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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