Friday 10 May 2013

Too Proud, Too Afraid or Too Person-focused to admit we went wrong...?

It used to be said when I was in seminary and newly ordained (1993) that we should not worry too much about baptising the children of lapsed Catholics since they would generally return to the Church at the time of their child’s First Holy Communion. While I have seen a few come back at First Communion, but not all of them continued to come, while the vast majority of parents never bothered at all. Am I alone in finding it disturbing that when children are presented for the Sacraments the parents have no intention of having their child continue in the Faith? On enquiry it is easy to discover that many are not even ‘culturally catholic’: they don’t have religious pictures or statues in the home; they don’t practice family prayer, they say no grace before meals etc. The Church simply plays no role in their life other than providing a local school with a good Ofsted report.

One of the reasons for the lapsation of the parents (and now, the grandparents) was the undeniably bad catechesis given over the last forty years, with its hidden implication that God is subject to change: “Who is Jesus Christ for you?”. Without meaning to, we were/are telling people it is OK to create God in their own image, so that now we come up against such statements as “my understanding of God is that He doesn’t hold A, B or C against us; we can still get to heaven if we are a good person”. We place souls in grave spiritual danger when we allow them to formulate God according to their own design.

The errors of past formation wreaked havoc in the Church, and still have their influence today. How can they not? It was the foundation we gave to those under 60; to those educated with deficient school texts and in progressive seminaries from the 1960’s onward. Thus we still hear people say Confession is only for mortal sins and “rarely needed”, and the Eucharist “was given to be received, not worshipped”. There are still those whose ecclesiology sees the Catholic Church and the ecclesial communities of Protestantism as being essentially the same, and those whose moral theology is tainted by the mistaken theory of the Fundamental Option. Sadly, much on-going formation is just more of the same, which is perhaps why some priests take responsibility for their own on-going formation by having recourse to orthodox conferences and reading materials.

I truly believe that unless we return to the very basics in our preaching, in our school texts and in our public statements, and unless we return to a liturgy that is God-focused rather than people-centred, we will continue to see the Church dwindle by lapsation and lose influence in society. We need to be formed again, theologically and catachetically. in key issues: the Primacy of the Pope in Doctrine and Discipline; the unique nature of the Catholic Church as the One True Church from which all salvation flows; the necessity of regular Confession for regular Communion; the Mass as the Sacrifice of Calvary and not simply a fraternal banquet; the inherent evil of contraception; of fornication, abortion and euthanasia. We also need to rediscover the essential vocation and responsibility of the laity as the salt of the earth wherein they set out to evangelisation of the world in its media, health care, politics, education etc. We in the clergy need to remember that we serve by taking responsibility (not power) before God for the teaching, sanctifying and governing of the Church. Collaboration does not mean shirking this responsibility.

Finally, helping the youth to re-engage with the Church is a priority if we are to gain good, Catholic families in the future. It is not that our teachers and youth workers are not genuinely concerned for the youth; it is not as though they are not generous with their time and fervent in their efforts, but no matter how many youth events they have put on over the years and no matter how many youth retreats they have led, the thousands of youth that have passed through their hands are not coming to Mass and receiving the Sacraments. Having attended these events they simply go back to their everyday lives. In that it is the Truth which sets us free, I believe we have to return –and return soon- to forming them in doctrinal accuracy and in the understanding that Holy Mass is the worship of God in adoration, propitiation and supplication, rather than a community jamboree, which it becomes when we seek jolly songs and use skits and dramas.


  1. Thank you Father. I wish that I was competent to offer some constructive words of support. I'll just pray.

    1. Thanks for commenting, and for the prayers.

      May God guide all our efforts for His glory and the good of souls.

  2. I spent 9 years as a RE teacher (7th - 12th grade, including Confirmation.) It was the most disheartening job I ever did. Until the lower grades return to the practice of memorizing catechism, instead of coloring pictures and singing little ditties, nothing will change.

    It is impossible for an upper grade teacher to have any type of theological discussion with older children who don't have a clue about the basics. I considered it a major accomplishment if, after 3 or 4 years, the student could actually tell me what a sacrament was.

