General and Introductory Materials
Part 3 Theological Issues

Chapter d38 Evangelization and Catechetics

Preliminary Questions


What Catholics Believe

A Short History of Catechisms

USCCB CCC Access Guide

Stability and Change

The Hierarchy of Catholic Truths

Theological Notes


Catechism and Liturgy (1066-1209)

Generational Differences

Personal / Private

Social Imaginaries

Gaillardetz on Apologetics

The Dialogue between Liturgy and Catechesis

Holy Ambiguity

To Think About

Preliminary Considerations

"People today are searching for an intelligent theology that makes sense in a world shaped by science, psychology and a new cosmology. Churches that ignore the problem of literalism in preaching and religious education generally risk being marginalised and intellectually derided. The declining numbers of church affiliations verify this growing marginalisation in their potential to shape values in Western society."  (David Tacey,  Beyond Literal Belief: Religion as Metaphor,  Transaction Publishers, April 20, 2015.  ISBN-13: 978-1412856102)

"In comparing doctrines, one should remember that there exists an order or a hierarchy of truths in Catholic doctrine, since their relationship to the fundamentals of Christian faith is diverse."  (Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism, #11.)

"Moreover, the hierarchy of truths of Catholic doctrine should always be respected; these truths all demand due assent of faith, yet are not all equally central to the mystery revealed in Jesus Christ, since they vary in their connection with the foundation of the Christian faith.  (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Directory for Ecumenism, [1993], #75.)

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International Theological Commission.  Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church (2014) 

NPR series "Loosing our Religion"  January 2013

Kenan B. Osborne, O.F.M. Sacramental Guidelines: A Companion to the New Catechism for Religious Educators, New York: Paulist Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8091-3565-5.  $13.95.

William Henn, O.F.M.Cap, "Theological Notes" in The New Dictionary of Theology, edited by Komonchak et al., pp 1011-1013.

The entire issue of La Maison-Dieu number 234 (2003) is devoted to the issue of "Catechese et liturgie en dialogue."

"The Celebration of the Christian Mystery," Catechism of the Catholic Church. Washington D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1994. nn 1066-1209. 

United States Catholic Conference. Guidelines for Doctrinally Sound Catechetical Materials. Washington, DC: Office for Publishing and Promotion Services USCCB, publication No. 419-8. ISBN 1-55586-419-8

The National Advisory Committee on Adult Religious Education of the Department of Education of the United States Catholic Conference. Catechism of the Catholic Church: An Access Guide for Adult Discussion Groups. (Washington: USCC, 1995.) Publication No.050-8. ISBN 1-55586-050-8. $1.77.

Baumbach, Dr. Gerald F (Project designer). The Priest as Empowerer of Catechetical Ministry: Report and Workbook. Washington: National Conference of Catechetical Leadership and New York: William H. Sadlier Inc., 1995.

Thomas H. Groome. Christian Religious Education: Sharing our Story and Vision. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980. ISBN 0-06-063494-4. $12.95.

Pierre Jounel. "La Liturgie dans le Catechisme de L'Eglise Catholique," Notitiae 322  (maio 1993:5) pp 265 - 284.

Helpful Websites

Center For Ministry Development.  CMD  Resource Center: free activities, programs, articles and books for youth ministry, young adult ministry and family ministry.  Download articles and tools to enrich understanding.

For a listing of sacramental programs click here

For a link to Sadlier:  "We Believe Series" click here

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What Catholics Believe

I would suggest a certain  "caution" when speaking of "what Catholics believe."  As we are (or should be) aware, there is a wide range of belief among Catholics (or followers of most any religion, for that matter).

When I was a student in France, years ago, a leading French journal did a survey in which they found that only two thirds of Catholics reported that they believed in God and only one third of the Catholic population believed that Jesus was the son of God.  (I had always thought that these were rather central to being a Catholic!)  Closer to home, in my 50 years of ministry I have found a wide range of opinions regarding Catholic belief among the people with whom I have had intimate conversations.  This is not a new phenomenon, for example:

While it is true that the Church "going public" after the conversion of Constantine enabled 1) the movement to basilicas to accommodate the larger numbers, and 2) encouraged the formation of a ruling class set apart from the "merely baptized", and 3) the development of elaborate liturgies (incorporating court gestures, vesture, and regalia) perhaps the most important change which this "going public" brought about is mentioned by Bradshaw, quoting David Knowles, on page 62.

"The conversion of Constantine brought about the swift transformation of the Church from a persecuted and fervent sect into a ruling and rapidly increasing body, favored and directed by the Emperor, membership of which was a material advantage.  In the sequel, the standards of life and the level of austerity were lowered and the Christian Church became what it has in large measure remained ever since, a large body in which 1) a few are exceptionally devout, while 2) many are sincere believers without any pretension to fervor, and 3) a sizable number, perhaps even a majority, are either on their way to losing the faith, or retain it in spite of a life which neither obeys in all respects the commands of Christ nor shares in the devotional and sacramental life of the church with regularity."  (Bradshaw, 62)

[We would probably find a "range of belief" even within each of these 3 groups.]

A diversity among the followers of Jesus existed from the very beginning.  The noted Scripture scholar Gerhard Lohfink in his book "Jesus of Nazareth: What He Wanted, Who He Was" Chapter 6: "The Many Faces of Being Called", points out that "Jesus did not call everyone to follow him. "¦ There is no text in which Jesus calls all Israel to discipleship or to following him.  Above all, he nowhere makes being a disciple requirement for participation in the reign of God."  (Lohfink 87)

"In summary, we may say that the Gospels, especially Mark, are aware of a great variety of forms of participation in Jesus' cause.  There were the Twelve.  There was the broader circle of disciples.  There were those who participated in Jesus's life.  There were the localized, resident adherence who made their houses available.  There were people who helped in particular situations, if only by offering a cup of water.  Finally there were the pure beneficiaries who profited from Jesus' cause and for that very reason did not speak against it. "¦ Thus, not belonging to the circle of disciples as such is by no means an indication of lack of faith or a sign that someone is marginal.  Nowhere does Jesus describe those of his adherents he has not called to follow him as undecided or half-hearted.  Each person who accepts Jesus message about the reign of God has his or her own calling.  Each can, in her own way, and to his own capacity, contribute to the building up of the whole.  No one is second-class."  (Lohfink, pp 96-97) 

"If we consider the social structure of today's parishes it is obvious that they contain not only the so-called core congregation, the groups of those who participate in congregational life regularly and with greater or lesser personal engagement.  Every parish also contains a considerable number of those less engaged, outsiders, occasional visitors, guests, and beneficiaries.  What is interesting is that there were already such people around Jesus. (Lohfink, p 94)

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A Short History of Catechisms

In the Middle Ages, "catechismus" referred to oral teaching, both the act of instruction and the doctrine taught. ... The term was first applied to a book in 1357, when The Lay Folks Catechism [was] issued by Archbishop Thorsby of York. ... Martin Luther made masterful use of the catechism as a vehicle in his program for reform and for instructing clergy and laity alike in the rudiments of the faith.  (See: Berard L. Marthaler, "The Catechism of the Catholic Church in U.S. Context," The Living Light, Fall 1993, p 66.)

Term "catechism" seems to have been coined by Luther. (See: Stevick, Made, p 100.)  Luther wrote a major catechism and minor catechism, that is, a "teacher's (bishop's) edition" and a "student's edition" [a "clergy" edition and "people's" edition].

1529 Luther's Larger Catechism
1555 Catechism of Peter Canisius
1566 Catechism of the Council of Trent
1800 Baltimore Catechism (USA)
1966 Jean-Claude D'Hotel, Origins of the Modern Catechism (thesis)
1968 Credo of the People of God (Paul VI)
1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church (in French)
1993 Catechism of the Catholic Church (English Edition - Brown cover)
1997 Modifications in the Typical Edition
1997 Latin Editio Typica published
2000 Catechism of the Catholic Church, "Second Edition" (Green cover) -- in English, translated from the Latin editio typica, with the modifications found in the
Editio Typica
2006 (March) Compendium: Catechism of the Catholic Church (e.g. a "People's Edition")
2006 (July) United States Catholic Catechism for Adults

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The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Latin editio typica: September 8, 1997):   In his Apostolic Exhortation introducing his catechism, Pope John Paul II describes a catechism as "an education in the faith of children, young people and adults which includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine imparted, generally speaking, in an organic and systematic way, with a view to initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life."  (Catechesi tradendae #18)   It is of the nature of a catechism to be an introduction, a simplification, which anyone can understand and a safe source of church teaching.  A catechism is a different literary genre from a contemporary theologian writing a book explaining sacramental theology.

