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So, Dallas readers, what have you to say regarding religious education in our fair Diocese? November 12, 2014

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, catachesis, Dallas Diocese, episcopate, error, General Catholic, North Deanery, scandals, secularism.

I saw this post on Bishop Farrell’s blog last week and wanted to comment on it then, but, eh, it was late and I had other things to do.  Apparently last week was National Parish Religious Education Week, and Bishop Farrell posted some of his thoughts on the topic of religious education, which I quote in full and without comment below:

At the heart of evangelization is the parish. It is there that we celebrate our Catholic faith. It is there that we deepen our faith. It is there that we enrich our faith and it is there that we pass on our faith.

As we observe National Parish Religious Education Week, we recognize the important role that our parish Religious Education Program plays in Evangelization. Religious educators are deeply involved in all four of these elements of evangelization through the parish’s role as the hub of lifelong faith formation programs.

Gone are the days when religious education was something only for children. We realize now that our faith life is one of continual conversion and deepening understanding and spiritual development that not only enriches our faith but our participation in liturgical celebrations.

Of course, faith formation must begin in the home, but religious education programs for our children, particularly when they involve the family, insure that their spiritual growth parallels their physical and mental growth. Lifelong faith formation means we no longer try to develop an adult faith with only a First Communion or maybe Confirmation spirituality.

During this week, I particularly want to honor our religious educators, volunteer and professional, who dedicate themselves to the important work of teaching our faith and keeping it dynamic, lest it become stagnant and lacking vitality.  Please join me by thanking the religious educators in your parish.  May God bless them as they do the Lord’s work!

My thought with regard to this post is to ask you, my good readers, just how do you think the Diocese of Dallas is doing in this regard?  How would you rate institutional/official religious education in this Diocese?

I certainly have many tales to tell and have shared at least some of them on this blog.  They are not terribly positive.  But rather than retread what is likely old ground, I’d like to hear what you have to say, either with respect to religious education that you yourself have received, or possibly your children or other family members. Those in other dioceses are certainly free to chime in with their own experiences but I ask that you at least name the Diocese in question, for the better edification of all.

I know that at varying times this blog has been – you might say – observed by denizens of the chancery with some fair degree of interest.  So its possible your assessments may be heard, so please try to be reasonable and keep the comments focused on specific incidents.





1. J Rebecca - November 12, 2014

My experience with the religious education program at a northern suburban parish was that it was so incredibly watered-down, it was almost pointless. I let my children continue to go, because they liked doing the crafts. But I would have to un-teach much of what they were told, often by mothers whom had converted and didn’t know the Faith. They will put any warm body who can pass the background check into the classroom, no knowledge required.
I also taught the elementary level RE classes for five years. I realized that not only were the children not being taught the Faith at home and not reading the Bible, they were not living the Faith. If the classes weren’t entertainment time, then the parents wouldn’t bring them. Many of the parents tried to drop kids at classes on Sunday while they either made it to part of Mass or ran errands. Some kids would tell us how rarely they went to Mass. (Can’t miss those soccer and basketball games.) The parents were divorcing and contracepting like the teachings of the Church didn’t matter. And the children who did attend Mass were allowed to either color on church-provided activity pages or zone out. Eventually I realized it was all a waste of time and that I should just focus on teaching my own children thoroughly.

Tantumblogo - November 12, 2014

Thank you for sharing. Your experience is pretty typical, if not as bad as some.

The tales I have of adult education are pathetic.

2. Christopher - November 13, 2014

I have not experienced any specific education programs, per se, but I have completed a particular diocesan training program, and I do have a couple of examples that demonstrate that Catholic principles are not making it to the souls of the faithful.

First, I work with a lot of people from a particular region of the world just south of ours, and many of them attend Catholic Churches, wear religious items, put them all over their cars…But when they talk about the faith at all, it becomes apparent that catechesis has been severely lacking. They also talk about lifestyles and activities that I would think a vigilant pastor would notice from such regular attendees and maybe admonish the sinner, as it were, but, alas, these behaviors they talk about they flaunt like it’s just as normal for Catholics as for anyone else. (I’m trying not to be too specific).

…Well, I started to type a second observation I made a while back, but I don’t think it’s prudent to describe the nature of the example in detail here. Suffice it to say that there does not seem to be a great deal of effort being put into the oversight or screening being done when it comes to the theological information being put out of the diocese, including in official training materials. Based on what you’ve written, I’m guessing that what I experienced may not have been the worst thing, but I found it quite disturbing. Tantum, if you want details, you know how to contact me. I have advised someone already, but it might be worth getting the word out and involving others in trying to fix what might be another small part of a huge problem. Contact me sometime when you’re feeling patient and merciful and you can let me know what you think.

Tantumblogo - November 13, 2014

Not at all. In fact I think you should share it publicly.

So just one example, having to bring a copy of the Catechism into RCIA because you’re acting as a sponsor, just so you can refute the constant errors proclaimed by the instructor in every class. Or the priest in my RCIA telling us confidently (in 1998) that there would be “women’s ordination” within 10 years. And he’s one of the more orthodox ones! Riiiighht.

