Why do Catholic Schools not have very good religious programs?

I’ve been noticing this lately and noticed it even more so today during Children’s Mass.
The older children ( grades 5 to 8) never seem to know the answers to some of the most basic things they should know. I just started RCIA ( I’ve been exposed to the Catholic religion in my life off and on but never studied it until now). And even I know more then these kids that have been through all of this stuff. I know you’ll all say " your an adult and they are kids." But not so most of these kids have been in the school since they were in at least kindergarden and are alter servers and so forth. so its not like they are all new , and many of them are Catholic as well.

Plus they have Religion class to boot in the school and to be honest I wasn’t that impressed with the curriculum used for Religion. Their academic curriculum is better.

Why is this?
By the way this is my daughters’ first time in a brick and mortar school as they have been homeschooled for 8yrs total.

Well, we aren’t using the Baltimore Catechism any more, that is for certain.

In a nutshell, education, including or maybe especially religious education, doesn’t require much in the way of memorization any more. I think that is a mistake, but there it is.

OTOH, my kids are learning the books of the New Testament (in order) and learning the books of the Old Testament in terms of groupings: which belong to the Pentateuch, which belong to the historical books, the wisdom books, the prophets. That wasn’t in the Baltimore Catechism, and I know many older Catholics who felt at a disadvantage to Protestant prostelytizing as a result. So the news isn’t all bad.

Altar serving usually requires that the servers learn technical terms such as censor, purificator and chalice, sometimes the liturgical calendar and one would hope knowing the responses by heart, but that isn’t even always the case. General catechesis is not usually part of the preparation program for altar servers, though.

Having said that, I wouldn’t read too much into it if the kids didn’t come up with what you’d hope when quizzed by the pastor. I’ve seen kids that I *know *have the correct answers either sit on their hands or come out of left field with something from who knows where. It must be the setting.

Because of feel good bleeding heart liberals that are teaching and in charge of teaching. Many of whom dont know the faith themselves.

Some of the good programs are expensive. The big publishers push the Catholic-lite curricula. They push them at conferences and give the schools lots of freebies and perks. The more in-depth currcula also require more teacher preparation. Many Catholic school teachers are already working under “scale” and adminsitators are hesitant to require more prep for the same salary.

You know this is an interesting situation…

I went to Catholic school k-8. There are some things I don’t remember learning as a child that I learned as an adult… Some of which seems CRAZY that I didn’t learn. Then I think, I had a child brain interpretting some of this, and I think that’s were some things get distorted. Some things I “just know”, and don’t really know why.

We didn’t use any sort of specific catechism that I remember. We had a specific bible… and then your classroom teacher taught. And out of 9 teachers, I can only think of one that did a good job.

My 7th grade teacher, who should have been in a pysch ward, (i’m still convinced of this and I’m almost 40) would teach the most bizarre stuff. I can remember dedicating a solid month to studying the types of torture used in the bible. Some really gross barbaric stuff. We were teens, thought it was interesting, but that took our entire HOUR, 5 days a week, for at least 4 weeks. And it’s about the only religious section I remember doing as an adult.

Well, this doesn’t really offer a “reason”… but maybe some insight to what at least was going on some 30+ (eta… wow I feel old) years ago… and in my neck of the woods…

I’m currently 16 years old and I go to a Catholic HS and I can’t help but agree with the OP on this one. It feels like the teachers that teach religion (at my HS) only do it because they have to. It’s in critical times like these where secularism is on the rise and seemingly becoming ubiquitous that one would hope that Catholic school boards would at least ensure that kids are being properly catechized. How are people supposed to become more interested in the faith if the people teaching them about it aren’t cut out to teach the subject at all? Hell, some teachers at my school even consider copying verses out of the Bible as a punishment! I mean, what is that? It should be considered a blessing. Things like this don’t exactly help reduce ambivalence in teen faith…

Now, I in particular have experienced some fluctuations in my faith (a part of growing up for many I would assume) but the fact that my teahers never really did much to teach me what it meant to be Catholic couldn’t have helped much. When I actually got to learning more about the Catholic church on my own time I was amazed at how little I really did know about the Church that Christ established.

