May 2013


Barbara Nicolosi has a impassioned and disturbing piece about the failure of parish-based catechesis on the Patheos.com website. It begins with an anecdote from a meeting at her parish in which she was the only person in attendance who could name the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the wonder and bemusement expressed by her pastor that she can do so. (‘Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations! Shame on him.) In promulgating the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict asked that it be, essentially, a Year with the Catechism. Outside of a few apostolates and programs here and there, I know of no sustained effort along these lines. (Linking to websites or handing out free Michael Kelly books doesn’t count.) Here is Barbara in all her proper indignation:

It’s long past time for the Catholic Church in the United States to acknowledge and address the fact that in many, possibly most, dioceses, parish-based catechesis has been an abject failure. In the vaunted Year of Faith, it should sting all of our leaders and pastors that few of the ever-dwindling percentage of Catholics in the pews on a Sunday morning could pass a basic catechetical quiz. How many Gen X Catholics could name one of the precepts of the Church or recall any one set of the Mysteries of the Rosary? How many of our teenagers could list all Ten Commandments? How many First Communicants could recite the Acts of Faith or Hope, or name the Seven Sacraments? The terrible, tragic, and fundamental truth for 21st-century Catholicism is, not many!

Which settles it for me; the Leonardi Clan will have a Summer of Faith in which we study and commit to memory the “Formulas of Catholic Doctrine” assembled by Pope Benedict, writing as Cardinal Ratzinger, for the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Who’s going to join us?

There’s been much in the news lately about the “Common Core” federal educational standards, especially since various Tea Party groups have perceived it as an attempt by Obama to create a de facto national education system. I don’t have a dog in this fight and haven’t paid enough attention to the controversy, but as a rule of thumb, anything this thuggish administration supports enthusiastically should arouse suspicion. In a piece for the Catholic Telegraph guaranteed to generate a slew of emails to 8th and Walnut, Dr. Jim Rigg, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s education czar, states the AOC is “adapting, not adopting” Common Core and claims that the archdiocese’s independence should prevent the standards from being politicized. Given that half the chancery offices are run by folks more comfortable with DNC talking points than Catholic doctrine (Hi, Sean, Len, Ken, and Tony!), his assurance doesn’t provide much comfort. That said, I admire that he has the guts to address the matter directly and honestly. Here’s the meat of Dr. Rigg’s column:

The Common Core changes this, representing a fundamental shift in the teaching and learning process. The Common Core focuses intensely on a smaller number of standards that have been directly linked to success in college and career. Rather than running through a checklist of dozens of bureaucratic standards, students strive for true mastery in targeted areas. There is an emphasis on creativity, critical thinking, and real-world applications.

The Common Core began development in 2007, emerging out of conversations between states about aligning common standards. As the Core developed, universities and the national councils for subject areas (math, language arts, etc.) helped to identify key standards. In the years that followed, 45 states and over 100 Catholic dioceses integrated the Common Core into their own curriculum standards. The Army, the US Chamber of Commerce, the College Board, and many other organizations have publicly supported the Common Core.

In the Archdiocese, our involvement with the Common Core began in 2011. For many years, Catholic elementary schools have utilized a Graded Course of Study (GCS) developed by the Catholic Schools Office. Like all curricula, the GCS guides teachers on what students are supposed to know and be able to do by the end of the school year. The GCS for all subjects (with the exception of religion) is based upon the standards of the state of Ohio. We essentially take Ohio’s standards, ratchet them up to represent more rigorous instruction, and infuse them with our Catholic identity.

Two years ago, the state of Ohio began adopting the Common Core. Like prior years, we are adapting Ohio’s standards, which now include a tie to the Common Core, making them more rigorous, and infusing them with the Catholic faith. The vocabulary is important here: We are adapting, not adopting. As with any educational movement, we are taking the best of the Common Core and making it our own, to the ultimate benefit of our students.