J Rebecca - November 13, 2014

Ha! Yes, my husband is sponsoring a candidate at a suburban parish, and we gave him a copy of the Catechism as a gift. He had been attending Mass long enough that he realized that something wasn’t quite right about the book they were using in class. Apparently when a new priest came to the class, he was quite surprised to hear that no one had been given copies of the Catechism, as they are very cheap.
As for the RCIA classes, they are very warm and fuzzy. Lots of leaders sharing their personal experiences and cheerleading for CRHP weekends.

Tantumblogo - November 13, 2014

Bah, CRHP. More naked emo. No thanks.

3. Woody - November 13, 2014

Hahahahahahahaha. I hope you understand my answer. Last year at the homily of the last SCHOOL Mass of the semester before Christmas, Father Cliff told ALL THE STUDENTS that Jesus was NOT BORN on December 25th; He was probably born in the summer time. My kids asked if it was true and I told them that Father Cliff was a joke..ster. Yeah, great religious education there at St. Marks.

4. c matt - November 13, 2014

First, Bishop Ferrell needs to correct his comment – he wrote “insure,” but I am sure he meant “ensure.” Sorry, just a pet peeve of mine.

Hailing from Galvez-Houston. One experience with adult education was a video-workbook series which name escapes me right now, but the video lecturer was an American-Polish professor (youngish) from Minnesota, I believe. Covered Church history, most of the major heresies and how they were dealt with, main councils, etc. Actually quite decent, if a bit superficial (mainly due to time constraints). Some others included a lecture by our pastor on some of the V II documents. Again, sort of intro, scratch the surface stuff. Not bad, but really shied away from any type of in depth analysis of the more controversial elements, and really did not present the criticisms. Again, maybe that is a time constraint thing. Overall, in this particular parish, not so bad (YMMV).

I do disagree with Bp. Farrell on this: The heart of evangelization is the the parish. As much as he may wish it so, and maybe it should be so, seems to me the heart of evangelization has moved to the internet. Most dioceses do not have a very strong internet presence (beyond basic info such as Mass times, Parish locations, various ministries and contacts, etc.). Certainly no lively discussion of the faith and current issues such as this blog and many others. The internet, and blogs in particular (with their interactive chat like format) is where people get their information. The Powers That Be may want to take that into account.

c matt - November 13, 2014

To round out my thoughts with a suggestion for TPTB, rather than courses that try to tackle the whole enchilada of Church History or V II (and therefore cannot be in depth), maybe offer something on a particular issue, teaching, etc. and really dig deep.

5. Hadley - November 13, 2014

At St Rita it’s been spotty. Over the years one of my kids told me she was taught that as Catholics we are bound to support Obamacare, and another told me he was taught that one way to serve Jesus is to plant a tree (this latter point made to a 6th grader, not a kindergartener). I’m not sure anywhere else is any better and I am unaware of whether homeschooling is acceptable to the diocese.

Tantumblogo - November 13, 2014

Homeschooling is absolutely acceptable, and don’t ever let any deacon or priest tell you differently. They will try to tell you that in order to get First Communion or Confirmation you have to go through their program but that is utter bunk, it is just a means of control. If you go to the Diocese the local official will cave.

Hadley - November 15, 2014

What are good materials to use for religious education homeschooling ?

David - November 16, 2014


I would try using The Baltimore Catechism. It seems easy to find on the used market, and the “nuts and bolts” are present. I’ve helped with CCD at two different parishes (mostly 7th grade) and I have used bits and pieces of the Baltimore Catechism for teaching. I’ve learned from it myself, because I grew up in the late 70’s to the mid-80’s where the “nuts and bolts” were hardly emphasized.

I also recommend Catholicism for Dummies (seriously). I used some materials from there as well, and Fr. Trigilio is a good priest, and it has a Nihil Obstat. (I don’t recommend The Idiots’ Guide to Catholicism.)

One thing I have found in CCD programs is there has to be some “accountability”. Many kids don’t remember week after week what was discussed, and sadly, quite a few parents don’t take their children to Mass on Sunday. While it is acceptable in many mainline Protestant denominations (i.e. Methodist and Baptist) for the children to attend Sunday school while their parents are at services, Catholic children who have obtained the age of reason are required to attend Mass.

I only know of one Dallas area parish that has some accountability for the kids in CCD to attend Mass on Sunday, and I would like to see this more.

J Rebecca - November 13, 2014

You may have to cite actual Canon law to get them to comply, but they can not force you to go through their program. The Confirmation prep classes are what really chaps my hide. One of my nieces decided to just wait and go through it at college instead of jumping through the parish hoops. Elementary levels of instruction with a lot of socialization. Of course all the parish ministry leaders just love getting in on that enforced community service. Instead of really teaching what it means to be of service, it becomes about checking off a box and getting someone to sign off on hours. (One hour if they contribute a bag of candy for something. How did having their mother pick up a bag of candy equal an hour of service?) Or you can pay hundreds of dollars to send your kid on a mission trip in another city.

