The Problem with Catechesis Is that It’s Been Found Difficult and Not Tried

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Gilbert Chesterton famously said, “The problem with Christianity is not that it’s been tried and found wanting, it’s been found difficult and not tried.”

If you change the word Christianity for Catechesis, you have a description of the problem with the “unfaithful laity” in many parts of this country, if not the world.

As exhibit A, let me point you toward the mess at Eastside High School in Seattle. This school, which is nominally Catholic, appears to cater to rich little kids and provide them with a full blast of self-actualizing claptrap with a layer of do-gooderism and little c catholicism on top to make them feel good.

When their openly-gay vice principal “married” his partner, the school, in what was probably a stunning display of unexpected fidelity to Church teaching, decided to enforce its school contract and employee guidelines and dismiss him. The student body, which had clearly been catechized more by the vice principal and his supporters than anyone imparting Catholic teaching, reacted by staging a walk out.

Instead of expelling the students for walking out of class, the school pretty much caved on a later problem with another teacher.

Now, for all their what’s-happening-now weak-as-water Catholicism, the school is being sued by said vice principal.

Exhibit B would be the Seattle priest who wrote a column for a national magazine, taking a public stand against the teachings of the Church whose collar he wears.

Exhibit C would be the many Catholic politicians I know whose knowledge of what the Church teaches on issues such as the sanctity of human life and the sacrament of marriage is limited to slogans, and most of them come from the media which is openly hostile to their Church. You can place the parish priests who’ve told them it’s ok to vote against pro life legislation and for gay marriage, even while their bishops are begging them to do the opposite, alongside the politicians on the exhibit table.

What’s wrong with catechesis?

1. It stops at the little-kid-in-Sunday-school level.

2. Despite the fact that most priests are faithful to the Church, nobody with authority in the Church says a word to disagree with those who aren’t. Don’t any of these guys answer to superiors in this hierarchical Church of ours? How, exactly, can the bishops expect the laity to respond to their leadership when their own priests are either ignoring the bishop or flat-out telling their parishioners that their personal ideas trump Church teaching in matters of mortal sin?

3. Nobody seems interested or able to answer the onslaught of attacks from the world at large that the laity is facing. We need leadership, and we’re not getting it. At the very least we need an acknowledgement of what the laity must endure in this post Christian America.

4. Too much catechesis in more liberal parishes preaches a little g social gospel that is almost totally silent on Church teaching about justice. On the other hand, too much catechesis in conservative parishes focuses on sanctity of life and marriage to the exclusion of social issues. Worse, they do this in a political, rather than a moral manner.

The American Church has grown soft. It is no longer the Church Militant. It seems more like the church self-indulgent.

I keep wanting to shake people and paraphrase the line from the movie Aliens, “Maybe you haven’t been keeping up with current events, but we’ve been getting our rear ends kicked.”

There is no reason to panic or sink into depression because of the recent losses in the courts and at the polls on social issues. We can turn that around. All it takes is the will and determination to do it on the part of the laity. 

That is the key, you know: The laity.

We’ve got the task of changing the world. The clergy has the task of catechizing/inspiring/leading us so that we are equipped to do that. Unfortunately, before the laity can convert the world, the laity itself needs to be converted. Too many Catholics treat Jesus as their cop-out instead of their Lord.

I know that’s a tall order for our priests. I also know that it most decidedly is not what a good many of our men in collars thought they were signing up for when they took their vows. Most of the priests we have today entered a priesthood rolling in automatic respect and trust for their calling which spilled over onto them personally. They saw themselves giving homilies, administering parishes, providing comfort, healing hurts, taking on an occasional pilgrimage and basically doing predictable and rewarding work throughout the long slide to safe and predictable retirement.

What has changed is that they now have to do all those things, with a call to battle heaped on top of it. They must somehow find a way to deal with demoralized and angry parishioners while they play catch up in preparing their people to be strong in their faith in the face of hostility, and learn how to convert a self-dissembling culture.

They’re not up to it. I know that.

But this is the our time. These are our challenges. And the job in front of us is the one the Holy Spirit has chosen for us.

We’ve got to support our priests who are trying to be faithful while learning how to do a whole new job and add it on top the job they already have. As for Catechesis, the parish and diocese which needs it the most are probably also the ones which will mount aggressive resistance to it. When priests try to teach what the Church teaches, parishioners who are also faithful to the Church need to stand by them absolutely, especially in the face of hostility from parishioners who have grown accustomed to the Church teaching what the world teaches.