    I finally left the parish and it was like taking my foot out of mud. The protestant influence is complete. No one is teaching the facts of the faith. Instead, there is an endless stream of entertainment focused on "feelings." Why am I not surprised that after high school the majority of these kids no longer identify as Catholic?

    I now attend a FSSP parish and the difference is remarkable as to how the children are taught.

    I have one other thing to say about this and it no way an indictment of all priests (and certainly not of you.) Why in heavens name was I the one doing all this teaching? Why are the priests not teaching? It is common now to have a "youth minister" - otherwise known as a activity director. No matter how good of a job I was able to do, it would not carry the weight of a priest doing the teaching.

    1. Dear Adrienne,

      Thanks for the comment. I can imagine how disheartening it was for you; I often feel the same in the parish. You are right about the Protestant influence; and little ditties will do nothing to help.

      I think the loss of the scaffolding (the question and answer Catechism) is put back in place we have nothing to build upon.

      In fact, I have been teaching with a basic question-answer catechism -and a work book to fill it out- for several years. I included the norm of reception for Holy Communion on the tongue while kneeling, and celebrated TLM's for the First Communion (with English hymns and readings). This year, I discovered recently, we had no applications for First Holy Communion because the children are being educated elsewhere and making their First Holy Communion elsewhere. is it time I left the parish then, to let the folk have what they want rather than what they need..? One wonders.

    2. Stay strong, Father! Keep teaching them as you have, and they will come. Our local FSSP community grew very slowly, over a period of 20 years, from about 100 to perhaps 300 souls. But then our Blessed Lord, acting through our bishop, allowed our community to become a personal parish and to have it's own physical plant. Now, we number over 1000. In three years the community has tripled in size. We never know how God will use our correspondence with Grace, but He will use it, and often in ways that just overwhelm us with His beneficence.

      God bless you! I am happy I found your blog!

    3. Thanks for your comment.

      I am pleased to hear how your community is growing; such growth takes the initiative of the Diocese so that people see it as a legitimate Catholic way of life ad worship in the post Vatican II era. Sadly, not all Bishops are willing to create personal parishes (or even make it known that those parishes who offer the TLM are well within the teaching and practice of Vatican II).

    4. Well, I should not say it has been easy, and there has been opposition at the diocesan level, to be sure. But continuing the community as a hanger on at other facilities just could no longer work - the fire marshal demanded a change!

      I just pray you continue your support of Tradition and attempts to form souls according to the timeless and effective methods handed down to us. I am certain the souls will come, there are many (at least in the US, but I can't imagine it's any different in England) who are very hungry, near starved for the authentic Faith! Keep it coming!

  3. Oh Father how right you are. What more can I say but here here, I agree with every word. I find it very sad that our teachers, our parents, and even more so our priests are all of good heart but with poor people focused materials. All we can do is pray and hope that others take strength from this post. Thank you and God Bless.

    From Sally Anne

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      The materials make all the difference.

  4. My chidren are aged between 42 and 30; and despite my very best efforts, not one of them follows their religion - which means that I have 6 grandchildren who are baptised, and have received First Communion - but nothing elser. You are right, lipservice was paid in order to gain a place in a "good"school. The seventh grandchild has not even been baptised.
    I can't think what else I could have done - all went to Catholic schools, we all attended Mass every week,until they became young adults and stopped going.
    I do feel very guilty for my failure to pass on the Faith, and sometimes I wonder whether I should continue in my own observance -it somehow seems selfish of me to accept all the comfort and knowledge and strength I derive from Mass and the sacraments, without having been able to share all this with my own children. The biggest, most important task I was given in this Life - and I failed at it.
    I wonder now whether the fact that I married a non-Catholic had a lot to do with this - his influence must have been more pervading than mine - although he did agree, of course, to the Catholic Schools,and willingly paid the fees.

    1. Dear Maureen,

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, a lot of lip-service is paid. There's not a lot we can do until we are provided with the best materials for catechises, other than give the example that you have given and are giving by keeping up the practice of the Faith.

