Poor Religious Education at a Catholic School

I used to be Catholic

We can occasionally learn things from comments on articles here at CS and at other Catholic websites as well.  Occasionally reading the comments can be enlightening.  But sometimes it can be a bit depressing.

A case in point

A couple years ago I wrote an article here at CS titled “The Catholic Church in Detroit is Unleashing the Gospel.”  In it I applauded Archbishop Vigneron’s plan to make the Church in southeast Michigan “a joyful band of missionary disciples.”  I did, however, suggest that one element I would have liked to see in the plan was a return to a more reverent and pious celebration of the Mass.

Just recently someone calling himself ‘Chris O’ (I am assuming ‘Chris O’ is a male; if I am wrong please forgive me)commented on my two-year old article.  He said he “stumbled upon this article” and that he “was raised in the Catholic school system of the 1990’s.”  He said he was “offended by the author’s [that would be me] call for a more militant church” [my emphasis].

Chris wrote, “Jesus was taught to those of us in this generation to be a shepherd of the people. He wasn’t there to oppress and lead with an iron fist.”  But then Chris floored me.  Chris wrote, “He came to open the gates of heaven through love and community. Which is exactly what you want to do away with in the mass.”

I responded that my desire for a more reverent and pious celebration of the Mass was not militant in any way, and that “Asking for a return to piety and reverence at the Mass does not do away with the sense of community. The Mass is a communal celebration, but it was never intended to be a happy, happy social gathering. The Mass is a bloodless reenactment of Christ’s Sacrifice for us on Cavalry.”

A Poor Religious Education

But what were especially concerning were Chris O’s comments about what he was apparently taught in the Catholic school he attended in the 90’s.  The views he offered could hardly be called Catholic Teaching.  Here is what he said:

“In the Old Testament there was a great deal of teaching through the viciousness and absenteeism of a vengeful God. A God who showed little to no mercy. A God who created everything yet was willing to destroy the people of the world because he messed up when creating them [my emphasis].

“Christianity is 100% about the teachings of Jesus. When we learn something new or better or more true we discontinue teaching the old or untrue. This is the same when it comes to our beliefs. Jesus came along to say I am the Truth follow me. He didn’t say pick and choose what you like from the Old Testament, he is the Word. Jesus is, not was, love and understanding and community. The Beatitudes take the place of the Ten Commandments [my emphasis]. The two greatests [sic] commandments were broken down to Love God above all things and love your neighbor as yourself anyway by Jesus himself.

“At the Last Supper, was everyone expected to be pius [sic] and solemn? Instead they celebrated and enjoyed themselves . They became respectful when it came to the Eucharist” [my emphasis].

Some Corrections

There is just so much wrong in what Chris said that I was not sure how to respond.  In the end I decided keep my response short:

“If you were taught that the Beatitudes replaced the 10 Commandments, your religious education was badly lacking.  The Old and New Testaments are the inspired Word of God and Jesus is the Word Made Flesh. His birth ushered in a New Covenant with all mankind, but the New Covenant did not replace God’s Teachings in the Old Testament.

“Also, at the Last Supper there was indeed a sense of piousness and solemnity. There was no celebration and enjoyment. Jesus knew he was going to his death and the Apostles most certainly sensed the solemnity of the occasion.”

If there was any doubt that we’ve got poorly catechized Catholics out there, Chris puts that doubt to rest.   His statements are so illogical and un-Catholic it’s hard to believe that Chris was educated in a Catholic school.

Now before I go any further, if you are reading this Chris, please understand that I am not picking on you.  But some of what you said is not Catholicism.  I am calling attention to your statements out of charity – in the spirit of fraternal correction.

More Corrections

Apparently Chris was not taught that the whole Bible is the inspired Word of God.  He also apparently was not taught that Jesus Christ is God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father.  He is also the Word of God made Flesh.  As such, if the God of the Old Testament was a vengeful, vicious, absentee God, who was merciless, and who messed up when creating mankind, then so is Jesus.  And if this is so, why should we believe anything Jesus taught us?  Or is God the kind of God that Islam says He is – a vengeful and imperfect God who can change His nature just because He feels like it.

Catholics believe God is love and He is perfect.  He cannot mess up and He did not mess up when He created mankind.  Mankind messed up, as God knew we would.  Man so abused God’s gift of free will that God taught us a lesson.  The lesson was taught out of love for us, not out of vengeance.  The righteous were spared, the wicked that were punished.  This is the way it is, and the way it will be on the Last Day.  Hell is real, and God is merciful, but He is also a just God.  The wicked and unrepentant will be punished.

Chris’ statement, “When we learn something new or better or more true we discontinue teaching the old or untrue” is loaded with problems.  There are no degrees of truth.  Something cannot be more true or less true.  There is only truth and untruth.  To say otherwise is relativistic thinking.

And More Corrections

And Chris’s statement that the “The Beatitudes take the place of the Ten Commandments” is absolutely outrageous.   How he got such an idea is mind boggling.  He was also apparently not taught that the greatest commandment (love God above all things) corresponds to the first three of the 10 Commandments and the second (love your neighbor as yourself) is an encapsulation of the final seven Commandments.

Chris was also apparently not taught that the Last Supper took place during the Jewish Feast of Passover, which is a day of atonement, not a day of celebration and enjoyment.  So how he could think that Jesus and the Apostles were celebrating and enjoying themselves during Passover, at the Last Supper, is mind boggling as well.

Thanks to Pope St. John Paul II we have a wonderful book called the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  The Catechism is a compendium of the teachings of the Catholic Faith.  It can be purchased for $18 plus tax from Amazon, or read for free on the Vatican website or on the USCCB’s website.  It really is essential reading for Catholics.

Chris, if you are reading this, please purchase a copy of the Catechism and read it, or read it on line.  Your religious education is in need of correction.

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4 thoughts on “Poor Religious Education at a Catholic School”

  1. Pingback: MONDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  2. The catechism my kids received at a jesuit school can be summed up with two words: social justice.
    At graduation, they, and I’d bet 99 percent of their classmates, couldn’t recite the 10 commandments, the beatitudes, the Cardinal virtues, theological virtues, or even one psalm. They have no understanding of the trinity, transubstantiation or other foundational tenets of our faith. My mistake was to expect a catholic education at a catholic school. On a positive note, the school’s failure to catechise compelled me to reread my catechism so I could explain and defend the faith to my children as they entered adulthood.

    1. Annette, you might consider sending a letter to your diocese’s Catholic Schools Superintendent about this, with copies to your bishop and the diocese’s Director of Religious Education. It might carry even more weight if the letter came from a group of parents. The Church seems to be in a period of tribulations right now. Lay Catholics have to speak up on matters like this.

  3. “This is to interpret the Sermon on the Mount as the new Law, but even though Matthew might have interpreted it that way, there would hardly be a New Testament scholar today who would not say that it was a misinterpretation.”

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