Thursday, September 30, 2010


I had lunch today with a foreign priest who had been working in England for a few years. He has worked in various European countries. He said he had been looking forward to catechising young people here because he had heard about our Catholic school system. Today he said, "What is the point? After ten years they can't even recite the Ten Commandments".
This post isn't about bashing our education system; Shane, in response to a comment by someone else sent this link to The Maynooth Catechism for primary school children, it is from 1951, he found it on Lux Occulta. What I find amazing is that we had a whole culture in which children actually could recite the bare bones of the faith. What an extra-ordinary tool for binding a culture together.
I suppose they most probably couldn't tell you Bible stories but...


berenike said...

Ah now Father, are you just inviting us to mention these?:

Volpius Leonius said...

If they had a children's missal, they would learn the bible stories at Mass.

Left-footer said...

Reminds me of the Dip. Ed. course I did 45 years ago, and the intellectual squalor of the people who taught us how to teach.

Their endlessly repeated mantra was "we teach children, not subjects" i.e. child-centred education, and this is where it had got us.

Content-free Catholicism.

pelerin said...

Owing to a problem with a damp wall, I have had to remove books from shelves and have just discovered the book my youngest son used in his Catholic school when preparing for his First Holy Communion in 1983.

It makes me very sad when I compare it with this 1951 Catechism - published a mere 32 years earlier. I am only now beginning to understand why he, along with so many of his generation, no longer believes in God or his Holy Church.

The book 'We celebrate the Eucharist' received the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur in 1977 (a mere 26 years after the Catechism shown) and was published in the USA.

The chapters are divided as follows:-
The Eucharist:-
1 It's about belonging
2 It's about celebrating
3 It's about making peace
4 It's about listening
5 It's about caring
6 It's about giving thanks for creation
7 It's about giving thanks for new life
8 It's about sharing a meal
9 It's about going forth to make a better world

Whilst I agree that these are all admirable in their own way, I looked to see whether the Mass as a sacrifice featured anywhere. After all it was still known then as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Almost at the end of what is described as 'A Review of what I have learned to help me grow in God's family' I found the question 'Why is the Eucharist also called the Holy Sacrifice?' The answer given was 'The Eucharist is also called the Holy Sacrifice because it recalls Jesus' gift of his life for the forgiveness of our sins, Jesus' resurrection, and his gift of the Spirit of love.'

It follows by asking 'How can we join in the sacrifice of Jesus?' The answer given is 'We can join in the sacrifice of Jesus by sharing our love and our life with one another as Jesus did. In this way, we become followers of Jesus.'

I do not think this is at all clear for a seven year old whereas the question and answer format of the old catechism could once be learnt and the meaning gradually absorbed as the child grew older.

The book does not contain what I would term 'religious pictures' at all but lots of photos of happy children including one showing a group playing the dreaded tambourines. There is little substance or grounding in basic catechetics and as for learning about the history of the Church since its foundation neither of my sons seems to have touched on that at their Catholic schools. And we were led to believe that this was the way forward to future church.

johnf said...

In Zenit this morning there is the arresting claim that Catholics know less about religion than atheists. The Pew Forum set out 15 questions on religion. Three of them are to do with religion in the US but everyone in England should get 12 correct or more.
Shouldn't they?


Pedant said...

Quote: "What I find amazing is that we had a whole culture in which children actually could recite the bare bones of the faith. What an extra-ordinary tool for binding a culture together."

I don't know what age you are, Father, but the old red 'Penny Catechism' was an excellent start in life for every child. We learned the responses parrot fashion as very young children and as we moved up through the school the subjects were expanded in a natural progression. Some now say that it was drummed into us but our times table were also drummed into us, as were adjectives and verbs. Learning by rote is still the best method of retention through life.

About five years I remember a newly-appointed chaplain to a school (a priest)complaining that no one in the sixth form could recite the Ten Commandments. EVERYONE knows that the RE books in our schools are apalling but NO ONE in authority does anything about it. Instead of constantly buying new text books (which are usually worse than those previously in use) why not save a fortune - and save the faith - by simply reprinting the old red penny catechisms.

Surely someone in the bishops' conference can shout 'Eureka' and put these books back in the pockets of our children. This is another point, these little books could be put in the pocket and carried around at all times. They were our personal property that we carried up though the school years and took them home to learn. The faith was in our pocket. I still have mine. The new books are often A4 size or similar and retained in the classroom as a text book on a shelf; there is no sense of ownership.

Norah said...

In my archdiocese we have a mandated series of religion text books. They are light weight but orthodox. They are on the school book list every year but parents tell me that the books are brand new at the end of the year - they are never used in class. A teacher friend told me that she uses the chapter headings for her programme and then goes on and does what she wants - usually involving candles and draped material.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if 'Hart's Christian Doctrine' is on-line ?

Fr. A.M.

John Kearney said...