      Don;t think of yourself has having failed then; even Our Lord had people walk away from Him when He told them of His Greatest Gift: The Holy Eucharist.

      Mixed marriages do have their negative impacts, but where the Non-Catholic attends Mass and prays with the family the impact can be astonishing. Your husband did all he was obliged to do and, I'm sure, willingly. He is not, perhaps, the problem, rather, the 'world' is very attractive and its influence is everywhere. We are fighting an up-hill battle in every sphere of life these days.

      God bless you and yours.

  5. Thank you Father: spot on. We have opted for home education and we are using the Penny Catechism, memorising it bit by bit. It's a great education for me too! The move away from education based on truth and reason to person-centred relativism is ubiquitous. The best way to fight this battle is from the family outwards, restoring tradition and truth and sending little saints out there to do battle once they are mature enough, but not before. Schools, including the vast majority of Catholic schools, are enemy territory.

    Keep fighting the good fight, and be assured of my prayers.

    Ave Maria, Anthony

    1. Dear Anthony,

      Thanks for your comment. Home schooling is the way forward, I think, with a good parish liturgy somewhere near to round of the formation. The touchy-feeling, emotive, person-centred approach has damaged many, from laity to Bishops; its all most folk know now, and many are fearful of challenging it for fear of being seen as a maverick. Still, we seem to be getting some good Bishops in the UK if the last appointments are anything to go by.

      P.S. I hope your son keeps his blog going..!

  6. Father, so many things have been said here which I recognise in my own family. My own daughter, educated in a Catholic school, has not attended Mass regularly since my Dad died. Both my granddaughters were baptised at my daughter's insistence but have not even made it through First Communion.
    I see in education appeal panels parents promising to have their children 'done' to get into Catholic schools. Many of those parents are (nominal) Catholics. We call it "the Pauline experience on the road to Education".
    Unless & until we return the Penny Catechism to our classrooms we will continue to see what you describe & what I see. It used to be said that we were 'brain-washed' at school but even now in my 70s I can get the answers to many of my questions by going back to that little book & asking & answering the questions.
    You must continue to at least offer what your parishioners NEED not what they WANT.

    1. Thank you for commenting, David.

      What can I say? Your experience is shared by many, but most see no problem with lapsation...
      I think the Q&A Catechism is essential; we need a firm foundation upon which to build. Unfortunately today's Church is filled with prejudice and hostility: it was 'brainwashing' to have Q&A; it was 'oppressive' for Fathers to exercise fatherly correction; it was 'disengagement from the people' to face the Lord to whom we offered sacrifice -we ought to have been speaking to Him but engaging with the people. They are all nonsense and spring from the person-centred culture which arose in the 1960's -where many have got stuck and been blinded by its false light...

      With prayers

  7. You are being sent into Hell forever ... outside of the God’s Catholic Church.

    The vatican-2 heretic cult (founded in 1965 at the Vatican) *cannot possibly be* the Catholic Church … since it *enforces* the opposite, the opposite, and the opposite of the Catholic Dogma (the actual Catholic Faith).

    The Catholic Faith *is not* Bible interpretation ... it is the Catholic infallible Sources of Dogma (which has been ruthlessly hidden from you, and which you must know). The Catholic Church didn’t even define the Bible’s New Testament Canon until 397 A.D. at the Council of Carthage.

    The founding documents of the vatican-2 heretic cult … the “vatican-2 council” documents … have well over 200 heresies *against* prior defined Dogma.

    1. Dear Mike,

      Thanks for your comment.

      If I end up in hell it will not because I remain attached to the Rock of Peter against which Satan cannot prevail, but because of some mortal sin.

      Few these days will deny that there have been catechetical and liturgical problems since Vatican II, but these are just about beginning to be resolved. Every Council has taken a hundred years or so to be assimilated into the Church, and Vatican II will be no different, in my opinion. Indeed the signs are good.