A revision of the Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566) was one of the three objectives that Pope John XXIII expressed (in January 1959) for his pontificate ["I want to 1) call an ecumenical council, 2) revise the Code of Canon Law  and 3) revise the Catechism of Trent."  It was, of course, the first that got the most press time.]

The text was composed by a committee headed by a Swiss Bishop, a retired seminary rector who had been trained in the theology of the Council of Trent and who set about to sumarize this theology in the light of his understanding of the Second Vatican Council.  He selected autors who were in sympathy with the opinions of Pope John-Paul II.  They wrote in French.  An editorial committee of bishops examined their text and removed anything that they could not all agree on.  Consequently, we have a text containing the common theological opinions of the 1960s.  An examination of the footnotes makes it clear that there is little or no reference to contemporary theological thought.  

Metaphor: an automobile, to be driven safely, needs both an accelerator pedal and brake pedal.  In the Church today theologians might be compared to the accelerator pedal and the bishops might be compared to the brake pedal.  They see their role as preventing the Church -- the automobile -- from running into anything.  Their primary concern is condemning new understandings which might not be safe.  At the time of the Second Vatican Council the situation was different, there were many great theologian bishops who moved the Church forward [acelorator pedal].  However Pope John Paul II appointed bishops primarily for their loyalty to the Apostolic See and their ability to safeguard Catholic doctrine.

Martin Luther (who, it seems either invented or popularized the use of the word "catechism") wrote both a Large Catechism and a Small Catechism.  Today we would call them the "teacher's edition" and the "student edition".  The Catechism of the Catholic Church was intended to be the "Large Catechism" [the teachers' / bishops' edition] and the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is intended to be the "Small Catechism" [the students' edition].  (Pope John Paul II called for the Compendium in 2003 and it was published by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005).   This was adapted by the USCCB for Catholics in the USA  and published as United States Catholic Catechism for Adults (2006). 

These catechisms are good, standard sources and have an important role to play in the Church.  However, for a student writing a graduate level paper about some aspect of theology and quoting the catechism is similar to a graduate student in history writing a master's thesis and quoting a high school textbook as an authoritative source, or a medical doctor studying surgery and quoting a twenty year old high school biology text book. 

Note;  In many instances the Council Documents are more "modern" than the Catechism. 

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USCCB CCC Access Guide

The National Advisory Committee on Adult Religious Education of the Department of Education of the United States Catholic Conference has published Catechism of the Catholic Church: An Access Guide for Adult Discussion Groups. (Washington: USCC, 1995, Publication No.050-8. ISBN 1-55586-050-8. $1.77.) The publication provides excellent material suggesting a good adult education process and outlines five sessions for "adult access" to the Catechism. The purpose of session one "is to help adults understand the nature and purpose of the Catechism, to help them treasure it as an authoritative compendium of church teachings, and at the same time to encourage them to read the Catechism in its historical and social context." (page 4) The following is taken from the "input" section of the first session (pp 5-6).

B. The facilitator also should explain the adaptations that will be necessary in many adult education settings in the United States:

1. An acknowledgment of the lack of inclusive language.

It is simply a fact that this English translation prepared for the universal Church consistently uses the word man to refer to the human race-both men and women. This lack of "inclusive language" is very painful for many adults in our country. The present translation is subject to revision according to the Latin typical edition when it is published. In Latin, the same word is not used to refer both to the human race (homines) and to an individual man (vir). In the meantime, we must admit that this lack of inclusive language is a mark of the present time on the Catechism. However, the authors of the Catechism are not deaf to issues of language. For balance, see paragraphs 42, 239, 370.

2. Stability in tension with change.

"While core truths do not change, the Church is constantly called to a deeper understanding of those truths (see paragraphs 65, 79). The Church faithfully hands on the teachings of the apostles and, at the same time, remains open to the promptings of the Spirit. Sometimes something is taken to be a core truth which the Spirit, through time, eventually teaches us is not. For example, the following paragraphs appear in the Roman Catechism, the catechism issued after the Council of Trent in 1566:"


The Minister of the Eucharist

To omit nothing doctrinal of this sacrament, we now come to speak of its minister, a point, however, on which scarcely anyone can be ignorant.  ONLY PRIESTS HAVE POWER TO CONSECRATE AND ADMINISTER THE EUCHARIST.  It must be taught, then, that to priests alone has been given power to consecrate and administer to the faithful, the Holy Eucharist. That this has been the unvarying practice of the Church, that the faithful should receive the Sacrament from the priests, and that the officiating priests should communicate themselves, has been explained by the holy Council of Trent, which has also shown that this practice, as having proceeded from Apostolic tradition, is to be religiously retained, particularly as Christ the Lord has left us an illustrious example thereof, having consecrated His own most sacred body, and given it to the Apostles with His own hands.

One need only compare this with paragraph 903 of the new Catechism to see that this teaching about the distribution of the eucharist was not a core teaching. We must remain open to the Holy Spirit as we grow in our knowledge of the truth.

3. Not all teachings are equally relevant for every cultural setting.

Those who prepare catechetical sessions for adults need to select content areas that address the lived experience of the participants. For example, many adults in the United States must carefully consider the ramifications of being "stewards" of God's gifts (see paragraphs 2402, 2403, 2404, 2405). Few need to deal with the excruciatingly painful problem of polygamy (see paragraph 2387).

4. Some teachings that appear clear-cut in one paragraph are nuanced in other relevant paragraphs.

As with Scripture, we can mislead ourselves by reading isolated paragraphs. Teachings are nuanced when read in context or when seen in the light of several passages. For example: "Is baptism necessary for salvation?" (see paragraphs 1257-1261; 1277, 1281), or, "Has the church taught that all must receive the Sacrament of Penance at least once a year?" (see paragraphs 1457 and 2042). The marginal notes help bring passages to bear on each other. This means that the "In Brief' sections can only be understood in the context of the paragraphs that have preceded them.

5. The Catechism does not replace the documents upon which it relies.

The Catechism is an "organic presentation of the Catholic faith in its entirety" (CCC 18). It relies on documents that have preceded it. For a deeper understanding of truths taught in the Catechism, the adult education leader may want to refer to other documents that elaborate on a given subject.

We recommend that each parish have the following resources available for facilitators of adult religious education groups.

A variety of translations of the Bible.
The documents of the Second Vatican Council.
General Catechetical Directory (GCD). Sacred Congregation for the Clergy (1971), based on the documents of the Second Vatican Council.
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). Congregation for Divine Worship (1972). "The official English Translation for the United States" (1988).
To Teach As Jesus Did. United States Catholic Conference (1972).
On Evangelization in the Modern World (EN). Pope Paul VI (1975), based on the 1974 Synod of Bishops, "On Evangelization in the Modem World."
Sharing the Light of Faith. United States Catholic Conference (1979), rooted in the General Catechetical Directory.
Catechesis in Our Time (CT). Pope John Paul 11 (1979), based on the 1977 Synod of Bishops, "Catechesis in Our Time."
Serving Life and Faith: Adult Religious Education and the American Catholic Community. United States Catholic Conference, Department of Education (1986).
Guidelines for Doctrinally Sound Catechetical Materials. United States Catholic Conference (1990).
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Adult Catechesis in the Christian Community: Some Principles and Guidelines, with Discussion Guide. Sacred Congregation for Clergy (1990).
Guide for Catechists. Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (1993).

By referring to such documents the facilitator can help the participants see the Catechism in the context of other church documents.

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Stability and Change

The USCCB Access Guide for the Catechism speaks of "Stability in tension with change" and gives as an example the teaching that a lay person cannot distribute Holy Communion.  "While core truths do not change, the Church is constantly called to a deeper understanding of those truths."  Another (even more recent) example of this might be the teaching on "capital punishment."

