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  • Writer's pictureAllen Smith

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Considered in Light of the Criticisms offered by Iota Unum Pt1

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

Iota Unum contains a comprehensive analysis of the deformations in Catholic teaching and the departures from Catholic tradition that resulted after the Second Vatican Council. Written by theologian Romano Amerio, Iota Unum documents the many problems and controversies that erupted when the pastoral (not dogmatic) declarations of the Council were distorted by many to advance their own political agendas. As we shall see, Iota Unum's criticisms of the new catechesis and the radical changes to Catholic education, in many ways apply directly to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Program.

"With the removal of the teacher's authority and the reduction of truth to a mere search for truth, the reform of catechesis could not but embrace unorthodox deviations that changed content by changing method." Iota Unum p. 299

The "removal of the teacher's authority" is clearly manifest in CGS. This is not done indirectly but boasted about as a wonderful aspect of the Montessori Method. Part of the Montessori Method, upon which CGS is built, is that the child learns through his own power, and is not to be taught by the catechist. This pedagogy is manifest in CGS 32 Points of Reflection on the CGSUSA website.

"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
"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

Part of the way this teacher-less method is implemented is that the child is not to be taught but primarily learns from the hands-on materials provided in CGS. It is the hands-on materials that will teach the children, and the catechist is reduced to a mere facilitator. This facilitator is not to teach anything; facilitation is achieved by asking children to ponder questions. The idea is that, in this way, the children may come to the truth through their own power. You can see this in the video below, and there are many similar videos available on YouTube.

"A teacher, already possessing actual knowledge, activates the learner's potential and thus brings him to know things for himself. It is thus radically impossible for teaching to be really self-teaching and education self-education, just as it is metaphysically impossible for a potential being to bring itself in existence. St. Thomas explicitly states: Nobody can be said to be his own teacher or teach himself." Iota Unum p. 291

This desire to avoid giving the children direct answers, but only to ask questions for contemplation is part of making CGS "a mere search for truth." The reason the children are searching and can come to the answers through their own power is because they already have an intrinsic knowledge of God. Here is an example...

"She works from the theological assumption that Catechesis offers children the opportunity to relate to God whom "they innately know and perceive." It is not a "catechesis of definition but a catechesis of invitation." (Delsorte, 2003, 3).

This innate knowledge of God appears to be the foundation for this new teaching method. It also creates the erroneous notion that children have a stronger relationship with God than adults, which is the inverse of Catholic tradition.

"The years she has spent doing biblical and liturgical catechesis with children have shown her children's deep and mysterious relationship with God, a relationship that she feels is much more serious than that of adults, and one that they are more vitally capable of enjoying."

This 'mysterious relationship with God' has become the purpose and end of CGS, not the teaching and transmission of the Faith. Or we could say the program is designed merely to foster an experience in the child, which, according to Iota Unum, is part of the problem of modern catechesis.

"The second error of the new pedagogy is that the direct aim of teaching is to produce an experience, that the way to that goal is also experience and that abstract knowledge of life is, as they say merely notional. In fact, the proper and formal goal of teaching, including catechetics, is not to produce an experience, but knowledge. The teacher draws the pupil to proceed form one state of knowing to another by means of a dialectical process of the presentation of ideas. Thus the immediate end of catechesis is not an existential and experiential meeting with the person of Christ (to think it is, is to confuse catechesis with mysticism) but is rather the knowledge of revealed truths and of the preambles to them. Iota Unum p. 292

This runs completely contrary to Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, which is primarily concerned with experience, particularly the experience of joy.

"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."

To the average Catholic, this incorporation of scripture and liturgy sounds wonderful; but a close examination reveals this apparently good desire is a mere excuse to remove the doctrines that make this instruction truly and uniquely Catholic. Learning scripture and liturgy are necessary, but not when excluding everything but these two sources become an excuse to remove the fundamental doctrines of the Faith from catechesis. To achieve an evil end, such as the corruption of doctrine, under the disguise of a good, such as the desire to joyfully educate the children in liturgy and scripture, is an ancient tactic of the Church's enemies.

“Error, indeed is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced more true than truth itself.” ― Irenaeus of Lyons

It is absolutely clear that The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd does not pass on the faith to children. At best this program is nothing more than a waste of time, but a deeper look reveals a plan far more sinister.

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