Recently Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Archdiocese of Denver gave a talk in which he addressed the state of catechesis. Catechesis is the passing on of the Tradition of the Faith. If you read the New Testament Book of Acts you will find the model of the Church as lived by the first Christians. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread (Eucharist) and the prayers. (Acts 2:42 NRSV)” We are formed in our faith. But we are also formed by the influence of secular culture.
Archbishop Chaput decries the influence our secular culture has had on us in areas such as the dignity of human life and marriage. Many Catholics buy into the secularism that denies certain immutable truths of the Catholic faith living a sort of compartmentalized Catholicism that participates in certain parts of the faith while denying others. We see this with Catholic political figures that shamefully scandalize the Church by open dissent from essential Catholic teachings.
Archbishop Chaput points out that many other Catholics simply operate out of a lack of understanding of the doctrines we profess. It’s not that they are maliciously denying Catholic truths, but often they simply don’t understand the Catholic position on certain moral issues. This is when you get Catholics who see know harm in advocating for so-called “gay marriage,” for instance. Without a fundamental understanding of the Catholic doctrines concerning marriage and family, they fail to see why the Church affirms with conviction that true marriage may only be lived in the context of a male and female relationship.
The bishop advocates for better catechesis, for a more effective handing on of the truths of the Faith. He reminds us, “We can’t share what we don’t have. If we’re embarrassed about Church teachings, or if we disagree with them, or if we’ve decided that they’re just too hard to live by, or too hard to explain, then we’ve already defeated ourselves. We really need to believe what we claim to believe. We need to stop calling ourselves ‘Catholic’ if we don’t stand with the Church in her teachings—- all of them. But if we really are Catholic, or at least if we want to be, then we need to act like it with obedience and zeal and a fire for Jesus Christ in our hearts. God gave us the faith in order to share it. This takes courage. It takes a deliberate dismantling of our own vanity. When we do that, the Church is strong. When we don’t, she grows weak. It’s that simple. In a culture of confusion, the Church is our only reliable guide. So let’s preach and teach our Catholic beliefs with passion. And let’s ask God to make us brave enough to follow our faith to its radical conclusions.”