Capital punishment is treated in relation to the Fifth Commandment in article 2266.

When the "first edition" of the Catechism appeared in English in 1993, it read...

2266b The primary effect of punishment is to redress the disorder caused by the offense. When his punishment is voluntarily accepted by the offender, it takes on the value of expiation. Moreover, punishment as the effect of preserving public order and the safety of persons. Finally punishment has a medicinal value; as far as possible it should contribute to the correction of the offender.

2267 If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

When the current "second edition" of the Catechism appeared in 2000, the text reads: 

2266  The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people's rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and the duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party.

2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm--without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself--the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically non-existent.

Note the progress from "If bloodless means are sufficient ... public authority should limit itself to such means"  (1993) to "The cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically non-existent." (2000)

Note also that not all Catholics agree with the teaching of the Catechism.  An editorial in a Catholic magazine (02/07/2011) spoke of the dangers of sentencing a person when the evidence is based on faulty science.  In the "Letters" column of a following issue (02/21/2001) reactions expressed a range of belief, from: "The editorial neglected to emphasize that the Church teaches that capital punishment is wrong ... Pope John Paul II [opposed the death penalty and] removed from the Catechism any language that could have been used to justify it."  to:  "If you take another's life, you forfeit your own right to life.  To those who oppose capital punishment, I say, grow up." 

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The Hierarchy of Catholic Truths

"Catholic theologians standing fast by the teaching of the Church ... should remember that in Catholic doctrine there exists a 'hierarchy' of truths, since they vary in their relation to the fundamental Christian faith."  (Second Vatican Council, Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, #11)

[Jesus] responded, "Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:
'This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
In vain do they worship me,
teaching as
doctrines human precepts.'
You disregard
God's commandment but cling to human tradition."
    (Mark 7:6-8 Gospel reading 22nd Sunday, cycle B)

The problem of the Pharisees -- determining which elements are central and essential for our identity -- is a perennial problem.  One of the difficulties encountered by Catholics catechized with the Baltimore Catechism was that all the doctrines of the faith had the same weight, that is, they  seemed to be of equal importance. Even graphically, everything was printed in one size font.  (Note that the present Catechism of the Catholic Church uses two print sizes.  The less important items are printed in the smaller font.)  When all teachings are presented as being equally important and when we are taught that doctrine does not change, then a change in even a minor point is upsetting to the faithful.  Witness, for example, the extreme adverse reaction of some Catholics when Pope John Paul II suggested the "Mysteries of Light."  They felt that in "changing the rosary" he was changing an essential part of Church doctrine.

My own personal history moves me to emphasize this point when teaching theology.  I grew up and was formed in the faith during a period of (relative) absolute stability.  I had only know one pope, Pius XII, from the time of my birth though the first nine years of seminary training.  Along with one pope came one ecclesiology and one style of doing liturgy.  Theology was taught as "Eternal Truths" and we were ill-prepared for the period of change which followed the death of Pius XII.  In relatively rapid succession there were four more popes.

For example I was taught and I learned that:

1.  It was against the divine law to pray with Protestants.  They were in error.  Error is evil.  Error has no right to exist.  One can not co-operate in evil.  If a Catholic was required by necessity to attend a Protestant wedding or funeral the Catholic was required to sit passively through the entire service and not participate in any prayers or ritual actions.

2.  The liturgy was in Latin and it would always remain in Latin.  This was taught very clearly in
Veterum Sapientia (February 22, 1962).  It was forbidden to talk about English in the liturgy and bishops and religious superiors were to see to it that no one wrote anything against the use of Latin in the liturgy.  (See Richstatter, Liturgical Law Today, page190.)

3.  The "words of consecration" were the only really important part of the Mass.  In our eucharist course we learned that to skip or grammatically alter any one of these words (except perhaps "enim") was a mortal sin.  Lay people who were obliged to attend Mass committed mortal sin if they were not present for the offertory, consecration , and priest's communion.  There was no lectionary and the reading of the Bible played very little role in the liturgy or indeed in Catholic life. (For the first nine years of my seminary training  there was no reference ever made to the Bible.  I don't remember even owning one.)

4.  Transubstantiation was accomplished by the words of consecration .  There was no mention of the role of the Holy Spirit.  (There is no mention of the Holy Spirit in the Roman Cannon until the final doxology.)  I never heard the word "epiclesis" until after ordination.  And now, with the "Guidelines on Eucharist Between Chaldean and Assyrian Churches " (October 27, 2001)  the Pope has decided that the Anaphora of Addai and Mari (which does not contain the institution narrative as such) can be considered valid.  This means that the words "This is my body..." do not absolutely have to be considered the only possible "formula of consecration."

5.  The Roman Canon (which forms the basis of eucharistic prayer one) was divinely inspired just as the Gospel are inspired.  It could never be changed or altered.

Shortly after the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Father Kenan B. Osborne, O.F.M. published Sacramental Guidelines: A Companion to the New Catechism for Religious Educators (New York: Paulist Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8091-3565-5).  The purpose of this book was to help religious educators in their task of handing on the Faith and to determine what is essential and what is secondary to that enterprise.  Osborne distinguishes three types of church teaching.

1.  Official and Solemn Teaching of the Church
2.  Undefined but Official Teachings of Church Leadership
3.  Acceptable Theological Opinions

Regarding the Eucharist, Osborne stated that the following six teachings are in the first category:  Official and Solemn Teaching of the Church (Osborne pp 78-86):

1.  Holy Eucharist is a sacrament.
2.  Holy Eucharist is a sacrament of the presence of Jesus.
3.  The presence of Jesus is true, real and substantial.
4.  Bread and wine in the Eucharist are not merely bread and wine, but they have been changed into the body and blood of Christ.
5.  The Mass is a true sacrifice.
6.  In the Eucharistic sacrifice, Jesus is both priest and victim.

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Theological Notes

[The following is taken from William Henn, O.F.M.Cap, "Theological Notes" in The New Dictionary of Theology, edited by Komonchak et al., pp 1011-1013. -- Theological notes are short qualifying phrases often used in manuals of Catholic theology prior to the Second Vatican Council indicating the degree of authoritativeness of a particular theological proposition. ... Perhaps the most complete systematization [of theological notes] appears in Sixtus Cartechini's De valore notarum theologicarum (1951). Of his ten categories, the following are the most important (the examples are those provided by Cartechini):

1.  Dogma fidei, also called de fide, de fide catholica and de fide divina et catholica, refers to a truth which is revealed by God and taught by the ordinary or extraordinary teaching office of the Church (e.g., the inerrancy of the Bible). When such a truth is solemnly defined by the pope or by a council it may also take the notation de fide deftnita (e.g., the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception).

2.  De fide ecclesiasticis definita refers to a solemnly defined truth which is not contained in revelation (e.g., that the eucharist is validly received under one species).

3.  De fide divina notes truths contained in revelation which have not been defined by the church (e.g., that Christ merited his glorious resurrection).

4.  Proxima fidei refers to truths unanimously considered to be revealed (e.g., monogenism).

5.  Theologice certum indicates a conclusion derived from the application of reason to revealed truth (e.g., that the existence of God can be demonstrated).

6.  Doctrina catholica (a truth perennially taught but not as revealed  e.g., that the human biblical authors are true but secondary authors; Transubstantiation).

7.  Certum, commune et certum, moraliter certum.  e.g., that sacraments are true causes.

8.  Securum or tutum e.g., what is taught by one of the Vatican congregations.

9.  Communius or communissimum a very common opinion such as that sin is removed by the infusion of grace.

10.  Probabilius, probabile   a more or less probable explanation such as Bainism or Molinism.


These categories clearly are based upon degrees of authority and, at the same time, imply degrees of certainty. A de fide definita truth has the highest level of authority and certainty; a probabile opinion has the lowest. Corresponding to these categories,  Cartechini indicates gradations of errors and of required degrees of assent.

As it stands, the approach to Christian truth represented by theological notes has fallen out of favor in post-Vatican II theology. It emphasizes the degrees of authority of various propositions, giving the impression that theology is an activity of systematizing propositions and expanding the body of truths by deducing new propositions. Such an outlook contrasts sharply with the overall understanding of revelation expressed in Vatican II's Constitution on Divine Revelation.

