GDC 202: “Catechesis and contemporary culture”

If you’re still tracking this document with us, we’re in Part Four, “Those to be catechized,” which will run through GDC 214. The final thirteen numbered sections make up CHAPTER V, Catechesis in the socio-cultural context. The document gives the following references to other documents:  Cf. Part II, chap. 1; General Catechetical Directory 8; Evangelii Nuntiandi 20; Catechesi Tradendae 53; Redemptoris Missio 52-54; John Paul II, Discourse to members of the International Council for catechesis, L’Osservatore Romano, of September 27, 1992; cf. Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, The Roman liturgy and Inculturation, 1994; International Theological Commission, Document on the faith and inculturation: (25 Janury, 1985); AAS 87 (1995), pp. 288-319 Commissio Theologica on the Faith and Inculturation (3-8 October, 1988). Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa (1995); cf. Discourses of John Paul II to the various Churches in his pastoral visits.

This has been an important theme, as you can see, in the public teaching of Popes John Paul II and Paul VI. We’ll cover twelve topics in the next twelve posts: Catechesis and contemporary culture, Duties of catechesis for inculuration of the faith, Methodological processes, The need for and criteria of evaluation, Those with responsibility for the processes of inculturation, Privileged forms and means, Language, The media of communication, Anthropological environments and cultural tendencies, Intervention in concrete situations, Tasks of the local Churches, and Guided initiatives.

Whew! Let’s just look at the first one today, which itself has been covered in the following documents: Evangelii Nuntiandi 20; Catechesi Tradendae 53; Redemptoris Missio 52-54; Catechism 172-175.

202. “We can say of catechesis, as well as of evangelization in general, that it is called to bring the power of the Gospel into the very heart of culture and cultures”. (Catechesi Tradendae 53) The principles governing the adaptation and inculturation of catechesis have already been discussed. (Cf. Part II, chap. 1) It suffices to reaffirm that the catechetical discourse has as its necessary and eminent guide “the rule of faith”, illuminated by the Magisterium of the Church and further investigated by theology. It must always be remembered that the history of catechesis, particularly in the patristic period, from several perspectives, is the history of the inculturation of the faith, and as such it merits careful study and meditation. It is, at the same time, an open-ended history which will continue to require long periods of ongoing assimilation of the Gospel. In this chapter, some methodological directions will be expounded concerning this task, as demanding as it is necessary, ever easy and open to the risks of syncretism and other misunderstandings. It can indeed be said on this subject, which is particularly important today, that there exists a need for greater systematic and universal reflection on catechetical experience.

Reflection on the past and the present is good. My concern, in our overly ideological ecclesiastical culture, is that we are hampered by the peripherals of Church tradition (small-t, there). And that our subsequent reflection is all too narrow. And while some would criticize the Church’s unwillingness to change, I would not start there–another ideological trap, in my mind. I think more honesty and openness in our prayerful encounters with the needs of evangelization would set us on more solid ground. I will mention that while syncretism is often quoted as a particular risk, I think that the Catholic sense of “entitlement” is even more of a hindrance. It gives us self-satisfied believers who wait for the unwashed seekers to come to them, to arrive at the church doors and knock to be let in. In essence, that’s what we get in RCIA. And isn’t it curious that in many parishes, Catholic spouses and engaged persons bring more non-Catholic inquirers to the door than, say, the priest?

Meditation: where might it lead us? I seriously doubt a smaller church.

About catholicsensibility

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