Parents excluded from Confirmation preparation classes

It can be quite the revelation. I sat in on my son’s confirmation class one day and that was the day one of the younger kids asked ‘how do you know something is a sin?’

The catechist’s reply “Well, if you do something and you feel badly about it afterwards chances are it was a sin.” My next stop was the office of the catechetical coordinator for the diocese who happened to live next door.

This is the kind of things that happen when you have to beat the bushes for someone to teach a program that is not well defined & then take anyone who volunteers, regardless of qualifications, just so you can get the kids ‘done’. Catechesis in our parish is a disaster.

While certainly an incomplete answer, it does have an element of truth. It acknowledges the fact that God has written His law on our hearts, and the role of the conscience in evaluating the morality of our actions. If we have a well-formed conscience, we should feel bad about it afterwards.

It probably should have been supplemented by reference to objective standards such as the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, the Precepts of the Church, etc. After all, we want our kids to be able to avoid sin in the first place, not just recognize it after the fact.

How people can so easily see that whether or not you are guilty of a crime has nothing whatsoever to do with how you felt about your actions at the time, who get that ignorance of the law is no excuse, and who yet seem not understand that sin has nothing to do with your emotional response to your own behavior (or anyone else’s emotional reaction to it, for that matter) is beyond me.

The other one that drives me nuts is the admonition to “follow your conscience” without any explanation of what a properly formed conscience is, without any mention that we have a moral duty to continually inform our consciences and to seek authoritative guidance when our consciences are unsure, and without even mentioning that moral behavior sometimes “feels bad” and immoral behavior sometimes “feels good”…again, it is all beyond me. Two minutes of questioning this stance would show how much it totally defies simple common sense.

People know that a smoke alarm can go off without there being any fire, that it can fail to go off when the house is being engulfed in flames, and yet they don’t understand that emotions aren’t an unfailing indication of morally-sound behaviors? Who ever told them or what personal experience ever lead them to believe that their feelings were such inerrant meters of moral rectitude? The truth is, if they were to find that someone had robbed their house and vandalized the leftovers without feeling a bit of remorse, they would feel *more *injured, not less! Yet they unthinkingly teach that feelings are an unfailing guide to making moral choices. Perhaps they have fallen for the lie that “good” people can follow their feelings, but “bad” people can’t…which is another widespread belief that defies common sense for more reasons than I could list.

It is bad enough when a teacher is ignorant, but it is worse when a teacher doesn’t even make sense. Yet it happens all the time.

It is not just that this pack of lies will lead many students to systemic failures in their own moral lives. It also opens them to a life of manipulation by their own emotions, not to mention slavery to the emotional manipulations of others. It robs them of an ability to make a commitment, since our feelings about the commitments we make naturally ebb and flow. The list could go on and on.

Obviously, you’ve hit upon something of a sore spot with me. :rolleyes:
Still, I hope this one example makes it obvious why parents might feel a moral duty to directly oversee anyone who is teaching the faith to their kids. It might be a pain for the teacher, but the concern of parents is unquestionably legitimate, because of how much of what I could only call “counter-catechesis” that is out there.

No, no, no. We have no moral duty to feel bad or to punish ourselves with guilt and shame when we have sinned! We don’t even have a duty to feel guilty until we have confessed! We have a moral duty to examine our lives regularly, to repent of our sins, both of commission and omission, to make amends, and to avoid near occasions of sin in the future. We have an absolute duty to confess our serious sins, as well, would profit from habitually confessing venial sins, and should not expect to advance at much of a pace spiritually if we don’t.

Continually meditating on “objective standards” is the normal way we get to a properly formed conscience. It is not a supplement. It is a necessary part of the moral life, because love is an action, not a feeling, and knowing how to love requires knowing what actions are loving and which ones aren’t. And I do mean continually meditating. It is not enough to memorize the ten commandments and the precepts of the Church and then do nothing with them. These are the most basic tools for examination of conscience which a Catholic needs to do on a regular basis.

I don’t mean to center our lives on rules and regulations. I do mean that we need to be vigilant in pursuit of the truth, lest we fool ourselves. We cannot put ourselves in an intimate relationship with God if we aren’t on intimate terms with all God has taught about how we are made and how we are to live. We cannot be honest with ourselves before God concerning our poverty and need for His graces if we are ignorant of the truth of how we are meant to live in the world. Love isn’t a feeling. Love is a way of life. We can’t live it unless we continually turn ourselves back to the truth of what behaviors love demands.

It should also be taught to students that even people afflicted with a sociopathic inability to feel remorse are not outside moral law. They have the duty to follow moral law regardless of the fact that failing to do so never feels bad to them or that following it fails to fill them with warm fuzzies.