Catechesis as we’ve been doing it is failing our children, our families, our Church and Our Lord. The evidence is all around us.

That’s the first fact we have to face. The second, which is that we must change our way of doing Catechesis, follows on its heels. Everything after that is detail.

 

 

Let’s Rebuild the City: Lecrae Shares His Testimony

Lecrae found Christ, but only gave himself to the Lord half way.

Jesus told us you can not serve two masters.

Lecrae gave his life over to Christ completely after a terrible automobile accident. The rest is rap.

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Son of God to Open in Theaters February 28

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I’m going. Are you?

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For more information, go here.

Getting Real: The Marriage Protection Amendment

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Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.

 

Election time is just around the corner.

That means that you will be getting a lot of attention from the people who speak for you in government.

Don’t waste it.

When candidates hold coffees or teas; when they have their town halls or come to your door, make the effort to go and then to talk to them.  Let them know that you’ll be watching what they do if they are elected. Do not assume that because a candidate is with one party or the other that you know how they will vote and what they will do.

Both Rs and Ds will lie to you about where they stand on issues. Both Rs and Ds will defy their party and vote in ways that matter to them.

Ask these candidates, flat out, how they will vote on questions concerning the life of the unborn, violence against women and euthanasia. Then, follow that up with a new one. Ask them if they will vote for the Marriage Protection Amendment.

The Marriage Protection Amendment is a proposed Constitutional Amendment authored by Rep Tim Huelskamp, (R-Kan). Representative Huelskamp introduced the amendment last July.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who is head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ marriage defense efforts, recently sent a letter to Congressman Heulskamp, voicing his support for the proposed amendment.

I agree with the Archbishop that a Constitutional Amendment is the only way to approach this issue. If the Supreme Court had allowed DOMA to stand, the question could and would have been resolved legislatively. But they did not do that, which leaves us with this as our only way to proceed.

In his letter, Cardinal Cordileone said,

Your proposed Marriage Protection Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is, therefore, a needed remedy. The amendment would secure in law throughout the country the basic truth known to reason that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Preserving this elemental truth is necessary for the good of society at large and for the good of children who deserve the love of both a mother and a father, neither of whom is expendable. Indeed, marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman to each other and to any child conceived of their union. Federal court opinions that essentially redefine marriage to be merely a state recognized arrangement of intimate adult relationships ignore the truth about marriage, which deserves the highest protection in law.

I am, therefore, very pleased to support the Marriage Protection Amendment and urge your colleagues to join H. J. Res. 51 as cosponsors. Thank you for introducing in the House of Representatives this needed resolution to amend the U.S. Constitution. 

Make no mistake about it, amending the Constitution is difficult. We have before us not just the political work of passing and ratifying an amendment, but the much more important work of converting our culture.

One reason that the abortion fight has created bitterness and has taken so long is that pro life people have concentrated more on the politics than conversion.

Conversion must begin with us. By that I am referring to our own sexual behaviors, divorces and indifferent child rearing.

I’ve said repeatedly that the first and most important thing we must do — emphasis must do — is protect our own children from the corrosive effects of this post-Christian society in which we now live.

We need to protect our children, and at the same time be unafraid to go forward and speak the truth ourselves. For far too long, adults have protected themselves and thrown their children into the front lines of our trash culture. We have to reverse that, and we need to do it immediately.

Here is a copy of Cardinal Corleone’s letter:

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Pope Francis and the Pentecostals.

You may have already seen this. My fellow Catholic Patheosi have posted it here, here and here that I know of.

I’m posting here to make sure you have a chance to see it. This video gives us the complete Pentecostal service in which they played the Holy Father’s message. If you have time, watch it all the way through and be blessed.

This is wonderful. The Holy Spirit can do so much when He gets His hands on someone who will do what’s asked of them.

At this time when Christianity is under attack it is so important for us to stand together. God bless our wonderful Pope Francis and our Pentecostal brothers and sister in Christ.

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If You Build It, They Won’t Necessarily Come.

St Patrick went to Ireland.

St Paul went to most of the Roman world.

The apostles traversed the known world bringing the message of eternal salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ everywhere they went. With the exception of St John, they paid for their fealty with their lives.

Not today’s Catholics.

