Though some parishes have a great program that teach solid Catholic doctrine, too many parish programs are filled with laymen who teach heresies or distort traditional doctrines, and these 'teachings' are passed on to unsuspecting candidates that do not know any better. In many parishes, pastors are not the ones conducting the classes and have picked certain people from the parish, with many being progressive Catholics, to take over the responsibility of teaching with little or no oversight and so abuses abound. If the Church is capable of standing up against abortion, restructuring the whole system of protecting children from abusive priests and putting on the brakes against same sex marriage, then what of the RCIA program? What will it take to build a solid RCIA program that is standard in all parishes and requires strict supervision over what is taught?
The troubles concerning RCIA hit home this week when a protestant friend of mine emailed me and told me of her experience. Due to scheduling problems because of university classes falling on nights that RCIA classes were conducted, she has inquired from a certain parish what was needed to enter the RCIA program and how to work around the scheduling conflicts. A protestant from birth, she began to study the Church in relation to her own faith and has come to see the Catholic Church as the one, true Church and has fallen in love with it. She now has an overwhelming desire to see this through and become a Catholic.
She has met with the Deacon and spoke to him at length, yet since that meeting, she has heard nothing more. She has sent multiple emails to the parish office asking about their program, but has yet to receive a reply. Not stopping there, she also called another parish in the area about their program and left a message. Nothing. There is one other parish that she considered calling but thought better of it. She knew from having gone to mass at this third parish that it would not be for her. She herself called it a "Catholic Lite" church, and this is from a protestant.
She searched deeper into the RCIA and found that doctrinal errors are being taught and everyone seems to know, yet nothing is done about it. She found the mentality of those that know of the abuses and errors, as unacceptable. In her email to me she writes a summary of what she's found of the prevailing thought in RCIA;
"So you want to enter the Church? We are going to help you. You may get real fortunate and end up in a class that is faithful to the teachings of the Church, or you may end up being taught things that contradicts Church teachings. If you end up in the latter, we are just going to assume that it won't matter. People are fallible, and you just have to overlook that they may teach you heresies. In this case, heresies are no big deal. Heresies or not-- you must attend these classes. Cross your fingers and hopefully we'll see ya at graduation. Have fun!"
Further excerpts of her email to me, remember, she is a protestant... emphaisis mine.
I've spent my LIFETIME attending classes that teach heresies!!!!!! It's called 'Sunday School' in a Protestant Church! I've DONE my time. My whole reason for being attracted to the Church was that she is supposed to be consistent in her doctrine. It isn't as if you all are taking a guess here as to what the Church teaches. You've got the manual that is not up for personal interpretations!
But the RCIA gets treated as if heresies and inconsistencies are 'no big deal.' For crying out loud-- THIS is the doorway you all have proclaimed is the gateway to the Church. We protestants don't get in unless through this means-- and it gets treated by the Church with less consideration than a University in Peru?? http://www.catholicnewsagency.
Everybody gets all up in arms over a Catholic Hospital or place of business having to provide artificial birth control (and I am too, I promise you!) but when it comes to people entering the Church, there is a yawn. "Yeah, man............we probably ought to do better when it comes to teaching the catechism, but it's not that important to us. As long as the people show up, we'll trust God to take care of it in the end. It doesn't matter-- there are way more important things to be worried about."
Yes. Abortion is important. It's about the sanctity of Life. Entering the Church is about the sanctity of Life, too. Condoms don't cause abortions, but they impede the potential to life. The requirement of a badly done RCIA class is like a big condom-- it impedes the potential to an individual's life within the Church.
But there is something dreadfully, sinfully wrong when a group of people shrug at something that is this important and say, "Yeah, there are some problems with the system, but that's how it is."
The 'that's how it is' mentality ain't gonna cut it. I've seen more stuff written on the need for Latin Masses than I have the practices of RCIA classes. I think it is commendable and understandable that the Church want prospective members to discern the body and be aware of what the Church teaches. I also find it deplorable that they have selected such a lousy and untrustworthy method of implementing it. It is possible that it would be faster for me to join an Episcopal Church and then take the' back door' into the Catholic Church than it would be for me to wait on an RCIA class that I could attend-- and THEN risk getting fed some real garbage.
Her email was not pretty and yet, she spoke the truth. I cringed when I read it. It is not only the bishops that are responsible for this travesty, but priests and the Catholic layman alike for allowing this to go on without putting up a bigger stink about it. There are several things that the Church could do to try to alleviate the problems existing in the RCIA program. There are no quick fixes but here are some suggestions that may be viable enough to be worked on and developed:
1. Bishops, in a joint session and all in agreement, need to issue a guideline as to what will be taught in RCIA. That guideline needs to be comprised of strong, authentic Catholic doctrine without any deviancy of what will be taught in ALL parish RCIA programs. Furthermore, 'touchy' issues such as women's ordination, the real presence in the Eucharist, marriage between a man and a woman, contraception and abortion, and acceptance of homosexuality must not be presented to those entering the RCIA as issues that are still open to debate. They are not. The Church has spoken on these issues and the debate is over.
2. Pastors and/or Deacons have to take on a greater role in teaching these classes, or at the very least, oversee what is taught. No longer are layman to be assigned in this role without strict supervision. We have seen the results of this lack of oversight in the last forty years. The diocese also needs to take a greater role in making sure what the parish teaches is in line with Church doctrine, and that is not always the case.
3. If the Church is to invite people to the RCIA, then it should be ready to give a quick reply to those inquiring about becoming Catholic. There is nothing that will put off a future member of the Church more than getting the impression no seems to care by not replying to their inquiries in a reasonable time.
4. Sponsors that are chosen to share their faith and help an RCIA candidate through their discernment, need to be chosen for their adherence to orthodoxy. That is not to say they have to be put through an inquisition, but rather, that the sponsor should be asked certain questions concerning doctrine and does not hold and teach deviations to doctrine because of ignorance or willful disobedience to the Church. Remember, sponsors are chosen by the candidates and are usually someone that the latter trusts as a Catholic friend. A sponsor may go to mass every Sunday and regularly receive the sacraments and to an observer, may seem very faithful, but that does not mean they do not hold errant doctrinal thoughts as though they are Church approved.
I will not say that all parish RCIA programs are failures for they are not, but a person such as my friend should not have to shop around to find a parish that teaches doctrinally sound classes. We should all be on the same page. We've lost a whole generation of Catholics due to poor catachesis and the continual sweeping of the problems of the RCIA under the rug will produce another unless systematic changes are made to the program.
On a sadder note, because of all the obstacles placed in my friends path, she is now entertaining the idea that perhaps God doesn't want her to enter His Church. And it's all our fault.