The Carmelite Shoppe would like to share an excellent Essay by Fr. Marvin Deutsch:
The Vat Council had some very good documents, for example, the one on Divine Revelation...However, the lack of one on Catholic Education and the loss of Catholic teaching of the basics, was a terrible tragedy for the Church which is only now slowly being corrected....Pray for the Church......Fr. Marvin
The Missing document of Vatican II
Why is it that most Catholics before Vatican II were well educated in the knowledge of the basic teaching of the Catholic Church? The answer is a very simple one. They all studied the same doctrine as contained in the Baltimore Catechism which included in a rather simple way, questions and answers regarding who God is, the 7 sacraments, the Creed and the 10 commandments. Every Catholic child studied the same thing, and those taught by the nuns in grade school even memorized the whole catechism. And so what happened after the Vatican council when all of a sudden all this teaching suddenly disappeared? The answer to this question which seems to be a mystery to many is what I want to explain here.
There were 16 documents discussed and approved by the over the 2000 Bishops of the Catholic Church who attended the Vatican Council from 1962 - 1965. Why were there only 16 and not 17, 18, or even more? The answer is not complicated. Before the Vatican Council began, a questionnaire was sent out to all the Catholic Bishops of the world asking them what topics they would like included for discussion at the council. Their answers to this questionnaire indicated what the topics should be and it came to 16.
Unfortunately, a topic not proposed was Catholic education. Unbeknown to the Bishops at the time, the result of this lacuna was catastrophic. Most likely they did not consider that there was anything missing in the teaching of the doctrine as it then stood. And so what happened? After the Council, the catechism was thrown out and with its withdrawal, so went out the window the understanding of the basics of the Catholic Church. There was nothing to replace it. The liberals took over the writing of the new books to be used in grade school, high school and in CCD classes, etc. The so called social gospel - do good to, and love everybody and treat every one as an equal (tolerance), took over. Political and social justice became more important than the justification of the individual soul through repentance, Faith, forgiveness and the grace of Jesus Christ leading to salvation.
As I said above, the result was catastrophic. If the commandments and the sacraments were no longer taught, they must not be very important, and why then should anyone go to confession on a regular basis, or at all? If the commandments were not taught, then the problem of sin ceases to exist. And of course, if these things are not important, why is it necessary to go to mass every Sunday? And, what then is the difference between being a Catholic or belonging to some other Christian denomination? We are all Christians and pretty much alike anyways. During that period following the council no one seemed to know for sure what the Catholic Church taught. The result was several generations of uneducated Catholics. As stated above, many saw little difference between the Catholic Church and other Christian religions. The number attending weekly mass plummeted from 80% to 25%. Catholic parents who sent their children to Catholic schools thinking they would be taught the basics, were later shocked to find out their children knew very little of what is essential in the Church's teaching. When their children stopped going to Church, there was much grief, but what to do about it?
I would like to quote from Cardinal Ratzinger's book, The Ratzinger Report which describes how bad things had gotten in the 70,s and 80,s:
It is incontestable that the last 10 years (1975-1985) have been decidedly unfavorable for the Catholic Church…What the Popes and the council Fathers were expecting was a new Catholic unity, and instead one has encountered a dissension which, to use the words of Paul VI, seems to have passed over from self-criticism to self-destruction…There had been expectations of a step forward, and instead one found oneself facing a progressive process of decadence that to a large measure has been unfolding under the sign of a summons to a presumed 'spirit of the Council' and by doing so has actually increasingly discredited it. (pp 29-30)
It wasn't until Pope John Paul II sought to remedy the problem that anything meaningful was done. Sometime in the 1980s John Paul II proposed the writing of a new Catechism of the Catholic Church. Cardinal Ratzinger was put in charge and the delegated the task of coordination to the archbishop of Vienna, Christopher Schonborn. . Learned theologians from all over the world were asked to write different parts of the new catechism…The end product took several years. After many amendments it turned out very good and included 4 main topics typical of what all Catholic catechisms should be: The Creed, (The Profession of the Faith); the 10 commandments, (Christian Morality and the Life of Christ); The Sacraments, (The Celebration of the Christian Mystery) and Prayer. It was filled with scripture quotes and other quotes from not only the Vatican Council, but other councils too, and also quotes from the Fathers of the Church. What was lacking in the Baltimore Catechism, references to sacred scripture, was remedied. This was very much needed, for after all, the Word of God is the soul of all our beliefs. The project was finished in 1992 although the English version was only completed some years later.
The difficulty of learning the New Catechism is the very length of it. There are courses being taught at Catholic colleges where Catholic Studies is the main curriculum. Some of these are available for older people as well. What has been accomplished? - Smaller books have been written which include these topics geared for the various levels of education - grade school, high school, college, RCIA courses, etc. Some of these are very good. It certainly is a vast improvement from those days following the Vatican Council. People can learn, if they want to, although the numbers who are well educated in the teaching of the Church today are still very few. Many Catholics have formed study groups, not only regarding the catechism but scripture study and prayer groups which have gone along ways to improving Catholic life for many. Much more needs to be done if once again we will have Catholics who know, love, and follow all that the Catholic Church teaches. This is the unity that Jesus wants for his Church.
The problem is complicated because many of the Catholic grade and high schools no longer have well trained orthodox Catholic teachers. There are some exceptions, however. If parents are sending their children to Catholic schools, it is a very good idea for them to check out the religious education department to see how authentic it is.
Fr. Marvin Deutsch, M.M.