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New Challenges to Catholic Home Education

Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Catholic parents are now being faced with new challenges to the home-schooling of their children. These challenges arise especially from four sources: the increased pressure from Planned Parenthood for sex education; the acknowledgement by many American bishops of the poor quality of religious instruction in catechetical programs; the mandating by many dioceses of stringent conditions for Catholic home instruction; and the growing pressure of homosexuals to impose their sodomistic philosophy on our country.

The Sex Education Campaign

Everyone familiar with contemporary history knows that the Planned Parenthood apparatus is behind sex education from infancy through childhood in every country of the modern world. However, it is only in recent years that Catholic educators have been seduced into introducing sex education into religious instruction.

This is one of the grave reasons why so many Catholic parents have resorted to home-schooling. In response to the Holy See’s request to analyze one of the leading sex education programs widely used as part of catechetics, I concluded with the following judgment: “This series is unsuitable for teaching or training in sexual morality. The main reason is that the premises on which the series is based are incompatible with Catholic doctrine on faith and morals.” Wide familiarity with sex education under Catholic auspices enables me to make the same judgement about other programs in use in the United States.

Parents have a right from God to provide such training in Christian chastity as their faith demands. They may not be coerced to compromise their religious principles.

Serious Deficiencies in Catechetical Materials

Catholic parents have known for years that the textbooks and pedagogical materials used in religious instruction in America are, to put it mildly, deficient in content and methodology. Parents realize that, unless they are freed from this albatross, their children will never learn the Catholic faith.

It was heartening, therefore, when the American bishops’ committee to oversee the use of the Catechism of the Catholic Church listed no less than ten grave “doctrinal deficiencies” in the catechetical materials used in teaching Catholic children in our country.

The following paragraphs are taken verbatim from the report of Archbishop Buechlein, who is chairman of the bishops’ catechetical committee. Quotations are the words of the chairman. Words without quotations are explanatory statements.

  1. “Insufficient attention to the Trinity and the Trinitarian structure of Catholic beliefs and teachings.” Archbishop Buechlein noted that the texts failed “most often in presenting the Trinity as the central mystery of the Christian faith.” The language used in reference to the Persons of the Trinity contributed to this lack of clarity, he said, particularly in a “recognized reluctance to use ‘Father’ for the first Person of the Trinity and, at times, to substitute ‘Parent God’ for God the Father.”

  2. “Obscured presentation of the centrality of Christ in salvation history and insufficient emphasis on the divinity of Christ.” The “indispensable place of the Incarnation in the plan of salvation is not always sufficiently presented,” he said, and “Jesus as Savior is often overshadowed by Jesus as teacher, model, friend and brother.”

  3. “Indistinct treatment of the ecclesial context of Catholic beliefs and magisterial teachings.” The archbishop noted, “The teaching function of the Church and its apostolic nature as well as the role of the hierarchy and the concept of the leadership of bishops and priests in teaching the Word of God, are often under-treated. The mark of unity in the Church is at times lost in a singular emphasis on the Church’s catholicity and diversity.”

  4. “Inadequate sense of a distinctively Christian anthropology.” The texts often failed to integrate the “fundamental notions” that man is “by nature a religious being” and that “the desire for God is written in the human heart.” Too often, “the impression is left that man is the first principle and final end of his own existence.”

  5. “Insufficient emphasis on God’s initiative in the world, with a corresponding overemphasis on human action.” Here, it was found that “the texts at times leave the impression that human initiative is the prerequisite for divine action. God’s initiative appears subordinate to human experience and human action.”

  6. “Insufficient recognition of the transforming effects of grace.” The texts described grace as God’s love, but generally failed to treat grace “as God’s initiative that introduces humanity into the intimacy of the Trinitarian life and makes us His adopted children and participants in His life.” The texts also were generally weak in treating sacramental graces.

  7. “Inadequate presentation of the sacraments.” Sacraments are too often presented as “representative of events in human life of which God becomes a part, rather than signs and reality of divine life of which man becomes a part.” A particular problem affected the Eucharist and holy orders because of inadequate presentation of “the character and role of the ordained ministry in the life and ministry of the community.”

  8. “Deficient teaching on original sin and sin in general.” The committee found that “texts do not clearly teach that original sin is the loss of original holiness and justice [that] wounds human nature in all people.”

