Skip to comments.Religious Education in America - Crisis in Catholic Doctrine
Posted on 11/25/2006 2:36:48 PM PST by NYer
"What is urgent is the evangelization of a world that not only does not know the basic aspects of Christian dogma, but has in great part lost even the memory of the cultural elements of Christianity."
Pope John Paul II January 26, 2004
Your child is in the 10th grade, the 10th year of Religious Education --- and does not know Who God is, what the Church is, and why either should have any impact or influence on their lives. Except for their Baptism in Christ and their First (and probably last) Holy Communion --- the significance of which they know nothing --- they are effectively pagans. This sounds harsh. It is meant to be. We need to be shaken out of our indifference and awoken from our illusions.
Our children --- your children --- do not know their Catholic Faith. In fact, most of them do not even know God.
And they are in the 10th grade of Religious Education. Think on that for a moment.
They have already had nine years --- 9 years --- of something dubiously dubbed, "Religious Education".
In less than a year they will make their Confirmation, which is to say, they will publicly "confirm" their belief in a God they do not know and ritually assent to the teachings of the Church ... of which they know nothing.
We will congratulate them and shower them with money and gifts, and tell them how proud we are of them. They will wear caps and gowns, as befitting graduates of some form of learning, and be absolutely clueless as they stand before the Bishop who would not dare embarrass himself or them by asking them the most basic question about what --- in this defining moment --- they are assenting to, what they are standing in Confirmation of --- fully aware that, with rare exception, the student will be unable to answer.
This is not the sad state of CCD today --- or as we more disingenuously call it now, "Religious Education". It is the dismal and utterly reprehensible state of Catholic Religious Education north of Boston, and likely elsewhere, for the past 40 years.
"How can this be?", you ask.
It is stunningly simple: students know little or nothing about God and the Church because, by and large, their teachers know little or nothing about God and the Church. Religious Education north of Boston is the only venue of formal education in the world in which the recruitment process for teachers has two criteria only: a warm body and a willingness to teach what one does not know.
There is no formal training for a Catechist. Not in this "faith community" (the awkward New Age neologism for the apparently now defunct, "Church" or "Parish") in this small town just North of Boston --- and very likely not in America at large. The "DRE", as they prefer to be called, or "Directors of Religious Education" do not question the prospective Catechist in any way pertaining to his or her grasp, knowledge, or understanding of the Faith that they will be teaching. If the candidate can read, they are qualified to teach. Period. There are no such things as "competencies", no courses, no required readings, no demonstrable qualifications.
To fully grasp the egregious nature of this absurdity, try to imagine your local school hiring a teacher of Ancient History who never studied it, does not know Homer, Thucydides, or Virgil, nothing of the culture and politics of Classical Greece or Rome --- but who has sufficient visual acuity to read the text of The Iliad or the Aeneid. The only credentials required for the position are a warm body and a willingness to teach something of which the candidate knows little or nothing. This absurd disproportion is not likely to inspire confidence in parents. But it does in DREs ...
The first thing to grasp is that, in many parishes, the DRE is a "Professional Catholic" --- not in the way that, say, a Catholic physician is said to be a "Professional Catholic" --- a practicing Catholic who is in "one of the secular professions". "DRE"s are "professional Catholics" in another way. That is to say, they are paid Catholics who are paid to teach Catholicism through unpaid Catechists. Catholicism is not just presumably their Faith, but their livelihood, their living, their income --- in a word, it is their "job". The DRE typically, if defectively, knows her faith, and is selling it to the highest bidder. The Catechist, hopefully learning as he or she is teaching, at least follows the injunction of Christ Himself: "Freely you have received; freely give." For all their admirable charity, many, regrettably, have little to give because they themselves were not taught by their Catechists who had, in turn, been given little --- or much that was counterfeit --- by their Catechists.
Before the decimation of the teaching Orders of Sisters --- and vocations in general --- following the Second Vatican Council, our children were taught their Catechism by Nuns (Sisters, really) who were unpaid consecrated women who taught with a passionate conviction not only what they knew well, but, by and large, lived well. This had been the case almost universally until the confluence of Vatican II and the anti-culture of the 1960's. It was a climate saturated with permissiveness, and a clamoring not so much for freedom as for license. Any notion of "authority" and anything less hedonistic than what verged on euphoria became synonymous with "repression" --- ecclesiastical, civil, moral, and sexual. As the doors --- behind which incense and silence had stirred for 2000 years --- were flung open, the miasma --- and the animosity --- of the world rushed in. The vocations --- unable to accommodate this inimical influx --- either rushed out or were systematically driven out. Social manifestos replaced religious evangels; the Realpolitik of man became the summum bonum, the greatest good, not the salvation of his immortal soul --- a quaint and at best, anachronistic notion effectively abolished by the now socially enlightened masses.
