding characteristic that defines them, you probably gain a clear insight into the voter’s minds. Again, if you are being honest.

The Inquirer, however, runs from that honest evaluation. They never, not once, show or describe the results by racial breakdown. They touch on it a couple of times.

On page one, buried six paragraphs deep, they speak of “Clinton’s big margin among white working-class voters”. On page A8 they mention that Clinton scored her victory winning “white men” among others, and Obama winning “blacks” among others.

The paper covers how younger voters, older voters, women, men, churchgoers voted. But they didn’t tell us or discuss the numbers racially.

Why not? Because they didn’t have those numbers?

Certainly not. You know they had those numbers.

The Philadelphia Inquirer and other local media outlets didn’t emphasize the voting along racial lines because it doesn’t fit into their social agenda. It doesn’t fit into what they, as elite thinkers, feel should be important to the rest of us.

However, it is those ‘rest of us’ who speak, in this case with ballots. And as happens time and again here in Philadelphia, and time and again across the country, an honest evaluation points out the obvious, no matter how much the media wants to bury it – race matters.

Our immediate-past Mayor, John Street, a black male, was once famously quoted being rarely and frankly honest about race:

“The brothers and sisters are running this city. Running it! Don’t you let nobody fool you, we are in charge of the City of Brotherly Love. We are in charge!” 

Did Senator Obama’s strategists see Philadelphia, and the election, in racial terms? Did they feel that they could count on those brothers and sisters coming out in droves for their candidate, simply because he is black?

The Inquirer reported that Obamabet heavily on winning big in Philadelphia” and elsewhereObama was counting on Philadelphia…

Why would this be so? What would make Obama and his insiders think they would win Philadelphia? Not only win it, but win it big?

After all, the only white Mayor in the city over the past 2+ decades, and the current Governor, the influential Ed Rendell, was supporting Hillary. Rendell is supposed to be a favorite son in Philly, and remains an influential power-broker here.

Not only that, but the current newly-elected Mayor, Michael Nutter, a black male, was firmly and publicly in Clinton’s corner? What could possibly make Obama think he could win here at all, let alone ‘big’?

One word: race.

Last week at my workplace, a black co-worker overheard Obama speaking on television, and commented in my presence that Obama inspired this person, and that this person couldn’t wait to vote for him.

I asked what positions of Obama’s had inspired this level of support. What beliefs did he have, what specific programs was he putting forth, what ideas was he espousing that had inspired so much support and enthusiasm.

The co-worker responded only with the statement “You know, just once before I die. Just once…” before trailing off in thought.

I replied with “Just once, what?” The person replied “Just once. That’s all I’m sayin.” Nothing more.

Left as the implication was that just once this person would like to see someone of their race elected to the presidency, and that was why Obama was receiving their vote.

No other reason. No policy. No idea. No program. Only one thing mattered: race.

I put to you that this person was a microcosm of black voter thought throughout the city and across the Commonwealth. Otherwise, what else would cause 92% of blacks to vote for a candidate who otherwise received the support of less than half the party, and indeed lost, state-wide?

Now, I may surprise you with my next statement: I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing, or an illegitimate reason to support a candidate. I fully understand and sympathize with the idea that one would love to see someone of a similar background to theirs win election to our nation’s highest office.

Do you really think that my Irish-Catholic ancestors a generation ago weren’t ecstatic when JFK was elected, in large part relating to his Irish-American heritage and his Catholicism? They absolutely were, and they should have been.

But let’s not pretend that race is not only one factor, but the single, overriding, decisive factor, at least in the minds of the vast majority of the black community.

I also may surprise you with another statement, especially those who feel that the mere mention of race makes one a racist, a bigot, a Neanderthal, whatever: I would absolutely vote for a black candidate for the office of President of the United States, or any other office for that matter.

Of course for me, I wouldn’t be doing it because they were black, just as I won’t vote for a white man, an Asian woman, or anyone else because of their race or sex. I would vote for someone because they actually support many of the same ideals that I support.

This is where I believe the black community is making a mistake.

I could be wrong, but I believe that the vast majority of the black community does not want further taxes taken from their paychecks. I believe they do care if Islamofascist terrorists blow up the arena in which their favorite basketball team plays. I do believe that they care whether those same terrorists take over the school that their children attend. I believe that they do not want to go to work for forty or more hours each week, only to have their money taken and given to someone else who could work but won’t.

I believe that most black Americans are proud to call themselves Americans, are proud to serve their country. They understand that America is the greatest land in the history of mankind for equality and opportunity.

I believe that most Americans regardless of race are God-fearing folks who don’t want to hear rhetoric and excuses and whining. They want to be told the truth, and they want serious people in office representing them in all important matters.

In other words, I believe that at heart, most black Americans would be far better off served as to what they truly believe are their core values by the Republican Party.

If they can begin to see through the rhetoric spewed by many of the race-baiting leaders in their community, men like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and begin to evaluate what the candidates stand for rather then what the color of their skin is, those black voters would find attractive candidates of every race.

Race matters, make no mistake, and it will play a huge part in the upcoming Presidential election if the Democratic candidate turns out to be Senator Obama.

I wish it weren’t so, I wish it didn’t matter; I wish everything could simply be decided on ideas alone, but that is simply ignoring reality.

If the Inquirer or anyone else wants to prove me wrong, produce the numbers to back up your claims. But my bet is that the topic continues to be ignored, or minimized, by the increasingly irrelevant established media.

