What Will These Lay Catechists Teach? Whatever They Want

Here is the document: Ancient Ministry. It establishes a lay ministry of the Catechist. The idea is that the Bishops Conferences and individual dioceses will set up some type of criteria for the Catechists, give them instruction, and set them loose to teach: “They should also receive suitable biblical, theological, pastoral and pedagogical formation to be competent communicators of the truth of the faith and they should have some prior experience of catechesis.” These criteria are minimal, and consequently, a large number of Catechists could soon be teaching in the Church.

The problem is, what will they teach? In the current situation in the Church is that priests and theologians on the left teach a version of the Gospel adapted to secular societies mores and then those on the right teach according to their own understanding of “tradition”, but openly contrary to the teachings since Vatican II. Then there are many different errors, grave errors on faith, morals, and salvation that have been disseminated through the internet among the faithful and deeply into the recesses of the Church. Even now, oversight of priests and theologians in their teachings is almost non-existent. They teach whatever they want.

And people would follow. This video clip has a priest dancing, and in a very silly manner, in front of the altar. With him, is a group of young persons also dancing, in the same manner. Whenever ANYONE has a leadership position in the Church, like priest or deacon or lay Catechist or others, people will follow. And as Jesus warned us, incompetent leaders nevertheless end up with followers: the blind leading the blind.
{6:39} Now he told them another comparison: “How can the blind lead the blind? Would they not both fall into a pit?
{6:40} The disciple is not above his teacher. But each one will be perfected, if he is like his teacher.
{15:14} Leave them alone. They are blind, and they lead the blind. But if the blind are in charge of the blind, both will fall into the pit.”

Then there are speakers, authors, bloggers, and various Catholic personalities who have developed an online cult of personality to express their own version of the Faith, incompatible with the teachings of Popes and Councils, with no obedience to the Magisterium and no oversight from any Bishop. These personalities sometimes have thousands or tens of thousands of followers. Some have a greater number of followers than most Bishops have as the number of their flock. And many of these errant teachers absolutely oppose Pope Francis or Vatican II or some particular Catholic doctrine.

Where does an 800 pound gorilla sleep? Anywhere he wants.
What does an online teacher with a vast following teach. Whatever he wants.

These online teachers have a vast number of followers. Some are priests, but very few are theologians. And the theologians tend to have far fewer followers than those who simply preach a version of the Gospel distorted to please their listeners.

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf is an example of this type of independent teacher in the Church. He is from one diocese in Italy, but living in another diocese in the U.S. Neither Bishop has any real control over what he says and does. To which Bishops does Fr. Z. owe his vow of obedience? His followers oppose or simply ignore the Pontificate of Pope Francis. And Fr. Z. has a program where his supporters pay him a monthly donation, each on a particular day of the month. Sometimes he complains that he only has a few persons for one particular calendar day or another. He needs no financial support from a diocese. His flock is online. He teaches whatever he wants. Much of what he teaches is good; some of what he teaches contradicts the teaching of Popes and Councils. And his followers do not care. They follow him over and above any Pope or Council. It is as if he has his own sui juris electronic Church.

I’ve digressed from my main point. The topic is what will these new lay Catechists teach? Will they follow in the footsteps of the aforementioned online self-appointed teachers (of which I apparently am one)? Will their role be similar, but in the local parish or diocese?

The document Ancient Ministry does not specify any particular course of instruction. It does not require the Catechists to take an oath of fidelity to the teachings of the Church. It does not require them to accept and teach what the Church teaches. It does not ensure that they will teach what Vatican II and Pope Francis teach.

I think it is very likely that many pastors will take their first Catechists and have them regularly give sermons in place of a priest or deacon. This is the very clericalization that Pope Francis stated should be avoided. Then there is the prior experience the parishes have with RCIA teachers. It is widely reported online that very grave doctrinal errors are presented in RCIA as if these were Church doctrine. There is no system suggested by the Pope to prevent this in the lay ministry of the Catechist, or to correct any of the above Teaching-Problems in the Church today.