Everything that we truly care about, we want to learn to do well. “Good enough” is not good enough for us. We thirst for any little fact, any little edge that will enhance our performance. Why would we think we can have any chance at moral excellence when we let ourselves be slipshod when it comes to intimate knowledge of objective moral law and how it applies to our own moral performance?

Sorry, PhilotheaZ, for the soap box. I DO NOT mean to imply you had any intention of even implying we would be slipshod with regards to examination of conscience, learning moral law, or anything like that. I just run into this careless attitude with regards to knowing moral law again and again…just follow those feelings. You know what I mean. It sets me off. :blush:

A lot of that has to do with the “new” catechetical methods we saw emerge in the 70s. These methods were based more on child phychology than there were based on the priority of teaching the faith. The catchphrase of this new catechesis is “how does that make you feel?” We see it in “contemporary” catechism resources over and over and over again ad nauseam. To a great degree, they meant well. They were trying to teach children that sin hurts people. What’s the best way to do that? Let them learn from their own experiences: if someone hits you, it makes you hurt and this is not a pleasant feeling–therefore when you hit someone else, that other person likewise feels pain. Bottom line: don’t hit other people. Makes perfect sense. The problem is that these methods neglect the all-important aspect of teaching children that there is such a thing as objective right vs. wrong. The unintended consequence of this method is, naturally, that children start to think that if it doesn’t make you feel bad, then it’s not a sin–because we only teach them to use one criteria “how does it make you feel?” Moral relativism at its worst.


I’m not saying that we ought not stand back and see if the way we have chosen to navigate moral law doesn’t do unnecessary emotional harm. Of course it is important that we take the feelings of others into consideration. Of course we should not ignore our own guilty feelings, any more than we would turn off a smoke detector without bothering to see if there was in fact a fire going in the house somewhere! Guilty feelings are meant to be a gift, in that respect. But the world is also full of co-dependents being run ragged by their mistaken need to be responsible for everyone else’s feelings, and full of other people who blithely ignore the demands of love because their own “smoke detector”, never calibrated correctly in the first place, has seemingly run out of batteries.

Hey Cheese, this could help give you credibility when you speak to the confirmation instructor. or a similar online youth protection program. On this site is a way to learn children safety and to report abuse. These type of sites will give your parish a sense of security when you are around if they permit you to be as well as help you to spot those kids in need of attention from your parish/authorities.

The training in the different programs that support difference regions of the US are all similar and should be helpful. One of the options is to state that you are a parent so it is useful for parents as well.

At our parish, all the parents get the classes for parent awareness, whether they ever darken the door of the classroom or not, so there isn’t any excuse for any parent who even drops in once to not know the rules with regards to appropriate contact. The great side-effect is that the parents go away knowing what opportunities predators (or sometimes assailants, in the case of other kids) need to operate and what a program needs to do in order to deny those opportunities…that is, when assessing programs outside the parish that their kids might want to take part in.

As for security, though, usually having more educated adult eyes around is going to be what discourages predators, even parent predators. It makes it a higher-risk arena to operate in.

LOL, yes to some degree. Usually homily complaints come in the form of an anonymous letter. But, thankfully, I’ve never received too much flak for any one particular homily.

The Church does teach that parents are the primary educators of their children. It is impossible to meet that duty when one has no right to know what others are teaching the kids. There has to be some way that parents can monitor what is being taught and give feedback. After all, if it is true, it will bear the scrutiny, whether the parents believe that in the end or not.

I agree that our materials and outlines should be available. Parents always know what book(s) we’re using and receive the schedule with what is expected to have been read for each session as well as what is being addressed in each session.
My biggest problem is that after the session students and parents tend to “mill about” for a little bit. And confusion sets in when students overhear a group of parents bickering about what was just taught. While individual students are always going to primarily get their education for their immediate parents, they will be influenced by other parents they see publicly complaining. Essentially I refuse to allow anyone to publicly question the integrity or credability of my staff.

Still, a priest teaching a confirmation class (or even anyone teaching one under the direct supervision of anyone else who is similarly qualified) should not be subjected to public questioning of his orthodoxy. That is beyond the pale.

I won’t go say far as to say that there aren’t priests who are just too far to the left or right. But there’s a time and place to do everything.

Yes, but many times the behavior of the parents is worse than the kids! And excluding just certain parents would cause practical problems because if someone is that much of a problem I could see them insisting on being present anyways.
Now, i don’t mean to say that I’ve encountered problems with parents on a regular basis but its happened more and more over the last few years. And when it does happen it is damaging to the education of the students.

Parents who would make an effort to attend confirmation classes with their child may not make the same effort to attend the separate RCIA classes.

Maybe next year after some more reflection I’ll change the program up a bit and we’ll come up with a way to include parents. I’m not trying to create a hard and fast for all eternity rule.

I appreciate the feedback, God bless!

