Catechesis vs. Apologetics


I teach third grade CCD. My parish uses the “faith first” series of textbooks for the students. The book makes the statement, “God created everyone and everything out of love and without any help.”

When we do apologetics regarding sex needing to be open to life, we often will say something along the lines of, “The beauty of the gift of sexuality when properly used, is that we get to help God in the creation of new life.”

Well, clearly, these two statements outright contradict each other. How do we reconcile them, or does one(or both) of them need to be outright changed?

Keep in mind, I’m asking this question as a catechist of THIRD GRADERS, and I would need an explanation that would, if necessary, be understandable by third graders. As Catholics, we commonly criticize the catechesis that children for the past few generations have received, and statements like the first one above that I quoted verbatim from the text book are the very type of thing that could really confuse children a few years from now when learning about the gift of sexuality, if they are not properly clarified.

At Church each week during the Nicene Creed we say, in reference to Jesus, “Through Him all things were made.” That statement can be easily reconciled to either of the above, but the above two, as far as I can see, can not be reconciled to each other. Please help me on this, as the catechesis of innocent third graders will likely be impacted by your answers. Thank You.


You are thinking WAY too hard about this.

First, although you did not provide context to the statement in the third grade textbook, I would presume it is in reference to God’s creation of the world and all that is in it. God created ex nihilo-- and that is what the book says, in third grader language.

It is no way contradicts that we procreate *with *God. God remains the creator of all, and holds us in existence by an act of his will. We co-create with God when we bring forth new life. Remember, “co” does not mean equal to, “co” means “with”. Our creative contributions are subordinate to God’s.

Lastly, you absolutely should NOT discuss anything sexual with third graders. So, I really don’t see how our answer to you could impact the catechesis of “innocent third graders”.

The book is correct-- God alone created all that is, ex nihilo.

Anything we create is from pre-existent matter, even new life. God creates the soul ex nihilo also.


The Catechesis of your third graders should remain exactly where it stands. God does not need us to create and so the statement in the workbook remains valid. Third graders do not pick up and analize the way that we do as adults. Keep it simple. If you should need answers for your own faith formation then that is another issue all together but please do not undermine children’s faith with upper level theology. It’s hard enough for me as I venture through the Advanced Catechetical Ministry program and I’m grounded in my faith…Oh and by the way, God Bless you in your ministry. As a fellow CCD teacher I know the commitment and fervency one has in order to share their faith. Keep up the good work and my answer was probably a reflection of what you already knew…God Bless you…teachccd :slight_smile:


I thank you for your replies. I don’t feel I’m overanalyzing this, though. I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of a third grader and think of how I would process the statement that is in their books. I would take it at face value. What does that mean? Certain things.

Today’s children did not exist at the beginning of creation(in the literal, from a human timeline perspective sense. Please don’t anyone be obnoxious and start quoting Psalms and Jeremiah to try to contradict me on that.) Yet, in the children’s sense of timeline, all that existed at their birth would be included in that statement, including people who were created by God as a result of those children’s parents having sex, thus helping God. The context that the author of the book is using is irrelevant. It needs to be viewed in the context that the children are going to interpret it. An ongoing problem with catechesis of Catholic children is that statements are made in one context, yet interpreted in another context.

I am not discussing sexuality with third graders, but by the time their FORMAL catechesis ends, before Confirmation in 8th or 9th grade, the issue will come up. I don’t want them hearing something then, and thinking that it contradicts something they heard this year. That could cause them to distrust the Church, especially if they have a devout Protestant influence in their lives.

This is a major issue, as teachCCD, you have probably seen. The textbooks used to catechize children often make broad statements that are almost guaranteed to be interpreted differently by the students than intended by the writers. For example, a statement along the lines of, “The Eucharist is the greatest act of Christian worship,” when spoken to fifth graders, is going to give them the impression that receiving Communion is more important than loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving their neighbor as themselves. Get a Protestant to show them those words of Jesus in the Bible, and yet another Catholic becomes Protestant with a disdain for, what they wrongfully perceive as the Catholic Church compromising the truth of God, just to support their own agendas(the importance of receiving Communion, and avoiding contraception.)

My point is that as catechists, we should not be making irresponsible statements that are theologically sloppy and incomplete, passing them off as legitimate on the grounds that they are true in the context that WE understand them, when they will be flawed in the manner that children are likely to perceive them.

To clarify, I was not asking for someone to explain this apparent contradiction to me, but for advice on how to clarify what the book is saying, in third grade terms that will not lead to confusion later in life. I’d like to think that children take to heart what they learn in CCD, and I therefore find it very dangerous that I would be teaching them something that will be contradicted later in their catechesis. Phraseology is key when dealing with children.

For example, one time, I told a class of first graders, “keep your hands to yourselves.” Then, they started looking at their hands as if they were going to fall off.


I still think you are totally blowing it out of proportion and that there is nothing wrong with the statement in the book. Third graders can certainly understand that God is the creator of everything without taking it literally.

But, if you feel the need to clarify-- discuss something like a chair with the children. Who made the chair? A person, not God. But, who made the wood and the tree that the chair is made of? God. So, people can only create things from other things that already exist. Only God can create something out of nothing.


Thank you. That is the type of answer I was looking for. That would make more sense to third graders when phrased with that example.


If that is all that you were looking for it seems to me that you should be teaching junior high or above. I am definitely not implying that your talents are wasted where you are (absolutely not) but I think that someone like you is needed where these types of questions will come up. I teach in the Junior High area and I can find subtle flaws in the texts that we use. But, all my feelings kept aside, I constantly refer to Church documents ( CCC, VAT ll, encyclicals, etc.) and convey what the Church teaches with the “let me add” approach so as not to let on that the authors of their workbooks are wrong. This would only put doubt in their minds concerning the rest of the book.

As catechists we need to keep on these liberal authors and shuffle the kids back to official Church teachings. It’s not always easy. Our sixth grade book stated that the Gospels are merely stories. the rest of the book is great but when I come to that I need to clarify that while they sound like stories these are things that Jesus and His disciples actually did. Where the author came up with this is beyond me.

Anyhow, I still believe that in third grade things need to be kept simple, consise and truthful. While these kids will indeed process as the years progress I feel that pointing out contradictions at this age will make skeptics out of them. They have plenty of time for that. I always make the workbooks “correct” at least to the best of my ability. No catechist is perfect but when we take on the role of handing on the faith we best do our darndest (sp?) to make sure we do it right.

May God continue to bless you as you continue in this most important ministry. (Not to imply that others aren’t):wink:

teachccd :slight_smile: :slight_smile:


I always think simple answers are best. Catechesis is knowing your faith, living your faith and teaching your faith. Apologetics is knowing your faith well enough to answer and or refute questions and or statements about your faith.
Deacon Ed B


Hi changing heart,

“God created everyone and everything out of love and without any help.”

In teaching them this sentence, I would clarify that what is “created” with each new person (brought into existence out of nothing), is their soul. Our faith teaches that God directly creates and infuses a soul into each new human at the moment of conception.

(The body, of course, comes from already existing material. Even Adam’s body was formed from the ground - not created out of nothing.)

“The beauty of the gift of sexuality when properly used, is that we get to help God in the creation of new life.”

It would perhaps help if the word “creation” was not used in the second sentence. For example, I would say instead: “The beauty of the gift of sexuality when properly used is that we get to help God in bringing into existence a new human being.”



DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit