Magisterial Framework for the Transmission of the Person and Teaching of Christ

Maryvale Institute FAITH Magazine May-June 2008s

Fr Paul Watson and colleagues at the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, elucidate catechetical
principles which must ground transmission, according to the catechetical documents of the
Church since the Second Vatican Council, Evangelii Nuntiandi (EN), Catechesi Tradendae (CT), the General Directory for Catechesis (GDC) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), documents largely ignored by the Heythrop Study, On the Way to Life - cf. our editorial and main article. Italics are added for the purpose of this paper.

Realist Catechesis of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

A realist catechesis is the only catechesis that fully allows the truth of the reality of the Word of God to be communicated. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is realist in that it links mans actual, historical and personal experience into the larger patrimony of the Church, integrating the existential insights of the last 100 years of catechesis with the essential, universal and everlasting truths of revelation. It provides a catechesis that is neither polarised nor reactive but deeply real. One of the most important and least studied factors of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is that it provides a catechesis in content and method that is remarkable in its philosophical and anthropological foundations.

Evangelisation as context (cf EN 18)

Three stages of Evangelisation:

Initial proclamation,
Catechesis
On-going formation

‘Evangelisation means the carrying forth of the Good News to every sector of the human race so that by its strength it may enter into the hearts of men and renew the human race. ‘Behold, I make all things new’. (EN 18)

Catechism as reference text for catechesis

‘The Catechism of the Catholic Church and The General Catechetical Directory are two distinct but complementary instruments at the service of the Church’s catechetical activity.’ ‘Both instruments... are mutually complementary.’ (GDC 120). ‘The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers a clear response to the legitimate right of all the baptised to know from the Church what she has received and what she believes;’ (GDC 130)

Truths of faith are essential, not alone experience

‘Education in faith is more than merely ‘experience’, ‘existential concern’, and ‘emotional awareness’. Faith has first of all to do with realities, with facts, not with notions or concepts. But facts can be asserted in propositions. Faith without propositions is faith without facts. Newman said: “Christianity is faith, faith implies a doctrine, a doctrine implies propositions”.’ See also CCC 170.

Faith is found firstly in doctrine, not theology

The Church speaks of the one doctrine of the faith that is at the root of all the different Catholic theologies. It is the one doctrine, given and received, that needs to remain the core of catechesis and formation. This is not the place for giving or exploring any particular theology, or theologies.

Saving truths

Theologies and methodologies will come and go and it is vital at higher levels that these be explored and challenged, but the baptised have a right, and the bishop as chief catechist has the duty, not to provide theology but to pass on the one, salvific, doctrine (teaching) of the faith to future generations. ‘The Father’s self-communication made through his Word in the Holy Spirit, remains present and active in the Church’ (CCC 79).

Doctrine is not opposed to life. (Schönborn) Faith, hope and love overcome orthopraxis/orthodoxy (CT). ‘There is an organic connection between our spiritual life and dogmas. Dogmas are lights along the path of faith; they illuminate it and make it secure’ (CCC 89).

There are two tendencies to avoid:

‘those who are unable to appreciate how profound
is the proposed renewal, as if it were merely a matter of eliminating ignorance of doctrine... and...
those who tend to reduce the gospel message to its effects on people’s temporal lives’ (GDC 63).

Double pedagogical commitment

The catechist has a double commitment: to the message and the man. (GDC 238).

a. Method depends on what is taught (message)

The manner of teaching and learning depends primarily on the nature of the subject.
‘Pedagogical instructions adequate for catechesis are those which permit the communication of the whole word of God in the concrete existence of people.’
‘A good catechetical method is a guarantee of fidelity to content.’ (GDC 147-149).

b. Method depends on who is taught (man)

Ways of teaching and learning depend on the nature of the learner.
In catechesis we are always involved with human beings -beings who all have ‘human nature’ in common, that is those living, dynamic characteristics of our being that we all share. The Christian sense of the person is distinctively different to most of the prevailing secular beliefs. Our methodology needs to be in accordance with the Christian vision of the person and the Christian view of the human person depends on:

The fact that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God and that, therefore, we are all from God and for God, for ever.

Christ’s act of redemption whereby human beings are all destined for life in Christ.
The strong belief in God’s grace whereby all have divine help at all times to live and grow in truth and love.
‘Formation seeks to enable catechists to transmit the Gospel to those who desire to entrust themselves to Jesus Christ.’
‘The summit and centre of catechetical formation lies in an aptitude and ability to communicate the Gospel message.’ (GDC 235).

Key Themes accompanying the Framework PRINCIPLE 1

Fr Paul Watson and colleagues at the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, elucidate catechetical
principles which must ground transmission, according to the catechetical documents of the
Church since the Second Vatican Council, Evangelii Nuntiandi (EN), Catechesi Tradendae (CT), the General Directory for Catechesis (GDC) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), documents largely ignored by the Heythrop Study, On the Way to Life - cf. our editorial and main article. Italics are added for the purpose of this paper.

Realist Catechesis of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

A realist catechesis is the only catechesis that fully allows the truth of the reality of the Word of God to be communicated. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is realist in that it links mans actual, historical and personal experience into the larger patrimony of the Church, integrating the existential insights of the last 100 years of catechesis with the essential, universal and everlasting truths of revelation. It provides a catechesis that is neither polarised nor reactive but deeply real. One of the most important and least studied factors of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is that it provides a catechesis in content and method that is remarkable in its philosophical and anthropological foundations.

Evangelisation as context (cf EN 18)

Three stages of Evangelisation:
Initial proclamation,
Catechesis
On-going formation

‘Evangelisation means the carrying forth of the Good News to every sector of the human race so that by its strength it may enter into the hearts of men and renew the human race. ‘Behold, I make all things new’. (EN 18)

Catechism as reference text for catechesis

‘The Catechism of the Catholic Church and The General Catechetical Directory are two distinct but complementary instruments at the service of the Church’s catechetical activity.’ ‘Both instruments... are mutually complementary.’ (GDC 120). ‘The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers a clear response to the legitimate right of all the baptised to know from the Church what she has received and what she believes;’ (GDC 130)

Truths of faith are essential, not alone experience

‘Education in faith is more than merely ‘experience’, ‘existential concern’, and ‘emotional awareness’. Faith has first of all to do with realities, with facts, not with notions or concepts. But facts can be asserted in propositions. Faith without propositions is faith without facts. Newman said: “Christianity is faith, faith implies a doctrine, a doctrine implies propositions”.’ See also CCC 170.

Faith is found firstly in doctrine, not theology

The Church speaks of the one doctrine of the faith that is at the root of all the different Catholic theologies. It is the one doctrine, given and received, that needs to remain the core of catechesis and formation. This is not the place for giving or exploring any particular theology, or theologies.

Saving truths

Theologies and methodologies will come and go and it is vital at higher levels that these be explored and challenged, but the baptised have a right, and the bishop as chief catechist has the duty, not to provide theology but to pass on the one, salvific, doctrine (teaching) of the faith to future generations. ‘The Father’s self-communication made through his Word in the Holy Spirit, remains present and active in the Church’ (CCC 79).

Doctrine is not opposed to life. (Schönborn) Faith, hope and love overcome orthopraxis/orthodoxy (CT). ‘There is an organic connection between our spiritual life and dogmas. Dogmas are lights along the path of faith; they illuminate it and make it secure’ (CCC 89).

There are two tendencies to avoid:

‘those who are unable to appreciate how profound
is the proposed renewal, as if it were merely a matter of eliminating ignorance of doctrine... and...
those who tend to reduce the gospel message to its effects on people’s temporal lives’ (GDC 63).

Double pedagogical commitment

The catechist has a double commitment: to the message and the man. (GDC 238).

a. Method depends on what is taught (message)

The manner of teaching and learning depends primarily on the nature of the subject.
‘Pedagogical instructions adequate for catechesis are those which permit the communication of the whole word of God in the concrete existence of people.’
‘A good catechetical method is a guarantee of fidelity to content.’ (GDC 147-149).

b. Method depends on who is taught (man)

Ways of teaching and learning depend on the nature of the learner.
In catechesis we are always involved with human beings -beings who all have ‘human nature’ in common, that is those living, dynamic characteristics of our being that we all share. The Christian sense of the person is distinctively different to most of the prevailing secular beliefs. Our methodology needs to be in accordance with the Christian vision of the person and the Christian view of the human person depends on:

The fact that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God and that, therefore, we are all from God and for God, for ever.

Christ’s act of redemption whereby human beings are all destined for life in Christ.
The strong belief in God’s grace whereby all have divine help at all times to live and grow in truth and love.
‘Formation seeks to enable catechists to transmit the Gospel to those who desire to entrust themselves to Jesus Christ.’
‘The summit and centre of catechetical formation lies in an aptitude and ability to communicate the Gospel message.’ (GDC 235).

Key Themes accompanying the Framework PRINCIPLE 1



Catechesis: A fundamental ecclesial service for the realisation of the missionary mandate of Jesus (GDC 59)

‘Catechesis is an essentially ecclesial act’
The true subject of catechesis is the Church which, continuing the mission of Jesus the Master and, therefore animated by the Holy Spirit, is sent to be the teacher of the faith.’
The Church imitates the Mother of the Lord in treasuring the Gospel in her heart.’
‘She proclaims it, celebrates it, lives it, and she transmits it in catechesisto all those who have decided to follow Jesus Christ.’
This transmission of the Gospel is a living act of ecclesial tradition’ (GDC 78).

The role of the Parish

The Christian community is the origin, locus and goal of catechesis.’
‘Proclamation of the Gospel always begins with the Christian community and invites man to conversion and the following of Christ.’ (GDC 254).
The parish is, without doubt, the most important locus in which the Christian community is formed and expressed.’
This is called to be a fraternal and welcoming family where Christians become aware of being the people of God.’
The parish must continue to be the prime mover and pre-eminent placefor catechesis,’ (GDC 257).
‘In many countries of established Christian tradition ... there exists an intermediate situation, where entire groups of the baptised have lost a living sense of the faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church and live a life far removed from Christ and his Gospel. Such situations require a new evangelisation.’ (GDC 58c).

The role of the priest

‘The catechetical tasks proper to the presbyterate and particularly to parish priests are:

to foster a sense of common responsibilityfor catechesis in the Christian community, a task which involves all, and a recognition and appreciation for catechists and their mission;
to care for the basic orientation of catechesis and its planning by giving emphasis to active participation of catechists and by insisting that catechesis be well structured and oriented ;
to promote and to discern vocationsto the service of catechesis and, as catechist of catechists, attend to their formation by giving the greatest attention to this duty;
to integrate catechetical activity into his programme of community evangelisation; and foster the link between catechesis, sacraments and the liturgy;
to secure the bonds between the catechesis of his community and the diocesan pastoral programme by helping catechists become active co-operators in a common diocesan programme.

Experience bears out that the quality of catechesis in a community depends very largely on the presence and activity of the priest.’ (GDC 225)

Parish priorities

‘In order that the parish may succeed in activating effectively the mission of evangelisation, some conditions must be fulfilled:

a ) Adult catechesis must be given priority. This involves a post-baptismal catechesis, ... presenting again some elements from the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults with the purpose of allowing a person to grasp and live the immense, extraordinary richness and responsibility received at Baptism .
b ) With renewed courage, the proclamation of the Gospel to those alienated or who live in religious indifference must be planned. In this task, pre-sacramental meetings (preparation for Marriage, Baptism and First Holy Communion of children) can be fundamental.
c ) As a solid reference point for parochial catechesis it is necessary to have a nucleus of mature Christians, initiated into the faith, to whom different pastoral concerns can be entrusted
 d ) While the preceding points refer mainly to adults, at the same time catechesis for children, adolescents, and  young people which is always indispensable will also benefit greatly’ (GDC 258)

 The importance of catechists

  ‘The quality of any form of pastoral activity is placed  at risk if it does not rely on truly competent and  trained personnel.
The resources provided for catechesis cannot be truly effective unless well used by trained catechists.’
Adequate formation of catechists cannot be overlooked by concerns such as the updating of texts and the re-organisation of catechesis.’
‘Diocesan pastoral programmes must give absolute priority to the formation of lay catechists.’
‘A fundamentally decisive element must be the catechetical formation of priests.’
‘Bishops are called upon to ensure that they are scrupulously attentive to such formation.’ (GDC 234)

Family catechesis

‘childhood religious awakening which takes place in the family is irreplaceable.’
‘family catechesis precedes... accompanies and enriches all forms of catechesis.’
‘Parents receive in the sacrament of Matrimony ‘the grace and the ministry of the Christian education of their children.’
‘By means of personal contact, meetings, courses and also adult catechesis directed toward parents, the Christian community must help them assume their responsibility -which is particularly delicate today - of educating their children in the faith.’ (GDC 226)
The role of grandparents is of growing importance. Their wisdom and sense of the religious is often times decisive in creating a true Christian climate.’ (GDC 255)

The role of centres for higher learning

At diocesan and inter-diocesan levels it is most useful when there is an awareness of the need to form people at a higher level (GDC 252)
Attendance at a school for catechists is a particularly important moment in the formation of a catechist (GDC 248).

