Faribault Plan

views updated


A compromise school agreement between the local clergy and the public school board in Faribault and Stillwater, Minn., involving the use of tax funds for church-related schools, long a crucial issue in American society. In 1890, to ease the financial burden of Catholics and with the approval of John ireland, Archbishop of St. Paul, the pastors of parishes in Faribault and Stillwater leased Catholic schools staffed by sisters to public authorities on an annual basis with renewal optional on the agreement of both parties. Each day the pupils assembled in the parish church for Mass and then proceeded to school to receive secular instruction. Religious instruction was given either before or after the legal public school day. The board of education controlled the secular schooling with the sole proviso that no text be used to which the local ordinary objected (Civiltá Cattolica, 1892).

While the Faribault Plan was not the first such experiment in the U.S. (see poughkeepsie plan), it stirred up considerable controversy and opposition from both Catholic and Protestant elements and attracted great attention throughout the nation for two reasons: (1) the Faribault and Stillwater communities were within the jurisdiction of the outspoken Archbishop Ireland, sponsor of the project; and (2) it inspired a pamphlet published in 1891 by Rev. Thomas Bouquillon, which aroused strong feelings in the Catholic communities because of its apparent departure from traditional Catholic philosophy (see bouquillon controversy).

Shortly before the publication of the Bouquillon pamphlet, Ireland had addressed a meeting of the National Education Association (NEA) at St. Paul in the summer of 1890. In his speech, while conceding to the state a right and duty to instruct, Ireland had argued that the exclusion of religion from the classroom would be destructive of religion itself and inimical to the interests of the nation. He then suggested a compromise plan similar to those in effect in England and Prussia or, if this proved to be impossible, an arrangement such as that of Poughkeepsie (NEA Report, 1890). It was the latter suggestion that received the greatest attention and resulted in the experiment being made in Faribault and Stillwater.

The publicity given to the Faribault Plan, however, raised the debate to new vehemence, and the matter was carried to Rome. On April 21, 1892, the Congregation for the Propragation of the Faith issued a decision expressed in words so susceptible to varying interpretations that it provided no solution (American Ecclesiastical Review, Suppl. 1892).

Two years later, the division of opinion among Catholics and the strong feelings aroused by the Bouquillon proposition prompted both Catholic and state authorities to terminate the Faribault experiment. Its discontinuance and, later, that of the Poughkeepsie Plan marked the cessation of efforts on the part of Catholic leadership to find a compromise solution to the church-related school financing problem.

While it would be interesting to speculate on what effect an adoption of the compromise at Faribault might have had on the history of American education and of the Church in America, the fact remains that Catholics became committed to the establishment and maintenance of a Catholic school system. Neverthless, although many elements characterizing the American scene at the time of Faribault and Poughkeepsie no longer endure, the controversy surrounding those plans are of import as Catholics debate the adoption of shared-time plans and augmented released-time programs.

Bibliography: j. a. burns, The Growth and Development of the Catholic School System in the United States (New York 1912). t. j. bouquillon, Education: To Whom Does It Belong? (Baltimore 1892). j. h. moynihan, The Life of Archhishop John Ireland (New York 1953).

[o. c. d'amour]