I was always amused by the quote from one cardinal who had spent a large amount of money updating the religious education textbooks in his archdiocese. Many people complained, more or less vocally, at the expense. Reminds me of Judas complaining about the fact that the money could have been spent on the poor. Sadly, in this instance, it seemed that more than a few of this cardinal’s Catholic bureaucrats probably wanted the money spent on their own liturgical dance projects or ‘educational research’ visits to Paris in spring! Anyway, my point is that when faced with this criticism the cardinal simply replied, “I at least want the young people to know what they are rejecting.”
I like what he said. Sadly, many Catholic students do not even get the chance to know what it is they are rejecting. How can they reject something they are never really taught in the first place? What actually happens is that they reject what they ‘think’ is the Catholic faith. They reject a weak and insipid vision of Catholicism that is all about ‘no’. No sex, no fun, no joy. Hollywood, Netflix and the Internet all step in to reinforce the narrative and another generation disappears down the rabbit hole of post-Christian belief.
Related to this is a great quote from Cardinal Sheen who stated that he thought there was less than a hundred people in America who genuinely hated the Catholic Church. However, the thought there were many millions who hated what they ‘thought’ was the Catholic Church!
So does this enormous discrepancy come about? Some of it, no doubt, has to do with the poor behaviour of people in positions of leadership who have damaged the Church through their sin. Let us not underestimate this. However, I would argue that much of our current problem has happened due to a complete implosion of catechesis within our schools. How many millions of students over the last 50 years have left our schools with only the most threadbare knowledge of the faith? How many students have left deeply disconnected from the life of faith? Does it have to be this way?
There is little we can do to address the errors and imbalances of the past. However, we can learn from those errors and imbalances. What is needed now is a new generation of passionate and committed Catholic teachers prepared to stand up and begin to teach the faith once again. The challenge of course, is that we cannot give what we do not possess. We cannot give to our students what we do not understand or have not learned. Amid all the many challenges of our teaching vocation it can be hard to make time for the kind of learning we need to do.
The main reason we created the Going Deeper program was to begin a process of renewal for Catholic teachers around the world. We understood that before we could see a renewal of student catechesis we needed to begin with a renewal of staff catechesis. Take a moment now and check out the link to the Going Deeper program.