Tackling the Catechesis Problem
At least one parish priest is aware of the Religious Ed problem. Monsignor Charles Pope, writing in the National Catholic Register, says we’ve made 4 big mistakes with Catechesis over the last 50 years:
- Religious education was almost always conducted away from the home by professional religious educators, priests, sisters, and some lay teachers
- The whole focus was to teach children the faith and the education of adults suffered and in many places were non-existent
- The process was perfunctory – rote learning through the use of memorized questions and answers was the common method of educating youngsters
- The premise was authority, not truth itself, but after the cultural revolution of the 60s not only did the argument from authority carry little weight, it was often an additional reason not to accept something as true, even a reason to scorn it all the more
In a follow-up essay,he offered a solution for fixing these problems – a new model for the catechetical process where children and their parents both take part in the learning process. Adapting his model to a large parish may prove difficult, however, but it is at least encouraging to know someone is trying to implement some kind of fix.
More is Needed
Since CARA did not keep statistics prior to 1965, there’s no way of knowing when exactly the Catholic Ed dropout trend started. But it has been occurring for at least four generations now – first with the Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), then with Generation X (born in the early1960s to the early 1980s), then the Millennials / Generation Y (born in the early 1980s to around 2000), and it is continuing with Generation Z (born in the late 1990s).
Monsignor Pope is right that Catechesis today should include parents. But it should really be expanded to include all those Catholics from the past three generations who were Catholic Ed dropouts. The question is how best to accomplish such an imposing and difficult task.
Many dioceses are currently looking at how their marriage preparation programs are structured in response to the Synod on the Family and Pope Francis’ suggestions in Amoris Laetitia. In revitalizing their Marriage prep programs dioceses should be aware that Marriage Prep programs can certainly become ‘adders’ for expanding Catechesis. As Christian Meert, Director of the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of Colorado Springs, CO, said in an article in the National Catholic Register recently, many of today’s engaged couples do not understand the faith or the sacrament as couples generally did 40 or 50 years ago. So a refresher course on the sacraments and Church Doctrine, especially on morality, and even spending some time on Apologetics, should definitely be part of any marriage prep program today.
But including more Catechesis in marriage prep will not reach the many Catholic teenagers, college students and already married (or, all too sadly, divorced) adults who are allowing their thoughts on religion and morality to be re-shaped by the media and today’s secular culture. As already mentioned a 12-year CCD program should be a basic requirement in every parish.
But how do we educate three different generations of Catholic adults about their Faith when the average Catholic today is mainly concerned about work, raising a family, making ends meet, maintaining their house, enjoying what free time they have, and putting enough money away for retirement so they don’t end up being homeless old people? Learning about Catholic Doctrine why we believe what we believe, and how we should integrate it into our daily lives is, sadly, just not a priority for too many average Catholics. And tackling the lapsed Catholics, hogtying them and dragging them to classes is, unfortunately, not an option.
Perhaps if Church leaders in the U.S. put their heads together and decided to tackle this problem they could come up with a solution. Until that happens, however, here are some fairly basic things parish priests and devout Catholics should consider doing.
Some pastors and parishes throughout the country are trying hard to create a Catholic Faith Community in their parishes. Where there is a parochial school that’s part of the parish this is a little bit easier to accomplish, but the majority of parishes do not have this ‘added draw.’ So they hold fundraisers and festivals, and the various parish societies and the local K of C chapter hosts card parties, dinners, and pancake breakfasts, all in hopes of bringing the parish community together.
What parish priests and parish councils today seem to be forgetting is that there is strength in numbers. Instead of parishes working independently to create a stand-alone parish Catholic Faith Community, wherever possible parishes should consider working together, on a Vicariate, a Diocesan, or an Arch-Diocesan level. The Catholic Church is, after all, the universal church. It is worldwide; it is not just the local parish.