Catechesis: A fundamental ecclesial service for the realisation of the missionary mandate of Jesus (GDC 59)

‘Catechesis is an essentially ecclesial act’
The true subject of catechesis is the Church which, continuing the mission of Jesus the Master and, therefore animated by the Holy Spirit, is sent to be the teacher of the faith.’
The Church imitates the Mother of the Lord in treasuring the Gospel in her heart.’
‘She proclaims it, celebrates it, lives it, and she transmits it in catechesisto all those who have decided to follow Jesus Christ.’
This transmission of the Gospel is a living act of ecclesial tradition’ (GDC 78).

The role of the Parish

The Christian community is the origin, locus and goal of catechesis.’
‘Proclamation of the Gospel always begins with the Christian community and invites man to conversion and the following of Christ.’ (GDC 254).
The parish is, without doubt, the most important locus in which the Christian community is formed and expressed.’
This is called to be a fraternal and welcoming family where Christians become aware of being the people of God.’
The parish must continue to be the prime mover and pre-eminent placefor catechesis,’ (GDC 257).
‘In many countries of established Christian tradition ... there exists an intermediate situation, where entire groups of the baptised have lost a living sense of the faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church and live a life far removed from Christ and his Gospel. Such situations require a new evangelisation.’ (GDC 58c).

The role of the priest

‘The catechetical tasks proper to the presbyterate and particularly to parish priests are:

to foster a sense of common responsibilityfor catechesis in the Christian community, a task which involves all, and a recognition and appreciation for catechists and their mission;
to care for the basic orientation of catechesis and its planning by giving emphasis to active participation of catechists and by insisting that catechesis be well structured and oriented ;
to promote and to discern vocationsto the service of catechesis and, as catechist of catechists, attend to their formation by giving the greatest attention to this duty;
to integrate catechetical activity into his programme of community evangelisation; and foster the link between catechesis, sacraments and the liturgy;
to secure the bonds between the catechesis of his community and the diocesan pastoral programme by helping catechists become active co-operators in a common diocesan programme.

Experience bears out that the quality of catechesis in a community depends very largely on the presence and activity of the priest.’ (GDC 225)

Parish priorities

‘In order that the parish may succeed in activating effectively the mission of evangelisation, some conditions must be fulfilled:

a ) Adult catechesis must be given priority. This involves a post-baptismal catechesis, ... presenting again some elements from the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults with the purpose of allowing a person to grasp and live the immense, extraordinary richness and responsibility received at Baptism .
b ) With renewed courage, the proclamation of the Gospel to those alienated or who live in religious indifference must be planned. In this task, pre-sacramental meetings (preparation for Marriage, Baptism and First Holy Communion of children) can be fundamental.
c ) As a solid reference point for parochial catechesis it is necessary to have a nucleus of mature Christians, initiated into the faith, to whom different pastoral concerns can be entrusted
 d ) While the preceding points refer mainly to adults, at the same time catechesis for children, adolescents, and  young people which is always indispensable will also benefit greatly’ (GDC 258)

 The importance of catechists

  ‘The quality of any form of pastoral activity is placed  at risk if it does not rely on truly competent and  trained personnel.
The resources provided for catechesis cannot be truly effective unless well used by trained catechists.’
Adequate formation of catechists cannot be overlooked by concerns such as the updating of texts and the re-organisation of catechesis.’
‘Diocesan pastoral programmes must give absolute priority to the formation of lay catechists.’
‘A fundamentally decisive element must be the catechetical formation of priests.’
‘Bishops are called upon to ensure that they are scrupulously attentive to such formation.’ (GDC 234)

Family catechesis

‘childhood religious awakening which takes place in the family is irreplaceable.’
‘family catechesis precedes... accompanies and enriches all forms of catechesis.’
‘Parents receive in the sacrament of Matrimony ‘the grace and the ministry of the Christian education of their children.’
‘By means of personal contact, meetings, courses and also adult catechesis directed toward parents, the Christian community must help them assume their responsibility -which is particularly delicate today - of educating their children in the faith.’ (GDC 226)
The role of grandparents is of growing importance. Their wisdom and sense of the religious is often times decisive in creating a true Christian climate.’ (GDC 255)

The role of centres for higher learning

At diocesan and inter-diocesan levels it is most useful when there is an awareness of the need to form people at a higher level (GDC 252)
Attendance at a school for catechists is a particularly important moment in the formation of a catechist (GDC 248).

Faith Magazine

May - June 2008