Is "poor catechesis" a good explanatory tool?

When I was a Catholic, I heard this explanation constantly. I used to listen to Catholic radio, watch EWTN, etc and the collective opinion was that the vast majority of Catholics have been “poorly catechized.” Here on these forums, people often accuse each other of being “poorly catechized.” What does this mean, precisely? I have thought of some options:

A poorly catechized person:

  1. Misunderstands Catholic dogma/doctrines/practice
  2. Is ignorant of Catholic dogma/doctrines/practice
  3. Was improperly educated
  4. Has no education

Is this accurate? Often, the accusation of “poor catechesis” comes up when someone is trying to explain why a Catholic has a dissenting opinion (supports contraception or women priests) or when a Catholic apostatizes totally or partially. Things like this:

“Tsk, tsk, well, 98% of “Catholic” women use birth control because they’re poorly catechized.

“Yeah, it’s a shame that huge numbers of South American Catholics are becoming Protestants…catechesis must be totally lacking.”

Is this explanation adequate? Does it have enough explanatory power to explain the Great Schism, the Protestant Reformation, or the massive apostasy of today? Is it a verifiable claim? Can it be falsified? What is its prior probability? Are there competing explanations that do more work? What do you think?

I think that imperial politics can explain the Great Schism, the advent of the printing press can explain the Protestant Reformation, and the free exchange of ideas and debate on the internet together with the religious freedom of secular states can explain the current rapid decay of traditional religious beliefs. Just my opinion, probably wrong.

You’d know if you weren’t so poorly catechized! :wink: (sorry, I really couldn’t resist–even if I wanted to :p)

:rotfl: It’s a truly flexible explanation useful for pretty much anything.

More seriously it just seems to be a way of saying that people wouldn’t question climate change so much if they had a better handle on their climate data facts. Or people wouldn’t be so likely to accept a 6000 year old earth if they knew more about basic geology. Or people would not fall off the wrong religious cliff if they knew more about the facts behind their own religion. That kind of stuff.

These are all true, but not the whole story.

Things like this:

“Tsk, tsk, well, 98% of “Catholic” women use birth control because they’re poorly catechized.

“Yeah, it’s a shame that huge numbers of South American Catholics are becoming Protestants…catechesis must be totally lacking.”

The tsk, tsk, tsk comment doesn’t advance productive discussion. Nor using expressions like “it’s a shame.” It shows you’re biased and perhaps sitting in judgment instead of actually considering why these things have occurred.

To balance your claims is the fact that conversions are up and RCIA programs are getting larger and many Catholics are beginning to understand the dangers and limitations of contraceptives. Also, I’d like to see actual, recent facts backing up your claims. Those numbers are probably skewed because those doing those things are nominal in practice to being with–the products of poor catechesis as well as being more culturally Catholic than truly practicing or understanding their faith.

Is this explanation adequate? Does it have enough explanatory power to explain the Great Schism, the Protestant Reformation, or the massive apostasy of today? Is it a verifiable claim? Can it be falsified? What is its prior probability? Are there competing explanations that do more work? What do you think?

It’s been the experience of millions of Catholics since the 60’s when many dioceses/parishes threw out traditional catechesis for watered down programs that emphasized love, love, love and very little else. I know because when I came into the Church in the late 90’s my parish was into women priests, inclusive language, and a lot of other things because of the push of modernists who used Vatican II as the excuse for imposing their ideas onto us. I had read a lot of real Catholic material before so I saw what they were doing. I happened. I witnessed it.

I think that imperial politics can explain the Great Schism, the advent of the printing press can explain the Protestant Reformation, and the free exchange of ideas and debate on the internet together with the religious freedom of secular states can explain the current rapid decay of traditional religious beliefs. Just my opinion, probably wrong.

Of course these were factors–which led to poor catechesis. It all contributed. But, the Church has seen many ages in which people apostasized, grew cold, weren’t properly taught their faith. It’s cyclical. We moderns think we’ve come up with all sorts of new ideas, but in reality, there’s nothing new under the sun.

It’s not always an adequate explanation. People often just prefer themselves to God, as the catechism teaches that Adam & Eve did, preferring their own way in any case, preferring darkness to light as the gospel relates. We don’t necessarily give up our ignorance easily. :slight_smile:

Yes. The hardest thing for people to admit is that they need saving. Everyone wants to go to heaven but all too few are willing to be humble enough to do what it takes to be admitted through the pearly gates.

So, in which order would you rank the probability that either of the explanations are accurate?

Would you say that so and so disagrees with the Church because they more likely “prefer their own way” or “are poorly catechized?”

Is it more likely that people are poorly catechized or “prefer their own way?” How can you tell, and does “people prefer their own way” explain history and current events more thoroughly or more accurately?