  9. “Meager exposition of Christian moral life.” Archbishop Buechlein reported an overemphasis on personal identity and self-respect as primary sources of morality. He urged more emphasis on the “source of morality found in God’s revealed law, as taught by the Church and grounded in natural law.” He added that instruction on the formation of a correct conscience is inadequate and sometimes mistaken.

  10. “Inadequate presentation of eschatology”— that is, the study of Christian beliefs about death, judgment and the end of the world. The report noted “a negative lack of emphasis on the culmination of man’s life in the eternal kingdom of God,” but a “positive emphasis on the kingdom of God as realizable in this world.”

The foregoing are not merely deficiencies in catechetical instruction. They are a reflection of the widespread secularization that has pervaded the Catholic Church in America. Instead of reforming this situation, one diocesan catechetical establishment after another in our country has consciously promoted and is militantly defending the secularization of the true faith among the young in our nation.

Diocesan Pressure on Catholic Home Education

A new phenomenon has entered the apostolate of Catholic home instruction. Many dioceses require approval of the text used by parents. Dioceses require immediate sacramental preparation classes for home educated children. Others again require parents to go through training programs to become catechists for their children. Parents are told they are to participate in the catechetical programs ordered by the catechetical establishment if they want their children to receive First Confession, First Holy Communion and the Sacrament of Confirmation. Overnight retreats are also demanded.

One sample mandated directive requires the pastoral approval of any religious education sponsored by parents for their children. The same directive demands local DRE approval and supervision of both the program and the catechetical implementation of parental instruction of their children. Dioceses prescribe the precise curriculum from which parents may not deviate in teaching the faith to their children. In some dioceses there must be a parish evaluation of those instructed by their parents; this includes a formal approval of the material and method that parents must follow if they are to catechize their children.

Never did we think that the following directive of Pope John Paul II would apply to our beloved United States. His words deserve to be memorized:

In places where widespread unbelief or invasive secularism makes real religious growth practically impossible, “the church of the home” remains the one place where children and young people can receive an authentic catechesis. Thus there cannot be too great an effort on the part of Christian parents to prepare for this ministry of being their own children’s catechists and to carry it out with tireless zeal. Encouragement must also be given to the individuals or institutions that, through person- to-person contacts, through meetings, and through all kinds of pedagogical means, help parents to perform their tasks. The service they are doing to catechesis is beyond price (IX, 68).

Can anyone doubt that our once Christian America has become a nation of widespread unbelief and of invasive secularism? But one more sentence must be added. So much of our nominally Catholic institutional education has been deeply infected by this unbelief and secularism.

Many people do not even know what “Americanism” means. It is the movement propagated in the United States which claims that the Catholic Church should adjust her doctrines, especially in morality, to the culture of the people. When members of the American hierarchy received the encyclical, Humanae Vitae in 1968, they told their people that, “The encyclical does not undertake to judge the consciences of individuals” (Human Life in Our Day). In other words, Catholics may follow their consciences and ignore the teaching of the Vicar of Christ in the practice of contraception, which is at the root of abortion.

This is the heart of the crisis in the Church in our day. Each person’s mind is the final judge of what is true, as each person’s will is the arbitor of what is morally good. Can we still wonder why Catholic parents insist on the right to teach their own children what Christ, through His Vicar, teaches those who are real and not just nominal members of the true Church?

The Homosexual Network

The following reflections on the homosexual network in the United States are not easy to make. Anyone familiar with the widespread demoralization of our American people has no illusions about the role of homosexuals in this perversion.

Our focus is on the rights and responsibilities of Catholic parents to teach their own children in home education. The hard question we are answering is “why?” One answer to this question is the tragic deprivation of Catholic fathers and mothers from dependence on so many members of the hierarchy for sound moral guidance.

Who would have dreamt that we would see the day when American bishops would publish the sad pastoral on homosexuality, Always our Children?

This pastoral consistently speaks of homosexual orientation, which everyone knows means that homosexuality is not a choice but an innate characteristic. The pastoral accepts the premise of homosexual activists who reject counseling or therapy for children who think they are homosexual. The pastoral intimidates Catholics into abandoning their natural instincts and Church teaching against sodomy. The pastoral urges parents of gay and lesbian children to join “support groups” which have been founded by activists with the intention of forcing a change in Church teaching on homosexuality.

So the pathetic litany could go on. But I think it says enough to explain why Catholic parents insist on the divinely-conferred right to instruct their children in what the Son of God became man to teach the human race.

Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica

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