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There are serious concerns with the Diocesan catechetical formation programs – UPDATED July 8, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, Dallas Diocese, episcopate, General Catholic, North Deanery.
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I actually wrote this post several weeks ago.  I had not posted it because I wanted to get more confirmation for what is presented below, and because I have been rather hard on Bishop Farrell on many occasions and probably do not publicize many good things he does.  I did not want to seem completely ungrateful.  But, as the concerns listed below have continued to mount, I felt I did need to get this information “out there.”  I offer all the below in the spirit of charity and in a hope that it may help improve Bishop Farrell’s serious efforts at better formation for all teachers and catechists in the Diocese.

I have heard many rumblings of discontent from those involved in catechesis in this Diocese, especially some of those professionally employed in this critical role (and below a certain age).  I have had some contact from individuals who serve as instructors in religious education in the Dallas Diocese.  They are very concerned about a catechetical (training) program they are being required to take through the University of Dallas School of Ministry or allied efforts run by the Diocese.  A few months ago, there was some controversy concerning this School of Ministry, which I covered here and here.  The concerns I have heard from multiple sources both add weight to those of others (including many UD alumni and students) over the direction of the School of Ministry, and shed light on the mindset of many of the instructors there, including those running this mandatory Diocesan training program.

I must provide a little bit of background for context.  When the controversy over the UD School of Ministry erupted, Bishop Farrell took a firm stand, stating that he knew that as Bishop he had the ultimate responsibility to insure the quality of formation for ALL the people of the Diocese.  In fact, he did a blog post on this subject here.  As part of this responsibility, Bishop Farrell has insisted that all those engaged in various roles in adult and youth formation must take courses through the UD School of Ministry (a clarification, some of the classes are actually taught at UD leading potentially to a Master’s Degree, while others are taught through the diocesan “Center for Ministry Development,” or, MiniDel – but all are connected with UD, ultimately).  These courses must culminate in the obtaining of a certificate that ostensibly insures that the catechists have been trained to a high standard.  For example, youth ministers must receive a “National Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies.”  On the surface this sounds reasonable – all catechists must be ‘trained’ at least to some minimal standard to insure a basic quality of formation for both them and their students.  Unfortunately, it is in both the materials in this certificate program, and the instructors of the program, that the problems reveal themselves.

As I have had related to me by those who serve in various education roles in the diocese, these courses are “completely watered down and not helpful.”  In fact, the level of catechesis is generally so low that many find the courses boring and in some cases counter-productive.  I have received these comments from individuals with STBs and and more advanced degrees from well known Catholic institutions, and they feel that the materials presented are frequently heterodox and just generally of such low quality there is little benefit to taking them.  There is apparently little theology taught in these courses.  Rarely are Papal encyclicals mentioned or referenced, nor other Church documents.  What is taught is “how to engage” students, how to make “learning fun,” and other similar “strategies for learning.”  That may be fine in part, but bear in mind, most of these instructors already have years of experience and the materials being presented are simply too basic to be of any help.  In short, these formation programs (especially that for the youth) are not helpful, and those I have spoken with have found them to be simply another hurdle they have to jump for their jobs, with no real added value.  I should add a quick caveat, there are courses being taught for catechists by priest(s) of this Diocese that I believe are generally pretty good – I’m not referring to those courses here.

A further, and likely more substantial, problem is with the views of the instructors, which are heavily staffed by folks associated with the UD School of Ministry (and was in large part the source of the original controversy).  I have been told that some instructors favor an end to the discipline of priestly celibacy, and will rant at times about the validity and necessity of female ordination, which is impossible (and is a belief that must be definitively held by all Catholics).  Others have denigrated pro-life activities and claimed that one must adhere to the discredited ‘seamless garment’ theory, while lauding well known ‘dissenter’ Fr. Richard McBrien.  There have been claims that ‘conservative Catholics’ don’t understand Catholicism, and students in these courses, which remember are professionals serving in this Diocese, have had their work denigrated due to deviating from the heterodox views of the teachers.  In short, they get dinged for faithfully representing the Faith, rather than regurgitating the heterodox opinions of the instructor.

What is most concerning is that there have been efforts by some of these youth leaders and other catechists to reach the Bishop to make their concerns known, but these efforts have not elicited a meaningful response.  I know that letters have been sent, calls have been made, but thus far, these efforts have been met by silence.  In all of the above, I am merely relating what I have been told by multiple trusted individuals I have known for some time.  I have reviewed a limited set of the materials myself and the complaints regarding lack of substance and an inordinate focus on ‘pastoral’ concerns seem well founded. Many of these course books, presentations, etc., come from the USCCB.  Unfortunately, that may be a large part of the problem.

