A Thomistic Critique: The Final Cause (Part 6 of 6)
When Clark Clifford, former White House Counsel and Secretary of Defense, was faced with the destruction of his career and reputation as a result of his involvement in an international banking scandal, he said, “I have a choice of either seeming stupid or venal.”
We have a similar choice in our final assessment of the Catechism of the Good Shepherd: is it an abject failure, or a brilliant success. Thus far, in all of our posts, we have shown CGS to be a complete failure as a Catholic catechism. What we have not considered is whether it might very well be a stunning success – as a program to completely undermine Catholic religious education. The question is, what is the ultimate purpose of CGS, what is its end cause.
If the purpose of CGS is teaching the Catholic faith, we have demonstrated it to be a failure from its creation. The authors intentionally removed numerous essential Catholic doctrines, there is no curriculum, catechist training varies widely from program to program, and it employs a highly unorthodox teaching method that dismisses the techniques used in every other academic discipline. In fact, if the methodology of CGS were used in any other academic subject – language, math, science, history – the teachers would be disqualified from the classroom and the students would fail any basic knowledge test. Neither teachers nor students would be considered educated in the subject. In the same way, neither teachers nor students are educated in the Catholic Faith through CGS.
Certainly, there are exceptions to the previous statement. There are well-educated CGS instructors, and there are students who come out of CGS programs with a solid understanding of Catholic teaching. But we would argue that these teachers came to CGS with a background in theology or having received a sound Catholic education. And students who emerge from CGS well-formed in the Faith will have, of their own volition, learned Catholic doctrine and tradition through independent, concurrent study. There simply is not enough Catholic doctrinal material in CGS to produce either competent teachers or competent students.
But what if CGS was never intended to teach the Catholic faith? What if it was designed specifically to remove enough Catholic doctrine from religious instruction to, essentially, de-Catholicize catechetical instruction? In the Mass, there are certain elements that, if removed, invalidate the Mass. For example, a religious service is not a Catholic Mass if it does not have a gospel reading or a consecration. In addition, if enough elements are removed from a Mass, it is no longer valid. For example, if the priest does not use unleavened bread, does not add water to the wine, does not use the precise words of institution, and does not consume the body and blood of Christ, the Mass is invalid as a result of the accumulation of all of those illicit acts.
By analogy, a catechism that does not teach the human and divine nature of Jesus Christ or his resurrection is absolutely not a Catholic catechism. But also by analogy, when a catechism removes – or an instructor decides not to teach – enough significant elements of the Faith, it can no longer call itself Catholic. What those elements are and the number of omissions sufficient to “invalidate” a catechism is open to interpretation. However, the conclusion is absolutely true: intentional or negligent failure to teach enough important doctrines is as invalidating an error for a catechism as is a failure to teach essential articles of faith.
Unless the intention isn’t to teach the Catholic Faith at all, but to create generations of students who explicitly do not believe what has been taught and handed down by the Church for nearly two millennia. If the intention of CGS is to dilute the Catholic Faith until it is indistinguishable from every other Christian denomination, then it is an outstanding success.
It is incumbent upon every bishop, pastor, and director of religious education, and no less, every Catholic parent, to consider this possibility. Look at the admitted removal of various doctrines on the pretext of these teachings being too difficult for children. Look at the heavy emphasis on ecumenism that actually crosses over fully into syncretism. Look at the unmistakably Gnostic elements of the teaching method which proposes that children have the truth within them and the teacher only assists them in discovering it – and then remember that Gnosticism has been condemned as a heresy since the earliest years of the Church. Look at the totality of CGS and consider the very real possibility that it was created to accomplish exactly what it is doing: undermining Catholicism so substantially as to produce thousands of “believers” who do not believe in the truth of the Catholic Faith at all.
And then look at its structure. What other academic program has a self-proclaimed “International Council.” Is there an international council of a math curriculum, or a science curriculum, or a history curriculum? The Catholic Church has an international council; it’s called the Holy See. It is the source of authoritative teaching, and has been since the time of the apostle Peter. Why would a religious education program need to have an international council if not to compete directly with the authoritative structures of the Church in as many countries as possible?
Every diocese in this country has three things in common: a lack of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, dwindling numbers of Catholics attending Mass, and collapsing schools. Even more devastating, last year the Pew Research Center found that the majority of Catholics in this country do not believe in transubstantiation. No one can look at these facts and not realize something is gravely wrong. If Catholic men and women have no calling to serve the church, feel no obligation to attend Mass, and see no reason to send their children to Catholic schools; and if most Catholics do not believe in one of the most essential Catholic dogmas – one found in the words of Jesus Christ himself; then the failure to teach the Faith must stretch back to childhood, when these men and women were poorly taught, or taught something that was vaguely Christian but not Catholic. CGS is both an inadequate instructional system and a program devoid of Catholic doctrine.
And it might just be something far more insidious. What if all these Catholic men and women didn’t merely receive failed catechetical instruction; what if they were subjected to a carefully crafted catechetical program intentionally designed to lead them astray and deceive them? Could CGS be a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” could CGS be a “Trojan horse?” If CGS is designed to lead Catholics astray, then it has been a brilliant success. And it is time for the shepherds – the bishops and the pastors and those who work for them – to save their sheep and lead them back to the absolute, whole, and complete Truth of the Catholic Faith.
“I have a choice of either seeming stupid or venal.” Every Catholic must decide whether the Catechism of the Good Shepherd is either useless or evil.