I can only pray that the religious system gets better over time OR parents (in general) do more to get their kids educated about the Church.

Then again I’m only a 16 year old boy so maybe I’m just being ignorant and/or pessimistic but that is my opinion on this matter.

Well, unfortunately, many “Catholics” schools are no more Catholic than the man in the moon. They are Catholic in name only. They have become, for all intents and purposes, private schools for rich kids.

I can’t help but not agree with this at all. I can compare to the Christian ( Protestant) schools. The teachers don’t get paid anymore than what Catholic School teachers get paid yet they instill the faith in children with much more success.

Children actually learn more about their faith from these schools then what Catholic schools seem to do for their children. I just seem really disappointed in that. My 12yr old says religion time consists of this one girl that asks tons and tons of questions which takes up just about all the time in religion class. Instead of the teacher taking a few of her questions and answering them at a time this girl is literally taking up the entire class. She said they have about 3 or 4 days of religion class(with the 4th consisting of Mass).

So when we are at Mass this little girl who takes up tons of time during religion class asking questions does not once raise her hand when question and answer time comes up during Children’s church. So instead of the teacher taking one or two of this kid’s questions and then saying to her ’ write down the rest of the questions you may have and ask Fr. Tom " the whole class is consumed of one child’s questions. You might say well that is instruction. It is and its not. All of the children should be participating in discussion not just one child monopolizing.

So with that rambling my point is that even homeschoolers produce children better catechized in the Catholic faith then children in the Catholic schools. Guess what? Homeschoolers don’t even get paid.

I agree with the Baltimore Catechism post. Some are returning to it.

In addition heterodox teachers and administrators are a problem. Lack of a focused Catholic mission statement that all are bound to follow and a watered down Catholic identity.

The problem is not so much what the children are being taught it wrong, they just do not find any reason to use it to grow stronger in their faith, and disregard it, or they are learning things too late.

In 7th grade, I was going to a Catholic school, but I basically did not believe what the Church said anymore. Youtube videos, and talking to atheists has swayed my opinions. I became basically atheist. I still was required to go to Church, but I didn’t really believe anything. I never told my parents for fear that they would reject me (hey, it was 7th grade).

However, at the end of 8th grade year, we finally started a section on apologetics. This changed my life, and my way of thinking about religions. Finally I had answers to my questions that made sense. In my case, it wasn’t the education itself that was flawed, but when it was taught. I had been turned away early, and had to come back, and now I am so strong in my faith, that I enjoy talking with atheists on religion.

The other problem is the secluded nature of Catholic school students. Many of my friends (who continued on the the local Catholic highschool) still do not know much about the Church, simply because they have never had to search to find answers for themselves on why the Church teaches as it does. While myself, now going to a public school, and being questioned about my faith, have allowed me to grow stronger in the faith, to the point where my Highshchool friends will ask me for homework help with religion.

The problem isn’t neccessarily the material being taught. Yes, it is slightly “dumber” (for lack of a better word), that looking back I would have liked, but the main issues are when it is being taught, and how often kids get to look into things themselves.

DH currently teaches music and this year religion at one of the local K-8 Catholic Schools. It has been a great experience for him but it has also been challenging. I boil down the lack of proper catechism in Catholic schools to the following:

  1. Lack of resources: Many of the schools have seen a sharp decline in enrollment resulting in difficult budget cuts. Principals have no choice but to funnel what money is remaining into technology upgrades, sports, and fine arts because those are the areas parents are most concerned with. As a result at least in the school my DH is in they haven’t updated religion curriculum in over a decade. He’s had to come up with the vast majority of his curriculum on his own.

