Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Maybe we should be teaching the Primary Teachers?

It is very interesting to note, when you think about, the disparity of resources which are devoted to teaching children instead of teaching parents. For many parents, their continued instruction in the faith is a 10 minute homily once a week. If you include several Holy Days of obligation, that adds up to, at best, about 10 hours of instruction for an entire year or roughly 0.1% of the available hours in a year. (I have always been upset when a homily on the Gospel or other readings is replaced by a talk on some other topic; it is a waste of the precious little time that is given to instruction in the faith.) Steve Kellmeyer writes:

A child’s primary catechist is his parents. The bishop is the primary catechist of the diocese, but he is not the child’s primary catechist. The priest is the pre-eminent catechist in the parish, but he is not the child’s primary catechist. The Director of Religious Education (DRE), the CCD teachers, the parochial school teachers, all of these people are somewhat useful in passing on the Faith, but none of them are the primary catechists. The parents have the first and primary responsibility to pass the Faith onto their own children. No one else does.

The bishop does not delegate this responsibility to the parents. Neither does the priest or the DRE or the Catholic teachers. At the moment a man and a woman exchange vows in marriage, each consecrates the other as both spouse and catechist.

Let us be absolutely clear. The Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, God Himself, consecrates the bride and bridegroom to be the primary catechists to their own children. Canon law, the Catechism and the documents of the Church are all quite clear on this. Bishops, priests and their lay employees all exist to assist the parents, not to replace them. It is their job to make sure the parents know the Faith and know how to pass it on. It is the parents’ job to do the passing on.

But parents can’t teach what they don’t know. The Pope understands. In his very first encyclical, Teaching the Faith Today (Catechesi Tradendae), article #23 points out, for “instruction in the Faith to be effective, it must be permanent. It would be quite useless if it stopped short on the threshold of maturity.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explicitly says this. Open it to article #2225, “Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith.” The Catechism is divided into four major sections. Flip back to the Table of Contents and read the heading to Section II. It is called “The Christian Mystery.” What are the contents of Section II? The sacraments. From the earliest days of the Church, the sacraments have always been called “mysteries of Faith.” Indeed, the Greek word for sacrament is still mysterion: mystery.

The American bishops know all this. They even wrote a letter, Our Hearts Are Burning Within Us that says adult education is of central importance and that the bulk of parish resources are to be devoted to adult education. The bulk of parish resources. Hmmm….

Look at your parish. Consider how much time, money and effort is poured into your parish school, the physical plant devoted to it, the raw number of personnel. Now do the same for the adult formation program(s) in your parish. Hmmm…

Everyone agrees the family is under assault. Everyone fails to notice the local parish is often in the vanguard of the assault. Attempting to replace Catholic parents violates parental rights, violates the principle of subsidiarity, and attacks the family, yet the attitude of a significant number of DRE’s, priests and bishops is precisely this, “Parents are not qualified to teach their own children because they are ignorant of Catholic Faith, so it is up to me to do the job.”

To any bishop, priest or DRE who thinks this, let it be said as succinctly as possible, “No, it is not up to you to do their job. It is up to them to do their job. It is up to you to teach them to do it. Stop enabling their co-dependence. Start doing your job so they can do theirs.”

Posted by David at 2:04 PM  |  Comments (0)  | 


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