The document sends out an army of Catechists, with no clear direction as to what to teach or how to teach it. It is like vast army of well-ordered troops, who, at the start of the battle, suddenly disperse in every direction: “Every man for himself!” They will teach all manner of doctrinal errors, and there is no way to correct them. Bishops already are unable to correct Catholic politicians, heretical priests and theologians, and badly-misinformed RCIA teachers.

This new lay ministry can and eventually will develop into something good. But in the short term, it is likely to add to the main problem in the Church today: Who Decides Truth?

The spread of the heretical claim that Roman Pontiffs and Ecumenical Councils can teach grave error is a rejection of the role given to Popes and to the body of Bishops to decide upon truth. Instead, each individual decides for himself or herself what is and is not truth. This happens on the right, among conservative Catholics, many of whom have utterly rejected the very authority of Pope Francis and of Vatican II. Then it happens on the left, among liberal Catholics who adapt the Gospel to the errors of modern society.

The teaching of the Church on contraception and on sexual ethics has little support among the laity. Many of these new Catechists will be married persons who use contraception. Some will be persons who think that same-sex marriage is no different than the Sacrament of Marriage. Some will be persons who oppose Pope Francis. Some will teach a far left version of the Gospel; others, a far right version. Perhaps more commonly, each Catechist will teach his or her own peculiar misunderstandings of the Faith.

Instruction of Catechists is likely to be scant and filled with error. There are very few faithful Teachers in the Church today. Many Bishops have become largely administrators. Many priests are overwhelmed with responsibilities due to the priest shortage, and so they avoid any doctrinal controversies in the parish.

What the Church needs is a Roman Pontiff who will correct the errors of the present age, a Pope who will issue documents condemning continued rejection of magisterial teaching on contraception, sexual ethics, salvation, and especially rejection of Church authority given to Popes and Councils. The Church needs a papal document that unequivocally condemns anyone who accuses any Roman Pontiff of heresy, apostasy, idolatry, or of erring gravely on doctrine or discipline, along with anyone who rejects any teaching of any Ecumenical Council. The Church needs direction from the papacy, or from a new Ecumenical Council, to correct the errors of the left and the right, with penalties for any priest, deacons, religious, or lay person who teaches the contrary.

These lay Catechists are being sent out with a blank notebook in place of a Catechism. Some will use the Catechism of the Catholic Church, certainly. But experience shows that this book has not sufficed to stem the tide of teachers who teach whatever they like. These lay Catechists are being sent in no particular direction, to teach and do whatever they like.

Who will oversee them? Who will teach or correct them? If a Catechist teaches grave error, what will a Bishops do who receives a letter complaining about those errors?

There is nothing wrong with the new lay ministry of Catechist itself. But it cannot succeed without clear direction, instruction, and correction from the sole successors to the Apostles, the Pope and the Bishops. No revival of lay involvement in the Church can succeed without are revival of the ministries of Roman Pontiff and Bishop.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
“not a Catechist”

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5 Responses to What Will These Lay Catechists Teach? Whatever They Want

  1. Thomas Mazanec says:

    I know that Popes and Ecumenical Councils teach the Truth. But I cannot ask them questions, I have to ask my Priest or Catechist.

  2. Matt Z. says:

    I hope there will more as well from our Holy Father about this.

    The document states ” I invite the Episcopal Conferences to render effective the ministry of Catechist, determining the necessary process of formation and the normative criteria for admission to this ministry and devising the most appropriate forms for the service which these men and women will be called to exercise in conformity with the content of this Apostolic Letter.”

    So it will be the USCCB who determines what kind of formation the Catechist takes. I am an Associate member of the Marian Catechist Apostolate started by Father Hardon. The USCCB would be wise to use Fr.Hardon’s Catechist Courses for the Marian Catechists Apostolate as the criteria to be a Catechist.

  3. Paul M says:

    Ron, do you think this is a bone being thrown in lieu of female deacons?

    • Ron Conte says:

      No, I don’t think so. It may be a step towards women deacons. We now have women installed acolytes and lectors, women lay Catechists, and ordained women deacons would be the next step. This is a coherent plan, in steps, I think.

      But what would women deacons teach? What will any of these persons believe and teach?

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