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Monday, June 23, 2008

Best Laid Plans

As regular readers know, I'm a nut about doing restored order for the sacraments, i.e., trying to get Confirmation done before First Eucharist, and for adult catechesis.

This story describes a diocese in which the bishop has restored the order of the sacraments and insisted that parents undergo formation at the same time as their children. They call it "family catechesis," other dioceses refer to it as "whole community catechesis."

Great idea, right?

Well, yes, the idea was great.
The execution....

As the reporter unwittingly illustrates, even when a bishop does the right thing, if the parish catechists are clueless, nothing really gets better.

"Parents at St. Thomas More attend separate formation sessions for part of each class. They learn the same topic as their children and then prepare a skit or poster for the young learners.

[Editorial Note: Nice that parents and kids learn the same topic at the same time, but why force adults to do childish things like "skits" and "posters"? Posters are so out of date. Maybe if parents created web pages... I'm kidding. How about we just let the parents interact with their own children naturally? Why force them through these stupid kindergarten exercises? But wait. It gets worse.]

....The older students are staying involved in the parish, too.

Alexis LaBenz, a seventh-grader at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Chandler, said her family has become more active. She began liturgical dance and will be confirmed later this year. [liturgical dance? Is this some sort of sick joke?]

“It’s kind of nice that you get to do it now and be a member of the Church earlier,” she said. (emphasis added) [Oh, glad to see she has been reading the Catechism. And here I thought that BAPTISM made you a member of the Church...]

“We’re lucky,” said St. Theresa sixth-grader Jared Wagner about being confirmed now.

Barb Lishko, coordinator of youth ministry at St. Andrew the Apostle, fosters continued parish involvement. She already asked the youth what ministries they are interested in and will hold training during confirmation class later this month."

Sigh. The article even started with commentary from the diocesan spokesman emphasizing that Confirmation is not a sacrament of maturity, but no one at this parish seems to have gotten the word.

So, what's the lesson here?

When the catechists are uncatechized and/or idiots, it doesn't matter where you have moved the deck chairs. The ship is still going down.


Anonymous said...

Yep, there is a whole lot of work to do in our parishes.

I daresay many of the people who rant about the silliness need to respond by becoming catachists in their parish. But many do not. We still have the "it's Father's job" clericalism mindset, only now it's, "it's Mrs. Bullwinkle, the DRE's job."

Steve Kellmeyer said...

While the idea of becoming a volunteer is good in theory, in practice it doesn't work.

Nothing happens in a parish unless the pastor wants it to happen.

Liturgical dance? Only happens when the pastor backs it. Screwy theology? The pastor buys into it on at least some level - that's why it is being taught.

Pastors know how to drive out people who disagree with them, whether those people be paid staff or volunteers.

If a pastor has been in office for more than two years and this kind of nutcake is still around, it's because s/he's the pastor's kind of nutcake.

A volunteer has ZERO chance of changing that. At best, s/he can complain to the bishop.

When the bishop asks the pastor about the complaints, the pastor and his staff will point out that the complainant was always crazy, always bugging people, always divisive. That's why we couldn't even let him/her volunteer after a few months - s/he stirred up far too much trouble by questioning the pastor's rightful authority, you see.

In fact, the pastor and the parish staff have seriously considered getting a restraining order against the complainant in the past, but out of Christian charity have refrained so far.

You know how it is, Bishop. Nutcases abound, and this complainant is just one more. And the bishop *does* know how it is. Anyone who has worked in a parish has encountered that kind of personality.

So that's why volunteering makes no difference. Unless the pastor is new and trying to change things, there's just no point getting involved in the parish.

Patrick said...

There are three unrelated parishes in my area where the catechists pushed through "youth participation masses" through playing rock music during mass with a live band. When the priests objected, all three catechist groups went to the local newspapers first, then the parish boards. With the media attention, the boards were forced to consider the idea and when any board member voiced opposition, they were quoted in the paper and made to look like they were against the wishes of the parish congregation (I have no idea on the parishes on the whole felt about it). In all three cases, the priests relented and allowed the activities to keep the peace - even though they posted their issues with it in the parish bulletins. In two of the cases the bishop finally stepped in and moved the priests to other parishes, which gave the new priest a chance to change out the catechists as a changing of the guard. It is the priests responsibility to lead the parish, but often he may be made an antagonist if he "interferes" with the volunteers plans and it only gets worse if they can get the community on their side.

Kate said...

Speaking of crappy catechesis (which I had in spades in my COnfirmation class), what is COnfirmation if not a sacrament of maturity? I think I missed your lecture on this 'cause I was in labor, or something.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Confirmation is not a sacrament of physical maturity, rather, it makes available the completion (yes, you could use the word "maturity") of the graces begun in baptism.

So, it isn't a sacrament that marks, highlights or creates physical maturity. Nor does it create, by its reception, spiritual maturity.

Instead, it makes spiritual maturity available to the recipient. Whether or not the recipient knows how to use or chooses to exercise what is made available by confirmation is an entirely separate question.

Kate said...


WHen I went through COnfirmation classes, I asked our parish priest to explain what "becoming an adult in the CHurch" actually meant, and he couldn't answer.

Father of Nine said...

Steve, help me out here.

You seem to be saying that I shouldn't volunteer in a parish that has screwy things going on theologically to help fix it -- because if things are dorked up, the reason is because the pastor supports it. Is that the assertion?

Volunteering is ineffective at changing things -- because nothing happens in the parish with out the pastor approving of it? Really?

Unless the pastor's new and trying to change things, there's no point in getting involved in the parish. Because (C'mon, you know how it is) even the bishop will give you no credibility?

Again, help me out here. That can't be right.

Because if it is, then it seems like you're saying we are not to trust our priests and bishops unless they are telling us what we agree with.

And I'm pretty sure that is not what you mean.

I would concur that the pastor is responsible for everything that goes on, but that is a very different thing from approving of everything.

As for bishops, you can't really be saying they are merely rubber stamps for the liberal innovators holding the diocese captive.

Are you speaking about one diocese in particular, or are we to take this as bishops as a whole are generally unable to differentiate between Christianity and psychosis?

Am I misunderstanding you? I hope...

Steve Kellmeyer said...

I'm not saying you shouldn't volunteer, I'm just saying you can't expect to make enormous changes if you do. At most, you can monitor what's going on and make decisions for your family based on what you see.

If you see something funky, you have to look at your pastor, look at your bishop, and then make a judgement call about what to do.

Some bishops are whacky.
Some pastors are whacky.
Some DREs are whacky.
And any particular parish may have any kind of mix between whackiness and orthodoxy in those three positions, thus there's no hard and fast rule here.

1) assess the personalities,
2) make judgement calls about which ditch you want to die in,
3) then go into that ditch and fight.

If you don't see any fight where you like the odds, then appeal to the papal nuncio. :)

Or move to a different parish.

In any case, spend time in prayer before the Eucharist. He'll help you see which way to go.