As an RCIA team member I’ve found both to be true. In matters of faith, I think we have a lot of room to grow in explaining it better-the whole relationship of man with God from the Fall to the advent of Jesus-God’s revelation to man. The basics have always been in place-understanding them and passing that on can always be improved upon. In matters of morals or discipline I believe most people know the Church’s positions-and simply don’t desire to follow them in many instances.

The more usual phrase I’ve seen is “cafeteria Catholic”, which places the fault with the individual, whereas “poorly catechized” places the fault with the teacher. Some posters even tell me that a good Catholic must believe everything in the CCC, all 2865 paragraphs. Those guys must have brains the size of planets.

I wonder if, after the sermon on the mount, Jesus headed off worrying that the crowd were still “poorly catechized”. I don’t think so - Catholicism seems a lot more simple in real life than the mountain of technicalities some online folk make of it.

I agree, people hear what teachings they WANT to hear and
filter out those that they disagree w/ or what their peers say
are wrong.

Some folks know a good deal of what the Church teaches…but seldom WHY, or the basis of the teaching and proper methods to put it into practice.

Too often, people in the past simply showed up to Mass, priests gave homilies, and people didn’t really digest what was being said, or frankly, zoned out.
South America has literally thousands upon thousands of Pentecostal pastors and those of other faiths gaining members because there are so few priests for the vastness of the area.
While the priest is busy travelling between villages to say one Mass a week in remote locations, there are groups of Pentecostal pastors and their members sitting in the hospitals holding the hands of sick mothers, tending to their children, reading the Bible to them, and in general making sure the home fires are tended.
Naturally, when the people get well…guess where they start worshipping?
But back to the question:
Poor catechesis IS a real thing. We have teens who seldom come to church to hear what the priests preach, and all they know about their faith is what they hear at home (which is not always accurate) and that “my parents said I HAVE to come”.
They’ve already been catechized if you will, by celebrity opinions and popular media.
Imagine the fun time we have unpacking those brains to the truth of Scripture, the morality of certain socially accepted practices, and the great treasure of the Mass.
It’s hard work that few people want to help with. Many Catholics don’t believe they know enough to share their faith. They grew up with a kind of “shut up and sit still” notion about church.
So yeah…I’d say poor catechesis is a real thing, and not an excuse.

The 5 year plan, the great recent attack on the Church, was carried out by dissidents inside and outside the Church between 1968 through 1973. I was there. Things are being set right now for those who are returning to authentic Catholic teaching.

Just read the first paragraph of the following:

wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704586504574654282563939764

These dissidents worked very hard to scatter and confuse the flock. And the media supports their replacements today for the most part.

Ed

The conclusion is they succeeded far beyond their wildest dreams by destroying the faith of a generation, and of their children. Once again, we have a “core” of believers, as the article put it, who hold to the authentic teachings of Christ and his Church. I feel so for those who are confused, lost, and in rebellion based on ignorance and the campaign against faith in the modern world led by many within. They don’t know what they are missing. Instead of gaining their true inheritance they’ve traded it for the pottage of modern idealogies. Those of us who know better have the task of helping them regain their faith, which is the main reason I post on CAF.

[quote=inocente]The more usual phrase I’ve seen is “cafeteria Catholic”, which places the fault with the individual, whereas “poorly catechized” places the fault with the teacher. Some posters even tell me that a good Catholic must believe everything in the CCC, all 2865 paragraphs. Those guys must have brains the size of planets.
[/quote]

The CCC merely explains in greater detail what we are to believe based on the Ten Commandments and on Christ’s teachings. I haven’t read the whole thing, but I hold to all it teaches because of the authority Christ gave to his Apostles to teach in his name.

I wonder if, after the sermon on the mount, Jesus headed off worrying that the crowd were still “poorly catechized”. I don’t think so - Catholicism seems a lot more simple in real life than the mountain of technicalities some online folk make of it.

But they did need his teaching, his catechizing because they did live in ignorance because their leaders had negated God’s law with their own laws. The Church only teaches what Christ taught–because she can teach nothing else. Canon law merely deals with disciplinary matters based on Church teaching. It’s important, but it doesn’t rise to the same level as doctrine or dogma. Devotions are the same. Like disciplinary matters they can change and do.

And that is why God always leaves a faithful remnant and faithful leaders, like Pope Francis.

ncregister.com/daily-news/pope-francis-what-threatens-families-today-redefining-marriage

Some of us see and hear, while others are destroyed by lack of knowledge. As a professional who works in the media, I watched the slow, gradual descent of the majority of the media, starting in the late 1960s and worsening in each following decade, slowly poisoning the Body of Christ. Had it gone from then till now in months or a year, there would have been a great outcry. Now, a very low sensitivity to sin exists. Making it easy for more infection.

Thank you for your help.