Somewhere along the line, the missionary paradigm shifted to the build-it-and-wait-for-them-to-come-to-us paradigm. Today’s discussions of evangelizing the world revolve around how to shape our catechesis of the people who show up for regular meetings at our churches. “How can we change our catechesis so that we catechize them into faithfulness?” is the question we ask ourselves.

In other words, we’ve abandoned the Gospel call to convert a lost world that is dying for lack of the saving grace of Christ. We’ve gotten so far away from it that we’ve even lost the ability to effectively convert the people who are sent to us or who come to us of their own volition, actively seeking conversion.

The working Catholic paradigm of converting the world is that we may — or most likely may not — build a church to house the people we already have, and if anybody else wants Jesus, it’s up to them to come to us. Worse, we turn people away for not qualifying, or in the case of our serpentine annulment process, because they can’t find everyone they need from their misspent pasts to fill out the right paperwork.

The miracle in all this is that, in spite of everything, the Church is growing. Year after year, our cathedral in my archdiocese is jam-packed through one mass after the other for the Rite of Election.

We are growing, not due to our missionary fervor, but due to the great hunger for God that runs throughout our lost world. People are hungry for the words that lead to eternal life. They want meaning and love in their lives. Most of all, they want to belong to somebody or something bigger than themselves. They want, they hunger for, Jesus Christ.

People are weary of the no-hope nihilism that our society offers them. They want a way out.

And we have the Way. We are not saved just for ourselves and our families. We have the only Way there is, and it’s our job to lead people to it.

Despite the full cathedrals at the Rite of Election, there are vast fields of lost humanity ready to harvest for the Lord that we ignore. They are, to be specific, everyone who does not come to us, requesting entrance, which, to be even more specific, is everyone who has not found some way to partly Catechize themselves.

Everything we do, from our indifference to converting people, to our diffident refusal to ruffle the feathers of those who oppose Jesus by talking about Him, says that Jesus is our private little g god and that there’s nothing about Him that other people need trouble themselves to find.

Sitting around and waiting for people to convert themselves and then beg us for entrance into our Church is the exact opposite of what Jesus told us to do. It eschews the example of the many saints that we quote at one another in our endless arguments during our internecine battles about nothing much.

The Catholic Patheosi have recently discussed Catechesis in depth and with their deep understanding of churchy things. Now, I am discussing, in my usual backwards way, what I think catechesis truly is. Catechesis is conversion, or it should be. As such, it is not limited to specific periods of formal instruction.

The base problem with our Catechesis is simply that it is not converting people. It is not even converting people who come and ask to be converted and who faithfully attend meetings in an effort to become converted. There are many reasons for this, and I’m not expert enough in this area to have ideas about the specifics.

But I can say from quite a bit of first-hand experience that when it comes to most of the world outside our church doors, we not only aren’t catechizing anybody, we aren’t even trying. We do not go to these people and talk to them about Jesus. We simply ignore them, as we ignore everybody else who doesn’t come to us first.

We need to forget the paradigm of build a church and wait for the world to come to us. Because more and more, even if we build it, they won’t necessarily come.

It’s hard to get into the Catholic Church today. You not only have to be the one to convert yourself, you’ve got to be the one to take all the initiative about joining. Then, you’ve got to jump through all sorts of hoops.

If you have a complicated past involving messy marriages — as so many people in this post-Christian age do — you may very well end up having to go through preparation for what amounts to a court proceeding to have your past legally expunged. If you can’t be a good enough lawyer for yourself in this court to get it done, you are not welcome at Christ’s table.

I have a suggestion on this, which I know will offend a lot of people. But perhaps the Church could begin the annulment process for converts by establishing a sort of triage system. If it was a common law marriage, or the person was married by a judge or in a church that worships satan or trees or whatever, then there’s no real reason for them to take the full canonical dose to get an annulment. Those marriages are invalid on their face. We also need a process for people who can’t go back decades and find everyone, or if they do find them, are physically afraid of them.

I’m not talking about Catholic marriages here. I am talking about marriages in the pre-conversion lives of converts; marriages outside the Church.

Ditto for things like baptismal certificates. A lot of protestant churches do not keep the extensive records that Catholics do. Many of them stay in business for a few years then close up and go away. If there’s a doubt in the pastor’s mind, then he should just give the convert a provisional baptism. Keeping people out of the Church over things like this is wrong.