A parishioner from Dayton’s Emmanuel Church sends me this “promo” video for this weekend’s procession to mark the Feast of Corpus Christi, which will take place Saturday at 5:15, rain or shine. Clocking in at just over 6 minutes, it features a wonderful catechesis on the Real Presence from Emmanuel’s pastor and a look at the creation of the parish’s unique sidewalk icons along the route of the procession. Check it out:

Despite the doctrinal fuzziness about the Real Presence still emanating from certain quarters in the AOC, Corpus Christi processions have been on the rise in recent years. Feel free to use the comment box to highlight other similar efforts. Nearby St. Cecilia parish in Cincinnati’s Oakley neighborhood will have its annual procession led by pastor Fr. Jamie Weber at the end of the 10 am Mass on Sunday.

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist in a unique and incomparable way (282).”

The Catechism itself teaches that Christ “is present . . . most especially in the Eucharistic species” and that “the mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments (1373, 1374).”

You’ll want to keep that in mind as you read St. X teacher Michael Daley’s latest riff on “what keeps him Catholic” for the Telegraph, where he discusses the multiple presences of Christ.

When Pope Benedict spoke “off the cuff,” it was generally in complete paragraphs, often compiled into treatises or book-length interviews, and immediately translated.

When Pope Francis does the same, the Vatican’s press office has to explain that his remarks are very short, susceptible to misinterpretation, and untranslatable without a rewrite.

I’m thinking this isn’t progress.

As regards to the homilies, they are not given on the basis of a written text, but spontaneously, in Italian, a language the Pope knows very well, but it isn’t his mother tongue. Hence, an “integral” publication would necessarily entail a transcription and a rewriting of the text on several points, given that the written form is different from the oral, which in this case is the original form chosen intentionally by the Holy Father. In short, there would have to be a revision by the Holy Father himself, but the result would be clearly “something else,” which is not what the Holy Father intends to do every morning.

After careful reflection, therefore, it was decided that the best way to make the richness of the Pope’s homilies accessible to a wider public, without altering their nature, is to publish an ample synthesis, rich also in original quoted phrases that reflect the genuine flavor of the Pope’s expressions. It is what L’Osservatore Romano is committed to doing every day, whereas Vatican Radio, on the basis of its characteristic nature, offers a briefer synthesis, but accompanied also with some passages of the original recorded audio, as well as CTV which offers a video-clip corresponding to one of the inserted audios published by Vatican Radio.

Earlier today, Pope Francis warned against creating an eighth sacrament of “pastoral customs,” whereby people in positions of authority in the Church create barriers to Christ — and actual sacraments. He has a very valid point, which he unfortunately mars by speaking mostly in generalities and then citing some fairly disconnected anecdotes. In any event, if there’s one area where “pastoral customs” have created genuine barriers to grace, it’s how many dioceses treat baptism. Typical parents dial up the parish office and are then told by the secretary of DRE that they must attend a series of breathtakingly boring and content-free talks at the parish center. They then must accommodate themselves to the one Sunday afternoon during the month when baptisms are given en masse. Unless it’s in Lent. Then they wait until Easter. A no-nonsense pastor will circumvent the process if you ask him, e.g., by conferring baptism during a Sunday Mass, but for most parents the effect is to delay needlessly the baptism of their child beyond what canon law stipulates. A second area, more of an annoyance than a genuine problem like the one above, is the suspension of confessions during the Triduum. (Shouldn’t we be increasing access during Lent’s home stretch?) Rightly or wrongly, Francis has been perceived by the Catholic left as a fellow traveler. Since they’re the folks who’ve implemented these customs, perhaps they’ll listen to him.

Now this is interesting.

For the first time I can recall, my famously vocations-starved home Diocese of Rochester will ordain more men to the priesthood (3) than my supposedly laser-focused-on-vocations adopted Archdiocese of Cincinnati (2).

Here’s the invitation to Rochester’s June 22 ordination ceremony:

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