The system of theological notes, however, does resonate well with several contemporary themes pertaining to doctrine. It shares some kinship with the hermeneutical effort to more adequately assess the degrees of authority behind the various teachings of the Christian tradition. It stands as a reminder that an element of authority remains inextricably bound to truth which is revealed and, hence, received. Furthermore, the notion that differing degrees of assent are called for by different types of teaching touches on the question of religious freedom vis-Γ -vis revealed truth and the possibility of dissent. Finally, the effort to order truths according to their formal authority as represented in the system of theological notes finds a parallel in contemporary efforts to order truths according to their material content -- a movement seen in discussions of the hierarchy of truths and short formulas of the faith.

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Heresy only applies when the truth denied falls in the category of the primary objects of infallibility. It does not apply to secondary or tertiary objects. Thus we are talking about central dogmas: incarnation, resurrection, Trinity. You can consult various theologians on the objects of the magisterium: e.g. Sullivan (Magisterium) or Pat Granfield (Limits of the Papacy). see also: Origins (Feb 13, 1997) where [then Cardinal] Ratzinger himself comments on heresy and the objects of the magisterium.  He states that dissent on contraception and ordination of women would not constitute heresy strictly speaking.  The canons must be strictly interpreted on these matters.  Even serious doctrinal error does not necessarily add up to heresy. (Adapted from a private response on the CLSA e-mail, January 19, 2001)

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Catechism and Liturgy (1066 -1209)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) speaks of the liturgy in two sections of "Part Two: The Celebration of the Christian Mystery", namely "Section One:  The Sacramental Economy", # 1066 to 1209, 143 articles, and "Section Two: The Seven Sacraments of the Church"  # 1210 to 1691, 481 articles.  Many theologians have observed that these two sections reflect two very different approaches to liturgy and sacraments, and apparently the two authors (or two committees) did not read each other's work or share their theological viewpoint. 

Part Two:  The Celebration of the Christian Mystery

1066  Why the liturgy?
1069  What does the word Liturgy mean?
1071  Liturgy as source of life
1073 Prayer and liturgy
1074 Catechesis and liturgy

Section one:  The Sacramental Economy

Chapter One:  The Paschal Mystery in the Age of the Church
Article 1:  The Liturgy - Work of the Holy Trinity
I.  The Father - source and Goal of the Liturgy


II.  Christ's Work in the Liturgy
1084  Christ glorified...
1086  ...from the time of the Church of the Apostles ...
1088  ... is present in the earthly liturgy ...
1090  ...which participates in the liturgy of heaven

III.  The Holy Spirit and the Church in the Liturgy
1093  The Holy Spirit prepares for the reception of Christ
1099  The Holy Spirit recalls the mystery of Christ
1104  The Holy Spirit makes present the mystery of Christ
1108  The communion of the Holy Spirit


Article 2:  The Paschal Mystery in the Church's Sacraments

I.  The Sacraments of Christ

II.  The Sacraments of the Church

III.  The Sacraments of Faith

IV.  The Sacraments of Salvation

V.  The Sacraments of Eternal Life


Chapter Two:  The Sacramental Celebration of the Paschal Mystery

Article 1:  Celebrating the Church's Liturgy
I.  Who Celebrates?
1137 The Celebrants of the heavenly liturgy
1140  The celebrants of the sacramental liturgy

II.  How is the Liturgy Celebrated?
1145 Signs and symbols
1153 Words and actions
1156  Singing and music
1159  Holy images

III. When Is the Liturgy Celebrated?
1163  Liturgical Seasons
1166 The Lord's Day
1168 The Liturgical year
1172 The sanctoral in the liturgical year
1174  The Liturgy of the Hours

IV.  Where Is the Liturgy Celebrated?


Article 2:  Liturgical Diversity And the Unity of the Mystery
1200  Liturgical traditions and the catholicity of the Church


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Generational Differences

"Not all who are alive at the same time are contemporaries."  (Karl Rahner)


D'Antonio, Davidson, Hoge, Gautier.  American Catholics Today,  Rowman & Littlefield, Publishers, Inc.,  2007. 

Cusick, John C., and Katherine F. DeVries.  The Basic Guide to Young Adult Ministry. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2001

Hayes, Mike. Googling God: The Religious Landscape of People in their 20s and 30s. New York: Paulist Press, 2007.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Connecting Young Adults to Catholic Parishes: Best Practices in Catholic Young Adult Ministry.  Washington, DC: USCCB 2010.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Sons and Daughters of the Light: A pastoral Plan for Ministry with Young Adults, Washington, DC: USCCB, 1996.

The Search for Common Ground: What Unites and Divides Catholic Americans by Andrea S. Williams (Author), Richard A. Lamanna (Author), Jan Stenftenagel (Author), Kathleen Mass Weigert (Author), William Joseph Whalen (Author), Patricia Wittberg (Author), James D. Davidson (Author, Editor). Our Sunday Visitor Press, 1997. ISBN-10: 9780879739256 ISBN-13: 978-0879739256

Doris R. Brodeur, Ph.D.  "Connecting with Young Adults"  Rice School Newsnotes,  17:1, March 2011, pp 2-3.

Mary Gautier.  Same Call, Different Men:  The Evolution of the Priesthood since Vatican II.  The Liturgical Press, 2012.  ISBN-13:  978-0814634295.

Sr. Patricia Wittberg, SC, Ph.D. Professor of Sociology, Indiana University IN, "From Generation to Generation:  Challenge and Opportunity"  Seminar presentation at the 76th Annual Convention of the Cannon Law Society of America, St. Louis Missouri, October 14, 2014) (Much of what follows below, especially that in green print, is taken from this talk.)

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Dr. Thomas Walters:   "Each generation tries to remedy the deficiencies they see in the previous generation."

The Four (Six) Groups

The "Greatest Generation"
Born 1915-1929

Childhood shaped by the hardships of the great depression.  Many fought in World War II.  Most Catholics attended Catholic school taught by sisters.  The church was an unchanging anchor and they assumed it always would be. 

1.  Pre-Vatican II Catholics
Traditionalists / The Silent Generation
Born before 1940  1930-1945

75 and older  About 95% of the Pre-Vatican II Catholics are retired from the workforce.  Raised by turn-of-the-century farmers, they brought a strong work ethic into the factories of industrialized society. They grew up during lean times and consider work a privilege. This generation believes you earn your own way through hard work.  They are civic-minded and loyal.  Raised in a paternalistic environment, they were taught to respect authority. They are good team players and generally don't ruffle any feathers or initiate conflict in the workplace.

56% attend church weekly (Pew Research Center 2010)

The following is taken from a lecture by Sr. Katarina Schuth, O.S.F. at the meeting of the CLSA, Chicago, October 11, 2012. Adapted from: American Catholics Today, D'Antonio, Davidson, Hoge, Gautier. Rowman & Littlefield, Publishers, Inc., 2007, pp 18-19.

Being Catholic was a central facet of one's identity. Content of the faith was clear as a bell. Obeying church teaching was a given.  Assume that Catholicism is distinct from -- and truer than -- other faiths.  Catholics were economically poor and trying to "make it" in society. They reached maturity in the pre-Vatican II Church.  For some, the Council was a welcome liberation, for others the Council was a threatening disruption of the way things had always been.

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2.  Vatican II Catholics
Baby Boomers
Born 1941-1963  1946-1961
50 to 75

The largest and most influential cohort.  Optimistic.  Born after the end of World War II.  First TV generation; first transistor radio generation.  Dr. Spock taught their parents to raise them permissibly and to foster their individuality.  The Church of their youth was in constant flux and they welcomed its changes.

