Across the diocese, we are once again preparing for the beginning of school. And, with school comes preparing for the Wednesday night CCD programs. Religious Education classes will soon need to take off and get organized. So, first, please say a prayer for our catechists who selflessly give of their time to give our students the important seeds of faith. I also wish to offer a “prayer of thanksgiving” to the good mothers who see the educational realities of our times, and have taken on the monumental job of home schooling. They are very much a part of our “catechetical community”.
You may have noticed by now I often refer to this ministry as CCD or Catechism. I realize that the popular term these days is “Religious Education”, but I wish to think a little on an important distinction I see regarding these words. The term “religious education” came into our vocabulary as a negative reaction to the former title, “CCD”. You may recall that “CCD” stands for “Confraternity of Catholic Doctrine”. Many folks who attended “CCD” called it “CCD” but few really knew what those letters meant. With the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, there came a new openness to faiths of different denominations. Most priests and sisters did a 180 regarding the attitude we as Catholics were to show to non-Catholics. The worst erroneously would insist on publishing “pew rents”; or, give the impression all non-Catholics are going to hell; or, condemning anyone who would step foot in a non-Catholic church. After Vatican II, priests and sisters would tell us to be open and show friendship and tolerance. Here comes the important part, of course…showing friendship and reserving the ultimate sentence of hell and the ultimate reward of heaven…to God, Alone. And this is a good thing.
But this radical shift in attitudes about religions reveals an important detail about the multitudes of people. In the past, Church leadership set such drastic parameters in good measure because the majority of people were better at obeying orders than they were about studying the important details of the theology of our Catholic doctrines. (How often do I still hear (as an answer to any question of faith) “Because the Pope says so” or “Because the Church says so”?) Catholics were given a new order by the Vatican Council…to embrace and befriend non-Catholics, and for the most part, most of us have succeeded in doing just that. This means, also, to know why there are differences and to articulately explain the faith, if necessary.
But this new attitude about faith brought with it a very bad consequence regarding all the rhymes and reasons behind the great divisions in the Christian population. The difference between Catholics and non-Catholics was transformed into a simple difference between “religions”. Catholics began to adopt the Protestant view of “denominations”. That view teaches that the various religious denominations are all founded on mere human conflicts. Different churches and different religions are equivalent when we assess their worth. Today, in a post 9/11 world, I would think that the introduction of the Christian/Muslim distinction would hit us over the head like a 2 by 4, opening our eyes to the reality of the great importance of theological distinctions and thoughts. But regretfully, the liaise-faire attitude of the 60’s still prevails. Therefore, the term CCD that includes the concept of “doctrine” or catechesis must include a concept of conversion and will guide our parish today and into future generations.