Wednesday, 25 February 2015
An Experience of a Course for Catechists
Last year I pointed out to Andrew that a local parish was offering a catechists course which was open to anyone, suggesting that he attend as he helps out a lot with our R.C.I.A. programme (which is heavily Catechism-based) and may learn new ways to put things across, some wider perspectives and some formation techniques. Being an unofficial course there was no appraisal, exam or accreditation, but I expected him to gain a lot from it. Just recently, I was told Andrew was a ‘distracting influence’ at the course.
Knowing Andrew to be viewed by many as very likeable I asked him about the comment, and I think the reality is that he simply asked a lot of awkward questions. He had been shocked to hear (whether he interpreted them correctly or not) such things as “Anabaptists were persecuted and punished with excommunication because at that time to disagree with the Church was heresy, but it’s OK to disagree with the Church today”. They were also told, “We are to confess areas of our life, not kinds of sins and their number” and “Baptism is the beginning of a journey; it doesn’t completely take away original sin otherwise we wouldn’t sin again” (both statements contrary to formal teaching).
In the interests of fairness I pointed out to Andrew that the leader/s may have been asking catechists to edge people away from confessing venial sins in kind and number; that when speaking of Baptism he/she may have been referring to concupiscence (that consequence of original sin which is not eradicated by baptism), and since baptism is seen as the first of the sacraments of Initiation, is able to be seen as the start of a journey. While Andrew does not deny that this may well have been their intended thrust, he did not feel this was the case -especialy since he had expected the course to actually refer to the Catechism (understandably so, if it is catechists they are hoping to form).
I am of the opinion then that Andrew was in fact, ‘actively engaged’ in the course (and, it seems, simply questioning some dubious ideas which were actually being proposed in seminaries of the 70’s -a major factor in the Bishops at the 1985 Extraordinary Synod calling for a post-Vatican II Catechism). If people were unhappy with Andrew referring to the Catechism, maybe they found the Catechism unacceptable? Though unofficial and carrying no appraisal, exam or accreditation, the experience of attending the course was worthwhile in that it allowed Andrew to hear what he does not hear in the parish. I think many of us heard the same kind of things in the seminaries even of the 80’s and 90’s, but we had the time and depth of study to filter out the theories from authentic Teaching, which the laity do not (and the teaching has to be in there in the first place!) Many orthodox priests will remember how common it was to be labelled troublesome, closed (or even clericalistic).
The liberal crowd are, in my experience, good-hearted people committed to a Church of Nice “for the affirmation of the folk”. That being so, I can even ignore comments made in my presence such as “I worry about these young priests who have no personal relationship with Jesus but are obsessed with Latin and lace”): they are not said with malice. It is simply that Liberals cannot take being questioned, and can become rather judgemental and oppressive in the way they handle their questioners and their questions.
All in all it seems sad but true to say that faithful lay Catholics on parish courses are experiencing in a small way what orthodox seminarians experienced in a big way a couple of decades ago. I thought when the Catechism was published the Church had left all those nonsense theories behind (I hesitate to call them ‘theology’), but it seems not. Perhaps many leaders have not read it or if they have, choose to ignore it in favour of their preferred theories -which most laity do not recognise as heterodox because they have been hearing them since the 1970’s from the pulpits.