      I have no difficulty with your words about the Bible as I understand them, since the Bible is but part of the Tradition we are to hand down, and I really don't think anything of our Tradition will be lost -if it is, then Our Lord cannot be trusted to keep His promise that the Church will prevail -or indeed, His promise that we can be saved.

  8. Recently I went online to find a First Holy Communion medal. Those of a certain age will remember that the girls wore it with a chain and the boys had the medal pinned to their lapels with a white ribbon.
    To see where we are, just google First Holy Communion/gifts. Warning: not for those of a nervous disposition. Clue: teddy bears, tiaras, crystals, "charms". After a long and increasingly depressing trawl, I finally came up trumps with an Irish site.
    If one assumes that what's on offer is what parents demand, I don't know how we are going to pull this back. Only to trust in Our Lord's promise that He will prevail.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Genty.

      I do not understand how any Catholic could think a 'charm' suitable for First Holy Communion. In fact, I wonder how many Catholics live by superstitions and charms; it is amazing to me how many talk of not putting new shoes on the table or not crossing someone on the stairs. I even know of some who visit fortune tellers during the week and then receive Holy Communion at the amazingly contradiction that one!

  9. I would like to think that "Mike" was a spoof: a posting by some heterodox person trying to discredit traditional Catholics. However, it does appear that people with such views do indeed exist--although much more noticeably on the internet than in every day life.

    I'm going to take a wild guess that he is a sedevacantist. :-)

    A very tactful and Catholic answer, Father.

    1. Thank you for commenting.

      Mike seemed to be sedevacantist to me too, but he had taken the time to comment and I didn't want to ignore him.

  10. I came here via Tantam's blog, Fr. Dickson.

    A well written entry.

    As a revert/convert I certainly have experienced *much* of what you say, Father. I was schocked (still am) how Catholics know so little about the faith.

    I was reading the Catechism as well as good, sound books and periodicals and was eager to share it with kids (in CCD) and adults (fellow catechists and others).

    However, after a while it was apparent my style of catechesis was not welcome in my home parish (my "style" being apologetics based - what the Church teaches on "x" topic and where you can find it).

    Yet our Blessed Lord had other plans for me as I now go to various parishes in our diocese to give "faith studies" on a wide range of topics about the faith. (many of those you mention in your entry)

    While the situation looks *really bleak* I figure we have to start somewhere and I am ready and willing to volunteer. (just finished two series' at parishes 15 and 20 miles from our home)

    By the grace of God there go I.

    May God bless you Father Dickson. :)


    1. Thanks for your comment.

      I wonder how many have lost the Faith without knowing it, because they have vestiges of doctrine and attend Holy Mass.

      May God bless you in your work -and welcome back home!

  11. I currently teach CCD at the grade 7,8,9 level. The kids usually know very little and they struggle with basic basics. They seem to have a inability to learn simple things. When I get a class like this I just try to emphasize the Authority of the Church, basic prayers, and the importance of frequent Confession. As a class text book I have used a simple fold out sheet of a detailed Examination of Conscience. I usually spend at least 5 sessions going over an examination of Conscience. If my class is a bit more savvy I have used the very simple Penny Catechism as the basic text, and a Baltimore Catechism as a filler. The kids need the basics and they need to hear it over and over and over again. If you do this with passion and with care, I have found that it works, or at least it seems to. But without a good Priest and committed parents the kids are not going to get it. I once asked a priest "Father the school children do not hear the basics of the Faith from their CCD program, they don't hear it from their parents, they don't read any religious books, they don't hear it on TV, and sadly the don't hear it from homilies. So where are they going to get it?" Where indeed. Thank God at least we now have Catholic radio, which seems to be working well.

  12. Thanks for your comment...especially that it came when I was on line!

    You seem dedicated to your work and that is all to your credit. Yes, if the children are not getting the basics at Church, school or home, where will they get it? Social Justice with "God-is-love" is all that seems to be promoted these days, along with a community party that used to be called Holy Mass.

    Sadly, we have no Catholic radio here, and I doubt an orthodox station would be supported by all at the higher levels of the clergy.


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