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BY Judy Roberts
— In his search for a Church history textbook for Cardinal Stritch High School
in Oregon, Ohio, Father David Reinhart wanted something that wouldn’t “dumb
down the faith.”
and his staff chose a text from the Didache series, a set of four books
developed by the Midwest Theological Forum at the request of Cardinal Francis
George of the Chicago Archdiocese.
cardinal asked Midwest to write and publish a high school series “that would
set out clearly and adequately the teaching of the Catholic Church.” In a
review on the back of each text, Cardinal George recommends the books for “high
school teachers and students, those responsible for RCIA and all who serve in
positions of lay ecclesial ministry.” All the books have been reviewed and
found to be in conformity with the Catechism by the U.S. Bishops Ad Hoc
Committee to Oversee the Use of the Catechism.
Reinhart, president of Cardinal Stritch, said he and the school’s theology
teachers like the Didache books not only because they conform to Church
teaching, but because they treat the material academically. “So many theology
books are cartoonish and sort of assume everybody has a short attention span,”
he said. Cardinal Stritch has adopted the Didache morality text as well and hopes
eventually to expand to the full series as older books wear out and funds
Didache books are among 27 texts and series currently on the U.S. bishops
conformity listing, which contains materials that have been reviewed by the
bishops for consistency with the Catechism and completeness of presentation.
Although the review process has been in place since 1996, most of the 132 books
and series on the list are for elementary students. This is because most
publishers decided to submit and obtain conformity designations for their
elementary texts first.
Daniel Kutys, executive director of the bishops’ Office for the Catechism, said
the high school list is growing as publishers have submitted more texts over
the last few years, but it remains relatively short because some publishers are
awaiting approval of the “National Doctrinal Curriculum Framework for High
School Age Students” before developing new texts. The bishops’ committee on
catechesis plans to ask permission in March to release the framework so that it
can go on the agenda for the bishops’ November meeting.
years ago, when even fewer high school texts in conformity were available,
Cardinal George began talking with Father James Socias, an Opus Dei priest who
is vice president of the Midwest Theological Forum, about developing a high
school series. Founded in 1994, Midwest Theological is a nonprofit organization
that publishes materials and organizes workshops for Catholic bishops and
Chojnicki, Midwest Theological editor, said the effort was the first of its
kind for the forum, known mainly for its books on theology and publications
like the Daily Roman Missal.
Didache series made its debut with two titles (Introduction to Catholicism
and Our Moral Life in Christ) in 2003 and two more (The History of the Church and Understanding the Scriptures) in 2005. It is named for a summary of Christian
teaching from the first century that is believed to have been written by
disciples of the 12 apostles. The word means “teaching” in Greek.
said response to the series has been overwhelmingly positive, adding that at
least one of the textbooks — Understanding the
Scriptures — is in use at 30% of
the Catholic high schools in the country. The series also is used exclusively
in Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Scranton, Pa.
found [the books] to be very reliable, very Catholic, sound and detailed,”
Janet Benestad, secretary for parish life and evangelization in Scranton, said.
“They give the impression of being as serious a textbook as a typical math or
who like the series often comment on the presentation and layout, which
includes various types of artwork, but the content is the strongest selling
point, Chojnicki said.
quote from Church documents, papal
encyclicals and the Catechism of the Catholic Church and really try to explain
these things so we’re making it as much in conformity with the whole of
Catholic teaching that we can,” Chojnicki said.
said the series poses real-world scenarios, but avoids asking “what do you
think?” or “how do you feel?” types of questions. “We really tried to give
enough information that the student can answer based on what he learned in the
chapter,” he said.
said that rather than set students up to question Church teachings, the series
seeks to help them deal with common objections and questions by directing them
to the reasoning and arguments against such positions.
— Judy Roberts