For instance, we are a nation of sports fanatics but most parishes do not have adequate land or facilities for even a small sports program. Vicariate-wide or Diocese-wide youth sports leagues, on the other hand, could be formed with help from the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO). Even adult sports leagues could be formed.
Arch Bishops, Bishops, Pastors, and parish councils should also be tapping in to the expertise of local active and retired Catholics from all walks of life and asking them to get involved and volunteer some of their time and come up with ideas on how to create a Catholic Community within a Vicariate or an Arch Diocese. Business co-ops, farmers markets, flea markets, craft shows, and a directory of local Catholic-owned businesses – are just some ideas that could help in this effort.
But some outside the box thinking is needed to make sure all registered Catholic families within a Vicariate or an Arch Diocese are aware of activities that may be taking place. Parish bulletins are just not going to reach every family in either the parish or the Vicariate when only 24% of them are attending mass each week. And getting the 76% of Catholics who do not go to mass involved in the parish and then going to mass again and learning about their faith has to be the first priority.
The Clergy, and specifically parish priests, need to recognize that those Catholics in the pews on Sunday are the devout Catholics – the 24 percent who actually go to mass each week. Devout Catholics don’t need to hear ‘Kumbaya’ or ‘feel good’ sermons.
The Catholics in the pews need to hear sermons that reinforce and explain Catholic Doctrine and Catholic Social Teaching as it applies in today’s world so they can go out make good arguments for living a Catholic life to all the lapsed Catholics and cafeteria Catholics they know. Once all the lapsed and cafeteria Catholics in the country are brought back into the Church we can finally look to evangelizing on a wider scale.
Catholic laypeople, especially those who are conservatives and TLM aficionados, need to speak up and get more involved in running the parishes they belong to – volunteer to serve on the parish council or take part in any parish ministries (like Faith Formation or whatever name their parish gives to Religious Education) where they can make a difference. They can even just take some time to talk to their parish priest and let him know they’d like to hear sermons more geared toward explaining doctrine and examining current social issues.
The new, modern, post-Vatican II Church has seen a tremendous fall off in both vocations and mass attendance. Clearly, the progressive plan for modernizing the Church has been a failure. Traditional, devout Catholics need to take a page from the progressive playbook – they need to get involved in order to change things.
Catholic clergy and laypeople alike need to wake up and realize that Christianity, in general, and Catholicism, in particular, are under attack by the secular progressives today. Big Government is the religion of the secular progressives. Their goal is to replace Religion and Christian morality with a secular, government-imposed belief system. To do this, they must do away with traditional beliefs on sexuality, marriage, and the family.
One way to combat this secular ideology is to throw the old adage ‘never discuss religion or politics at family gatherings’ right out the window. Religion and politics should be the number one topic at any family gathering these days.
Our primary goal with such conversation should be to convince any lapsed Catholic family members to get to Confession and start living their faith. To do so we may have to be prepared to re-educate them on why we believe what we believe first, and explain Natural Law and how Catholic Doctrine is based on both Faith and Reason. We should be prepared to tear down emotional arguments and the moral relativism philosophy that the progressives preach today and counter their arguments with the Truth.
Contraception is a sin. Life begins at conception. Abortion is murder. Euthanasia is not mercy, it is murder.
We learned in high school Biology class that all behaviors are intrinsic or learned. Identical twin studies have confirmed that there is no ‘gay’ gene. Homosexuality is a learned behavior that is intrinsically disordered.
We are born male or female. We don’t get a choice. Marriage is between a man and woman. Marriage is for life.
Many people do not like confrontation and choose to avoid arguments, especially when they may not be good debaters. But we may do well to remember Jesus’ own words (Mathew 10:34-37) – “Do not think I have come to send peace upon the earth; I have come to bring a sword, not peace. For I have come to set a man at variance with his father, and a daughter with her mother, and a daughter-in-law with her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
Yes, priests should be pastoral, and yes, mercy and forgiveness are at the heart of our Catholic Faith. But this does not mean that we are allowed to turn our back on the Truth, even for a minute.