It was at this point that the great teaching orders of Religious Sisters either evolved into, or were subsequently replaced in toto by the Professional Catholic, the Catholic for whom Catholicism became a profession, not of faith, but of emolument. Much like the Sophists of Classical Greece (the great antagonists of Socrates) who "sold" their wisdom and made a handsome living off it (ever proving themselves clever, but never wise), today we confront the Professional Catholic who sells Catholicism for a living, and with a vested interest in what is sold because it redounds to their wages. That the goods they sell are shoddy and defective is of no concern to them. They have a captive market: every Catholic with children must pay them each and every year for ten years. Not a bad work if you can get it.
It is true that Saint Paul said that "the workman is worth his wages", but it remains equally true that Saint Paul sewed tents for a living ... not Christianity. The DRE, you must understand, does not sew tents.
One DRE north of Boston appears convinced that the way to reach the children is not through tiresome doctrine, text and study (as, for example, Jewish children learn their faith), but through the oxymoron called "Christian Rock and Roll" (the term, "Rock and Roll", we will remember, derives from the bodily movements associated with fornication) to which she herself sprightly dances in her office. She is not alone. The "Ministers of Music" (among the many "Ministers" of this and that which proliferate throughout the "faith community") have even brought in drums complete with trap sets to punctuate the Mysteries of the Mass. It appears to be a mind-set that prevails among those employed by the Church as "Professional Catholics".
And yet the numbers of the young who appear at Mass (especially those unaccompanied by a parent) continue to diminish. Given the failure of "Religious Education" through what can only be loosely construed as formal and textual instruction, is "Rock and Roll" the inducement our children need? Will syncopation suffice where formal instruction does not? Can we "Rock and Roll" our children to God through "Christian Rockers"? After 9 years of "formal" instruction with so dismal a result, perhaps another, some
alternative, non-textual pedagogical avenue is open? Perhaps the new evangelizers are not the Catechists (if ever they were), but the musicians, the "Rock and Roll" Catholics?
Piqued by this, I began to ask around --- first my own children, and then their acquaintances.
"Can you please tell me the name of a Christian "Rock and Roll" group?
"How about a Christian "Rock and Roll" artist?" "Mmmmm ... no. Wait ... Black Sabbath? Madonna?"
"Well, what about the music at Mass?" Their eyes roll and they giggle.
This is cause for uneasiness.
It is also why children can pass through 9 years of Religious "Education", end up in the 10th grade preparing for Confirmation --- and not know God and what He expects of them, or the most basic precepts of the Church to which they will formally ... and obliviously ... bind themselves.
It is also why no one fails "Religious Education". There is no "staying back". The bindings of the Bibles given the students remain unbroken, as well as their Catechisms-of-sorts. The queue leading to the Bishop is always as long as the year before.
Why are there so few young Catholics at Mass? To begin with, no one has taught them even the simplest and most basic Catholic precept: that attendance at Mass on Sunday is obligatory --- even if you are oblivious to why you are there. But you have paid to have them, your children, taught their religion; it is you who drive them to CCD and it is you who must go back to pick them up. Cash and carry ... So why are they --- your children --- oblivious ... too?
I encourage you to ask your DRE: "Why does my child not know God?"
We are our children's' primary teacher, and we have failed. It is an uncomfortable truth.
Ask your DRE why she has, too ... if only to know where your money is going, and why.
My suggestion would be to begin by educating the parents and take it from there.
Around here we have a contest called the R.C. Challenge (Roman Catholic Challenge). It's been going strong for twenty years now, with teams from several states and even British Columbia. There are places where good catechisis is ocurring. Theses teams of middle and high schoolers are proof of that. It's a pretty uplifting event.
Problem: we are now well into our second generation, and starting on the third generation, of awful post-Vatican II catechesis. The parents (those who are actually left in the Catholic Church) don't know their faith, and so can't pass it on, and can't act as quality control for the parish religious ed program.