Tantumblogo - November 13, 2014

Bang. More great points. You’re dead on.

And I probably didn’t reply as well as I could because this whole attempt to bully homeschoolers really drives me nuts.

Just for fun, see how they respond if you tell them you are using the Catechism of St. Pius X or of the Council of Trent to see how they respond. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to seeing someone’s head actually explode.

J Rebecca - November 13, 2014

The visual on that prompted the best laugh of my day.

6. TG - November 13, 2014

At St. Mary’s in Temple, religious education is pretty good compared to other parishes. I’ve seen the book my grandson uses and I haven’t seen anything heretical in it. It’s very basic. I do know they follow the guidelines of the Diocese of Austin. The kids are introduced to devotions like the rosary and stations of the cross. Our new priest does care about the Catholic formation of our children. It’s one of his priorities. I’ve wondered why this parish has retained some orthodoxy despite being a NO parish. I now think it’s because of a priest that was there for 23 years (during the 70’s and 80’s). He was old school Catholic and I think it was his influence. God rest his soul.

7. Diocese of Dallas training video: “Two greatest Commandments love of self and love of neighbor” | A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics - November 13, 2014

[…] put up a post yesterday asking locals for their appraisal of religious formation in the Diocese of Dallas.  There have […]

8. Joanne - November 13, 2014

At the parish within the diocese my husband and I were told at a preparation class for infant baptism that it is no longer about the cleansing of original sin but only about receiving grace. when I questioned the deacon he told me to consult the catechism well I know what the catechism says and it’s not what the deacon spoke about to a room full of 30 . when I contacted the diocese I was told that because of the document lumen Gentium that now we teach infant baptism is about receiving grace and that the cleansing of Original Sin is deemphasized . I have never heard this before and I have read the document but perhaps I do not know enough…but this seems very spotty and bordering on heretical

Tantumblogo - November 13, 2014

It is absolutely heretical, it’s not bordering at all. Sheesh, this is what feeds the nightmare lie of universal salvation that is causing souls to fall into hell like a blizzard. If there is no original sin there is no need for a Redeemer and people can pretend essentially everyone (except faithful Catholics) are saved. That was in Dallas?

Tantumblogo - November 13, 2014

In fact it directly contradicts the Council of Trent

9. David - November 14, 2014

I have at least twelve friends who attended the Engaged Encounter Weekend in the Dallas Diocese within the last fifteen years. The most constructive feedback I got from one couple who attended was the discussions about conflict resolution and finances were good, but there was only about 20 minutes spent on NFP (now, that was before 2007 – I think now many Dallas area parishes require NFP classes for marriage preparation). I also know one couple who attended before they were “officially engaged”, and that was a big help for them. IMHO, I think more couples need to do that.

Another couple told me they enjoyed theirs, but they got more out of doing “one-on-one” discussions with either a priest or a sponsored couple. Another couple told me one turnoff was that something like one out of four couples present (again, before 2007) treated the weekend like “why do we have to be here?” and “is this over yet?” My brother and my sister-in-law attended one of these in another diocese, and the organizers locked the doors at 7:30 p.m. Saturday evening so couples would not sneak out (I guess that was a problem at some of these).

However, most of the couples I know that attended these are still married (and quite a few have beared much fruit). Unfortunately, one couple I know had a brief marriage that was annulled , and an older couple (48 and 42) I know had a healthy marriage until the other spouse passed away. I remember he told me (and this was 2006) that he and his wife were in the minority because they were not playing house (my brother and my sister-in-law did not play house either). My friend mentioned this because there was considerable time spent discussing the dangers of playing house before marriage.

I’ve heard many of these Engaged Encounter Weekends have gotten better, but those being run with the same mentality as the 70’s and 80’s are way out-of-date (I would be upset if my girlfriend and I were counseled at one of these and told that ABC was OK, and I heard that was commonplace in the 80’s). I’ve also heard complaints that more men need to be involved in teaching marriage preparation.

Part of the problem with these Engaged Encounter Weekends (and this is a general statement) is by the time a couple attends one, they are so focused on just planning the wedding, and not what is coming the day after the wedding. At my brother’s wedding last year, I admired the priest for saying at the end of the nuptial Mass, “the wedding has ended, but the marriage is just beginning.”

10. Steve - November 14, 2014


Each Advent Season going back several years, I have heard Father Smith (I believe that he has often done so in print form) declare that Jesus was not born on December 25.

I don’t understand as to why he has felt it important to have done that.

Anyway, Saint Hippolytus, circa 215 A.D., recorded the testimony that the Faithful had handed down from earlier times in regard to Jesus having been born on December 25.

I will throw in with the ancient Catholic testimony in regard to Jesus’ date of birth…December 25.

Woody - November 15, 2014

If he wants to discuss it with adults, fine. I just can’t believe he, as pastor, did this at a school Mass with kids as young as 5 years old. And he did it just before Christmas!

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