The world is changing. We are going to be dealing more and more with people who have never heard the name Jesus; people who have been fully catechized, but not as we mean it. They are fully catechized in the nihilism of hook-up sex, do-unto-others-before-they-do-it-to-you-first, anything-goes post-Christian cultural dissolution.

It’s going to take more than the old build-it-and-wait-for-them-to-come-to-us paradigm if we seriously want to evangelize this new world. It will require the Apostolic fervor that built the Church in the first place.

My thoughts on what the Church needs to do in the New Evangelization are quite simple. Preach Christ. To everybody. And take down the No Room at the Inn sign.

Pope Francis Tasks Notre Dame to be “Uncompromising” In Its Catholic Identity

The Holy Father’s remarks to Notre Dame strike to the core mission of all Catholic Universities. I hope that they are listening.

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Nick Vujicic: Fully Living for Jesus Christ, Part 3

This is part 3. If you haven’t seen parts 1 and 2, you can watch them here and here.

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Book Review: The Scientific Pretensions of the New Atheism and Absolutist Propaganda

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I haven’t read every single one of the various atheist books by Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, Hitchens, et al. But I’ve read most of them.

I’ve also read the historic atheists such as Russell, et al.

What amazes me is that anyone takes them seriously. Even when I was deep in my anti-God period, I could see that Russell’s Why I am Not a Christian (which says everything worth saying that is found in any of the other books, by the way) used self-refuting arguments. If you followed his line of reasoning to its end, you would have eliminated the existence of 2 billion Christians who are on the globe today.

The illogic of his logic actually led me to believe that if atheism had good arguments, they weren’t being advanced. This is telling because I was at a point in my life where I wanted to be convinced by atheism.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the crude and nasty atheists of today’s public forums are the way they are for two simple reasons. First, their philosophy, such as it is, is so hopeless and nihilistic that it is crazy-making. Second, anyone who reads one of these “four horsemen” and is convinced by them (much less goes around quoting them and pretending their ideas are your own) is either an adolescent, or they are an adult who is stuck is permanent adolescence.

The Four Horsemen and their progenitors are not thinkers for grown-ups.

I’ve just finished reading a book that addresses this adolescent thinking from the viewpoint of a fellow scientist. David Berlinski is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. He has written such books as A Tour of the Calculus and The Advent of the Algorithm. What that means, aside from the fact that he’s got the chops to address the scientific hubris of the new atheism from the inside, is that, unlike most of the professional new atheist apologists, he doesn’t just go around writing hate screeds for a living. He actually writes and thinks about something else.

I wish his book on the scientific pretensions of the new atheism had a less lurid title. The book is of a higher quality than its title. However, I know that titles sell, and publishers make these decisions.

The book is called The Devil’s Delusion, Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions.

If you haven’t read it, you should. Berlinski writes with dry wit and clarity of the scientific gibberish that makes up the framework of new atheist arguments. The book is not, as the atheist books are, a vicious screed against those who disagree with him. It is rather, a gentle poke in the ribs.

Berlinski (who is not a believer) disassembles the house of cards of atheist scientific arguments against God, based entirely on the sheer outrageousness of their claims. There are no calls to insult people or attack them in the book. It doesn’t make totalitarian arguments that scientists should have their children taken away from them for the “child abuse” of teaching their kids what they themselves believe. There’s no trippy conflab about flying spaghetti monsters, and not one word of building a Christian revenge movement to drive atheists from the public square.

The Devil’s Delusion simply points out a few of the many over-the-top claims that atheists make in the name of science and calls them what they are: The attack polemics of a blind and absolutist faith. All of which is to say that the scientific claims by atheists are propaganda. They are not science at all.

I recommend The Devil’s Delusion. I hope that you will read it. If you’re been reading the adolescent rants of the new atheists, I especially hope you read it. It’s a great palate cleanser.

Our Pop Pope: What Does It Mean?

What does it mean when the Holy Father is Man of the Year for both Time Magazine and the nation’s number one gay publication?

What, pray tell, is the significance of a pope on the cover of Rolling Stone?

Two Things:

1. The Catholic Church is not irrelevant.

2. The Pope is showing us how to evangelize through love.

This adulation from the press won’t go on forever, of course. Sooner or later the media will figure out just how tough and immovable Jorge Bergoglio is when it comes to the Church and her teachings.

I think we should just roll with it and enjoy our Pop Pope’s popularity while it lasts.

And, in what is probably the most sincere of the bunch, the Holy Father has achieved super hero status in graffiti land.


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