Thursday, March 27, 2008

St. Gabriel's Academy in PA: At Least Five Red Flags

Keeping It Catholic recently received an inquiry about St. Gabriel's Academy, an online Catholic curriculum provider with a mailing address in the state of PA. The email received stated:

I was recently made aware of the St. Gabriel Catholic Academy and wondered if anyone at "Keeping it Catholic" had any info on it. They claim to be an online catholic homeschooling curriculum, but I have serious doubts about their "Catholic" faith. Coming from an evangelical background, I can easily recognize similar language on this website. It would be interesting to know who is behind this curriculum and what their motivation is.

Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated. I fear that some Catholic homeschooling parents may not search this out thoroughly and purchase this curriculum not knowing that it could be dangerous to their faith.

Thank you and God bless,

(Name withheld by KIC)

Keeping It Catholic's Response:

Dear XXXX:

Thank you so much for contacting me. Keeping It Catholic was not aware of St. Gabriel Catholic Academy. That fact alone is surprising, since their website states "Copyright 1999-2008" (which implies that the service was founded in 1999), but KIC is familiar with "services" and "home study programs" which are (or claim to be) Catholic. You have now brought a questionable one to our attention, for which I must thank you.

After looking at the website, it would seem there exists a number of "Red Flags," of which I will mention only five:

First, the service claims it is Catholic yet only reiterates that it is biblically-based. What is conspicious by its absence is any mention of Tradition. (There is, however, one web page in which excerpts from various papal encyclicals are displayed. This page might mislead a parent to think that since magisterial documents are referenced, Tradition will also hold its rightful place within the courses of study. That assumption is apparently negated by the website's repeated stance that the program is biblically based.)

Second, it appears that some license was taken with the Apostle's Creed, with the result that parts of their "statement of faith" conflicts with the true Apostle's Creed (not to mention the Nicene Creed). If this academy is Catholic, why not use the Apostle's Creed as the Church has given it to us?

Third, there are no names provided - not even for the director, much less any board, trustees, teachers or counselors. Such an omission strongly suggests that the individuals behind St. Gabriel's Catholic Academy are carefully concealing their real identities - but for what reason? One should not be ashamed to use one's good name for the cause of Christ.

Fourth, this academy is located in Pennsylvania, which (based on the state's laws) is one of the more challenging in which to homeschool. My personal inquiry made to the statewide Catholic Homeschoolers of PA network - which was founded years before the academy - revealed that St. Gabriel's Academy is not at all known to them.

Fifth, the academy's accreditation status appears to be questionable, since no real authority (church or state) holds responsibility for it. In fact, their FAQ page features the question, "Is the St. Gabriel Catholic Academy a licensed or accredited school?" The answer-that-is-not-a-clear-answer claims that St. Gabriel Catholic Academy is "accredited" by NAPCIS (National Association of Private Catholic Indepent Schools) - an entity which, contrary to popular belief, holds absolutely no authority within either the Church or the state to "accredit" any school of any kind. (FYI: The issue of "accreditation" and accrediting agencies has been covered on the Keeping It Catholic email list.)

Interestingly, St. Gabriel Catholic Academy doesn't answer the question about any "license."
Instead, their response continues: "Catholic homeschool parents who enroll in St. Gabriel Academy are encouraged to look into their local homeschooling laws for oversight." [Emphasis added]

Translation for those who have not yet learned how to read-between-the-lines: "Our NAPCIS accreditation only means that a self-appointed entity, with no real authority within the Church or the state, has approved our curriculum to be in line with its self-appointed standards. Our NAPCIS accreditation means that and only that."

With those five points alone, I would have to agree with your assessment that extreme caution must be employed when considering this allegedly Catholic academy.

Again, thank you so much for bringing St. Gabriel Catholic Academy to our attention.

In the love of Christ and His Virgin Mother,
Marianna Bartold
We're "Keeping It Catholic" on the Net at

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