The reason why Bishop Farrell has placed a high emphasis on “training the trainers,” is that formation for Catholics in general in the last several decades has been abysmal, as any number of polls asking Catholics about the Faith (many of which I’ve posted on) reveal.  Many Catholic leave a Faith they never even remotely understood.  It is a huge problem.  As such, it would appear that the desire for these courses to be more rigorous, to go into greater depth and detail in the Faith, and for the instructors and course materials to be unswervingly orthodox is a necessity.  We have had decades of watered down catechesis and heterodox views, and the result is a Church in crisis. 

Again, I offer this post in a spirit of charity, and I pray that it may lead to a re-examination of all the syllabi and materials for all catechetical formation programs in the Diocese.  I pray that Bishop Farrell’s ultimate goal, to have very well formed (and, I presume, fully orthodox) catechists and teachers trained to the highest standards and inculcated with a burning love for the Faith and a desire to transmit the Faith to others, is achieved. In light of that, I felt these concerns needed to be shared, especially given the apparent lack of response from the Diocese on these matters.

UPDATE: So, I got some offline comments taking exception to a small part of the above, which is the relationship between the UD School of Ministry and the diocesan Center for Ministry Development.  While at some level, they are advertised as being related (like during the annual UD “Ministry Conference”, and on many of the Center for Ministry Development (CMD)websites, where one sees a UD School of Ministry logo), the courses at CMD are apparently more independent of the School of Ministry than I may have indicated.  I am told that the CMD courses are pretty much independent of UD but that some of the course credits can be transferred to apply for a Master’s.  But the Byzantine relationship of all these schools and centers is not really the point.  The point is that there are serious concerns over the content of the courses and the beliefs of the instructors.  But, anyway, mea culpa mea culpa mea maxima culpa.

It was an overpriced, cobbled together design….. July 8, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, asshatery, foolishness, Society.
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…..that never had a prayer of being 1/100th as “economical” as it was sold as (because NASA cost projections based cost savings on hundreds of flights a year – hah!), but it was our only manned access to space, and now she’s just about gone.  And to think, for the same amount of funding as NASA has had over the past 40 years, we could have bases on the moon and a permanent space station, and possibly gone to Mars, using derivatives from Apollo hardware.  But that’s the government for you.  They never deal well with success.

More people came to see this final launch than any 10 launches in the ho-hum 90s and 00s.

Is it better to honestly discuss problems in the Church, or……. July 8, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, Dallas Diocese, episcopate, General Catholic, sadness, scandals, sickness.
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……try to sweep them under the rug, in the hope of avoiding ‘scandal,’ perhaps at the expense of the proclamation of Truth?  What do you think? 

The Franciscans of the Immaculate seem a really solid religious order.

Begin your Novena to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel today! July 8, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, Our Lady.
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Why?  Because She said so!


Obama policy leads to our paying for 300 abortions in DC July 8, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in Abortion, Basics, Dallas Diocese, disaster, General Catholic, sadness, scandals, sickness, Society.
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Shortly after being elected, with a massive advantage in Congress, Obama and his congressional allies managed to change the law to allow for taxpayer funded abortions for certain individuals in the District of Columbia.   When Republicans took back the House in 2011, they got that law reversed.  In the interim, you and I got to pay for at least 300 abortions in the District of Columbia, and I guarantee you it was many more than that.  Previously, DC had said it was “only” 117 abortions.  The real number is likely much higher.

There is no more sacred shibolleth to the modern American left than a ‘woman’s right to choose (to have her child killed – they always leave the last part out).’  If you elect democrats or other left wing types, you’re going to get abortion, and you’re going to get to pay for abortion.  For all the Catholics who voted for Obama and the 111th Congress, you helped make abortion in DC a reality.  You voted for a man that all evidence established conclusively would do all in his power to advance abortion on demand, and taxpayer funding for same.  There is no possible exchange – not for more generous welfare schemes, not for ‘health care,’ not for anything, to trade for all the human lives this man (and congress) helped extinguish.  The ‘seamless garment’ is a miserable lie. 

Oh, you want to bring up war?  When Obama came into office, we had two wars.  Now we have 5 (Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Yemen).