Cardinal Burke on Catechesis

In a recent interview with Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, I asked him about the quality of catechesis in the Church today.
Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, the most visible clergyman in the Catholic Church today, second only to the Holy Father himself, is also the greatest defender of Catholicism in America. Despite his assignments and work in Rome, His Eminence spends a tremendous amount of time in the United States speaking to both priests and the laity about our holy and ancient faith.

I recently had an opportunity to interview His Eminence from Rome via the modern miracle known as the Internet. One of several topics we discussed was about the state of catechesis in the Church in America today. Cardinal Burke was very focused on the subject and quite unapologetically explained where we are, why we are where we are, and what we can do to make things better.

His Eminence pointed out that catechesis has been in crisis in America for about fifty years. I expected him to lay the blame for current maladies at the feet of our bishops and priests, but that isn't what he did. He explained that after Vatican II a number of so-called Catholic leaders took off with a bad misinterpretation of the Council Fathers' work. As a result, catechesis stopped being focused on the eternal truths Jesus and the apostles taught and became focused on self-esteem and personal affirmation. This has caused a tremendous ignorance of the faith among Catholics ever since. So the cause of today's crisis isn't the fault of our bishops and priests, but rather the fault of those in the past who set the stage of destruction from within immediately following the Council.

Cardinal Burke went on to tell me that the only way to truly affirm the human person and elevate one's self-esteem is to teach the eternal truths of Catholicism without compromise or watering it down. Having taught the catechism evangelistically for nearly thirty years, I know first hand what His Eminence is talking about. I never withhold the so-called tough teachings—artificial contraception, sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman, divorce and remarriage, modest dress and behavior, etc.—and what I've found is that the student is not only impressed with the Church's teaching, but that they actually recognize a higher purpose for themselves and all of mankind.

I had mentioned to His Eminence the surveys that show 70% of the Catholic faithful no longer believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. He responded that it's not that they no longer believe, but rather that they have never been taught in the first place. Therein lies the problem of the ignorance of the laity in a nutshell.

I wish I could have a dollar for every time I've spoken to the Catholic laity only to discover they are as ignorant of the faith as I am about brain surgery. Just recently I was speaking to a layman who had been educated in the school in our parish and is a regularly Mass attending parishioner. I don't recall how we got into the subject, but at one point I had occasion to ask him how many sacraments there are. With a question mark in his voice, he replied that there are twelve. When I asked him to name them, he couldn't name a single one.

The Catholic Church, according to numerous surveys and my own experience as a lay evangelist, is quickly becoming irrelevant to the people of our nation and Church. Priests seem clueless as to how to change that, and that in itself mystifies me. The answer, and Cardinal Burke agrees, is for the priests to begin replacing the tired old "love one another" and "do the best you can do" homilies with homilies that focus on the catechetical teachings of the Church. What priests will discover is, the people will not only be attentive and thankful but they will also actually become fascinated with what they are learning.

Of course a very good means of starting the people on a path to learning and engaging the faith is to use Joe Sixpack's
What We Believe...Why We Believe It bulletin inserts in your parish.
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