Is "poor catechesis" a good explanatory tool?

Thank you all for the responses. I thought this thread had been deleted since I rarely check anything outside of the philosophy forum. I originally posted it there, but it was moved here unbeknownst to me.

So, what I am gathering is that “poor catechesis” is a good explanatory tool. There have been some suggestions that Catholic education has been purposely sabotaged sometime after Vatican 2. How common is this theory? Does it seem likely that “enemies of the church” conspired to destroy Catholic education in order to seriously undermine the Church? Who are these enemies, and how did they get such vast influence?

I hate to give away my age, but let’s just say I didn’t exist before Vatican 2, and the Catholic education I received (formally) was laughable. From a very early age a trust was broken. I didn’t believe my teachers had any idea of what they were talking about because we would do nothing but watch silly cartoons and color pictures of multi-racial children giggling with Jesus. I would ask simple questions and get silly nonsense answers. Lots of guitar strumming, lots of imagining I’m cuddling with Jesus, etc. I’m sure others have had similar experiences. I wonder if this broken trust is the real problem at the root of “poor catechesis.”

Later, I used to read the newer (1993) Catechism every night before bed and every morning upon waking up (along with the New American Bible). I did that for about 3 years. I’ve also spent considerable time with Aquinas, Trent, Augustine, Ligouri, Francis de Sales, Teresa of Avila, Thomas Kempis, Newman, Anselm, Basil, and many others. I believe I have a solid “DIY” amateur Catholic education. Of course, it has been conducted entirely according to my own biases and interests. It is also far from comprehensive or balanced.

Still, though, how much should I have to know in order to believe? For me, the more I studied and meditated upon what I was reading, the less I believed. I sometimes wonder if an “ignorance is bliss” attitude is prevalent among contemporary Catholics, and I wonder if it is the right attitude. Not anyone on this forum, obviously!! However, the average church goer (in my experience) seems reluctant to study too hard or look too deep. Maybe this apprehension is the real problem, or maybe it has kept “butts in seats” for lack of a more elegant expression? I’m all questions and no answers.

I strongly believe that poor catechesis is the #1 issue for most problems in the Church today–the shortage of priests, lack of adherence to church teaching, acceptance of ideas like gay marriage and abortion among many Catholics, lack of parish participation, low mass attendance, etc. Belief has to begin with a good basic understanding the faith, and we have largely lost the last two generations because they have not been properly taught. For the last few decades, catechesis has been very inadequate, failing to teach even the basics of the faith. In the U.S., for example, the quality of catechesis is at the mercy of whatever lay person happens to volunteer for the job. Training is minimal. We have especially failed in the area of adult religious education. Most Catholics never attend another class after confirmation in their teens, a time when they are the least interested in anything religious. Protestants, on the other hand, attend Sunday school every week for their entire lives. It’s just expected, and is part of their religious culture.

The bottom line is this: you can’t love what you don’t know. You don’t need to be a theologian, but you do need to know the basics to have a solid foundation from which to grow in faith. We have failed to do so miserably. It may be slowly turning around, but the costs of the last few decades has been very high.

I honestly think it’s the main reason so many people leave the Church. They hear what other people think the Church teaches, decide that they disagree with it, and then come to the conclusion that since that’s what Catholics teach, I can’t be Catholic.

I run into this problem a lot with my girlfriend. She’s been told all sorts of things by Catholics or those who claim to know about Catholicism that are completely untrue, yet are commonly held, or things that are not doctrine but are accepted by a lot of people and are then repeated as though they were. Things that we debate about on CAF every day. :smiley: Several times I’ve tried to explain what the Church teaches about various topics, to be met with near-disbelief about what I was saying, for example on Purgatory. But warped understandings of Purgatory, as well as Heaven and Hell, are so prevalent, actual doctrinal teachings can come across as made up, simply because of how widespread the errors are.

It sounds like you’ve done some excellent study on your own–you probably know more than 99% of all Catholics. It does surprise me that you found your studies to cause you to believe less. Most people have the opposite experience–the more they learn the more they see the beauty of the faith. For example, in the last 20 years or so there has been a huge influx of Protestant ministers into the Catholic Church. They read their way into the church. Scott Hahn is an excellent example. I highly recommend his books and talks. His conversion story is particularly enlightening.

I’ve come or rather stumbled into the Church by
divine appointment, the more I read on what the
Magisterium teaches, the more excited I get!!!
Glad to be home… in the Catholic Church!!
Praise the Lord!

No the “poor catechesis” accusation is a poor one to use. A person can know Catholic teachings, inform their conscience of teaching and of the whys. But still may not believe it. At some point faith must kick in even for the most devout, faithful Catholic. Including faith in Catholic interpretation. Or I often see Catholics quoting ECFs and I think to myself, don’t they understand that only works if the person on the receiving end has faith in the CC teaching authority and in those early men they are quoting and in Catholic interpretation of their writings.