Baby Boomers are now well-established in their careers and hold positions of power and authority. Labor statistics indicate that nearly 80 million Baby Boomers will exit the workplace in the next decade. These employees are retiring at the rate of 8,000 per day or more than 300 per hour. Baby Boomers are extremely hardworking and motivated by position, perks and prestige. Baby Boomers relish long work weeks and define themselves by their professional accomplishments. Since they sacrificed a great deal to get where they are in their career, this workaholic generation believes that Generation X and Generation Y should pay their dues and conform to a culture of overwork. Baby Boomers may criticize younger generations for a lack of work ethic and commitment to the workplace. Baby Boomers are confident, independent and self-reliant. This generation grew up in an era of reform and believe they can change the world. They questioned established authority systems and challenged the status quo. With increased educational and financial opportunities than previous generations, Baby Boomers are achievement-oriented, dedicated and career-focused. They welcome exciting, challenging projects and strive to make a difference.   ht

Vatican II priests see themselves more as "servant leaders" within a community than as "a man set apart" as do the earlier "pre-Vatican II priests" and more recent "post-Vatican II priests" and "millennial priests."  Vatican II priests are more likely to support the principle of consulting lay leaders and their congregations.

36% attend church weekly (Pew Research Center 2010)

The following is taken from a lecture by Sr. Katarina Schuth, O.S.F. at the meeting of the CLSA, Chicago, October 11, 2012. Adapted from: American Catholics Today, D'Antonio, Davidson, Hoge, Gautier. Rowman & Littlefield, Publishers, Inc., 2007, pp 18-19.

The Church was changing, opening up, and modernizing as a result of Vatican II.  Catholic identity underwent a change.  Catholics began to question the centrality of being Catholic and wondered about the core of the faith.  The Church adopted a more ecumenical attitude.  Catholics were gaining acceptance and growing more prosperous.

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3.  Post-Vatican II Catholics
Generation X
Born 1964-1979  1962-1981
35 to 50

Smaller cohort.  Childhood was less optimistic than baby boomers.  Earliest memories: corrupted government, gasoline shortage, gloomy predictions of coming environmental catastrophe.  Many from divorced parents; latchkey kids.  Cynical, reluctant to trust institutions (government, church, business); their early experience of Church was of an institution unable to articulate anything worth believing.  Most are relatively ignorant of religious history and doctrine. Few attend Mass

Better educated than the Baby Boomers. Over 60% of Generation X attended college. Generation X came of age in an era of two-income families, rising divorce rates and a faltering economy. Women were joining the workforce in large numbers, spawning an age of "latch-key" children.  As a result, Generation X is independent, resourceful and self-sufficient. In the workplace, Generation X values freedom and responsibility. Many in this generation display a casual disdain for authority and structured work hours. They dislike being micro-managed and embrace a hands-off management philosophy. 

The Generation X mentality reflects a shift from a manufacturing economy to a service economy. The first generation to grow up with computers, technology is woven into their lives.

Many GenXers lived through tough economic times in the 1980s and saw their workaholic parents lose hard-earned positions. Thus, Generation X is less committed to one employer and more willing to change jobs to get ahead than previous generations. They adapt well to change and are tolerant of alternative lifestyles. Generation X is ambitious and eager to learn new skills but want to accomplish things on their own terms. Unlike previous generations, members of Generation X work to live rather than live to work. They appreciate fun in the workplace and espouse a work hard/play hard mentality.  They are independent, ambitious, and family-centric.  ht

"Generation Xers test the tenets of faith through critical reasoning, where every theory is fair game for scrutiny.  They might not be able to articulate facts surrounding their tradition but they can articulate their spiritual experiences rather well."  Generation X longs for community more than any other generation.  They want religion to challenge them spiritually to become more involved in the lives of one another and their community."

Generation X priests "tend to stress church orthodoxy and rate themselves happier in ministry than Vatican II priests. They also feel Episcopal and Papal support more strongly than Vatican II men.

The following is taken from a lecture by Sr. Katarina Schuth, O.S.F. at the meeting of the CLSA, Chicago, October 11, 2012. Adapted from: American Catholics Today, D'Antonio, Davidson, Hoge, Gautier. Rowman & Littlefield, Publishers, Inc., 2007, pp 18-19.

The hierarchy was trying to restore order in what it perceived as a chaotic Church.  Catholic laypeople were becoming more autonomous in their thinking about issues of faith and morals.  Uncertainties about the centrality of being Catholic.  Increased willingness to disagree with the Church on what some viewed as optional teachings. Catholics saw commitment as voluntary.  Similarities, not differences, between Catholics and Protestants emphasized.  Catholics were clearly middle-class.

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4.  Millennials
Generation Y
Born after 1980
Under 35

The largest and most ethnically diverse generation;  They came of age at the dawn of the new millennium.  Their everyday lives are shaped by technology.  They are the first generation accustomed to computers and cell phones from childhood.  They spend more time online than watching TV.

They came of age at a time of great uncertainty and angst;  20% are unimployed.  They have a thirst for instant gratification in the face of an unknown tomorrow (Brodeur).

They often accept authority figures as trustworthy and believe that rules are good things and that one should follow them.  For example, they wear helmets when bicycling and use seatbelts in cars.  They want quick answers that can immediately be integrated into their lives. 

"For the Millennials, the burden of proof does not fall upon authority but rather upon whether they can "measure up" and prove themselves worthy of the Christian tradition to which they adhere.  They may be able to articulate their beliefs, that is, what they learned in religious education classes, but have no idea how they came to believe particular tenet of the faith."  "In a world where life seems very fleeting, young adults search for things they can depend on, things that have stood the test of time, things they regard as true, and things that are greater than themselves."  (Brodeur, p 3)

Trophy children, protected, taught that they were "special".  "Millennial young adults have grown up as the most watched-over generation in history.  (Helicopter Parents was coined to describe their "hovering" parents -- technology makes this "hovering" easier.)  They remain close to their parents even as adults.

Some would conclude that this generation is "over-parented."  I'm OK, you're OK carried to the extreme.  At school, everyone in the class gets an award.  This can give an inflated sense of self-worth.  -- When "reality strikes" they are left with feelings of inadequacy and low-self worth.  They need "I'm not OK and you're not OK but that's OK."  (see Richard Malloy, America 2/13/12, p 22)  Malloy suggests:  1.  Challenge them directly and deeply.  2) Preach a God who loves us and who not only calls us but demands that we love one another.  3)  Teach transformation.  "It is not what you are, not what you have been, that God sees with his all-merciful eyes, but what you desire to be."  (The Cloud of Unknowing

18% attend church weekly (Pew Research Center 2010)  The segment of "nones" who call themselves "spiritual but not religious" [=SBNR] now constitute at least 20 percent of the population, and 30 percent of those under 30 years of age."

"They don't necessarily want church to be the place where community comes together, but rather they want church to be the place of quiet mystery.   Mark, for example, preferred a quiet Mass without singing when he attended church as a high-school student."   ("Twenty-five percent of this demographic are unaffiliated with any church.  Other studies show a decreasing religious literacy among the young.  In addition, the highly committed young Catholics among this cohort identify strongly with the religious right but they do not represent the interests and sensibilities of their demographic cohort.")   

Saint Meinrad:  Note for example, the new configuration in the St Thomas Chapel.  The 2003 configuration was designed for Generation X with its emphasis on community and gathering around the alter.  Priests, faculty, monks, and students were all part of one worshiping community.  All seeing one another and all "under the Word" (that is, in front of the lectern).  The 2010 configuration designed for the Millennials emphasizes "a place of quiet mystery."  The entire space has become a Blessed Sacrament Chapel.  In this mindset, the ability to see and hear is not a key issue.  The priests are in a separate, elevated space apart from the laity;  they are not under the Word of God (e.g. they are behind the lectern). 

[The following is taken from a lecture by Sr. Katarina Schuth, O.S.F. at the meeting of the CLSA, Chicago, October 11, 2012. Adapted from: American Catholics Today, D'Antonio, Davidson, Hoge, Gautier. Rowman & Littlefield, Publishers, Inc., 2007, pp 18-19.]   Gravitation toward conservative direction in the Church, creating a split. Sexual abuse scandal is a traumatic shock. Questions raised about importance of being Catholic, the substance of the faith, and the boundaries between Catholics and others. Sense of insecurity after 9/11. More conservative climate pervades society. Catholics firmly in the upper middle class, but with the stream of new immigrants, many poor, augmenting the Catholic population.

The Next Generation
born 1996 to??? 

