In Cleveland, religion classes get back to basics

In Cleveland, religion classes get back to basics June 3, 2012

Could this be the start of a trend? Let us pray.


Greater Cleveland’s 13,000 Catholic high school students are about to get a dose of old-time religion, heavily infused with New Testament gospels.

Beginning next school year, theCleveland Catholic Diocese is introducing into the 21 high schools a new religion curriculum that will feature more traditional Catholic teachings on subjects such as sin, heresy, mystery and divine revelation.

It is the most comprehensive change in Catholic religion instruction in decades, said the diocese’s Superintendent of Schools Margaret Lyons.

“It’s very Gospel-centered, returning to Scripture, returning to the roots of the church,” said Lyons. “It’s more uniform, more thorough, very orthodox.

“We’re teaching that there is a moral code,” she said. “I think there has been a shyness about talking about moral issues.”

That shyness, she said, was the result of the do-your-own-thing mindset that was popular in the 1960s, a time when morality, many argued, was relative.

Religion instruction, she said, became strong in social justice teachings, but weak in the “mystical and mystery aspect.”

“Religion is also the relationship between a person and the Creator,” said Lyons. “And you have to grow your relationship and your faith. Faith doesn’t tend to itself.”

Bishop Richard Lennon said that when he came to Cleveland as a new bishop in 2006, he met with priests who told him, “there was a need for comprehensive and solid teaching about the Catholic faith throughout all 12 years of grammar and high school.

“I had the opportunity to meet with the high school theology teachers and administrators, receiving their input on what should be changed and what should be taught,” the bishop said in an emailed statement.

After two years of assessing the curriculum and how students responded to it, said Lyons, “We found a weakness in understanding the church. The church is both a mystery and an institution — an institution with divine presence through the Holy Spirit.”

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