I would say (1) and (2).

The statements are too generalized and therefore inaccurate as generalization can never be accurate.

There are many reasons why Catholic women use birth control, and they were not necessarily poorly catechized. Life is very complicated, and if one really sit down with these women, there are many reasons that cause them to use birth control, and certainly many of them know that the Church disapprove of artificial birth control. So it is not so simple as to blame them in being poorly catechized.

No, no and no. It is very simplistic to use the term ‘poorly catechized’ for all those. I would venture that person is just being too lazy to offer reasonable explanation of the Catholic doctrine and the reasons of those who disagree.

As can be seen in CAF here, many Protestants do know about the right Catholic belief but they just disagree. Of course, there are many who misunderstood Catholic belief and that certainly true too for Catholic themselves, and who therefore are poorly catechized. Would they leave the Church or would they sin against the Church’s doctrine. Some of them do and some don’t.

Personally, I think that politic played great role to affect the schism and to some extent, the Protestant reformation.

The free exchange of idea does not necessarily cause religious decay, in fact it can strengthen a person belief, but not practicing their belief does.

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

I recall reading some articles debunking this. Even if the “98%” number is true, it is not stating that 98% of all Catholic women are using contraception right this minute, it is stating they “have used” at some point. Including those who have repented, confessed their sin, been forgiven.

AFAIK, the poll cited as evidence for this statistic, excluded both women who were not sexually active at all, women who are naturally infertile including post-menopausal women, and even women who were actively trying to have children.

That being said, I realize that even the “real number” is quite high. But I’m sure the stats for other sins are even worse. The “M” sin? Adultery of the heart? Lying? Pride? Detraction? I’d say the vast majority of Catholics, Christians, religious people in general, etc., are guilty of these sins. And yes, I know some people think the vast majority are damned. But I think you get my point.

There are many reasons why Catholic women use birth control, and they were not necessarily poorly catechized. Life is very complicated, and if one really sit down with these women, there are many reasons that cause them to use birth control, and certainly many of them know that the Church disapprove of artificial birth control. So it is not so simple as to blame them in being poorly catechized.

I have read on CAF and heard from actual Catholics, comments such as:

(1) The Church teaches that anyone who is divorced, is barred from Communion.

(2) The Church teaches that “homosexuality” in terms of just having the “orientation”, is itself sinful, even if a person never engages in sexual acts with the same sex.

(3) The Church teaches that the only valid reason to have sex, is for procreation.

(4) The Church teaches that you can “get an annulment” if your marriage is abusive or adulterous.

(Actually, more often I see this phrased in the form of a question: “My sister’s husband keeps beating her. Can she get an annulment?” that assumes annulment is essentially just Catholic “At-Fault” Divorce – though most do understand the Church does not teach a marriage can be “annulled” for no reason at all).

(5) The Church has an exception to the ban on contraception, if a pregnancy puts a mother’s life in danger.

(Unfortunately, I’ve seen many posters state that their own priest told them this.)

(6) But I’ve also heard that “The Church forbids ANY medical treatment that can have the effect of suppressing fertility”, often in the context of people who think that the Church forbids women from taking “the Pill” for ANY reason.

(7) The Church has an exception to the ban on abortion, if a pregnancy puts a mother’s life in danger. (Technically not true, though IMHO some of the theology used to explain situations such as ectopic pregnancy, do smack of sophistry at times. But that’s not quite on topic.)

Many of these Catholics, sincerely think these are real Catholic doctrines, which is quite different from those who knowingly dissent.

“He must’ve been poorly catechized” is a good explanatory tool… until it isn’t, at which point “He must’ve wanted to legitimize his sinful lifestyle” comes in handy.

Where does faith come in? You don’t think one could be as “properly catechized” as is humanly possible, but still lack the faith to believe in what they were catechized about?

All of the above, I think.

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.

I think because it seems to be the most charitable explanation.

“They aren’t really that stupid/lazy/selfish/demonic; they were just taught incorrectly or incompletely.” :stuck_out_tongue:

I have stated this many times, albeit with different words, and attacked each time for even insinuating such a thing. I was raised in the church to a point in time in history, was removed, and when I attempted coming back, I didn’t recognize the church. Still dont.

Technicalities=paperwork, deadlines, forms, reissues, certifications, documentations, permissions, dispensations, convalidations, lack of forms, sanitations, ad nauseum…

From the WSJ article, this in not true:

“They have left no coherent second generation of dissident Catholic intellectuals to follow them.”

They are alive and well and still confusing the flock, at least in the diocese I live in (I removed myself from that diocese) and they are also active in welcome home venues and here at CAF.

Sorry, should have read further:

" But dissident Catholicism seems to have lost steam as an intellectual movement"

Where does faith come in? You don’t think one could be as “properly catechized” as is humanly possible, but still lack the faith to believe in what they were catechized about?
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I’m sorry. I forgot the obligatory :rolleyes: to indicate flippancy.

