Archbishop Hughes Outlines Deficiencies,
and a Plan of Action
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, 24 DEC. 2003 (ZENIT).
Nearly two-thirds of high school catechetical
materials used throughout the United States are not in conformity with the
Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans, chair of the U.S. bishops' ad hoc
committee for the Implementation of the Catechism, reported the results of
the committee's evaluation of catechetical books at the episcopate's
conference last fall. He urged that bishops in their own dioceses restrict
the use of catechetical texts to those that have received the judgment of
conformity by the committee.
Archbishop Hughes shared with ZENIT what deficiencies the current
textbooks have and what the U.S. bishops are doing to remedy the
Q: What are the conclusions of the committee you presented to the bishops?
Archbishop Hughes: The United States bishops' Committee for the
Implementation of the Catechism has conducted more than 25 reviews of
individual high school catechetical texts during the last two-and-a-half
years. Our experience in conducting these reviews has made clear to us
that the high school catechetical publishers want to develop high school
religion texts that are in conformity with the catechism, but as yet the
fruit of this work is uneven.
There are relatively few high school texts that have received a conformity
judgment by the committee. Close to two-thirds of the conformity reviews
we have conducted on high school catechetical materials have ended with a
judgment that the materials were not only inadequate for conformity but
also could not be amended.
The greatest concern for the members of the committee prompting my report
to the bishops is that many of the materials found to be inadequate are
still in wide use throughout the United States.
Q: What are some examples of deficiencies found in the catechetical
Archbishop Hughes: Some of the texts found to be inadequate are
relativistic in their approach to the Church and the faith. Students, for
instance, are readily led to believe that one religion or church is as
good as another, and that the Catholic Church is just one church among
In many of the texts we have found that there is an effort to state
clearly the doctrine and the Church teaching. Unfortunately, this doctrine
and Church teaching is sometimes introduced with a formula such as:
"Catholics believe this or that ..." This tentative language gives the
impression that the teaching is just one legitimate opinion among others,
rather than a matter of truth.
In sacramental theology, our young people are sometimes being taught that
the sacraments were instituted over an extended period of time with the
implication that they still can be changed. These same sacraments are
often presented as a way to celebrate special moments in life and not as a
privileged moment of encounter with Christ.
The distinctive role of the priest may be sidelined or even ignored.
Sometimes the impression is given that the community baptizes or confects
the Eucharist. The unique presence of Christ in the Eucharist is often
obscured. They may be led to believe that the sacramental power to forgive
sins and anoint the sick was once shared by all the faithful. In some
texts, the teaching about the Church's restriction of ordination to men is
ambiguous or even misleading.
Often the moral life is not adequately presented. There seems to be a
reluctance to name premarital or extramarital intercourse as sinful.
Virtue may be encouraged primarily in order to make personal life or the
world better. The relationship between living a moral life and eternal
life is often not treated.
There is in some texts a studied avoidance of the revealed proper names or
personal pronouns for the persons of the Blessed Trinity. The Father may
be referred to as God. Jesus may not be identified as the Son of God and
the Holy Spirit may be called the Spirit of God or God's Spirit.
The interpretation of sacred Scripture tends too much to rely upon the
historical-critical method without drawing upon the rich patristic and
spiritual interpretation in the Church.
The approach to church often overemphasizes the role of the community. The
ideal church is sometimes presented in such a way that a student would be
led to believe that we should live without reference to the role of the
hierarchy in the Church.
Although high school texts are generally strong in their emphasis on the
social mission of the Church and the moral responsibilities of Catholics
in this area, the social teaching is not always grounded in the divine
initiative of the Holy Spirit or related to personal moral teaching and to
Q: What are the committee's main concerns about the widespread use of
Archbishop Hughes: Unfortunately, the widespread use of these books
perpetuates a religious illiteracy that is all too prevalent in the Church
today. It is very important that young people are given an opportunity,
first of all, to learn the truths of the faith, and secondly, to grow in
understanding of them.
Q: Has the committee determined the cause of this situation?
Archbishop Hughes: The committee recognizes that the causes are manifold.
A particular area of concern is the way in which catechetical leaders,
catechists and potential textbook writers are being taught and formed in
our institutions of higher learning.
Q: What has the Committee for the Implementation of the Catechism
developed as the national doctrinal guidelines for high school catechetics?
Archbishop Hughes: The bishops' committee has been using a protocol that
summarizes the content of the catechism to evaluate the texts. Publishers
also have a copy of this and are asked to fill out a form in relationship
with the protocol when they submit their texts. The committee is also
developing doctrinal guidelines for the exposition of the doctrine on a
high school level. This effort is still in progress.
Q: How will the committee implement those guidelines and bring faulty
catechetical texts into conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic
Archbishop Hughes: The committee has urged that bishops in their own
dioceses restrict the use of catechetical texts to those that have
received the judgment of conformity by the committee.
The publishers already have the protocol to use as a basis for the
development of texts. The committee staff has also offered its service in
providing workshops for writers of texts. The publishers themselves have
expressed an interest in receiving the doctrinal guidelines when they are
completed and endorsed by the bishops. ZE03122421