Truly good news! It was such a struggle getting my daughter through CCD in this diocese. Then again, the materials used were 'new age'. She dropped out only months before Confirmation. After some arm twisting and MUCH PRAYER, she resumed the program the following year and received the Sacrament of Confirmation on a night that featured a very rare 'red moon'. She took the name 'Trinity'. I beamed, cried, and danced under the 'red moon' :-). Thank you, Lord, for this gift!
As are the Godparents. You are absoutely right but, given what I witnessed while teaching the 'confirmandi', let me assure you that few parents understand their faith. The ones who insisted their children pursue their religious education to the end, were relatively few. Sadly, many catholic parents never made their own Confirmation but keep the kids enrolled through First Communion. After that, they're on their own.
The parents (those who are actually left in the Catholic Church) don't know their faith, and so can't pass it on, and can't act as quality control for the parish religious ed program.
A few years ago, someone in Montreal realized this and changed their religious education program to include the parents. The turnout was so large that they had to move classes to a different location. Were I still teaching Rel. Ed. in the RC Church, I would set aside one evening and invite the parents to participate. Of course, in this RC Diocese, that would probably be banned by the DRE and pastor at my former parish. That's why I left.
Our Maronite Catholic parish holds Religious Education on Sundays, before liturgy. The parents are all quite active and involved in the process. Some of these children are enrolled in Catholic schools where they receive religious instruction as part of their curriculum. The pastor, however, insists that they also attend the Maronite instruction, which is solidly faith focused.
Certainly, the main problem is this... I saw a recent poll where 70% of american Catholics do not believe Jesus is present in the Eucharist. Sad,because WE are now living in the greatest loss of faith in the history of the Church.
Solution: Those of us who come to Christ in His Eucharistic presence have to be the closest of friends, because only prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament is going to move the mountain we face.
This is the most important aspect of Catholic education, and the most neglected. Parents pass on what THEY are taught. In the "olden days" the parents taught the kids at home BY EXAMPLE and correction. Nowadays, parents drive their kids over to the church, drop them off for CCD for an hour and a half, then come and pick them up. Sometimes, they take them to church on Sunday, if it is special, like Christmas, less often Easter or Pentecost. Then, they are FLOORED when their kids all head for the door, never to be seen in church again (at least not THIS one), to do their own thing.
The kids aren't dumb; they have seen the way their parents "live out their faith," and if it doesn't mean any more to the parents than the above, the kids certainly aren't going to stick around.
Why ask the DRE - it is the parents fault. I see parents day in and day out who clearly do not understand that their vocation is not merely to feed and clothe their children, or to even chauffeur them to every sport practice/game, but to assist their children to save their souls. They have that awesome responsibility of leading their children to eternal life.
My oldest child received the Sacrament of Confirmation last Sunday. He is in 10th grade and did what was required of him as far as his community service etc. He attended his classes through our parish, but basically my husband and I did the remainder of his teaching instruction, as we will do for our other children. It is our responsibility and we enjoyed very much having the opportunity to explain and teach him very important aspects of his faith. He chose the name Gabriel and it was so informative the data we found on the web, especially for the whole family.
The article was good, thanks for the ping.
Absolutely, yes! Thank you for such an astute observation. Sadly, many Catholics no longer believe in the efficacy of prayer ... that is, until tragedy strikes.
Columnist Rod Dreher wrote the following about 9/11.
Monsignor Ignace Sadek, the elderly pastor of the Maronite cathedral near the Brooklyn waterfront, went to the promenade park overlooking lower Manhattan and prayed for absolution for the dying as the towers burned. When the first building crumbled, and the terrible cloud of smoke, debris, and incinerated human remains began its grim march across the harbor, Monsignor Sadek remained at his post praying. The falling ash turned him into a ghost. Still, he stayed as long as he could. This is a man who came through the civil war in Lebanon, and he doesnt run.
"People could see I was a priest," he told me later (he is my pastor). "They ran to me and knelt at my feet, and begged for absolution." Think of that: The people of this proud, defiantly secular city, driven to their knees in prayer, begging for mercy in a hot, gray fog. That is what purgatory must be like.
And, once it was all over, these same people forgot and went about their business as usual. Pope Benedict XVI knows it only too well and has addressed the problem of secularism. Perhaps it will take one of Iran's long range nuclear weapons to wake up the populace. By then, it may be too late.
