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Principal at paddling school vows to remain in job

c. 2011 Religion News Service

NEW ORLEANS (RNS) The embattled president of the nation’s last Catholic school to employ corporal punishment said he plans to remain on the job in spite of a weekend order that abruptly recalled him to Baltimore.

The Rev. John Raphael unexpectedly appeared at a Wednesday (June 8) rally at St. Augustine High School, electrifying hundreds of parents and alumni who support the school’s use of paddling as effective discipline.

Earlier this year, Archbishop Gregory Aymond ordered school officials to suspend the use of corporal punishment for at least a year, saying the practice violates the school’s Catholic identity.

But for St. Augustine supporters, the dispute with the archdiocese and the Josephite order that runs the school is no longer about paddling, but rather about autonomy and respect for the community’s desire to rear children by its norms.


“Nobody’s going to tell us how to raise our kids,” said Civil District Court Judge Kern Reese, a St. Augustine alumnus and a speaker at the rally.

After he was abruptly dismissed from St. Augustine by the Josephites’ superior general, Raphael hadn’t spoken publicly. On Wednesday, he launched into a spirited defense of school policy.

The school’s mission has long been to steer its African-American students toward productive careers and out of trouble, Raphael told the crowd in the school yard.

“But when the truth gets you into trouble, then that’s the right kind of trouble to get into,” he said. “We are standing up for who we are.”

Troy Henry, the chairman of the school’s local board of directors, said the board has the sole power to hire or fire the school president, and considers Raphael to be working under a valid contract.


In a gentle dig at the archbishop, Raphael noted that Aymond had thanked him for his service after his dismissal. So if the archbishop truly values him, Raphael said, “then he’ll be glad to have me back.”

A fellow Josephite priest, the Rev. Joe Campion, a former St. Augustine chaplain, was fiercely critical of the “ecclesiastical malice” and “abuse of power” within the Josephite leadership that removed Raphael from office.

A generation ago, St. Augustine faculty had to teach its youth to stand against injustice, Campion said, and “the antagonists at that time were both inside and outside the church.”

“In 2011, the antagonists are inside the church,” Campion said.

(Bruce Nolan writes for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.)

  • Robert Fathman

    Let’s focus on what started this: the principal wants to beat school kids with boards. And now he is violating any vow of obedience he might have. No other Catholic school in the nation hits kids any longer, and in fact the U.S. is the only developed nation in the world that has not yet banned this model of violence in its schools. Fr. Raphael is an outlier, a rogue, splitting his community and suing his Church authorities, defying the head of his order, all because he wants to keep on hitting kids with boards. Can he picture Jesus doing that? It is sad that he is ending his career with acts of ridiculous rebellion that are sure to fail, and in the process probably dooming his school to diminished enrollment. It is equally sad that those close to him apparently enable his aberrant behavior rather than talk sense to him. Every bit of published research on school corporal punishment condemns the practice, and over 40 mainline organizations — medical, educational, child abuse and legal — call for it to end. So does a coalition of prominent African – American leaders [see It is tie for Fr. R to relax and relent, pass the baton to new leadership.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Aug alum

    Mr. Robert you should research this story and more importantly this school before you make comments. This school is also the only 100% African-American all male catholic high school in the country. The graduation rate is close to 100% and it’s graduates go on to graduate from college at a rate of at least 5 times higher than African-Americans across the country. 10 years ago we had more NFL players than any school in the country and has had at least one in the nfl ever since. This year alone 10 football players received college scholarships. With an average of about 4-5 each year. We have had more African-American merit scholars than any one and in a city where African American males mostly make headlines for crime, this school’s graduates has produces mayors, judges, lawyers and leaders. One of the biggest reason for these accomplishments is discipline. That discipline was engrained in us through the paddle. New Orleans has many good catholic schools that don’t paddle but parents CHOOSE to PAY to send their kids to St. Augustine to get paddled. Why? Because it works!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Allan

    So this nitwit arcgbishop says that paddling children is contrary to Catholic doctrine. I think that would be a surprise to the graduates of many Catholic schools. Why were the ICB’s, the Irish Christian Brothers were commonly called the International Child Beaters?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment pagansister

    Guess the man feels that “might makes right?. WRONG! Beating a kid only shows that the adult is bigger than they are—also teaches them that if you can’t get what you want—use force.

    Aug Alum: Child abuse means your grads go to college and become football players etc. Not impressed.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment jestrfyl

    I expect there is a high correlation between students who are paddled and studetns who bully. Violence begets violence. In later years these same paddled elementary and middle school students are likely to become college students who plan and carryout hazing in various collegiate settings or in the military or civil service organizations (police firefighters, etc…).

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