Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Too much fluffy-ruffle stuff"

I got a kick out of this one ...

When parochial teachers of Rochester, N. Y. gathered for an annual conference, 800 priests and nuns heard a speech by Rev. Francis Peter LeBuffe, S. J., business manager of the able Jesuit weekly America. An expert at making points of dogma crystal clear, Father LeBuffe had a blackboard handy, covered it with white, red, green, yellow chalk marks demonstrating the meaning of the Trinity, Original Sin, Transubstantiation, Incarnation. And then Father LeBuffe went on to say:

"Whether we like it or not, we Catholic teachers must realize that our courses in Religion are not being taught as they should be. They are frequently voted by the students to be 'the worst-taught courses in the curriculum.' We must teach fundamental dogmas rather than the frills and accidentals of Religion. . . . There is too much fluffy-ruffle stuff in pious books—entirely too much. I would like to take 90% of the spiritual books written and make a glorious bonfire of them, and their authors too, because they do not tell fundamental truths."

While the language points to a bygone era (this was written 72 years ago), the problem described sounds remarkably contemporary.

Source here.


Anonymous said...

"this was written 72 years ago"

Yea, I started to wonder how old this was when I read "800 priests and nuns."

~Dr. K

RickG said...

This is very timely. At my bible study this past Sunday, a teacher at a school in the diocese when to a retreat last Friday with all the other teachers.

She relayed how they were presented the holy trinity as "Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier", and that it is really 3 personalities. They were also given lesson plans for their students!

It doesn't take much research to learn how far away from church teachings that is.

I can only hope the teachers at my kid's school didn't go to that session.

Mike said...


So that garbage is still being pedaled in DOR? Why am I not surprised?

It sure would be nice to know who the presenter was.

The following from an Amy Welborn blog post might be of interest:

"[I]t is a mistake to focus only on the phrase 'Father, Son, and Holy Spirit' without noting the two words that introduce it in the Great Commission: ' … the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.'

"Whenever God reveals his name, he reveals his character. We see in God’s name his communal nature and desire for a personal relationship to his people ...

"God is serious about his name—which is why he took the trouble to reveal it to us in Christ. To create an alternative according to our cultural sensibilities is at best parody and at worst idolatry, even if it is constructed from the good metaphors God has given us. Most idols, after all, are created from God’s good gifts.

Ben Anderson said...

I got excited until I saw that it was 1937. Mike, you're teasing us :-), but I enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

"She relayed how they were presented the holy trinity as "Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier""

People have been excommunicated over usage of these alternate terms (I.e- parish in Brisbane, Australia when using these terms in Baptisms). Is there some magical progressive manual out there that they all follow? These progressives sound exactly the same, and carry out the same abuses no matter where in the world they're located.

Nerina said...

Seriously, Mike. I was nodding my head up and down and saying "Oh, yeah. This man gets it. Alright." And then the let down :).

Mike said...


I don't know what was going on in DOR catechesis-wise in the late '30s, but I do know that by the time I hit Catholic elementary school in '49 and all the way through those 8 grades the no-nonsense Baltimore Catechism reigned supreme.

Yes, we learned about other things like the lives of the saints, feast days, novenas, etc. (i.e, the "fluffy-ruffle stuff"), but the bedrock of our religious instruction was that catechism.

My 4 years at Aquinas (ending in '61) were pretty much the same: solid catechesis without a hint of dissent.

Maybe Fr. LeBuffe can take some credit for that or maybe not. Either way I'm thankful to God for how it worked out.

Ink said...

I really miss the thorough catechism of my fabulous elementary/middle school (it was K-8). I never believed I would be having to use that information to defend my beliefs in a school which proclaims itself "Catholic." Frankly, I would very much like to burn my textbooks--and I would if they weren't Aquinas property--because they are taking such a wrong approach. Although I will give them credit for quoting the CCC almost every page. That part made me smile.


Mike said...


The last time I checked (2006) Aquinas was using a high school religion series that had been "approved" by the USCCB. Sadly, that doesn't guarantee very much, as the bishops' criteria have a hole large enough to drive a truck through (see here).

The current USCCB list is here. I'm curious if AQ's textbooks are still on it.

Anonymous said...

Rick G -

If "Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier" were used to describe the economy (effects) of the three divine persons of the Trinity, then I don't have a problem with it. If these are meant in place of the names of "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" then I agree it's wrong. And certainly Jesus commanded that baptism be done "in the Name of..."

Gabriella said...

Hmm! The whole situation sounds very familiar to me - and I'm in Italy! :)
A teenager recently interviewed by our local TV (there's a polemic going on about religious education in public schools) was asked if she could name the Holy Trinity (a teenager, mind you, not a child) - she replied, happily, Jesus Mary and Joseph!