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Junk Catechesis

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 3:00 AM Comments (18)

A reader writes:

I am a frequent reader of your blog and I really enjoy it.

I thought you might be interested in knowing about an experience I just had at my home parish.

Our Catholic Parish and my Pastor are without a doubt a parish of good intentions, but generally not bold in proclaiming the truth.  Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a concern to check if the materials we use follow the teachings of the Church.  To be fair, I think that most of the misleading materials were put in place years ago by different people.

Anyway, I just got involved in our Adult Faith Formation Committee and started reviewing the materials in different areas.  I found that the materials in our “Catholics Welcome Home” were some of the worst.

People interested in considering coming back to the Church receive a book entitled, While You Were Gone: A Handbook for Returning Catholics by William J. Bausch (a retired priest) Copyright 1994, Twenty-Third Publications, Mystic, CT.

I’ve attached a number of quotes that summarize the heresy.  The confusion this book must cause and the danger to lost souls is very sad.

In my parish I’ve notified the pastor of what I found and he agreed that we need to get rid of it and clean up the program.

It’s amazing how often we, the Body of Christ, get in our own way.  Surely one of the greatest proofs that the Catholic Church is of Divine origin is that it continues to exist after 2000 years of the Body of Christ trying to commit suicide.

He attaches the following snippets:

In the early twentieth century, there was a so-called heresy called Modernism which was trying to come to terms with new discoveries (such as we mentioned in the first chapter) and biblical and liturgical insights.  But this movement frightened Rome and so it started a reign of terror by dismissing or suppressing Catholic teachers, monitoring seminaries and newspapers, censoring books, and generally tightening control over all aspects of Catholic life…  It invented the Index of Forbidden Books, scoffed at Darwin, made fun of Freud, condemned Margaret Sanger, separated from the Protestants, condoned anti-Semitism, and retreated into its own ghetto. (p. 21-22)

The third phase is the far away and silent era of the ninth and tenth centuries.  This is the Mass of your parents.  What happened was that a couple of harsh heresies denied the divinity of Jesus, so in reaction the church came down hard on that side.  In the process, Jesus’ humanity was neglected.  The simple and kindly Good Shepherd found in pictures in early baptisteries gave way to the mighty and awesome Christ looking for all the world like a Byzantine emperor or Greek god.  (For a good example of this, see the mosaic of Christ above the main altar in the National Shrine in Washington, D.C.  It’s not a picture to warm your heart.)

Anyway, to stress Jesus’ divinity the Nicene creed was added to the Mass as well as prayers to the Trinity.  Distance and unworthiness became the norm.  If formerly the Mass was a gathering of the baptized around the altar with the bishop, now it became an occasion of separation.  People began to feel overawed and unworthy of such a Divine Presence.  Many confessions before Mass were introduced (the Confiteor; Lord, have mercy).  An altar rail now emphasized the distance.  There was a preoccupation with cleanliness (all those white clothes), reverence (no talking in church, your Father’s house!), remoteness (stay behind the rail).  Absolutions and washings were introduced, communion in the (dirty) hand was stopped.  The bread became the small, white host (which we used to call irreverently the Necco wafer), hardly recognizable as bread.  People were no longer worthy – and said so three times. (p.38)

Another insight of great practical importance is that baptism is basically the sacrament of initiation into the community, not primarily the sacrament of personal stain removal (original sin)….  Yes, there’s the taking away of original sin but that’s not the main focus. (p. 44)

We also emphasize the community ramifications of sin, for after all, sin may be secret but all sin is communal; it affects the community.  The virtues or vices of the individual raise or lower the general sanctity of us all just as the honesty or theft of one student raises or lowers the trust level of the whole classroom.  So we have communal confessions where the entire congregation meets with an understanding that we are mutually responsible for one another and that our moral lives impinge on each other.  Thus we gather in solemn prayer, Scripture, examination of conscience, reconciliation, and thanksgiving.  Sometimes there are many priests to hear individual confessions at these at these gatherings, or if there is a very large crowd and few priests, general absolution is given. (p.46-47)

Thanks for the warning.  I would not technically call everything here “heretical”, (some of it is just stupid, snide, inaccurate, or full of that sort of Whig history chronological snobbery that suffuses the Woodstock Generation narrative of the Vatican II Generation as the summit of human history.  The notion that, for instance, saying we are unworthy, apart from grace, to approach the sacrament is some Dark Ages act of oppression is just wrong in so many ways.  For cryin’ out loud: the Kyrie is so old it’s the only part of the Mass that retains Greek!  And the notion that the doctrine of the Trinity somehow removed folksy friendly Jesus from the common folk and set him in the heavens?  “All those white clothes”?  Has this guy never read the book of Revelation?  Or the story of the Transfiguration?  And the Church scoffed at Darwin?  Hel-LO?  Humani Generis anyone?  And what’s so great about Freud?  Or the racist Margaret Sanger and her eugencist Murder Incorporated outfit?

One can, and should, go on and on about the the rest of the misinformation being fed hapless returnees to the Church by this piece of We are NewChurch! agitprop.  But better still, one can and should imitate my reader, alert your parish if they are using this junk, and provide your parishioners with real catechesis.

Filed under catechesis, mailbag

About Mark Shea

Mark Shea
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Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.