  2. Lack of training: At least in our area you don’t have to be Catholic to teach religion. While the non-Catholic teachers a certainly doing their best at times they see it as a secondary responsibility so the kids see it as a secondary or blow off class. Even at my DH’s school he has no guidance on how he is supposed to teach religion and the school administration in my opinion needs make the goals of religion class clearer. :shrug:

  3. Lack of support at home: With anything children learn in school it needs to be supported at home. When a child is learning how to read as a parent you don’t simply just let them go to school and never do homework. When a child is learning how to read it becomes apart of daily life to point out words to read and correct their pronunciation. It needs to be the same way with their faith it should be apart of daily life at home. As parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles we need to make them do “homework” with their faith. A lot of his kids only go to church every Friday with the school and on major holidays with family so to them learning about their faith is not important at school.

Can you tell us specifically what you noticed that convinced you that Catholic schools in general do not have good religious education programs? How many Catholic schools are you acquainted with? One? Ten? One hundred?

I would assert that Catholic school, like their public, charter, private, and home counterparts range in quality from excellent to poor in both religion as well as academics in general.

What things? And how did you come to believe they do not know the things you think they should?

What curriculum do they use and on what do you base your assessment that it is unimpressive?

Ask your parish priest and the school board. Better yet, run for school board.

True, there aren’t enough nuns to staff schools any more and the ones that are in schools, are frequently lesbian and always liberal.


Generally I have seen a lot of Catholic schools using “fluff and stuff” for religion. But I don’t lump them all together anymore. I have found 2 in my area that use Faith and Life and Didache series. There is hope. Many are returning to more conservative values.


I think the OP is a generalization that is not always true. In my own experience, my kids have been in three Catholic elementary schools due to moves and one Catholic high school. The schools that used F&L and the Didache (High School) were very strong in their overall Catholic formation. One school used a diocisan recommended program that was Catholic-Lite but many of the teachers supplemented it well. The fourth school used a government-approved program that was awful and that was reflected in the (lack of) Catholic emphasis in the school.

The school my girls attend uses Faith and Life and really I don’t know. I just don’t see how its been helpful.
I noticed right off the bat that the kids in grades 5th-8th couldn’t answer what the time was that began before Ash Wednesday , and how many days was Lent celebrated. They all looked like he was speaking Japanese and not one of them raised their hands and had to be kind of led into the answer. He also spoke about the colors that he wore during Ordinary Time, Advent , Lent , and asked what the color was that he wore during the time of Lent (which for our parish is dark blue since it is part of our school colors and leads right into purple) and again they didn’t have a clue. These kids have been going to this school since they were little ( I know quite a few of them). I would think by the time they had reached at least 6th grade this would be general knowledge to them by now. Evidently they didn’t care. I don’t know. And if you were to say " Oh the kids don’t really pay attention to what is going on." A fourth grader knew that one of the candles by the tabernacle was not lit. So yes they do pay attention to their surroundings.

What concerns me is that it seems by this time of life for kids is when religion starts to become less important when it should becoming VERY important to them. In our area it seems to be a HUGE shift with tweens/teens in our area and they begin to drop out of church all together.
I know from my experience with the Protestant churches that they have to work even HARDER then they did when the children were little to ground children into the faith. Our area is very depressed and only a small percentage actually go to church in our area to begin with. Albeit Protestant, Catholic or other. A friend of mine who’s husband is an assistant pastor at an Evengelical church shared with me from a census that was taken that in our community, which, there is about 6,840 people .Only a whopping 10% actually attend some kind of church. Ten percent, that’s it!

I know our school doesn’t have the money to revamp their curriculum. They are clinging on by the tips of their fingers to stay afloat. If my husband and I had lots of money we’d gladly give it to them to create a new one ( the building is 84yrs old), get all sorts of doo dads that public schools have , and gladly help with a new religious program. We’re still pretty new to the school and new to brick and mortar school anyways as I’ve always homeschooled.