*A little off topic, but question–why is a freshman in highschool going through 3 years of confirmation prep classes? :confused: My son was confirmed in 8th grade, so was I, so was my husband, so will my daughter be, next spring. *

I think almost every diocese in the country requires anyone who has “regular contact with minors” to have a background criminal check. I am not aware of any diocese that does not have such a regulation in place.
In my confirmation program every adult is checked, has to attend a child safety seminar and no one is permited to be alone with a student.

Not every part of the country does confirmation that “early.” Here in the Northeast the usual age of confirmation is at the end of the 10th grade.

That’s interesting. I made my confirmation in NJ, my husband in Pittsburgh. Maybe times have changed. TY for your reply.

That is what I mean. Just in general, the laity should be able to give the clergy feedback. Even if you’re not wrong, I’m sure it has curled you hair to find out what message people got, instead of the message you actually read out loud. But just as when one questions the judgment of a parent or the courts or whoever has authority, there is way, a time, and place. Idle words cause a great deal of harm.

Speaking of, I need to get off the internet and get some work done! :blush: :rolleyes:

Every Bishop can set the guidelines, ours is a 2 year program. Kids are usually confirmed in the 8th grade.

I pray for restored order to come to our Diocese, Confirmation would be done around age 7.

We did that for 9 years then merged with a diocese that confirmed in grade 10 or 11. The compromise is that now children can request confirmation anywhere between grade 6 & 10 (11 to 16 yr old).

It was wonderful to see children confirmed – unfortunately for too many that meant that they would return to church for Christmas, maybe Easter, because their parents considered Confirmation graduation.

Although, I must admit, that for some families it’s what brought them back to the Church. The children had a separate Liturgy of the Word each Sunday which brought their families. The direct catechesis was a family format in that the parents’ presence & participation was expected at each session. For some it was what they needed to kick start their faith and their journey. Many of them were heard to say “My child was not the only one to learn from these sessions, I learned so much that I had never known.” All these parents had gone to Catholic schools so it leads one to wonder what exactly was taught in the 70s & 80s when they were going to school.

As a former teacher, I can understand keeping parents out of the classroom. No one course or the manner in which it is taught is going to satisfy all parents: there just isn’t enough time to cover everything with every student.

As a parent, I can sympathize with wanting to know exactly what my child is being taught, especially with making sure it is orthodox teaching.

Here’s what I suggest: take a good look at the textbook the class will be using. That should tell you the tone of the class. When your student comes home, quiz him about what happened in the classroom. That should tell you how well the text was followed. If you find a deficiency, take it upon yourself to correct any false teaching or to fill in the gaps in what was lacking.

We, as parents, are our children’s primary educators, and their education is ***our ***responsibility. In the past I was incredibly dissatisfied with my daughters’ Confirmation textbook (lots of “kissy-feely”, little substance). But the course was mandated by the diocese, so I filled in the gaps to ensure they got a good education. This year my older daughter is teaching the first year of the three year course (apparently those in charge are awed at how knowledgable she is). I am thrilled the textbook has been changed–it’s actually got apologetics in it!!!

You have a point. Actually, it is true for all of education, the difference being that catechists very often don’t have to have any teaching credentials whatsoever. OTOH, I suppose that learning to jump through hoops is part of what it takes to navigate adulthood, too.

I repeat and will continue repeating on every thread of this nature: if you are not happy with religious education in your parish, and you refuse to become involved, as a catechist, volunteer, coordinator, member of parish education and formation commission, or some other way, then you have aquiesced in what is going on.

I just got off the phone with an angry parent (not our parishioner, registered her son for confirmation last night about 10 minutes after the 3rd class of the year began because she has an unnamed grievance with her own parish) whose beef is she was not told the requirements for confirmation, my requirements differ from those of the diocese (how she knows that if she has not been told?) and was not told what texts we use, and did not meet her child’s catechist.

No, you did not meet your child’s catechist 5 minutes before class begins, he is busy preparing for and taking care of his class and cannot spend time with you when he owes it to 25 children), no you did not hear the details of the program and view the text because you missed the meeting (which was offered on 4 different days and times to meet the needs of most parents), and no, you cannot barge into the classroom and pin the catechist against the wall while you grill him about your child’s special needs. No, not during class time, before or after, and preferably by appointment.

She was perfectly welcome, I told her, so did the coordinator and the catechist, to sit in the class and observe and he offered to wait and talk with her afterword. She preferred to disrupt the class so I had to leave my meeting with parents from another class to calm her down.

As one of the children observed under her breath: how rude.

yes I will hold the adults to the same standard of behavior and respect I ask of the students.

I doubt very much if this scenario describes OP, his complaint certainly sounds reasonable and there is cause to question how things are run at his parish. But my observation is that most such grievances can be resolved easily some communication. Make an appointment first with the person running the program and then with the pastor, but please do not try to resolve individual issues during class time. We have the needs and expectations of 250 students and 20 catechists to put before your individual questions at that time.

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