Catholic Activity: When Children Doubt Religious Truths
Young children usually accept their parents' words as absolute truth. However, as your child grows older and has a greater awareness of the hostility to Christianity in his surrounding culture, he may question the Church's teachings. Parents must deal with this in a calm and rational manner.
While your children are in elementary school, they probably will accept without question what you teach about religion and morality. For example, the nine-year-old will accept your explanation of why he must abstain from meat on Friday, and will not question whether these regulations are entirely proper or within the jurisdiction of the Church to make. He will accept, without doubting their truth, the Old Testament stories of the Tower of Babel, of Jonah, of Noah's Ark, and others. When he reaches adolescence, however, you may be shocked at a change which may come over him. He may now be aware that other people do not believe as we do, that some deny the existence of God, others do not accept the trueness of the Church or the divinity of Our Lord, and still others doubt the truth of many incidents recounted in the Old Testament. Your child may quote these nonbelievers in questioning you about Catholic doctrines. Sometimes he may even give the impression that he fully accepts their errors.
It is probably unwise to betray suspicion that he is losing his faith simply because he sharply questions Church teaching. In order to understand completely why the Church holds as she does on matters of faith and morals, every adult must understand the basic principles upon which the doctrines rest. Only by examining various arguments for the Church's position can a young person truly appreciate that her teachings are based upon historical and logical truths.
Some parents show visible annoyance when their children question various Church doctrines. This reaction often results from the fact that the parent lacks enough knowledge to refute the adolescent's arguments. Obviously, the Church would be in a sad position if she could not stand up against questions raised by teen-agers. The facts are that Church teaching is supported upon a bedrock of logic and that many of the foremost thinkers throughout history have found her doctrines unassailable. Therefore if you yourself cannot cope with your adolescent's arguments, you can refer him to Catholic books, literature, and other sources of information.
Do not expect your child to accept a religious teaching simply and solely because the Church says it is so. As an individual with a growing intellectual capacity of his own, he has a legitimate right to know why the Church maintains a certain position. When helped in a friendly way to understand that position, he will become a stronger Catholic as a result.
Activity Source: Catholic Family Handbook, The by Rev. George A. Kelly, Random House, Inc., New York, 1959