Inside The Heights, exclusive school for conservative DC Catholics

The New York Times takes a look at the school where Rick Santorum sent two of his sons:

Are your jackets on, boys?” Joe Cardenas inspects his charges in a first-period freshman humanities class, sees that they are all appropriately blazered and standing tall, bows his head and begins the morning Hail Mary: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee …” Only when they have finished the prayer do they take their jackets off. They sit and open copies of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” the 14th-century English romance.

Mr. Cardenas teaches at The Heights School, a suburban Washington boys’ school affiliated with Opus Dei, the Catholic organization of which he is a member. By the standards of more famous Washington private schools, like Sidwell Friends or Georgetown Preparatory, The Heights is poor, little known and young — it was founded in 1969. But since then it has become the popular school for a small clique of Washingtonians: conservative Catholics.

Although he has made being a home-schooling dad part of his identity, the Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has sent two sons to The Heights. The school, for boys in grades 3-12, has also educated the sons of the Republican senators Mel Martinez and Chuck Hagel; the former F.B.I. director Louis J. Freeh; Maggie Gallagher, founder of the National Organization for Marriage; and Kate O’Beirne, an editor at National Review.

Conservative Catholics are drawn to The Heights for its single-sex community, in which the faculty is male, and for its fidelity to Catholic teaching. More than that, parents say, they are glad to have found a community of like-minded families. Here they find a respect for church teachings that is absent even from most parish churches, where many communicants openly disagree with the pope on contraception, abortion and other topics.

“I’ve got just one job as a dad,” says Pat Kilner, a general contractor whose four sons (he also has five daughters) have attended The Heights. “And that’s to get these kids, who are gifts to me, to heaven, so they can be in the eternal presence of the Lord. And none of my kids has left the church.”

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