What is happening in Catholic Schools cannot be seperated from what is happening in Catholic Parishes. In the majority of parishes there is a broad Church approach to the Faith. What Vatican II said about `conscience` is misquoted so that everyone is free to disagree with catholic teaching. Many priests beleive their job is to make everyone `happy` by supporting everyone. Now if in the schools they were to teach the Cathoilc Faith and Catholic doctrine and practices this would make sections in the parish unhappy since they would become small in number. and be just the minority instead of the ruling minority. The policy was put together rathere well.

GOR said...

I agree with Pedant as to rote learning. It was not meant to be all-encompassing, but as an aid to memory and a base for building upon. And it wasn’t confined to RE either. Whether it was Milton’s “On His Blindness”, Shakespeare’s “The Seven Ages of Man” or the Multiplication Tables, there was a satisfaction in being able to recall from memory things one learned as a child. I can still recite the jingle we learned for the Latin verbs that take the Dative: “A dative Put with Show and Give…” over 50 years after first learning it - and it came in useful in High School Latin exams years ago!

With the old catechism one learned not only the Ten Commandments and The Commandments of the Church, but the Seven Sacraments, the Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Cardinal Virtues, the Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit etc. etc. How many children could list them today? How many RE teachers could…?

Clare said...

pelerin - I found my copy of that Brusselmans golden book the other week. Awful! By the grace of God, I never lapsed, but it was no thanks to that book!

Kevin said...

Daphne McLeod of Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice is right, when she states, as she has done often enough, that the Catholic Faith is NOT being taught in Catholic schools (perhaps with rare exceptions). In which case, parents have a duty to fight this situation and teach the children the Faith at home. MP3 catechism talks are available as free downloads on PEEP's website:

pelerin said...

Clare -I am pleased that the golden book did not turn you away. I can't bring myself to dispose of my son's copy as it contains some priceless pictures he drew under the heading of 'My family' which included the tortoise depicted almost as big as himself!

It will probably go back on the shelves when I get them up again.

Kevin said...

Was anyone aware that Christiane Brusselmans, who wrote those terrible RE schemes, committed suicide? Please pray for her soul. EWTN have now licensed PEEP to distribute Daphne's talks on the Faith and there are 13 of them available on 4 DVD discs for £25 from: Tel : 01372 454160.

Clare said...

I'll definitely be keeping my golden book. I just won't be showing it to my children until they're grown up!

nickbris said...

Did the test,got 12 right.Not au fait with US Supreme Court cobblers.

Perhaps I should go back to HEATHENISM like the good old days

Anagnostis said...

Learning by rote is still the best method of retention through life.

Ante, apud, ad, adversus,
Circum, circa, citra, cis,
Contra, inter, erga, extra,
Infra, intra, iuxta, ob

...and so on, thirty five years later.

However - bad worship begets bad doctrine. It's an elemental, immutable law. It operates inexorably, regardless of what sleeps in the long-term memory (to be mechanically revivified, sometimes to one's own astonishment) or between the covers of the CCC.

Things which are not prayed, sensibly, and with the whole person, cease to be believed. Liturgy and Dogma are absolutely co-dependent. I would go so far as to assert that they are, in fact, identical. The loss of this understanding, and the consequent rise of the notion that a theroetical "orthodoxy" can be maintained by catechesis, independent of liturgical forms, is utterly delusory and essentially Protestant.

(By way of illustration, I'm reminded also of a post further back about the Holy Angels, and their disappearance from Catholic consciousness.)

pelerin said...

After kevin's comment I was prompted to google the author to find out more about her.

Her books are described as innovative religious education programmes and 2.5 million children have used them.

One comment I found said 'There is perhaps no book for sacramental preparation written 35 years ago that was so solidly grounded in the church's catechetical and liturgical tradition. It continues to be a valuable source today' This was on the site of an evangelical seminary in California and I suppose that the fact that there was nothing 'Catholic' in the book resulted in their praise. No mention of 'Thou art Peter ...'

It would appear that our children were 'experimented' with, with disastrous consequences for their faith.

pelerin said...

Christiane Brusselmans appears to have had a distinguished career both on the Continent and in the US. She suffered from bipolar disease and sadly ended her own life.

I was interested to see that she had connections with the Holy Ghost Fathers and it was thanks to her that the work of Fr Lucien Deiss CssP became well known in the English speaking world and in particular in America. Shortly before his death in 2007 I was present at a concert of his music in the Spiritan Mother House in Paris. He himself was too ill to be present but his music lives on although I have never come across it in British churches.

shane said...

"Shane, in response to a comment by someone else sent this link to The Maynooth Catechism for primary school children [...]he found it on Lux Occulta."

Father, I run the Lux Occulta blog. Thanks for featuring it. BTW you may be interested in this:

Mike said...

Pedant, With you all the way re the old Penny Catechism. We need re-education as Catholics. As last Sunday's Gospel says, 'unless ye become as little children...' That's the situation we're mostly in now, after forty years in the desert.

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