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  • Writer's pictureBr. Allen

A Thomistic Critique: The Formal Cause- Doctrine (Part 3 of 6)

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

The formal cause, or ideal form, of catechesis is a program of instruction that conveys Catholic religious information and concepts to children. Since the focus of CGS is to teach scripture and liturgy, as stated in part 2 of this series, the CGS program has failed to cover many fundamental Catholic doctrines. As we consider other catechisms, we will find that CGS teaches very little about the Catholic faith, which results in the students being little more than mere Christians who happen to go to a Catholic church.

Before there was a significant development of doctrine, the ancient catechisms were simply the creeds. They were brief summaries of the Catholic faith, the Regula Fidei (the Rule of Faith), which the ultimate authorities and standards in religious belief. Some of these early creeds were figuratively written in the blood of martyrs who boldly profess their faith, even if it meant death. Thus the Creed became the foundation for catechisms, to which greater depth and explanations would be added. This can be seen throughout the Church's history, from the first catechism, known as the Roman Catechism, all the way up to the most recent Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The Creed lays the foundation for the doctrinal teachings about God and our relationship with him. A thorough explanation of the elements the Creed has been removed from CGS. Though some credal teachings are in the program, many important elements of the Faith, such as the Trinity and Grace, are taught only superficially. If we contrast CGS with the Baltimore Catechism, we can see that very few the nuances of the Faith are taught in the CGS program. This is because CGS is about an “encounter” with God, or deriving some sort of religious sentiment, rather than leading the children to knowledge of the Faith. The course may talk about a part of scripture and a concept of the liturgy, but not in any sufficient depth. When CGS ought to be teaching valuable moral lessons, it substitutes analogies and activities that could convey certain truths and have good messages, but are consuming precious time which ought to be used to convey the Faith in its richness – those unique teachings that make us Catholic. Below is a video of a CGS lesson; you can find countless more on YouTube.

The presentation looks fun and exciting for children, but it is lacking in any depth. These sessions could possibly be used in moderation to convey certain truths, but this whole style of using materials, and asking children to ponder questions, is the entirety of CGS instruction. Sadly there are no lectures; all the content is passed on through this method. As we shall see in later posts, this method is not effective. Thus, this method of replacing teaching pondering questions is part of the reason doctrines are not taught in any depth.

"The catechist is not a teacher, remembering that the only Teacher is Christ himself. The catechist renounces every form of control" CGS 32 Points of Reflection
"The material makes it possible for the catechist to assume his/her proper “post” as “the useless servant.”" CGS 32 Points of Reflection

We have looked over CGS level 3 and there is still very little doctrinal content when compared with Baltimore Catechism Level 2. How are you going to use this method to teach the profound truths about the Trinity and Grace? Yes, diagrams are great; but to learn serious and essential content, children need to do more than just pondering questions. Below are only a few questions from the Baltimore Catechism #2 which are nowhere to be found in CGS.

Q. Where do we find the chief truths taught by Jesus Christ through the Catholic Church?

Q. What do we mean when we say that God is the Supreme Being?

Q. What are some of the perfections of God?

Q. Can we know God in any other way than by our natural reason?

Q. What is Divine Tradition?

Q. Has Divine Tradition the same force as the Bible?

Q. What do we mean by the Blessed Trinity?

Q. Can we fully understand how the three Divine Persons, though really distinct from one another, are one and the same God?

Q. What gifts did God bestow on the angels when He created them?

Q. Is this likeness to God in the body or in the soul?

Q. How is the soul like God?

Q. Was any human person ever preserved from original sin?

Q. What is mortal sin?

Q. Besides depriving the sinner of sanctifying grace, what else does mortal sin do to the soul?

Q. What three things are necessary to make a sin mortal?

Q. What is venial sin?

Q. How can a sin be venial?

Q. What is meant by the Incarnation?

Q. When was the Son of God conceived and made man?

Q. What were the chief sufferings of Christ?

Q. What do we mean when we say in the Apostles’ Creed that Christ descended into hell?

Q. How many kinds of grace are there?

Q. What are the chief effects of sanctifying grace?

Q. What are the chief supernatural powers that are bestowed on our souls with sanctifying grace?

As stated by the founders of CGS, its purpose CGS is to teach children scripture and the liturgy, but not Catholic doctrine. Thus, CGS fails as a Catechesis program because it does not teach the Faith, which the Church has stated is one of the four ends, or purposes, of catechesis.

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