While catechesis may be generally inadequate these days, one can’t extrapolate this general tendency to the case of individuals. As you and others have demonstrated a person could understand the tenets of a religion (or really any ideology) and still come to the conclusion that they’re false. Within my own tradition of Mormonism I’ve seen many faithful LDS people make the same claims about others who leave Mormonism: “He didn’t truly understand the faith”, “Someone in the church must’ve offended him and his leaving is nothing more than an emotional reaction”, or the even more character impugning: “He must be a drunk/adulterer/homosexual who couldn’t tolerate the moral standards of the Church”. It never crosses such LDS people’s minds that maybe, just maybe, the person has come to the informed conclusion that Mormonism is false. To such individuals Mormonism is so obviously true that no reasonable person with sufficient knowledge would ever leave.

Poor catechesis isn’t an accusation against the person poorly catechised!

It’s an accusation against the persons poorly catechising!

And the circumstance of this accusation of mine is not specifically that someone committed the naff act of leaving the Catholic Church or has a naff stance on contraception. It is just as much about the stayers and the “orthodox”.

The rot in the Church got worse about 100 years ago. (In fact it has always been present like Della points out. For example Berulleanism started about 1600.) The world copied it, more and more, in the late 1950s.

Explanatory tool = tool for explanation. Not: tool to be used against those who are already the victims as you have identified.

Also, poor catechesis means poor in quality more than quantity. Thank you for your history in post 21. No-one cared enough where you were at to show Jesus cares where you are at. This isn’t lovey-dovey. It factors in the grot. The cartoons didn’t show it.

There are however cases where people were hardened and the catechesis though not perfect was enough to show them it wasn’t for them.

Then there are cases where it was enough but they are so impervious they pretend (and kid themselves) that it is for them though they are living a lie - sadly some in the hierarchies.

Catechesis is supposed to be life long.

So many permutations.

Do you not think that the person being catechized has a responsibility to show an interest, ask questions, and actually receive the teaching? Surely the student also bears some responsibility for learning the material. And if the interest is there, poor teachers can’t stand in the way.

Honestly when I read things like that I feel like it’s a simplistic cop out excuse. Are some Catholics poorly catechized, absolutely. Having grown up Catholic most of my catechesis and knowledge of the church’s teachings actually came later and through my own effort to learn it, not through anything formal despite the better part of 2 decades of Catholic education. That said, just because 98% of women use birth control doesn’t mean they were all poorly catechized or because people are leaving the church they’re poorly catechized.

My mother was very well catechized back in the 60’s pre-Vatican II Catholic grammar school, etc… She still used birth control and eventually had her tubes tied after her third child. She chose to ignore church teachings on the subject for her own reason despite knowing full well the church’s position. I myself as I said eventually self catechized very well and fully understand the RCC’s view on many social/theological issues. Despite that, I disagreed with the church on many issues and eventually left in large part because I WAS aware of the RCCs views.

To me, blaming poor catechesis is a overly simplistic way of trying to explain away very complex issues and Catholic’s reactions to them that run counter to church teaching.

Do I not think - negative question. No I do not not not think what you think I do not not not think.

When did anyone - let alone me - say anything negative about the enquirer’s responsibility? To actively seek and to be receptive?

Your post is based on some assumptions about the quality of material, the existence of suitable material - after all the OP mentioned some unhelpful cartoons didn’t he.

As for poor teachers you must count yourself fortunate they haven’t featured in your life. For many of us they are part of the journey God makes us grapple with. Why shouldn’t we express ourselves like the OP when we are half way?

What is supposed to be the ethos and motivation of belief? “Doing as one is told”? For some people if their family and schoolteachers didn’t have a relationship with Jesus no amount of reading up Newman or Aquinas tipped the balance - yet. When catechesis worked for me - which wasn’t at school - many people including lots of Protestants had been praying for me for years upon years.

But the OP’s reading won’t be wasted, it will make sense in future.

It’s too soon to write off anybody - even you!

In the context of the OP’s OP and his history given later, just because in some specific contexts a simplistic cop-out is being used doesn’t disprove the prevalence of poor catechesis and its results overall. Your own history doesn’t disprove it either, nor does the hordes of South Americans becoming Pentecostals. Perhaps you are a better Episcopalian Christian - and they, better Pentecostal ones - because of the gifts God piled on while you were “passing through”. There are even atheists and agnostics who have said much the same.

Meantime, hundreds of millions kow-towing to bossy archbishops and going through motions without having a relationship with Jesus might well be good as far as it goes but isn’t a substitute for the deeper growth that will produce fruit in others’ lives in this day and age if catechesis will allow for it.

Did you know how to defend the Catholic faith when you were Catholic? Could you explain and give some scripture evidence for any of the Sacraments especially baptism? Do you know scripture well enough today to defend your Noahide faith? If so then show me.

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