"For it has come to light that there were not lacking among the leaders of heretical sects some who openly declared that, if the teaching of Thomas Aquinas were only taken away, they could easily battle with all Catholic teachers, gain the victory, and abolish the Church. A vain hope, indeed, but no vain testimony."
- Pope Leo XIII, Aeterni Patris
see post #11.
Not only do I agree with the point, I can attest to this from firsthand experience (as I went through this but a few years ago)...
And with my Newman group, I continue to learn the faith...8^)
If a child is homeschooled they should be able to prepare for the sacrament at home. Skip the chaos that passes for RE classes, and insist that the parish has no right to demand the child attend the classes, "volunteer" in pet parish project or attend the mixed-sex weekend retreat.
My son will make his confirmation on Saturday. He has been to confirmation classes for several weeks, and attended 2 retreats. He has been to reconciliation, and discussed his desire to be a Catholic with the parish priest. I believe that he is more than ready for this sacrament.
I suppose there are some that really don't know God. I also think there are many parishes and DREs that do a great job of educating our youth. I agree however that the main responsibility for providing religious education lies with the parents. They parish provides a minimum requirement of educational time. The parents should be responsible for making sure that the child's education is complete.
This article seems to have an agenda, and it didn't produce a shred of evidence that the children do not know God. It may be true, but you couldn't tell from the article. Also, I may be really out of it, but when did the sole purpose of rock and roll become fornication?
I believe this article is basically true. I say "basically" because I think it is overly negative. Perhaps things north of Boston are that bad, but my experience has been that things are getting better. Little by little, yes, but still it seems as though the ship is starting to steer back on course.
I see a lot of signs of hope. I meet more and more young Catholic families with lots of kids who are clued in to what is going on in the Church and are making sure their kids are getting properly catechized. Eucharistic Adoration is growing all over the United States. Young, orthodox religious orders are exploding. Some seminaries are starting to get back on track such Sacred Heart in the Archdioces of Detroit.
Signs of hope are there to be seen if we aren't too focused on the negative. I used to be very focused on the negative, but I recognized after a while that this was filling me with despair. I decided to stop reading periodicals such as the Remnant. I figured that I know there are problems in the Church, why do I need to drum that into my head over and over again.
That kid chewing gum in Mass? At least he's there, eh? We are all at different stages of our walk with the Lord. That door is wide open and you never know who the Holy Spirit will lead in and what stage of their faith he or she is at. I only mention this because I use to really focus on this stuff, looking down my nose at that family with the bermudas on and the kid chewing gum. Now I try to focus on thanking God that they are there and that He will lead them further, and me for that matter.
I'm not suggesting that there aren't problems, big problems in the Church. There are, and we just have to pray for those who continue to try to destroy the Church from within wittingly or unwittingly.
Well, when I have children, there will definitely be home religious instruction. Might have to teach them Latin too, I can tell I am going to be loved, lol. Pater Magister (obviously I will have to freshen up my own Latin, its been 18 months since I've looked at any).
You make some excellent obervations on which we all should reflect. Thank you!
I believe the sex abuse scandal was a 'gift' in disguise. Through it, the media shone a spotlight on deep problems in the Catholic Church. These same problems exist in other religious groups but only the Catholic Church was singled out by the MSM. This, IMHO, is yet one more example of the Holy Spirit keeping Christ's Church alive. Actions taken have resulted in changes in the seminaries. Add to this the death of JPII and the election of Benedict XVI, and the stage was set for all those JPII youth to 'answer the call'. As you pointed out, we are now seeing the fruits of these actions. Thanks be to God!
God Bless your son as he prepares for this Sacrament.
The first step is to realize what state we are in.
From there, just don't go more negative or reactionary. Instead, love large and move toward the light.
I just started to teach Religious Ed at my parish. I am educated in my faith. The kids ask great questions but I know if I had not the grace of being educated in my faith, I would not be able to answer the questions. They'd go unanswered and they'd sink away from the Christ and His Church.
Lord knows people are trying, we are just an uneducated lot. Ignorance is not a crime. Acting like we are not ignorant is the shame.
We need to pray and read and pray and throw ourselves into the arms of Our Lord. He can turn evil into good. He can bring us back.
"And these are the kids that actually make it to the end - and the Sacrament of Confirmation! There are countless others who drop out after First Communion."
From the eastern perspective, it's kinda hard to drop out in those few minutes between Baptism, Chrismation and first Eucharist.