Responding to “Unknown Anon”

Imagine you spent twelve years in a school described as a Russian school in which you were required to take Russian every year. Now, you’re living in the U.S. where most people speak English. Your parents know how to speak Russian but they rarely speak it to you. There is a weekly meeting of people who speak Russian; most of the time you find it pretty boring because you understand what they’re doing but you don’t really understand why. Your parents never really discuss it with you either.

So after twelve years of Russian school, you decide you are ready to go to Russia. You get there thinking you won’t have any problems, but then you realize that you can only understand a quarter of what they’re saying and vice versa. You realize that some of the Russian words you have been taught are just completely incorrect or you were given the wrong pronunciation. And you don’t really understand the history or the culture of Russia, either.

Suddenly you feel like you have been tricked, even though the Russian school thought they were teaching you Russian. You think about how much time you wasted to not learn anything. And you are so angry and frustrated, you say “Screw Russian!! Spanish looks easier. Or better yet, why even bother learning a foreign language.”

Now substitute Russian with Catholicism, and you will begin to understand why devout Catholic reverts moan about the abysmal state of Catholic religious education since the Second Vatican Council. In the comments of a recent post on Visits to Candyland, “unknown anon” commented:

“Why do we constantly lay blame for people’s leaving the Faith on “poor catechesis” and “family example?” That is letting them off the hook much too easily, IMO.

Have they put ANY effort into studying the Faith with the same amount of effort they put into rejecting it? Clearly not.

I am exactly the same age as Erik. The Post-Vatican II Church is NOT the failure that so many make it out to be. The blame lies in the family (to some degree) but as with every sin, the ultimate fault is attributed to the PERSON.”

The problem is that many fallen away Catholics thought they had put a lot of effort into studying the Faith, often twelve years worth of effort. People think they have been studying their Faith, but like in the “Allegory of the Cave” they have just been studying shadows. You can’t hold on to shadows; they’re not real. So they go searching for something else, another denomination or religion, that they believe will be more real, or they begin to think that nothing is real.

But if you are truly taught reverence for and the importance of the Holy Eucharist, then you have something real to hold onto, Christ. Any denomination that sees the Lord’s Supper as a memorial can only be a shadow. However, Catholic education has not only been neglecting to teach Catholicism correctly, but parents have been hesitant to correct the religious teachers. Personally, I think this is because most of our parents were so well-schooled to believe that the teacher will always be right, so there is no need to check up to make sure they are right or correct them when they are wrong. (You knew I would connect this to homeschooling somehow, right?)

So it is easy to see why it is so frustrating when former Catholics claim to know all about Catholicism and then pass on incorrect information. And the root of this is in “poor catechesis” and “family example”. Whereas the true fault on the part of the lapsed Catholic comes into play when people try to correct their ignorance with the truth and they choose instead to perpetuate lies.

As for the role of Vatican II in all of this, I have a theory that the problems all stemmed from timing.  Vatican II happened at the exact same time as the cultural revolutions of the sixties.  I think a lot of people, including Catholic Bishops and priests confused Vatican II with a religious revolution.  I think it kind of snowballed from there.  I sometimes wonder if things would have been different if Vatican II had happened either 10 years before or 10 years after, if the Magisterium was able to implement its practical changes before all the cultural changes hit or after some of the cultural dust started to settle.

So I don’t think that Vatican II was to blame in and of itself.  I think it is the point in time, though, where you begin to see a marked decline of religious education in Catholic parishes.  Now maybe there weren’t very clear guidelines or explanations from the top down.  Or maybe everyone at the bottom just heard what they wanted to hear in light of all the cultural changes going on around them.  (I mean The Beatles were pretty distracting with all of the amazing music they were producing at the time.)

But like it or not it was after Vatican II that catechisms were thrown out of religion classrooms and replaced with, well…I really can’t remember anything we studied in religion class until seventh grade.  Maybe I’ll make a post sometime recounting my religious education through 12 years of Catholic school.  I think it would be a prime example of the horrendous state of post-Vatican II Catholic religious education.

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2 Comments on “Responding to “Unknown Anon””

  1. kitkat Says:

    Excellent points! As a new Catholic with children who are currently attending Catholic grade school, I do see some finger pointing at Vatican II that has made me wonder what all the fuss is about. Your point about the timing of Vatican II is, IMHO, an excellent one. The culture in general shifted so dramatically during that time, so it is easy to see how that could have spilled over into the Church. And I LOVED your point about the true fault of misunderstanding one’s Catholic upbringing lying with the person themself. The REAL teachings of the Catholic Church are out there for anyone to study. It is truly up to the person if they will take the time to do it. GREAT POST!

  2. Anne Says:

    I’m 55, so I was a young teen post VatII. When I first went looking into the Church in the early ’70’s, it looked nothing like the one I’d seen in old books. It took a sojourn with the Anglicans and some growing up, plus the living example of faithful orthodox Catholics to let me put things in their universal, eternal perspective and I converted in the mid-80’s.

    I totally agree with your explanation and have often offered it to younger people who wonder just what went so wrong at the time. “You had to have been there.” D–n journalists didn’t help much, either…


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