The doctrines are the main things of the Church. O.K. They were in the catechism. But if I asked your eight year old daughter a question about the Faith and she gives me an answer, which is good….
A woman interrupted:
But they can’t Father. They don’t get taught it. My children were told that the angels were a myth.
Well, I’ll come back to it in a minute……….
Nobody held their breath in anticipation of Father’s return to this crucial point.
According to Father, “there’s no point in being able to give the answer” from the catechism unless you have “come to it through experience … We’re not just made up of cerebral stuff, we’re also made up of emotions and feelings and God made all of them, not just the brain.” Unfortunately, Father was not receptive to the experience of Catholic parents that in Catholic schools the brain has been put on permanent hold in matters pertaining to the Faith. In failing to stress the essential elements of catechesis required by the Holy Father in his 1979 blueprint for all catechetical programmes, Catechesi Tradendae, he also ignored John Paul II’s call for a return to “traditional doctrinal and systematic catechesis”
It was fiercely ironic that at the very time Father was extolling the virtues of an experiential catechesis, which presumably would train children to determine for themselves the intrinsic worth of things like contraception, Bishop William Brennan of the neighbouring diocese of Wagga Wagga was properly rejecting it in favour of the Holy Father’s model of catechesis. The Bishop’s master-plan was outlined in the April 1990 edition of the diocesan paper Together via a two page spread devoted to the Directives of John Paul II. One large sub-heading read “Doctrinal, Not ‘Life Experience’. catechesis” and carried the following large print quote from Catechesi Tradendae:
It is quite useless to campaign for the abandonment of serious and orderly study of the message of Christ in the name of a method concentrating on life-experience. No one can arrive at the whole truth on the basis solely of some simple private experience, that is to say without an adequate explanation of the message of Christ
Nor is any opposition to be set up between a catechesis taking life as its point of departure and a traditional doctrinal and systematic catechesis.
While Father was careful not to promote openly an incompatibility between doctrine and experience, his refusal to address the concerns of parents implied as much and he continued to pursue a line of thought at odds with the Holy Father’s. Referring to the triumph of experiential catechetics, he stated matter-of-factly:
Whether one way is right or one way is wrong that’s the way catechesis has gone.
Spiritual Engineering for Secular Ends
Flying in the face of John Paul II’s insistence that catechesis aims at the mind of the pupil, Father attempted to play down the enormous difference in approach, as if it did not matter either way.
When I think of the fellows I went to school with,” he reminisced, “they were taught under the other method and just as many of them have given up the Faith.
If we let pass the fact that, on the basis of recent published surveys of Catholic education, Father’s statement is statistically improbable, it still overlooked the commonsense value of what he seemed to consider an outmoded and futile ‘shoving in and pulling out’ style of catechesis. In a sense one is ‘shoving in’ the whole time because, clearly, you cannot reap what you have not sown. It is possible, of course, that after the sowing, despite its having been manured with much hard work and watered with affection, the crop may fail. But one will probably have prevented the weeds from growing.