Friday, May 15, 2009

Critique of the 'new Catechetics'


An extract from an article on the Christendom Awake! website. Hat-tip to CFNews.

Citing a few of the developments in catechetical thinking that took place in the 1950s and the 1960s, she [Jane E. Regan] then goes on to conclude that "not even primarily" does catechesis take place "within an instructional setting . . . . It is not primarily instruction, but the very life of the faith community that shapes and forms our faith . . . . catechesis involves engaging with the ways in which faith comes to expression within our community—communal living, proclamation, teaching, liturgy, and service."

These are conclusions drawn by the modern catechetical movement, and therefore, in Regan's view, they must take precedence over whatever a Catechism or the GCD might say to the contrary. Also in the view of this particular author, the whole catechetical question has now been changed from "How are we to cover all of the topics in our time of instruction?" to "How are we to live within these dimensions of Christian life and learn to reflect on that living?" Once we recognize the community as the agent of catechesis, it becomes clear that the content of catechesis is not something we give or present to the learners, but rather a reality that we attempt to live out and incarnate with the life of the community.

But once we have accepted that "the content of catechesis is not something we give or present to the learners", we are reluctantly obliged to add: then the way has surely been opened up, and the justification handily provided, for henceforth giving little or nothing in the way of formal instruction at all—and for including no substance or truth content at all in catechesis. This, of course, is exactly the unhappy contemporary situation in catechesis, which so many Catholics have noticed and have been complaining about for a long time. This author's formulation of the question,
it would seem, is just one more variant of the widely noted tendency in modern religiou education simply to provide the students with "experiences" rather than trying to "teach" them anything, that is, the truths of the faith as they have been developed and handed down to us in the Church since apostolic times with the help of the Holy Spirit.

It is no accident, by the way, that this sort of new catechetical theory, which eschews content, gets itself adopted by professional Catholic religious educators at the very same time as their colleagues in secular education are also engaged in "dumbing down" intellectual content in modern education generally. Thus, in more ways than one, do Catholic religious educators today seem to be looking to the world for their inspiration and models far more than to the Church.

In the true Catholic context, of course, the antidoctrinal viewpoint of the new catechesis fundamentally misunderstands and misrepresents Christian faith. This faith is based first of all on the truths about God and about God's plan for us, revealed first in the Scriptures concerned with the history of God's chosen people and finally revealed in the life and words of Jesus Christ, who intended these things to be perpetuated in his Church. The new catechists make a crucial and fundamental mistake When they try to belittle or drop truth (again, "doctrine") and then perhaps imagine that they can still go on exhorting their students to be "good" and "loving", to serve justice, or to help the poor, and so on.

But what they have abandoned is the possibility of being able to give their students any reasons why they should serve justice or help the poor. Why should the students bother, when the whole secular culture urges them so insistently in the direction of self-will and self-satisfaction instead? The results of the attempt of the new catechesis to "catechize", while downgrading or dropping revealed truth were always bound to be disappointing in the nature of the case, and that is exactly the way things have turned out. The Catechism of the Catholic Church had to come, and
not a moment too soon.

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Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen