Theosophy and CGS: Theosophist Decrees on Religious Education Pt4
We have found that the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Program follows both the theosophist mandates on pedagogy, as well as the same ideology when teaching religion. When reading the religious education decrees of Annie Besant, it is clearly evident the theosophist principles are used to guide the CGS curriculum. The process results in the teachings of the Catholic faith watered down, with little more than theists who have beautiful liturgies and are driven by natural virtue. We must ask, what is the purpose of this new Catechesis.
Not only does this pedagogy mirror the teachings of theosophy, but Besant’s decrees of religious education can also be found in the CGS program and the minds of the founders. Annie Besant, president of the Theosophy Society, stated:
“There are some things you all agree about—the existence of God, the duties of man, the love of the neighbor, the duty to the country. These are common things, that you all agree upon. Teach these in your elementary schools, and let the quarrels of religion wait until—if you could leave them altogether it would be better—until after, say, the University course. Teach the common truths of religion in the simplest possible form, and teach morals, more than what you would call distinctly religious dogmas. Do not teach morals by precept. Teach them by stories and by examples.”1 Annie Besant
Besant starts out with a fundamental principle, which is to only teach doctrines which all agree upon, and teach them through stories. Though this method of teaching may contain truth such as in the parables and the writings of Confucius, this alone is not sufficient to provide a proper knowledge of the faith. Besant increases her strict ‘no controversial teachings’ policy by stating her dislike for Dogma’s and mandating that only the common truths in the simplest form should be used. She insists that one should not teach by precept, but through examples in stories. This lack of any depth and a reduction of religious education to simple stories with good messages, which all can agree on, will not turn the students into any particular religion. Rather this religious education will produce theists who live by a moral code, and at best have a loose submission to a particular religion. This is part of the goal of the theosophists, who desired to undermine the importance of doctrinal differences and unite humanity under one religion and government.
CGS places a similar emphasis on its content; a prime example is that it does not seek to teach morality through an in-depth study of the Ten Commandments or ‘by precept,’ as found in the CCC and Sacred Tradition. Rather, only one class is dedicated to the Ten Commandments, and the rest of morality is taught mostly through the parables and Bible Maxims. Though the parables are good and helpful, they are not always able to solve difficult situations such as whether one should permit abortion for the starving 13-year-old girl who was raped. If one was only taught morality through stories, one could honestly error and believe abortion to be an acceptable answer in this unique situation. However, once one knows that abortion is an intrinsic evil, the answer becomes clear with the need for a little reflection.
This desire to teach simple truths rather than the truths that are necessary for a particular age is also found in the thinking of Sofia Cavaletti.
“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. Therefore, anything that was not essential was removed from the atrium. Their ongoing quest has been to " 'know, love, and serve the child,'"2
The founders of CGS were “seeking the most essential and the simplest materials”3, just like Besant suggested. This process of simplifying the program involved removing material, but how did they determine what material could be removed? Whatever one is studying, there will be difficult concepts to grasp, but these must be grasped to understand the object of study. Thus authorities in theology must be consulted when content will be removed from a religious education program. However, the grounds for removing content was not as academically rigorous as one would desire.
“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. Therefore, anything that was not essential was removed from the atrium. Their ongoing quest has been to 'know, love, and serve the child'”4
From this information, we must not only question the foundation upon which CGS was built but what is the purpose of this organization. A look into our posts on the content of the program fails to meet the Catholic Church's requirements for a Catholic Catechesis. A look at our post on Sofia Cavalletti, reveals that she may have been desiring to usher in the new faith, which was purposed by one of her favorite theologians Teilhard De Chardin.
1 Annie Besant, “Wake up, India; a plea for social reform,” pg184.
2 Scottie May, “Sofia Cavalletti,” www.biola.edu
3 Scottie May, “Sofia Cavalletti,” www.biola.edu
4 Scottie May, “Sofia Cavalletti,” www.biola.edu