Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Why Is the USCCB Watering Down the Faith?

The Office for the Catechism

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a department called the Office for the Catechism. One of its responsibilities is the careful examination of grade school, junior high and high school religion textbooks for conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Conformity is judged on the basis of authenticity and completeness and those textbooks found to be in conformity are added to a list which many schools, parishes and dioceses consult when selecting their teaching materials.

Publishers need to know in advance just what is expected of them and so the Office for the Catechism has also produced an extensive list of 334 different criteria that it calls “Evaluative Points of Reference”. For a textbook to be deemed to be in conformity with the CCC it has to meet the criteria in this list that are appropriate to its specific subject matter and grade level.

At first glance this sure sounds like a great system - one with well-constructed safeguards that ensure that our children receive thorough instruction in the authentic Catholic faith. Those safeguards, however, have been circumvented.

The Devil Is in the Details

The best example of this is the meaning of “faith.” Look in the Catechism and you will find

“Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself …” (CCC 1814, emphasis added).

Not only are we taught that we need to believe in God and believe all that he has revealed, but we are also taught that we need to believe all that the Church teaches.

But now take a look at the specific points concerning faith in the Office of the Catechism’s Evaluative Points of Reference:

“Catechetical texts in conformity with the Catechism should

--- present the faith as a personal adherence of the whole man to God who reveals himself. It involves an assent of the intellect and will to the self-revelation God has made through his deeds and words.

--- present faith as a supernatural gift from God. In order to believe, man needs the interior helps of the Holy Spirit.

--- teach that "believing" is a human act, conscious and free, corresponding to the dignity of the human person.

--- teach that "believing" is an ecclesial act. The Church's faith precedes, engenders, supports, and nouishes our faith.

--- present faith as necessary for salvation.

--- etc., etc.”

But nowhere will you find that acceptance of Church teaching is an integral part of authentic faith! In generating their criteria for conformity with the CCC the Office of the Catechism has simply let that part of the CCC’s definition of faith vanish into thin air.

One Publisher's Response

Some textbook publishers seem eager to take advantage of this “oversight.” For example, Harcourt’s The Light of Faith – An Overview of Catholicism is this year’s freshman Religion textbook at Bishop Kearney High School. In this textbook's Glossary you will read,

“faith: a theological virtue, a gift from God; the habit of responding positively to God,”

and nowhere in that textbook will you find any mention of the specific requirement to accept Church teaching.

How Did This Happen?

The obvious question is how the USCCB could let something like this happen. I would certainly like to know who was responsible for the initial “oversight” that continues to allow a totally inadequate concept of faith to be presented as authentic Catholic teaching. I would also like to know just which higher-ups gave their blessing to the resulting defective list of criteria.

Somehow, I don't think I'll ever get an answer to either question.


Anonymous said...

That's a rhetorically question, right? This is the same USCCB that has a film office that gives Brokeback Mountain and the Golden Compass thumbs up. Who also cannot manage to get an "authentic" translation of the Mass approved because they keep trying to dumb down or weaken the text. These are they same bunch who "interpreted" The Vatican II documents into the "Spirit" of Vatican II to justify all kinds of abuses.

Such an error that you describe had to of been a willful act. Judging by the Confirmation textbooks and workbooks my daughter used last year, it isn't just the school books that should be of concerned. I've never seen such PC garbage foisted off as Catholic teaching. I ended up taking out the Baltimore Catechism and teaching her, because she had become so confused as to be unsure if she wanted to get confirmed. Of course, the fact we moved to the Rochester Diocese from a more orthodox (not exactly difficult) could explain her confusion as well.

The only conclusion is that it is time to go back to the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur system, there was at least hope that things would straighten out. Then again, here in Rochester that certainly wouldn't improve the situation!

Mike said...

cpt tom wrote ...

"... it is time to go back to the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur system."

Unfortunately, that guarantees even less than does being on the Conformity list.

For instance, last year's freshman religion test at BKHS was Saint Mary's Press' Understanding Catholic Christianity, by Thomas Zanzig and Barbara Allaire. This book carries both an Imprimatur and a Nihil Obstat, but couldn't make the cut for the Conformity list (check out http://www.sffaith.com/ed/articles/2004/0409ps.htm - an article dealing with another of Zanzig's catechetical books - and you'll start to understand why).

The Conformity list is a good idea. But to correct this and other "oversights" it need someone a little more faithful to the Church in charge.