GDC 30: “Some problems”

There is a flip side to the good Catholic efforts in catechesis:

30. It is necessary, however, to examine with particular attention some problems so as to identify their solutions:

– the first concerns the conception of catechesis as a school of faith, an initiation and apprenticeship in the entire Christian life of which catechists do not yet have a full understanding.

– with regard to the fundamental direction of catechesis, catechetical activity is still usually impregnated with the idea of ‘Revelation’: however, the conciliar concept of ‘Tradition’ is much less influential as an inspiration for catechesis: in much catechesis, indeed, reference to Sacred Scripture is virtually exclusive and unaccompanied by sufficient reference to the Church’s long experience and reflection,(Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 27b) acquired in the course of her two-thousand-year history. The ecclesial nature of catechesis, in this case, appears less clearly; the inter-relation of Sacred Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium, each according to “its proper mode” (Dei Verbum 10c) does not yet harmoniously enrich a catechetical transmission of the faith;

– Concerning the object of catechesis, which always seeks to promote communion with Jesus Christ, it is necessary to arrive at a more balanced presentation of the entire truth of the mystery of Christ. Often, emphasis is given only to his humanity without any explicit reference to his divinity; at other times, less frequently today, emphasis is so exclusively placed on his divinity that the reality of the mystery of the Incarnate Word is no longer evident; (Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 29b)

– Various problems exist with regard to the content of catechesis: there are certain doctrinal lacunae concerning the truth about God and man; about sin and grace and about eschatology; there is a need for a more solid moral formation; presentations of the history of the Church are inadequate; and too little importance is given to her social teaching; in some regions there has been a proliferation of catechisms and texts, the products of particular initiatives whose selective tendencies and emphases are so differing as to damage that convergence necessary for the unity of the faith; (Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 30)

– “Catechesis is intrinsically bound to every liturgical and sacramental action” (Catechesi Tradendae 23) Frequently however, the practice of catechetics testifies to a weak and fragmetary link with the liturgy: limited attention to liturgical symbols and rites, scant use of the liturgical fonts, catechetical courses whith little or no connection with the liturgical year; the marginalization of liturgical celebrations in catechetical programs;

– Concerning pedagogy, after a period in which excessive insistence on the value of method and techniques was promoted by some, sufficient attention is still not given to the demands and to the originality of that pedagogy which is proper to the faith. It remains easy to fall into a ‘content-method’ dualism, with resultant reductionism to one or other extreme; with regard to the pedagogical dimension the requisite theological discernment has not always been exercised; (Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 58)

– Regarding differences between cultures in the service of the faith, it is difficult to know how to transmit the Gospel within the cultural horizons of the peoples to whom it is proclaimed, in such a way that it can be really perceived as Good News for the lives of people and of society; (Evangelii Nuntiandi 63)

– Formation for the apostolate and for mission is one of the fundamental tasks of catechesis. Neverthless while there is a new sensitivity to the formation of the laity for Christian witness, for inter religious dialogue, and for their secular obligations, education for missionary activity “ad gentes” still seems weak and inadequate. Frequently, ordinary catechesis gives only marginal and inconsistent attention to the missions.

This is a lengthy section. I’m sure some Catholics would add to these. Some brief thoughts:

I applaud the emphasis on apprenticeship over that of a school. And the GDC is right: many bishops, clergy, and catechists fail to make this very important distinction.

I’m not totally convinced of a notion that a Scriptural basis for catechesis has overshadowed its roots in the Magisterial teaching. But we do need balance–something more than “The Church teaches it, therefore it is so …”

I would agree with sections three and four above.

I think the link of liturgy and catechesis is growing stronger in North America. I’d say we’re on a good track with it since the promulgation of this document.

I don’t consider myself enough of an expert on catechetical pedagogy to comment on the sixth section above. Perhaps a catechist among our readers might be?

Strong agreement on the last aspect of this. I will note that my former diocese has taken a significant step backward in this regard, dissolving a well-regarded effort in favor of one with some of the excesses and deficiencies listed above.

Perhaps I do these eight points something of an injustice by glossing over them so quickly. We could easily have taken each in turn, and spent a whole week on them. Obviously, each must be tackled in particular circumstances in parishes, dioceses, and schools. No doubt, they will each be addressed later in the GDC. For now, anything to add? Perhaps in a way in which one or more of these problems was addressed in your faith community?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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