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Bishop says many high school catechetical textbooks
The bishop heading the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee
to Oversee the Use of the Catechism criticized the quality of many high
school catechetical textbooks currently in wide use throughout the United
Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans said the ad
hoc committee had reviewed 25 high school catechetical texts since mid-2001
and found most lacking in key doctrinal areas. He did not name any specific
books or publishers, however.
After his remarks outlining some of the deficiencies,
two bishops wondered aloud whether the U.S. bishops should publish their
Archbishop Hughes said the committee had no recommendation
yet to offer on whether to develop a high school catechetical series.
He noted, though, that as to current suitability, there is not "any
one complete high school series from any of the major publishers whose
texts are most frequently used in this country."
Materials that have been reviewed, he said, "were
not only inadequate for conformity (to the 'Catechism of the Catholic
Church'), but could not be amended, and therefore needed to be rewritten."
As a result, he added, "many of the materials found
to be inadequate are still in wide use throughout the country." Those
materials are less likely to contain references to the catechism, according
to Archbishop Hughes.
He gave a long list of examples where some high school
texts were deficient. He added later that "not every high school
religion book is problematic," though he did not identify those texts
either. He also said publishers "continue to work with us" to
create material in conformity with the catechism.
He also noted that publishers of catechetical materials
for elementary schools have been working effectively with the bishops'
conference "in creating good materials that authentically reflect"
Among his examples of deficiencies, the archbishop said
that the Catholic Church is described in some texts as "one church
among many churches. Our young people are not learning what it means to
say that sole church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church."
Doctrinal matter was introduced to students with "tentative
language," he added, giving the impression that Catholic doctrine
is one position among others "rather than a matter of truth."
Sacramental matters, according to Archbishop Hughes,
were "seriously flawed" in the texts, leading students to think
that the sacraments were developed "over an extended period of time
with the implication they can still be changed" and that sacraments
celebrate "moments in life" and not that they are an encounter
Some texts suggest, he said, that "it is the community
who baptizes, or confects the Eucharist." Further, Catholic teaching
on women's ordination in the texts is "ambiguous or even misleading,"
the archbishop charged, while the sacrament of marriage is referred to
in terms of "partners" rather than to "man and woman or
husband and wife."
On sexual teaching, "there seems to be reluctance
to name premarital or extramarital intercourse as sinful," Archbishop
Hughes said, with morality presented as "a matter of options and
personal choice," while the "relationship between the moral
life in this world and in the life to come is often not treated."
In teaching about the nature of God, some books try to
"avoid masculine titles" so that God the father is referred
to only as "God," while some texts "speak of Jesus without
noting his sonship or divinity," Archbishop Hughes said, adding that
"the third person of the Trinity" is often referred to as "the
Spirit of God, or God's Spirit."
Scriptures, the archbishop said, are defined as, "to
a large degree, merely human texts," while the religion books try
to make miracles seem ordinary, with some of "the miracles of Jesus
explained as a result of lucky timing," he added, eliciting chuckles
from some of the bishops.
Bishop William K. Weigand of Sacramento, Calif., and
Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of Santa Fe, N.M., asked whether it might
be time for the bishops to consider publishing a high school catechetical
text of their own.
"If we can't rely on Catholic publishers to provide
sound texts for our children, then it's very serious," Archbishop
In his remarks, Archbishop Hughes also noted that the
ad hoc committee has had to delay submitting the text of a proposed national
adult catechism to the full body of bishops for approval. It had set a
deadline of the fall 2003 meeting to deliver the text to the bishops,
the archbishop said, but the volume of comments received from bishops
this summer on the catechism's second draft prompted the ad hoc committee
to prepare a third draft, which it expects to submit for approval in time
for the fall 2004 meeting.
Full credit for this news article goes to: Catholic