Their childhood was passed during the turbulent post-9/11.  Early years were during the stock market collapse and the Great Recession.  Their childhood was less optimistic than the millennials

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Millennials differ from Xers in three ways:

(1)  their view of world events
(2)  differences in family experiences; and
(3)  the ways they test truth. 

Moving on...

It is important for each of us to know something of the characteristics of the generation into which we were born.  It is also important to move beyond the limits which are distinctive to each of the generational cohorts. For example even though pre-Vatican II Catholics grew up in an age where an electric typewriter was "top-of-the-line technology" [I wrote my doctoral thesis on an IBM Selectric] I sold it in 1976 and now I have a quad 4 HP, a MacBook, an iPad, and an iPhone, plus handful of bluetooth devices. We are supposed to do the same thing theologically -- move beyond and overcome the limitations of our generational cohort while incorporating the its strengths.

In my own pastoral experience I find that people of each of these generational cohorts are eager for good, sound catechesis to help them do just that. However, even though they are hungry for it, their hunger is not always satisfied! 

In the 2012 Madeleva Lecture in Spirituality, Becoming the Sign: Sacramental Living in a Post-Conciliar Church, Kathleen Hughes RSCJ, writes: " a lecture not so long ago, I was describing the moment at the preparation of the table and the gifts when we bring all that we are and all that our "Amens" have ever promised, our joys and our sorrows, our everyday dyings and risings, and place it all there on the altar with the bread and wine. Then we pray that the Spirit will transform us just as really as the bread and wine, will merge our lives with that of Christ, will join us to the paschal mystery celebrated in every liturgy, played out in every person gathered at that table. I was stopped by a man who raised his hand to ask: "Besides you, who knows this stuff?" That is a very important question! (p. 49)

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Personal / Private

Liturgical prayer cannot be properly understood without a precise understanding of the words "personal", "private", and "communal. In our American culture we tend to equate that which is "personal" with that which is private and individual.    For example, "His letter to me last week contained some information that was very personal." That would mean that the information was intended for me individually, privately, it was nobody else's business.  And in our American culture we tend to equate that which is "communal" with the "impersonal".  For example, a very nice rosary in a gift box was the bishop's communal gift to each of those being Confirmed."    Similarly we tend to think of private events as being "personal" and communal, group activities are often experienced as "impersonal".   However every liturgical prayer, every liturgical celebration, every sacrament,  is always both personal and communal -- never private or individual.  In the document  Environment and Art in Catholic Worship published by the [now] USCCB, we are reminded that liturgy is always a communal, personal act.

A culture which is oriented to efficiency and production has made us insensitive to the symbolic function of persons and things. Also, the same cultural emphasis on individuality and competition has made it more difficult for us to appreciate the liturgy as a personal-communal experience. As a consequence, we tend to identify anything private and individual as "personal." But, by inference, anything communal and social is considered impersonal. For the sake of good liturgy, this misconception must be changed. (USCCB, Environment and Art in Catholic Worship, #16.  Emphasis added.)

In our American Culture we think that personal = private  and that  communal = impersonal.  In this way of thinking, we can get the false impression that Personal Prayer is Private Prayer and that communal liturgical prayer is impersonal prayer.  But in reality Liturgy is both Personal and Communal.  In actual fact (and we must teach this forcefully yet carefully) Liturgical Prayer is always personal but it is never private; and Liturgical is always communal, but it is never impersonal.

Liturgical services are not private functions, but are celebrations of the Church, which is the "sacrament of unity," namely, the holy people united and ordered under their bishops.  Therefore liturgical services pertain to the whole body of the Church; they manifest it and have effects upon it; but they concern the individual members of the Church in different ways, according to their differing rank, office, and actual participation.  (Constitution on the Liturgy, #26) 

 It is to be stressed that whenever rites, according to their specific nature, make provision for communal celebration involving the presence and active participation of the faithful, this way of celebrating them is to be preferred, so far as possible, to a celebration that is individual and quasi-private.  (Constitution on the Liturgy, 27)

Do you experience Holy Communion as a private, individual act (receiving Holy Communion) or as a communal act done with the other members of the worshipping community (sharing a sacred meal)?  (Think of how you ordinarily speak of this event, especially when you speak without consciously applying your theological training; this will often reveal the subconscious.)

I must admit that for most of my life I thought of Holy Communion primarily as a private act. Communion was the moment when I received Jesus into my heart. It was a moment of intense personal and private prayer. But there is a problem here.  If I am to have a personal encounter with the Risen Lord in Holy Communion, by (cultural) inference that encounter would also be private and individual.  Yet we know that the liturgy is not a private prayer but a communal action, even though it is at the same time personal. The liturgy and Holy Communion is a personal-communal act.

My experience of Holy Communion has shifted from an individual and private act to an action that is communal and public while still remaining intensely personal.  One of the ways I express the community dimension of this sacred action is by joining my voice in song with the voices of the others with whom I am sharing the Eucharist. We join our voices in a hymn and express common sentiments of devotion. We unite our minds and hearts in common prayer. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states that the purpose of the Communion chant "is to express the communicants' union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices.

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Social Imaginaries

Modern Social Imaginaries by Charles Taylor, Public Planet:  Duke University Press, 2003, ISBN-10-0822332930.

"Social Imaginaries"  refers to the ways in which we "imagine" or conceptualize society.  "The social imaginary is an elusive set of self understandings, background practices, and horizons of common expectations that are not always explicitly articulated, but that give a people a sense of a shared group life." Aristotle (and traditional, scholastic philosophy) begins with the  "eternal order" or structure.  Individuals find their place in this structured hierarchy.

Pre-modern social imaginaries ... were structured by various modes of hierarchical complementarity. Society was seen as made up of different orders. These needed and complemented each other. But this didn't mean that their relations were truly mutual, because they didn't exist on the same level. They formed rather a hierarchy in which some had greater dignity and value than the others. An example is the often repeated mediaeval idealization of the society of three orders, oratores, bellatores, and laboratores: those who pray, those who fight, and those who work. 

Beginning with Grotius and Locke in the 17th Century, the individual begins to be seen as primary.   During the next three centuries we begin to see "society" as composed by and existing for "the mutual benefit of individuals, and the defense of their rights."   Political authority itself is legitimate only because it was consented to by individuals."  This is the foundation of a new type of "moral order"  which stresses "the rights and obligations which we have as individuals in regard to each other, even prior to or outside of the political bond."  Society exists to safeguard an individual's rights. 

This new moral order is difficult to integrate with the Church's vision which is based on the "eternal order" of Aristotle.  In the Church, and its code of law, the common good takes priority over the individual; and an individual's duties take priority over individual rights.  The difference between the priesthood of the ordained and the lay priesthood is an ontological difference.  The hierarchy has the task of preserving the common good.

This difference in social imaginaries has some ("unfortunate" ???) consequences.   1)  The laity have no role in the decisions which affect them.  2)  The Church is more concerned with preserving and safeguarding the structure and the "common good" than in the rights of individuals.  This -- for example -- has influenced the bishops' response to the sexual abuse crisis.  Their primary focus is the preservation of the common good of the Church. 

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Gaillardetz on Apologetics

Richard R. Gaillardetz, "Do We Need a New(er) Apologetics?"  America, February 2, 2004, pp 26-33. 

In an article in America magazine, Gaillardetz comments on the current (2004) state of Catholic apologetics, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses, and then he proposes "five characteristics of an alternative apologetics that would be more consonant with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and the needs of the church."

1.  Passionate and Positive

2.  Dialogical

3.  Ecumenical

4.  Historically Responsible

5.  Culturally Engaged

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The Dialogue between Liturgy and Catechesis

Reprinted with permission from:  Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M. "The Dialogue between Liturgy and Catechesis," Assembly, 21:1 (March 1995) pp 664-665.

The appearance of the English edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is an occasion for looking once again at the dialogue between liturgy and catechesis. The Second Vatican Council has now produced not only a new liturgy but a new catechism. As a liturgist, I must admit that one part of me is rather relieved that the fickle spotlight of public interest has moved from critiquing the new liturgy to critiquing the new catechism. And after twenty years of needing to say over and over that the fact that we have new liturgical books will not in itself solve all the world's problems and bring about Christ's immediate return in glory, I can now let the catechists take on that task. In the light of some of the exaggerated and unrealistic expectations that are being placed on the new Catechism, catechists will be kept busy for some time saying over and over that a new book will not in itself bring about the Parousia.

