Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

It Takes a Parish...

Our parish cheerfully announced in last week's bulletin that "It takes a whole parish to raise a child." (This was followed by a notice that the tuition for CCD this year will be $50 and signups begin this week.)

Now, to begin with, it seems idiotic to adopt a Hillary Clinton slogan to use in a Catholic parish. But beyond that, it strikes me as untrue. I certainly would not say that either of the at which parishes I attended parochial school (I was in Catholic schools from K-5 and homeschooled thereafter) 'raised' me, nor that the religious education programs at the parishes we were members of later on were ever anything other than a cross to bear.

Some of this, clearly, is a result of the unfortunate trends in parish life and catechesis over the last fifty years. Nonetheless -- even if I lived in a parish where I wasn't convinced that whoever was charged with providing my children with CCD classes would not merely fail to know many things about the faith, but also 'know' many things which are no the case -- I would honestly rather not have such classes be the primary religious education for my children. Nor, even if my parish were a veritable heaven on earth, would I consider the parish to have 'raised' my children in the faith.

While I think many other orthodox or traditional-ish Catholics would agree with my sentiments here, I've been told by various people (both traditional and progressive) that once upon a time many Catholic parents did very much feel that their parish communities and institutions were responsible for raising their children in the faith. Part of me simply wants to retort, "Yes, and we can see how well that worked" but I can't help wondering if struggling against the catechetical adversity of the last half century has made the attitude of orthodox Catholic parents fundamentally more individualistic than it was in times past.

Have we come to embrace "Holy Mother Church" in terms of doctrine and hierarchy in Rome, but declared undue independence from local institutions such as parishes? One of the things that attracts me so powerfully to the Catholic Church is that it not merely an institution (by definition limited, imperfect and of its time) but rather the guardian of the body of doctrine which brings us knowledge of God, Himself the ultimate absolute, eternal, all powerful, unchanging, perfect, wholly out of time. But in embracing the Catholic Church absolutely, it is necessarily to give absolute fealty to the local parish and diocese, or may these human institutions be treated in the way I, as a conservative, tend to want to treat institutions: with caution if not suspicion and a strong desire to maintain my independence.


Rick Lugari said...

I've been told...once upon a time many Catholic parents did very much feel that their parish communities and institutions were responsible for raising their children in the faith.

I think that is an oversimplification. I can't speak from experience because I was a product of bad ol' days (born in the mid-sixties), but the sense I get is that ultimately it was the parents who took on the role and just used the institution of the Church as the best means. The Church (in the persons of priests and nuns) were the best resource parents had at their disposal. I think there is a disinction there.

Now, the institutional Church isn't necessarily the best resource a parent has, and to the contrary - and scandalously - it can be the worse thing a parent can do for their kid.

My catechesis (in the 1970's) was horrid, but some of the stories I've heard over the last 10 years are insane.

So these days, if you're serious about raising your kid in the faith, you have to do it all yourself because Fr. Just-call-me-Jim-Bob and the sweat-suit clad Sister Earthy will give your child the best Unitarian education money can buy.

Also, I think culturally there was a difference. Parish life was important for everyone. It was the center of the neaighborhood, so to speak. Neighbors cared about one another and were friends. They looked after one another as well. The average parish had two or three priests and they were very accessible. Church doors were always open, etc. It was simply a different time.

Fred said...

I need as much help as I can get educating my kids: school, religious ed, Boy Scouts, etc. At the same time, we try to remember that we are the primary educators of our children and we need to do as much as possible to educate our children every day and to help them to understand their other education in the best possible context (born in 1967, I was Catholic school K-4; thereafter public school, which was not as good and not as bad as Catholic school).

Anonymous said...

My dad is not Catholic, but my mother is...and she has always talked about what it was like growing up in her parish during the Depression. They had the same pastor for years and he was like a true Father to all. She always talked about the dedicated sisters that taught in their school and what an impact they had on everyone. The parish was small and everybody knew everybody.
So when we were kids, they sent us to Catholic schools (all through college)trusting that we would be educated in the faith like she was. When my older sister and brother started out it wasn't too bad....lots of nuns and Catholic textbooks. However, in the mid 60's, the schools started receiving funds from the state and local school district and the Catholic textbooks disappeared because they couldn't use public money to buy them. The nuns slowly disappeared too. My mom was raised to trust in the school and parish and didn't question what we were learning, even though it puzzled her at times. So we learned alot of "fluff" as I call it. I was frustrated with the religious textbook I had to use when I was teaching in a Catholic school back in the 80's. It wasn't until the early 90's, when we had children ourselves, that my husband and I really got into our faith and knew we had to teach them ourselves..there are many resources out there now then there were 15-20 years ago...
Sorry for the long comment...hehe..
God's blessings on your family...

Pro Ecclesia said...

In moving to our town in Ohio, we took a gamble that parish, Catholic school and community would be the best resources for helping us (as recent converts) to raise our kids Catholic.

It's still early, but so far we've been impressed by our experiences here. I hope we haven't set ourselves up for disappointment.

Anonymous said...

I was born into and baptized in the old-style parish structure, where much of social life was centered around the parish. My mom's family even more so. Grade school was filled with habited sisters.

Then the post-V2 "reforms" kicked in, my parents divorced, we moved from central Ohio to that paradise, Ann Arbor, and from then on it was public school with CCD classes with the hippie crowd. And it was up to me to catch the bus to get to CCD, and if I didn't go, well, no big deal. Needless to say that, since then, I've heard rumors of "sisters" and "nuns," but I'm not sure that I've actually seen any. (OK, I kid, I've seen one or two. On TV)

The parish-as-community idea largely died then. It was killed off by those that thought it necessary to make the Church hip and cool, and ended up making it pointless and boring. It was then that people stopped treating their parish as a community, as their own social circle, and they started engaging in parish-shopping, where they went to the parish of their choice, rather than the one within their geographic location, which might be filled with hippies (from the orthodox or traditionalist's point of view) or it might be run by those patriarchical dinosaurs (from the lib-progressive point of view).

Sadly, this is also inconsistent with canon law, which clearly indicates that neighborhood parishes are preferable -- largely for the reason that they can then be a local community, rather than a bunch of strangers from different areas.

John Paul the Great may have made substantial inroads in remedying the catastrophic effects of many of the V2 "reforms" (hence one of the reasons that he is great), but I'm afraid that we have a couple of generations at least before we can feel safe enough to return to the norm of the neighborhood parish.

Anonymous said...

Were it not for that initial parish-as-community model, I would have permanently fallen away long ago. Were it left merely to my parents -- my non-Catholic dad and my mom, who has several Hans Kung books on her shelf and subscribes to U.S. Catholic and the National Catholic Reporter, and who never insisted that I go to CCD or Mass, and never even had me confirmed -- were it left to them, I would truly be one of the "lost."

Thankfully, my intial exposure to Sister Jean Marian and Sister Maria and old Sister Edward (?) apparently had a great impact on me because that mustard seed of Faith that they implanted simply would not stay dormant, but insisted on growing and growing (although not actively until after high school).

Praying Twice said...

"with caution if not suspicion and a strong desire to maintain my independence."

'Tis a shame we must approach our parishes like this, but alas, we must. As my oldest child approaches the age of reason (well, in a few years) I must admit that I am very hesitant to leave him at the local parish for an hour every weekend for CCD. Needless to say, I'll be keeping a sharp eye on what happens behind the closed doors and much supplementing will happen at home.