My daughters who are in preK, 1 and 4th have teachers that have been Catholic all their lives and have taught in the school for at least 32 yrs ( except the prek teacher). And my 6th grader’s teacher is a convert and has not been Catholic for very long but she consults the 1/2nd grade teacher as she has been in charge and has taught the Catholic faith to both children and adults for the past 32yrs. Her little 1st/2nd, and 3rd/4th grade classes do a pretty good job answering some questions that Fr. asks and they also ask some of the best questions I’ve heard too. LOL

Its once you get to the 5/6/7/8th grade they all sit there with blank looks on their faces. Like they haven’t a clue as to where they are even at.Let alone answer questions. Its sad to say but its actually hard for the school to keep children in it after 6th grade as they all seem to migrate over to the local public high school (which is horrid by the way). They don’t even have any 7th graders this year and only two 8th graders.

I’m sorry if this has come off the wrong way. I’d have to compare other schools. We only have one Catholic school within a 45 mile radius and its our little school. So I honestly can’t compare at the moment. I think I should have written my question differently but I do see that it’s not just our school’s problem but the problem of others as well from some repsponses here.

Faith and Life is one of the best religion series on the market. It is orthodox and thorough. It is very suitable for a Catholic school.

I don’t think there is one answer as to what is wrong at your particular school. Get involved in the school board, curriculum committee, etc.

It seems you have knowledgeable and dedicated teachers, good solid textbooks, and a supportive, if not wealthy, community.

So, perhaps the **parents **need to look at what is going on in their home life? How are the living out their Catholic faith in their homes? What is their family paryer life like? Do they celebrate the Liturgical Year and Catholic traditions in their home. Do they subscribe to Catholic newspapers? Have Catholic books in their home? Watch EWTN? Practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as a family?

It all starts in the home. Without a truly Catholic home, the best school in the world cannot compensate, religiously.


I am not sure I am following this correctly. Are you saying that the kids don’t know about their faith because they didn’t answer a Q&A that was being held during Mass?

a) the number of days of Lent or the liturgical seasons are important things to know as Catholics but not exactly keys to the faith.

b) kids in middle school absolutely HATE to be called on during Mass. The fact that no one volunteered the answers does not necessarily mean they don’t know them.

Faith and Life is one of the best series out there for teaching the faith. But it focuses on the Catechism, the Scriptures and Church History. I have taught several yeas of F&L and don’t remember a section on liturgical colors.

BTW, if you have a priest wearing dark blue as a liturgical vestment ( a prohibited color if you are in the US), it’s no wonder the kids are confused. :frowning:

So ONE example of a school with a bad teacher who’s allowing one student to dominate the class… :shrug:

It’s just hard to make generalizations. :o


Seriously - getting hung up on the Liturgical Seasons and colors of vestments!?! :confused:

Is THAT what’s important about the faith? I personally don’t remember knowing that in middle/high school - and my family instilled a very strong Catholic faith in me!

PRAYER was a focus, the SACRAMENTS were a focus… I HATED answering questions in classes and at Mass… and I probably would still mess up a few of the seasonal vestment colors.

I’m pretty sure my kids are getting a fairly AWESOME CATHOLIC education at our parish school, though. :smiley:
I’m sorry yours is not the same. Have you voiced your concern to the Principal?

For my own experience I was in Catholic school from 1-6 grade and had religious ed classes at least twice a week throughout the entire school year.

Grades 7-12 were in a public high school (at the time Catholic education in our town only went through grade 8 and since most of the high schools started at grade 7 my parents decided to start me out in high school at the same grade year as everyone else instead of coming in at grade 9) so the only religious education classes I then took was CCD one night a week for two hours. I honestly don’t remember these classes being fun, interesting, or catching my attention baring one class where we talked about social aspects and the church’s stance.

This was prior to the Life Teen program, which I believe has really created enthusiasm for the CCD program. Overall, my feelings about lack of good Catholic education is that if you’re not in a Catholic school you get sort of forgotten about. It seems that more outreach to those outside of Catholic schools might be beneficial in the long run.

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