Wednesday, September 30, 2009

To teach what the Church teaches

Many have noted an inclination by some, especially in the media, to describe members of the Church using terms which are more suited to political discourse than to religion. It is true that there is often a relationship between an individual's stand on Church teachings and their political leanings. In this worldview Catholics who adhere to Church teachings are often called conservatives, when what they really are is orthodox, Those who are dissidents, that is they do not follow, or believe or support Church teachings are called liberals, when what they often are is heretical.
One can certainly be politically liberal and be orthodox in their beliefs. One can also be conservative and be heretical. It is unfortunately true in the real world that one who is politically liberal is more likely to be a supporter of questionable theological stands. That, at least, is my experience. Why is this?
My belief is because both those who are liberal and those who are dissidents from Church teaching have in common a lack of historical perspective. John Henry Cardinal Newman once said, "To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant." Many if not most of the changes that Catholic dissidents desire are changes which some Protestant denomination somewhere has already tried. Starting with denial of the primacy, and infallibility of the Pope and the Magisterium to the ordination of women some Protestant group has already tried it. Indeed at its heart any Catholic dissident movement requires at its heart a denial of the teaching authority of the Church.
Not to be misunderstood, conservatives are just as capable of taking a stand in opposition to Church teaching. How many otherwise faithful Catholics argued that waterboarding was alright because we got "useful information that prevented another terrorist attack"? A stand which denies Church's teaching on the principle of intrinsic evil.
Intrinsic evil refers to actions that are morally evil in such a way that is essentially opposed to the will of God or proper human fulfillment. The key consideration here is that intrinsically evil actions are judged to be so solely by their object, independently of the intention that inspires them or the circumstances that surround them.
To support torture is to support an intrinsic evil and is in most cases a sin. As for all such cases support must be proximate, that is it must be an actual effective support for the act, not an unintended consequence.
So how does this touch the catechist? The mission of the catechist is to teach what the Church teaches. A catechist who teaches at odds with the teaching of the Church corrupts souls. He leads others astray. Millstones come to mind, along with other ultimate unpleasantness for the individual catechist, as well as for any others who knew and supported such acts, even if only by a sin of omission.
All are sinners. At least all of those left in this land of exile. No matter how faithful the Catholic there is almost certainly some Church teaching which grates. It is the duty of the catechist to ignore their personal feelings on the issue and teach what the Church teaches. That is our ministry.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

New start

In many parishes throughout the Catholic Church in America this is the time that catechetical programs are starting. In the long hot days of summer many parishes wind down their programs. Not that things stop entirely. Many parishes participate in Summer Youth Conferences, such as those sponsored by Franciscan University, and held throughout the United States and Canada. Many also participate in work camps through Sacred Heart or another group. Many diocese also hold diocesan youth conferences. Bible youth Day Camps, a concept borrowed from our Protestant brothers and sisters, have also made inroads in many places. The summer is not without church related activities, but few parishes run their regular weekly catechetical programs through the summer. Hence at this time of year they must wind up their efforts to restart their youth and sometimes adult catechisis programs.
In my own parish we have instituted a very large shake-up by moving to a full parish catechetical program. That means whole families, adult youth and teen programs, which meet every Sunday for several hours. We have even gone so far as to move our Mass times in order to support this. At this point we are unsure of just how many parishioners will regularly attend these sessions. We can be fairly sure those with young children will come. Our Director of Religious Education has made it quite clear that, being that parents are the primary teachers of their children in the faith, that is expected that parent will participate. Strong support of the pastor has prevent misunderstandings about the duties of these parents.
Teens, especially those who can drive themselves, and adults are another matter. We have very little leverage, other that the pastors support for the program, to make adults attend these sessions.
A good sales pitch helps. We are studying the Bible this year, but don't intend to limit this program to "Bible Study." Next year the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults is already on our schedule.
In a world where far too many post VII Catholics are ignorant of the teachings of their own religion adult catechisis is the answer. We had already tried the parish wide weekday evening programs. They mostly attracted the same hand full of parishioners who were already familiar with the tenants of Catholicism, the Bible and often prayer forms such as the liturgy of Hours. We were reaching those who least needed our efforts, though of course all progressed in their faith as a result of these programs. The programs themselves were not wasted, but reaching thirty to forty people out of a parish of 800 families is pretty dismal. By placing our sessions between Sunday Masses we hope people will be willing to come early or stay late to attend.
This is also majorly impacting our youth program. We have used Life Teen for years. We have never done a Youth Mass as part of our program. We have met every Sunday evening separate from Liturgy and have been, I think, moderately successful at filling the Youth Group room every week. Now that teens will be meeting in the morning we have scaled Life Teen back to twice a month, and will spend more time addressing issues rather than strait catechisis.
As can be expect not everyone is enamored of the program. A certain number feel set upon because their favorite Mass time has changed, Others simply don't want to spend more time at Church. (These tend to be the same ones who complain when their is a Baptism at Mass or when the homily goes more than 8 minutes.) I don't expect to see them at any of our programs, and perhaps not any more at the Masses, there being several other Catholic parishes within a short distance.
So we set out on a brand new course. I ask for your prayers and will post on how its going.