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religious education, again

By Diogenes (articles ) | May 29, 2006

Cardinal Mahony's in-house lawyer Sr. Judy Murphy once memorably referred to the Los Angeles Lay Catholic Mission as "that off the wall right wing throw-away newspaper" -- this in an e-mail she wished had never come to light. The June issue of that right wing throwaway has two articles on L.A.'s Religious Education Congress, neither of which is likely to win Sr. Judy's admiration. The first is from the pen of Donna Steichen; a second was written by Allyson Smith. An excerpt from Steichen:

Modestly launched in the 1950s to educate catechists to teach the Faith more effectively, the congress had already begun a downward spiral by 1987, when the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) office was renamed the "Office of Religious Education." Believers assumed the change merely recognized that Catholic living demands more than rote memorization of doctrine. Instead, it turned out to mean that local catechetical leaders had joined a national movement toward a doctrine-free, "experiential catechesis" apparently intended to turn Catholic teachers into ecclesial revolutionaries.

To the catechists' dismay -- and, for a different reason, to ours -- the masses that are revolting are the wrong sort. Allyson Smith has a very lucid account of the REC's reaction to the November Instruction, but she also listens in while Bishop Trautman yuks it up on the liturgy.

Commenting on a proposed change to the first Eucharistic Prayer (the "Roman Canon") -- "grant them, O Lord, we pray, and all who sleep in Christ, a place of refreshment, light, and peace," Trautman drew audience laughter when he quipped, "the phrase, 'a place of refreshment,' is a literal translation that conveys the image of a heavenly spa or tap room at the heavenly hotel."...

Alluding apparently to defecation, the bishop garnered more audience guffaws when he recited the following proposed translation for Eucharistic Prayer II: "make holy these gifts, we pray, by the dew of your Spirit -- D-E-W."

It's not hard to see why invitations were extended to the crowd-pleasers.

The REC itself has morphed into a very peculiar hybrid. There's the 1970s revival dimension, as seen in Call To Action personalities like Edwina Gately and Michael Crosby, who are still fighting with Mother Superior for the right to listen to Simon & Garfunkle LPs. Then there are the bemused RE teachers in attendance, with their complimentary pocket folders pressed to the chest, who look like they've walked into a Mardi Gras party by mistake. And finally there are the younger, angrier presenters for whom it's another chance to talk about Alternative Sexualities. What Steichen and Smith clearly convey is the smugness of self-satisfied naughtiness that seems to be the principal amusement for the folks who organize and animate the REC. If Mother Perpetua could see us now ...!

REC 1999: Closing Liturgy

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  • Posted by: - May. 31, 2006 8:46 AM ET USA

    What's a Catholic to do? Your local archbishop is livin' large putting on combo Mardi Gras/Gay Rights parades ala Castro Street, San Francisco under the guise of a "Religious Education Congress." He's obviously not alone. He's surrounded by heterodox sycophants who haven't met a dogma they weren't willing to sacrifice to "pastoral" concerns. When do the scales finally fall from your eyes and you get that uncomfortable feeling the Apocalypse is here and now?

  • Posted by: MM - May. 31, 2006 6:07 AM ET USA

    Allyson Smith's report is harrowing stuff. You LA catholics deserve a medal for holding on to your faith at all. I used to think the lunacy of this sort was kept on the fringe. How naive. In some places, it seems, the lunatics are running the asylum. (I can't believe that Sparks guy was invited back to speak after his 2001 comments.)

  • Posted by: - May. 30, 2006 1:04 PM ET USA

    This looks like pictures of the San Francisco Gay Parade. Does this meet the standards set for religious worship?

  • Posted by: - May. 30, 2006 1:42 AM ET USA

    As I've read before in these pages, mutatis mutandi, enjoy the applause while you can, Trautperson. Someday, as we must all, the dance will end and there will be an accounting. I hope you DEW understand.

  • Posted by: LWL - May. 29, 2006 8:59 PM ET USA

    About 11 years ago, I went to an HLI Conference in CA at which Msgr. Wren introduced the Catechism of the Catholic Church to us. Excited about getting my hands on a copy, I was appalled to run into a "gang" of DRE's at the LA airport who told me that they had just been to a DRE convention and were told there that the CCC was only for bishops and DRE's, not for ordinary folks who couldn't possibly understand what it meant and might misinterpret it. Well, I'm ordinary, I've read it and I get it.

  • Posted by: - May. 29, 2006 4:02 PM ET USA

    From painful experience I know that your descriptions of the REC do not even begin to describe the annual horror. But an overlooked evil is that the boss puts pressure on every parish to send (pay for) lots of people to attend and book thousands of rooms in the nearby "official" hotels. The archdiocese makes a substantial kickback on those rooms and the Congress as a whole is an off the books gigantic moneymaker. Sponsoring the corruption of the laity and syphoning off donations is evil