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Good News about Bad News about Good News

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jan 05, 2004

The current Voices, the magazine of the invaluable organization Women for Faith & Family, has some excellent transcripts of the discussions that took place at the last USCCB National Meeting. I was especially struck by Archbishop Alfred Hughes's refreshingly blunt remarks on the deplorable state of high school catechetical texts:

If you were to have the most recent Catechism Update in front of you, you would quickly recognize that there are few high school texts in the "conformity" listing. At this point, we have not been able to grant a declaration of conformity to any one complete high school series from any of the major publishers whose texts are most frequently used in this country. Over the past two and one-half years, close to two-thirds of the conformity reviews we have conducted on high school catechetical materials have ended with the judgment that the materials were not only inadequate for conformity, but also could not be amended and therefore needed to be rewritten. What causes us great concern is that many of the materials found to be inadequate are still in wide use throughout the country.

Finally, at long last, the message has begun to get through. More cheering still is the list of typical deficiencies read out by Hughes to his fellow bishops. I give only the headings -- check out the full text on site.

  • Some of the texts found to be inadequate are relativistic in their approach to the Church and to faith.
  • Our young people are not learning what we know and believe is based on objective truth revealed to us by God.
  • The sacramental theology which our young people are being taught is also often seriously flawed.
  • The distinctive role of the priest may be sidelined or even ignored.
  • They may be told the various ways in which Jesus is present during Liturgy without a clear statement that He is present in the Eucharist in a unique and special way.
  • They may be taught that the sacramental power to forgive sins and anoint the sick was once shared by all the faithful.
  • In some texts the teaching about the Church's prohibition on the question of the ordination of women is ambiguous or even misleading.
  • In some lessons on the sacrament of marriage, they are being exposed to language which makes reference to "partners" rather than "man and woman" or "husband and wife".
  • There seems to be a reluctance to name premarital or extra-marital intercourse as sin.
  • The relationship between the moral life in this world and the life to come is not often treated.
  • A studied avoidance of revealed proper names or personal pronouns for the Persons in the Blessed Trinity.
  • The Christology in texts may be unbalanced with an overemphasis on the humanity of Jesus at the expense of His divinity.
  • The interpretation of Sacred Scripture tends to rely almost exclusively on the historical-critical method.
  • The approach to the Church often overemphasizes the role of the community.
  • The social teaching is not always grounded in the divine initiative of the Holy Spirit of related to personal moral teaching or to eschatological realities.

Not a bad start. Of course the fact that "the materials found to be inadequate are still in wide use throughout the country" might have been expected to prompt the bishops to move in and yank them, but hey, that's what home-schoolers are for.

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  • Posted by: - Jan. 13, 2004 11:13 PM ET USA

    Bishop Hughes’ criticism of most of the catechetical texts used to instruct teenagers was alarming. The U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Committee to Oversee Catechism Use should endorse existing textbooks that fill this horrifying void; not simply stand by until its final draft of an American Catechism is completed over the next two years. The Country Priest kindly suggested the Didache Series. My suggestion: Father Levis’ book entitled “Jesus, the Catechism, & Me”, which was written for teens.

  • Posted by: Fr. William - Jan. 10, 2004 1:05 PM ET USA

    The bishops need to look at and implement the Didache Series, published by the Midwest Theological Forum. All four volumes will be in print by the Spring of 2004. The first and fourth volumes (Intro to Catholicism and Our Moral Life in Christ) are already in print. Excellent textbooks, directly corresponding to the Catechism fo the Catholic Church.)

  • Posted by: shrink - Jan. 05, 2004 5:50 PM ET USA

    20 years ago, the report on American education, "A Nation at Risk" (ANAR)said "If an unfriendly power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war." Many people then and now did not think this mere hyperbole. The parallels between the collapse of basic literacy (in the 3Rs) and basic catechetical knowledge are many. Maybe someone of like mind with Bishop Hughes might draw up a Catholic version of ANAR.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 05, 2004 1:21 PM ET USA

    Well, at least one bishop has had the courage to be explicit and honest about the deficiencies. Identifying the problem is a start. Now we will see if enough bishops are actually willing to do something about it. The problem is that in many cases both the national and diocesan bureaucracies are infested with wannabe Catholics who actually believe this stuff. Things will only improved significantly if the bishops are willing to do some serious house-cleaning.