As a liturgist I am interested in both the new liturgy and the new Catechism. Along with all Catholics I am interested in how we pray and in what we believe. As one who frequently leads the liturgical assembly, I am interested in the liturgy and how we pray and worship as a community. As an educator and writer I am interested in catechesis. What is the relationship between liturgy and catechesis? What does the new liturgy say to the new Catechism and what does the new Catechism say to the new liturgy?

I have found that I can help students enter into the dialogue between liturgy and catechesis by asking them to think of a friend or relative that they love and to use the relation "loving the person / knowing the person" as a metaphor for the relation "liturgy / catechesis" so that LOVING : KNOWING :: LITURGY : CATECHESIS. Let me stress that I am speaking metaphorically. I am not speaking of exact definitions and parallels. I am speaking of a comparison which helps explain a relationship. Liturgy is more than "loving"; and catechesis is certainly more than "knowing."

LOVING : KNOWING. Life is about relationships. Life is about loving. More than "wealthy" or "powerful" I have always wanted to become a great lover! But I can't love someone if I have never heard of them or don't know anything about them. There is a certain "getting to know you" that goes before the loving. Yet in my experience, there are times when in the very "getting to know" the person I discover the beginnings of loving the person. Even more importantly, in the very process of loving the person I come to know her/him even more. In loving the person, I discover new and unknown aspects of their personalities. In loving the person I come to know the person in a way that could not be achieved by merely studying about the person. There is an intellectual component to being a great lover, and there are times when I concentrate on learning about loving. I study psychology, family systems, etc. But I use this knowledge about loving and about the beloved in order to love.

LITURGY : CATECHESIS. Liturgy and catechesis are about ultimate relationships, about knowing, loving, and serving God through God's creation. From the early days of my Franciscan formation, from reading Bonaventure and Duns Scotus, I learned the primacy of Love and that holiness consisted in becoming a great lover. In this perspective it is natural to see the liturgy as our great Christian act of love making.

But just as I can't love someone I don't know, I can't celebrate a God I don't know. Consequently, as the Catechism states, liturgy "must be preceded by evangelization, faith, and conversion." (CCC 1072) It has been my experience that "getting to know" God is already the beginnings of loving God. It has also been my experience that in the very act of loving God -- in the very celebration of the liturgy -- I discover who God is in a way that could not be learned from a book, although I don't celebrate the liturgy in order to find out about God just as I don't "use" the relationship with a friend or lover merely to find out about the person or to "learn about loving."

There is a difference between knowing God and knowing about God. However, loving God and celebrating that love in the liturgy moves me to know more about God, to know more about how others have loved God, how their experience of God has been recorded in the Scriptures, how that experience of loving God has been shaped by different times and cultures, and how others have responded to that Love even as I am trying to do here, now, in my day to day moral decisions. Loving God moves me to engage in Christian religious education.

Thomas Groome sees catechesis as a specifically instructional activity within the broader enterprise of Christian religious education. He understands catechesis in its traditional meaning, "the activity of reechoing or retelling the story of Christian faith that has been handed down." (Groome, Christian Religious Education, p 27) When we understand catechesis as "retelling the story of Christian faith" and see the liturgy to be the celebration and "retelling the story of Christian faith," we can appreciate something of the complexity of the dialogue between liturgy and catechesis.

The Constitution on the Liturgy (CL 33-36) acknowledged that the liturgy itself has a "teaching" dimension. This "teaching character" of the liturgy was one source of norms for the liturgical reform.

33. Although the liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine majesty, it likewise contains rich instruction for the faithful. For in the liturgy God is speaking to his people and Christ is still proclaiming his Gospel. And the people are responding to God by both song and prayer.

It is at this point in the Constitution that the reasons for the use of the mother tongue in the liturgy are introduced; Latin impedes "telling the Christian story."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses "Catechesis and Liturgy" in numbers 1074 and 1075 which are placed at the transition point between Part One "The Profession of Faith" and Part Two "The Celebration of the Christian Mystery."

1074. "The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the font from which all her power flows." It is therefore the privileged place for catechizing the People of God. "Catechesis is intrinsically linked with the whole of liturgical and sacramental activity, for it is in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist, that Christ Jesus works in fullness for the transformation of men."

1075. Liturgical catechesis aims to initiate people into the mystery of Christ (It is "mystagogy.") by proceeding from the visible to the invisible, from the sign to the thing signified, from the "sacraments" to the "mysteries." This Catechism, which aims to serve the whole Church in all the diversity of her rites and cultures, will present what is fundamental and common to the whole Church in the liturgy as mystery and as celebration (Section One), and then the seven sacraments and the sacramentals (Section Two).

Number 1074 consists of three sentences. The first is taken from a work on the liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 9) and the third taken from a work on catechesis (Catechesi tradendae, 23). I find both of these sentences to be relatively clear, especially when I read them in their original contexts. These two quotations are joined by an original sentence: "It [the liturgy] is therefore the privileged place for catechizing the People of God."

This sentence is less clear. It might be read differently by a liturgist than by a catechist. I can understand it in the relation "liturgy : catechesis :: loving : knowing" to mean that liturgy/loving is the privileged place for catechesis/knowing (as in the very act of loving God, I come to know God). I can understand it to mean that "telling the Christian story" is the aim of catechesis and the liturgy is the privileged place for that telling.

When we think of catechesis more narrowly in terms of "teaching" and "instruction" then perhaps the sentence says too much. I have heard the sentence interpreted to mean that the liturgy is the best place to read the Catechism, whether during the homily or in place of the reading from Scripture.

Number 1075 begins with a relatively new term "liturgical catechesis "which here refers to the catechetical dimension of the liturgy itself. When the Constitution on the Liturgy of speaks of "liturgical catechesis" as in article 35,3 it is speaking of teaching about the liturgy during the liturgy, that is, explaining the liturgical action.

35,3. A more explicitly liturgical catechesis should also be given in a variety of ways. Within the rites themselves provision is to be made for brief comments, when needed, by the priest or a qualified minister; they should occur only at the more suitable moments and use a set formula or something similar.

Teaching about the liturgy during the liturgy is something different from allowing the celebration itself to inform us.

Perhaps the practice of a children's Liturgy of the Word at Sunday Mass might serve as an example to help clarify the distinction between liturgy and catechesis. Several years ago when I was pastor of a parish, I thought that our parish practice of providing a special Liturgy of the Word for the children met with a certain amount of success. For me, simply seeing the happy and satisfied looks on the children's faces as they rejoined the adult community was more than adequate compensation for all the trouble and effort their liturgy caused! Today I often encounter a certain amount of opposition and even hostility to the practice. Consequently I was happy to see an article in a recent publication of the United States Catholic Conference recommending the practice. As I read the article "Obeying the Mystery: Worship and the Very Young" by Mary Catherine Berglund (Beginning the Journey, USCC publication No. 527-5) I noticed how the article consistently used "liturgical vocabulary" for the practice; and I came to remember how those who are hostile to the practice usually describe it using "instructional / educational" words. Are the children taken to their own liturgy or taken out for Sunday school? Are they taken to a place of worship or to a classroom? What title is used for the one who leads their liturgy? Who is responsible for preparing this part of the liturgy, the parish liturgist or the DRE? It seems that a children's Liturgy of the Word works best when it is indeed liturgy.

Liturgy and catechesis are both directed toward telling the wonderful story of God's love for us in Christ Jesus. Liturgists and catechists each have different strategies for telling this story; they are educated at different universities, employ different methodologies, and use different materials in their telling. Both liturgists and catechists, filled with knowledge and love of God and creation, want the story to be told and hope that the new rites together with the new Catechism will aid that telling.

