Monday, July 15, 2013

There Is No Substitute

This post links to RAnn's Sunday Snippets and Convert Journal

good guess, but wrong

wrong again- sorry

still wrong

that's it

Among all the Christian churches, the Catholic Church has the most to gain from a Bible-literate membership, given that the Bible is a Catholic book.  Yet the Catholic Church must have the most Bible-illiterate flock on the planet. Of course the Church is well-aware: at least since Vatican 2, she has been exhorting a billion or so of her sheep to just pick it up and read the thing:

"The sacred synod also earnestly and especially urges all the Christian faithful, especially Religious, to learn by frequent reading of the Catechism the "excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:8). "For ignorance of the Catechism is ignorance of Christ."

Just kidding. Here ya go: "The sacred synod also earnestly and especially urges all the Christian faithful, especially Religious, to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures the "excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:8). "For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ." [St. Jerome] Therefore, they should gladly put themselves in touch with the sacred text itself, whether it be through the liturgy, rich in the divine word, or through devotional reading, or through instructions suitable for the purpose and other aids which, in our time, with approval and active support of the shepherds of the Church, are commendably spread everywhere." [Dei Verbum, 1965]

Umm...yes! We should all "gladly" do as the Church asks. But as Pork said, "Askin' ain't gettin'," and who knows that better than the Catholic Church? Regardless, being a catechist I focus on the "instruction" bit of that long last sentence.
Catechetical Sunday is coming up in September along with the start of most RCIA programs. In response, I've been looking at catechetical/ RCIA stuff such as this; and this; and this; and these. And once again I draw this conclusion:   

Institutional Catechesis continues to make inadequate use of the Bible.

By that I mean the Catholic catechetical system has had 48 years since Dei Verbum to raise its Scriptural game to an appropriate level; and is still nowhere near doing so. And what level would be appropriate? Well, maybe the level of our fellow Christians (and especially the Fundiegelicals who comprise the majority of Christians where I live), who were making maximum pedagogical use of Scripture long before there was a Vatican 2. Around here (and I assume elsewhere) Catholics of all ages are way behind their Christian peers in following the recommendation of the Catholic Church "to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures the "excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ." That would be a good joke if it were funny. And BTW, hearing the divine Scriptures read aloud at Sunday Mass ain't the same as "frequent reading of the divine Scriptures." 

Now as to catechetical materials, I speak only of my own experience. Most of my religious instruction was via the Baltimore Catechism (B.C.). It was an excellent system to keep one Catholic in a culture that was already Catholic. It worked just fine in the South Louisiana of my childhood; it was a disaster in Upstate South Carolina. Either way, rote-memorization catechesis was an outmoded and soon-to-be obsolete method of faith-formation. I know some Catholics are fond of the B.C., and suggest it should be tried again. My opinion is that catechesis must be more about thinking, and less about memorizing: the B.C. is DOA in the 21st century. And in that respect I like the catechetical series my parish uses, Faith and Life by Ignatius Press. It expects the 6th-graders to think, and it's way Bible. Yet at the same time, it ain't Bible-enough. I expect a child who goes through the whole K-8 series will come out with a comprehensive grasp of Catholicism; but only a fragmented and separate grasp of the Bible. It's still the old problem: the Faith (and the Catechism) is here, and the Bible is over there. That's wrong: Faith and Scripture are part of a single entity, the way a man and wife form a marriage, fused and complementary in all respects. Jesus is the Word made Flesh; the Bible is the Word Written Down. That's how catechesis should be understood, but that's not how it is understood. Part of the problem is that the old Baltimore Catechism has been replaced by the CCC, which instead of supporting the Bible, shunts the Bible to the side as the B.C. used to. In other words, the Bible currently serves as a resource to add depth to the CCC and the textbook, but it should be the other way around. When the Baltimore Catechism was rightfully retired, there was the chance to pick up the Bible; but the new Catechism has been picked up instead. That's a mistake. The Catholic's primary faith book is the Bible: not the Catechism, and not a textbook. The CCC and textbooks are the handmaids of Scripture; the framework of catechesis, and what happens in the Catholic classroom should reflect that. Catechetically, the Bible should come first, supported by the CCC and the textbook. Put another way, catechesis needs a new paradigm.

Catholic theologian and author R.R. Reno recently wrote, "...we...should do more to create a platform for the reconstruction of a biblically-informed culture..." Indeed we should: Reno anticipates the benefits of the New Evangelization.  But if Catholics going through the Church's educational systems can't explain their faith and morals scripturally to their friends and neighbors, Reno can fuhgeddaboudit.