WASHINGTON (CNS) — The bishop heading the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee to Oversee the Use of the Catechism criticized the quality of many high school catechetical textbooks currently in wide use throughout the United States.
Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans said the ad hoc committee had reviewed 25 high school catechetical texts since mid-2001 and found most lacking in key doctrinal areas. He did not name any specific books or publishers, however.
After his remarks outlining some of the deficiencies, two bishops wondered aloud whether the U.S. bishops should publish their own textbook.
…Among his examples of deficiencies, the archbishop said that the Catholic Church is described in some texts as “one church among many churches. Our young people are not learning what it means to say that sole church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church.”
Doctrinal matter was introduced to students with “tentative language,” he added, giving the impression that Catholic doctrine is one position among others “rather than a matter of truth.”
Sacramental matters, according to Archbishop Hughes, were “seriously flawed” in the texts, leading students to think that the sacraments were developed “over an extended period of time with the implication they can still be changed” and that sacraments celebrate “moments in life” and not that they are an encounter with Christ.
Some texts suggest, he said, that “it is the community who baptizes, or confects the Eucharist.” Further, Catholic teaching on women’s ordination in the texts is “ambiguous or even misleading,” the archbishop charged, while the sacrament of marriage is referred to in terms of “partners” rather than to “man and woman or husband and wife.”
On sexual teaching, “there seems to be reluctance to name premarital or extramarital intercourse as sinful,” Archbishop Hughes said, with morality presented as “a matter of options and personal choice,” while the “relationship between the moral life in this world and in the life to come is often not treated.”
In teaching about the nature of God, some books try to “avoid masculine titles” so that God the father is referred to only as “God,” while some texts “speak of Jesus without noting his sonship or divinity,” Archbishop Hughes said, adding that “the third person of the Trinity” is often referred to as “the Spirit of God, or God’s Spirit.”
Scriptures, the archbishop said, are defined as, “to a large degree, merely human texts,” while the religion books try to make miracles seem ordinary, with some of “the miracles of Jesus explained as a result of lucky timing,” he added, eliciting chuckles from some of the bishops.
Bishop William K. Weigand of Sacramento, Calif., and Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of Santa Fe, N.M., asked whether it might be time for the bishops to consider publishing a high school catechetical text of their own.
“If we can’t rely on Catholic publishers to provide sound texts for our children, then it’s very serious,” Archbishop Sheehan said.
I wonder if we we could rely on some committee put together by the Bishops to be able to provide sound text for our children? Judging by such documents as “Always Our Children” and other items that came out of committees but never received all ofthe Bishops endorsements, it is questionable. They have been working on a National Adult Catechism since 2000 and are going have to wait for 2004 to present a third draft. I am certainly glad to see that they are serious about reviewing the currently available catechetical textbooks, but I wonder what they will actually do about the ones determined to be deficient? The Bishops coming up with their own text books and then mandating them for use across the United States might be the only answer to getting rid of these other problematic text books.