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Holy Ambiguity:  Historical Language and Symbolic Language

Course Sequence

In an ideal world, everyone taking master's level courses in theology would have majored in theology in college undergraduate work.  [For example, a student beginnign a MBA would not be accepted into the program without a background in business, economics, statics, marketing, etc.)   Also, in this ideal world, the courses for the Master level programs for the laity at Saint Meinrad would be presented in a defined sequence (as they are for the seminarians). In this ideal world everyone taking French III would have already completed French I and French II. But, alas, this is not the world in which we live. In this "real world" we have people taking French III who have not had French I. There are students who are studying "what is the Sacrament of Reconciliation" who have not yet taken the course "what is a sacrament". There are students discussing reconciliation in the New Testament who have not yet completed their Scripture courses. There are students studying the history of the Church's healing ministry who have not yet examined carefully the general history of the Church.   Students who find themselves in French III and have not had French II but only French I are often intimidated.  And Students who find themselves in French III and have had no French at all, find it "difficult" to say the least! There are times as a professor when I find this simply "unacceptable" -- but it is the world in which we live and I simply have to get used to it.  [And French III works -- when students who have had French II help those who have only had French I.]

Sacramental Theology

Those of you who have studied current trends in sacramental theology are accustomed to thinking of "sacrament" in a more integrated fashion than was presented in the Baltimore Catechism (which I describe as the "Seven Shoe Box Metaphor of Sacramental Theology). In "contemporary" sacramental theology (actually that of Saint Augustine), a sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible reality. The ultimate invisible reality is the Trinitarian love of the divinity. Jesus of Nazareth is the sacrament of God. We, the church, are the sacrament of the mystery of Christ. We are never more church than when celebrating Eucharist. The first time we do Eucharist we call it baptismconfirmationeucharist. All the other "7 sacraments" are sacraments (expressions) of an aspect of Eucharist. The Eucharist is expressed throughout the day in the Liturgy of the Hours and throughout the year in the Liturgical Calendar of feasts and seasons and is extended to all of creation through sacramentals: water, ashes, palms, etc. Indeed all of creation is a sacrament, a revelation of Trinitarian love. [I described this contemporary, integrated sacramental theology as the "Metaphor of the Pebble Dropped into a Quiet Pond" which I summarize in "Chapter d31 Sacrament" on my website, and describe more at length in "The Sacraments" (12 talks on 4 audio CD's from Now You Know Media) and especially in Chapter 1, "Christmas" of my book: The Mass: A Guided Tour (St. Anthony Messenger Press).]

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Part two of the Catechism of the Catholic Church treats the sacraments in two sections: "Section One: The Sacramental Economy" (#1066 to 1209) and "Section Two: The Seven Sacraments of the Church." (#1210 to 2300) Section One (#1066 ff) is an excellent introduction to contemporary sacramental theology. The author(s) are working out of the "Metaphor of the Pebble Dropped into a Quiet Pond". Section Two (#1210 ff) is based on the theology which flows from the "Metaphor of the Seven Shoe Boxes". As Professor Kenan Osborne, in "Sacrament of Reconciliation: Door to Forgiveness and Healing" points out: There is no evidence that the author(s) of Section Two read or were aware of Section One.

Side note: authorship

I have found it interesting to note the difference in the way the Roman Church and the liturgical Protestant Churches publish their revised rites (and/or catechisms). When I was doing my doctoral studies in Paris, Père Gy (the president of the school) mentioned one day in class that the Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians, for example, when publishing a new Rite, list the authors of the text because they believe that when one sees the names of the authors and realizes the excellent backgrounds and qualifications of these people, this realization would give the revised Rite a certain "enhanced pedigree" and would help the Rite to be more readily accepted. The Roman Church, on the other hand, feels that to reveal the authors would diminish the pedigree of the Rite, because the perception of most Catholics is that everything coming from Rome is the work of the Holy Spirit and they did not want to tarnish that perception.

Holy Ambiguity

As we live in an age of differing and often conflicting theologies, it is important for the teacher and the preacher to develop the art of "holy ambiguity". The teacher/preacher must first of all be aware of these differing theologies and to have at least some presumption of how his/her words will be understood by the audience. There are places where the author(s) of the catechism are very good at this.

For example there are Catholics (let's call them: Group A) who believe Adam and Eve are historical individuals. There are those who believe that the first historical person in the Bible is Abraham (let's call them: Group B). When speaking of the contemporary unified understanding of sacrament and explaining that the ultimate reality to which every sacrament points is Trinitarian love, the author(s) of "Section One" speak in such a way that both Group A and Group B can hear and receive their words (Holy Ambiguity) knowing all the while that the words will be understood differently by each group. For example when they speak with holy ambiguity of "the liturgical poem of the first creation" (1079) each group can understand that. When they say that "from the very beginning God blessed all living beings especially man and woman" and then they go on to say "But with Abraham, the divine blessing entered into human history ...." (1080) again each group will understand those words but in a different manner. Group B, for example, will be affirmed in their believe that Abraham is the first historical person in Genesis, and Group A will simply read the sentence from their own understanding and context without giving the remark any particular significance.  [As Julia Upton says:  We don't see things as they are; we see things as we are.]

For example the statement "Jesus instituted the eucharist and the priesthood at the the Last Supper, the night before he died" is sacramental/symbolic language and not historical language.  The eucharist is clearly a post resurrection celebration by the Church and priesthood as an institution within the community does not appear until the second century. 

In today's church it is important that we -- all of us -- who are engaged in handing on the faith by our teaching/preaching learn this art of Holy Ambiguity. [It first of all presupposes knowing that these differences exist -- for without this knowledge, the practice of holy ambiguity is not possible. While the experience is not always "pleasant" one of the important outcomes of theological education is to learn what is common Church teaching and what is "what I have always thought was Church teaching even though it was not."] The practice of this "holy ambiguity" is important when we are speaking of such things as original sin, God's anger, Jesus instituting seven sacraments, Jesus forgiving his enemies on the cross, private revelations, devotional practices, -- without "holy ambiguity" the teacher/preacher can unknowingly presume that what he/she says is "common church teaching" and alienate a portion of the audience/listeners who then "turn them off" and do not hear what you are wanting to say/teach. Anger usually blocks learning.

Pope Francis, in The Joy of the Gospel (#41) writes:  Today's fast and rapid cultural changes demand that we constantly seek ways of expressing unchanging truths in a language which brings out their abiding newness.  The deposit of the faith is one thing.  The way in which it is expressed is another.  There are times when the faithful, in listening to completely orthodox language, take away something alien to the authentic gospel of Jesus Christ, because that language is alien to their own way of speaking to and understanding one another.

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To Think About

1.  What are the key issues that you feel are central to catechesis on the Liturgy?

2.  What criteria will you use in selecting textbooks and teaching materials?

Evangelization of inactive Catholics. 
The chances are excellent that you know people who have left the Catholic Church. You may also have heard many of the reasons people give for leaving. Scientific studies tell us that people give various reasons for leaving the church:

  1. Marriage to a non-Catholic or to a non-practicing Catholic

  2. Boredom with worship, particularly preaching

  3. Moving from one city to another

  4. Difficulties with changes in the church (both too much change and too little!)

  5. Personal quarrel with someone who represented the church

  6. Impersonal nature of large Catholic parishes

  7. Impact of secularism and materialism

One thing you may notice about this list: a lot of active, believing and loyal Catholics have the same difficulties or questions. In other words, there isn't a lot of difference between people who stop being involved in church and those who remain active. But we also know of one decisive difference between those who remain active and those who don't: a spiritual center, a core relationship with Jesus, that holds the active believer in a community that celebrates and shares faith. This spiritual center is what we want to share with those people who have given up the practice of their faith. (Boyack, Kenneth. "Another Look at the Catholic Faith" in Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association.)

The seven above are the principle reasons for leaving. Other reasons: ineffective preaching, moving to a new town; personal or family quarrel; deterioration of family life; impersonal nature of a large parish; anger with God because of a tragedy in the family; impact of consumer society.

40% of the 15,000,000 inactive Catholics in the United States today (1985) are seriously thinking about returning to the practice of the faith. That equals 6,000,000 inactive Catholics waiting for the invitation and the help to come back home! (Rev. Alvin Illig, director, Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association, Quoted from Fr. Illig's Christmas letter of 1985.)

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter.  All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 11/11/10 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at