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy doomsdays of summer

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Well, it’s now August the 23rd, and we are all still alive, thank God. For those of you who may have missed out, and thus not been aware of your impending demise, yesterday was thought by some to be a possible “Doomsday” date.

You remember Doomsday, right? End of the world. Armageddon. End times and all that. Ring a bell?

Anyway, yesterday was believed to be a possible Doomsday after noted Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis opined as much in a piece published earlier this year by the Wall Street Journal.

Lewis is no quack, mind you. He is the professor emeritus of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University. His was not actually a prediction, but a warning of a possible date where some action could be taken by radical Muslims.

Lewis’ theory went something like this: August 22nd of 2006 corresponded with the Islamic calendar night when Mohammed (is it Mo? Mu? I never remember) flew first to Jerusalem, then to Heaven, and then back again. There were no planes back then, to fly into buildings or otherwise. So whether this flight took place freestyle, ala Superman, or on a magic carpet is unknown.

In any event, he was warning us that the linkage of this special day in Islam, along with it’s Israeli connection, might be just the type of day that the radical Islamofascists against whom we have been at war might like to use to pull off a new large-scale attack.

Many recent world events began to give credence to this possibility. First, the general instability in the Middle East region caused largely by Iran and it’s lunatic president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who stated that the world would receive his country’s response to western demands regarding Iran’s nuclear program by that date.

Besides both the ongoing personal public speech lunacy and the specific date being mentioned by “President Tom”, as popular TV and radio talk show host Glenn Beck has taken to calling Ahmadinejad for easier pronunciation sake, there was the subsequent response by Israel to repeated attacks against it.

The Israelis had two soldiers kidnapped, and have been taking constant, dangerous shelling and gunfire from the terrorist organization Hezbollah from their strongholds in southern Lebanon. Israel finally, understandably, had enough, and invaded Lebanon to take out Hezbollah when the Lebanese government failed to stand up itself.

With Israel invading Lebanon, and the United States standing up in Iraq and Afghanistan, there has been much speculation that President Tom is preparing to force a showdown with western civilization. Iran may be preparing to form an alliance of radical Muslim forces in the region into one Islamic superstate, and this is far from far-fetched.

It has been speculated that Iran may invade northern Iraq on the precepts of eliminating Kurdish aggression there, and may possibly do so with the help of Syria. With Hezbollah all but in formal control in Lebanon, and with Hezbollah actually a wing of the Iranian forces, we may indeed be seeing the beginnings of a pre-World War II like atmosphere in the Middle East.

Anyway, back to Doomsday.

The “response” that President Tom may have been speaking of could very well have been the recently thwarted airliner bombings in London. This was a well-planned attack that would have resulted in thousands dead, and with incredible disruptions to international travel and commerce. The effort ended with the arrests that reportedly came right before a “practice run” for the real job, just two weeks before August 22nd.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to add things up: radical Muslim Iranian whack-job president threatens response, upcoming date of significance in Islamic calendar, massive terror plot thwarted just before this date. Its simple connect-the-dots type stuff, folks.

Anyone who still thinks, as the radical front-group spokespeople at CAIR would have you believe, that there are no connections, and that this isn’t about an organized Islamic radical fundamentalism trying to topple the west and take charge in the world, is simply blind.

President Bush, despite recent and ongoing attacks on his intelligence by reliable (sic) sources like Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show”, has been way ahead of the curve on these scenarios from the beginning. While liberal-leaning talk, news, and comedy shows bash the President at home over his frequent butchering of the English language, the substance of the man behind his words may be our best defense in these difficult times.

Since the wake up call of 9/11, the President foresaw the dangers of radical Islam building in the region. A danger building at least since the Carter administration was at the point that it could no longer be ignored.

Planting the seeds of democracy in the region beyond Israel may remain a pipe dream, but the direct attacks on our shores combined with the “death to America and Israel” rhetoric have given us an opening to make the attempt.

There have been many setbacks in Afghanistan and Iraq, but many triumphs as well. The road from fascism, dictatorship, hate, and evil to a free, peace-loving democracy is a long one, and it is especially long when you have to overcome religious intolerance and regional instability. But what has been accomplished in these two countries to this point in just a few years is astonishing, and we must not turn our backs on the job now.

The troubles in the Middle East are far from the only major problems plaguing the United States these days. There is also the ongoing problem of massive illegal immigration, and our continuing sieve-like border security problem. America is in desperate need of physically securing our borders, getting control of immigration, and taking actions to secure our homeland, as well as the American culture.

There has been much speculation that the American people just don’t have the stomach for war, that we are nothing like our parents and grandparents of “The Greatest Generation”, who fought and won their own battles with world-domination regimes in the fascism of the Nazis and the communism of the Soviet empire.

If that is true, then what we are seeing this lazy, hazy, crazy summer in the Middle East and along our southern border is the beginning of the end for our civilization as we know it.

If we don’t recognize the danger to peace and democracy coming from the Middle East, as well as get control of our own border and national identity situations, then the America of our children and grandchildren will be strangled thanks to our inaction.

The United States of America as we know it today may never be obliterated in one puff of smoke, in one Doomsday. But the cultural, religious, legal, moral and physical attacks on our way of life are already taking a toll, and the time may come when we wished our demise came so quickly and suddenly.