Thursday, January 29, 2004

Every few weeks, there'll be a post on Mark Shea's blog like this one about how they went to RCIA and held hands and sang Kumbaya and were handed condoms on their way out the door each week along with a list of places to go to have a same sex wedding until the Church comes around on that issue.

Almost invaraibly, there will be a response like this one, along the lines of, "well, I had the same experience, and then I found this terrific orthodox preist who taught me the Real Faith in a series of one-on-one meetings, so I didn't have to put up with that nonsense."

And that sounds great, but in looking in the Catholic blogs, these seem to be the people most disillusioned by the scandals, as well as by the Church in general (though I may be colored by one prominent person with a conversion story similar to this.)

Why is this? I suspect that what RCIA is really good at is hooking people up with the horizontal aspect of being Catholic, being part of a community, and yes, this is an important part of being Catholic. The one on one instruction does a better job of getting across the instruction, but doesn't neccesarily help the catechumen to be part of a Christian community. These are generalizations -- I'm sure there's RCIA programs that do a great job on doctrine, and individual instructors who integrate the instruction with the life of the community.

Many of those who seek out the one on one instruction are in a very real sense already converted (hence their frustration with the conversion of heart based early RCIA sessions), while those showing up at an RCIA meeting aren't yet. This is why RCIA doesn't begin with the Catechism, which wasn't designed to be a text book anyway. This is also why it includes things like discussing the readings, which means getting the inquirers or catechumens in touch with the rhythm of the liturgical year. The goal is to have the catechumen accept Jesus, from which he will be disposed to accept the teachinga. The individual learner already accepts the teaching, and just needs to learn more about it.

This leaves each with unique problems.

The RCIA neophyte may be poorly equipped to handle challenges to Church teachings, either from his own deisres or the culture.

The individual instruction neophyte may be poorly equipped to handle scandals in the hierarchy, or teachings he personally disagrees with. Since the community doesn't do much for him, why stick around?

I think we need to find a method of catechesis that combines the best of these methods. The witness of many wonderful converts shows that our current methods aren't entirely failing, but there's certainly room for improvement.

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