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  • Writer's pictureAllen Smith

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Considered in Light of the Criticisms offered by Iota Unum pt 2

We have shown how CGS takes a new method by assuming the knowledge is already in the child, instead of passing down knowledge from teacher to pupil. This new method caused the teachings to also be changed. Since the knowledge was in the children, it was no longer necessary to pass on the knowledge, but discover what would bring this knowledge out of the child. This would mean that many doctrines would not need to be taught, for the children would come to know this through their experience with scripture and liturgy. This also changes the role of the teacher and the pupil. These changes in pedagogy would serve as the foundation for attempting to tap into knowledge already possessed by the child, such as we see in the Gnostic sects.

With a new system and method of learning, came the desire to remove teachings from catechesis – teachings of the Church, traditions of the Faith that the founders of CGS did not find essential. This occurred because this new method was not focused on the teaching at all, but conjuring a joyful sentiment. This caused the removal of doctrine from the program which did not produce the desired sentiment.

"The reform of catechesis could not but embrace unorthodox deviations that changed content by changing method." Iota Unum

This is clear where we see content being removed based on how much joy it gave the children.

"According to Cavalletti, she and Gobbi made many mistakes and had to throw away some of the materials they had created as they searched to find the essential themes and elements that correspond to the needs of the children. Only materials that aroused much interest and deep joy were kept. They were seeking the most essential and the simplest materials that would help the personal work of the children so that the children would be able to grasp the message of the Scripture or the liturgy."

The new catechesis placed a great emphasis on bringing joy to the child, which often does not come through the arduous task of learning the Faith. Thus, a program that removes content from a catechists program based on whether or not that content brings joy to the children, can hardly be called orthodox. In fact, it is completely stripped of any challenging content.

Iota Unum continues to explain the problems of the new catechesis by stating...

"Catechesis comes down from a Divine teaching and is not produced by religious experience; rather it produces it." Iota Unum p. 300
"Catechesis is per se and formally to do with knowledge, not experience." Iota Unum p. 299-300

As we see in the previous quotations from Sophia Cavalletti, the purpose of CGS is not found in learning Catholic doctrine, only Scripture and liturgy. This stands in stark contrast to the Baltimore Catechism, in which Scripture and liturgy are taught in the greater context of Catholic doctrine. None of the following doctrines, clearly taught in the Baltimore Catechism, are found anywhere 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?

Iota Unum focuses precisely on this corruption of catechesis: changing it into a search rather than an instruction, and eliminating specific truths handed on by tradition, as well as disregarding memorization.

"Two chief characteristics of the new catechesis, this is that it is a search rather than a doctrine and this it attempts to produce existential reactions rather than intellectual conviction, are reflected in attitudes towards a variety of catechisms and towards memorization." Iota Unum p. 301

Not only does CGS make it clear that it rejects any forms of memorization by forbidding the use of quizzes or tests, but the entire learning method is about nothing more than the experience. The learning method works by asking questions to which answers are never given – because the only teacher is Christ. Through these pondering questions and the hands-on material, the children will supposedly learn all they need to know.

"The atrium is a community in which children and adults live together a religious experience which facilitates participation in the wider community of the family, the church and other social spheres. The atrium is a place in which the only Teacher is Christ; both children and adults place themselves in a listening stance before his Word and seek to penetrate the mystery of the liturgical celebration. "CGS 32 Points of Reflection
"The transmission of the Christian message in the atrium has a celebrative character. The catechist is not a teacher, remembering that the only Teacher is Christ himself. The catechist renounces every form of control (such as quizzes, texts, exams, etc.) in the spirit of poverty before an experience whose fruits are not her/his own. "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
"The attitude of the adult has to be marked by humility before the capacities of the child, establishing a right rapport with the child, that is to say, respecting the personality of the child, and waiting for the child to reveal himself/herself." CGS 32 Points of Reflection

The above quotations make it clear that CGS attempts to free the pupil from the teacher and distort the natural order of passing on knowledge from teacher to the pupil. This is one of the programs most significant defects.

"The new pedagogy tends to identify learning with experiencing, though it does not so explicitly since it can hardly become ex professo a pedagogy of sin. This is the origin of its tendency to remove any limits on experience, to free the pupil from the teacher, the lesser form the greater, ethics from law, (Which is not something experienced, but something obeyed or violated) and strength to reason." Iota Unum p. 293

You can see an example of a CGS lesson in the video below.

This bizarre pedagogy, where the teachers do not teach and pass on the faith to future generations, is created by the focus on experience instead of knowledge.

"It is not surprising that innovators should attack authoritarian schools and claim that the principle of authority has no place in pedagogy. Just as in an autonomous morality the will that makes the laws is a law unto itself, so in autonomous pedagogy, the person educating himself has no authority to which he is subject. But if on the other hand truth transcends the intellect and imposes assent, that is especially the case with truths of the faith that are the objects of catechesis, since they transcend man not merely in the way that all truth does, but in a unique manner inasmuch as they are revealed truths and must be assented to not on the strength of evidence but our of respect for God." Iota Unum p. 294

CGS goes beyond the child educating himself, claiming that the child will actually teach the adult.

27. “The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is also concerned with helping adults open their eyes to the hidden riches of the child, especially to the child's spiritual wealth, so that adults will be drawn to learn from the child and to serve him/her.” CGS 32 Points of Reflection

In the end, these novel changes will have drastic consequences on the next generations of Catholics.

"This conversion of pupils into teachers and vice versa implicitly means the abolition of any true pedagogy and also entails a denigration of all the teaching efforts of the historical Church." Iota Unum p. 296

As Scripture states…

"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me." 1 Corinthians 13:11

These problems of CGS can perfectly be summarized in what even Von Balthasar believed was St. Irenaeus's great adversary in his book against heresies

“So-called gnosis’ was an enormous temptation in the early Christian Church. By contrast, persecution, even the bloodiest, posed far less of a threat to the Church’s continuing purity and further development. Gnosticism had its roots in late antiquity, drew on oriental and Jewish sources, and multiplied into innumerable esoteric doctrines and sects. Then, like a vampire, the parasite took hold of the youthful bloom and vigour of Christianity. What made it so insidious was the fact that the Gnostics very often did not want to leave the Church. Instead, they claimed to be offering a superior and more authentic exposition of Holy Scripture, though, of course, this was only for the ‘superior souls’ (‘the spiritual’, ‘the pneumatic’); the common folk (‘the psychic’) were left to get on with their crude practices. It is not hard to see how this kind of compartmentalizing of the Church’s members, indeed of mankind as a whole, inevitably encouraged not only an excited craving for higher initiation, but also an almost unbounded arrogance in those who had moved from mere ‘faith’ to real, enlightened ‘knowledge’.” ― Irenaeus of Lyons, The Scandal of The Incarnation

You can see that The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd does not seek to promote the Faith, but to corrupt the teaching of youth by replacing doctrine with experience.

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