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Bishop says many high school catechetical textbooks have deficiencies

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.

Archbishop Hughes said the committee had no recommendation yet to offer on whether to develop a high school catechetical series. He noted, though, that as to current suitability, there is not "any one complete high school series from any of the major publishers whose texts are most frequently used in this country."

Materials that have been reviewed, he said, "were not only inadequate for conformity (to the 'Catechism of the Catholic Church'), but could not be amended, and therefore needed to be rewritten."

As a result, he added, "many of the materials found to be inadequate are still in wide use throughout the country." Those materials are less likely to contain references to the catechism, according to Archbishop Hughes.

He gave a long list of examples where some high school texts were deficient. He added later that "not every high school religion book is problematic," though he did not identify those texts either. He also said publishers "continue to work with us" to create material in conformity with the catechism.

He also noted that publishers of catechetical materials for elementary schools have been working effectively with the bishops' conference "in creating good materials that authentically reflect" church teaching.

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 want to contact your for some extramaritial fun, you can answer quickly and not miss out on the booty call! It is so easy to find sex in 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 want to contact your for some extramaritial fun, you can answer quickly and not miss out on the booty call! It is so easy to find sex in 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.

In his remarks, Archbishop Hughes also noted that the ad hoc committee has had to delay submitting the text of a proposed national adult catechism to the full body of bishops for approval. It had set a deadline of the fall 2003 meeting to deliver the text to the bishops, the archbishop said, but the volume of comments received from bishops this summer on the catechism's second draft prompted the ad hoc committee to prepare a third draft, which it expects to submit for approval in time for the fall 2004 meeting.

Full credit for this news article goes to: Catholic News Service

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