Ed

I think it is much more than only catechism that has to be right, but I don’t think society is the main cause. To be a successful priest in a parish you not only need to give a good catechism, but also to life the catholic ideal to the people. Also the parish needs to better care for the people and to better involve them. Today the standard parish in my area has basically no catechism, is cold and people are isolated, so besides the mass they are only surrounded by false teachings. Or like my current parish, they have a catechism every week, but it is told like a fairy tail.

A good priest has to tell the teachings but also to proof them, explain how the Church works, give historical proofs, teach people apologetic, but also help people grow in faith, pray with the people, support and love the people. Also good youth groups are essential, so that the young people can discuss issues and develop a deeper understanding about anything.
Also the connection between people has to be stronger.

The traditional parishes I witnessed like fssp, fsspx, and other extraordinary form parishes don’t lose many young people. Most young people who are raised in a traditional parishes stay in faith. While most of the youth raised in average parishes lose faith or get non practicing even if they had faithful parents.

as a former Protestant I can only speak to my limited experience in that as a Protestant I met many cradle catholics who became evangelicals. A common argument was that they didn’t agree with certain doctrines of the CC. In retrospect many of them had erroneous understandings of official church teaching. So catechesis is definitely part of the reason among many im sure. Conversely the evangelicals ive met that have become Catholic typically know Catholic doctrine better than most cradle catholics which again tends to make me think my limited experience with this could probably be extrapolated somewhat. (I do know but to a much smaller extent very theologically knowledgeable people who have left the CC to be fair) There are many social aspects of evangelical churches that are very supportive as well that most likely have a strong influence on the migration in that direction.

I can state that poor catechesis is a real thing. When I was going through CCD classes we rarely touched upon details of the Catholic faith. Obviously, each person’s catechesis is different and it would not be fair to make a blanket statement as to whether any grouping or generation has had poor catechesis, but for at least a portion it’s true.

Now the important thing to note is that one can gain a proper understanding of Catholic teaching after first being poorly catechised. That happened to me. Not long after going through the sacrament of Confirmation I had many questions and many doubts. This was almost 30 years ago pre-internet so I had to use these things called “books” :wink: Even the best catechised person will likely have only covered a fraction of what makes up Catholic teaching, and so may lean on books, internet, these very forums, radio shows to continue that education.

So getting back to the topic at hand, if a Catholic disagrees with one or more Catholic teachings is it due to poor catechesis? Let’s break down the possible combinations:

  1. A Catholic has properly catechised/educated about a teaching and agrees with it.

  2. A Catholic has not been properly catechised/educated about a teaching and disagrees with it.

  3. A Catholic has not been properly catechised/educated about a teaching and agrees with it.

  4. A Catholic has properly catechised/educated about a teaching and disagrees with it.

How likely is option 1? I think we can all agree that it’s very likely.

How likely is option 2? Again I think we can all agree that it’s very likely.

How likely is option 3? It’s quite possible. A person may not know what the Church teaches about a certain issue, or may understand it incorrectly, yet may still agree with the Church’s belief on by his or her own methods.

How likely is option 4? This is really the heart of the matter. One thing that I think comes up when a person who disagrees with something is accused of not being properly catechised is whether that portion of the catechism is convincing. In other words, if the person had been properly catechised then he or she would not be in disagreement with the church because the argument being presented is irrefutable.

Obviously considering my religious position take what I say with many grains of salt, but the catechism is not a magic bullet. There are many Catholics and ex-Catholics who feel that at least one portion of the catechism is not convincing and thus disagree with Church teaching. They fully understand what the church teaches (i.e. there is no misunderstanding or missing elements to what they’ve been taught) it’s just that it doesn’t add up – often times when compared with other Church teaching.

In sum, I think the accusation of not being properly catechised is more than occasionally lobbied at someone who has been properly catechised and merely is in disagreement. At the same time it would be foolish to deny that there aren’t those out there who were given a substandard education with regards to what the Church teaches and why.

Yes that is probably the reason.

Jesus did say that many are called but few are chosen. So He calls 100% of Catholic women but only 2% are chosen.:frowning:

Seriously, though. This is one of the statistics that makes me cry the most. Of the 98%, how many have read Humanae Vitae? I have talked to many Catholics who contracepted, when I asked them if they had bothered to read Humanae Vitae, not one of them had. When I asked them how they could reject the Church’s teaching on this important issue without ever bothering to hear why the Church teaches it, they mostly looked down in shame. It is like rejecting Christ without knowing one thing He taught.

I would definitely call it poor catechesis, it should be required reading in Catholic high schools.

By the way, how many of those 98% regretted the decision later?

Hello Edwest. What do you think were the major causes for this gradual change?

Was it younger employees arriving without catechesis and/or the change to more secular education?

Do you think it was the rise of the celebrity musicians and actors and writers and their affect on culture.

Do you think it was the emphasis on being more ‘rebellious’ and ‘outrageous’ to maximise viewers?

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