Friday, October 05, 2007

Judge not, Lest Someone's Feeling Be Hurt

Our pastor invited me to join the Generations of Faith program he was starting up last year or the year before. I initially said yes, grateful to have a chance to contribute to parish life. Then I looked up their website. When I couldn't find any reference to the Catechism, I decided this was more of the feel-good, judge-not, know-nothing school of modern catechesis. (Can you tell I don't approve?) Is this the sort of thing that Rich is writing about below?

The parish is the content: "The catechetical establishment around these parts is a big fan of 'whole community catechesis.' You'll see it promoted in archdiocesan publications, advertised in bulletins, and practiced by DREs and RCIA directors. Whole community pioneer Bill Huebsch is a frequent leader of local workshops, and the October 'Clergy Communications' (scroll down to page 5) indicates he's back in town -- Dayton to be precise -- on October 25. In an essay that begins with a hilarious excerpt from Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, Ignatius Press author and critic Donna Steichen explains what whole community catechesis is and why you should avoid it:

Jul 2004 (CWR) - In Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh’s haunting novel about Catholic aristocrats in 1930s England, Rex Mottram, Julia Flyte’s crass, spiritually tone-deaf fiancĂ©, seeks to become a Catholic in order to gain acceptance in her world. Rex neither knows nor cares anything about eternal truth. He means to listen without judgment and agree to everything, just to win the approval he wants, swiftly.

After a few meetings with Rex, Father Mowbray, a priest famed ‘for his triumphs with obdurate catechumens,’ expresses concern to Lady Marchmain, Julia’s devout mother.

‘I shall be dead long before Rex is a Catholic,’ he said…. ‘The trouble with modern education is you never know how ignorant people are.…these young people have such an intelligent, knowledgeable surface, and then the crust suddenly breaks and you look down into depths of confusion you didn’t know existed. Take yesterday.

‘He’d learned large bits of the catechism by heart, and the Lord’s Prayer, and the Hail Mary. Then I asked him as usual if there was anything troubling him, and he looked at me in a crafty way and said, ‘Look, Father, I don’t think you’re being straight with me. I want to join your Church, but you’re holding too much back.’

‘I asked what he meant, and he said, ‘I’ve had a long talk with a Catholic—a very pious, well-educated one— and I’ve learned a thing or two. For instance, that you have to sleep with your feet pointing East because that’s the direction of heaven, and if you die in the night you can walk there. Now I’ll sleep with my feet pointing any way that suits Julia, but d’you expect a grown man to believe about walking to heaven? And what about the Pope who made one of his horses a cardinal? And what about the box you keep in the church porch, and if you put in a pound note with someone’s name on it, they get sent to hell? I don’t say there mayn’t be a good reason for all this,’ he said, ‘but you ought to tell me about it and not let me find out for myself.’’

‘What a chump! Oh, Mummy, what a glorious chump!’ shouts Cordelia, Julia’s impish little sister. ‘Oh, Mummy, who could have dreamed he’d swallow it? I told him such a lot besides. About the sacred monkeys in the Vatican—all kinds of things!’

The kind of religious education practiced by Cordelia Flyte is now called ‘faith-sharing,’ ‘faith formation,’ or ‘adult faith-formation.’ Its style, familiar to veterans of RCIA or Renew I and II programs, is also the heart of ‘whole community catechesis.’ It may well be the wave of the catechetical future.

‘Faith sharing’ means gathering the relevant community in jolly social groupings and encouraging them to tell each other what they believe. No one is permitted to object to another’s belief, or to tell anyone else what he ought to believe; that would be 'proselytizing,' which is oppressive. By contrast, simply talking of one’s ‘faith journey’ is liberating. However uninformed one’s opinion might be, participants are assured that it serves ‘to further the reign of God.’

(Via Ten Reasons.)

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