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When Failing Grades Are Not Enough: How Long Will Be Allow This To Happen To Our Religious Education Programs?

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A public school with a dropout rate of 50 percent and two-thirds of area parents opting out of it would be considered failing.  If that is the case what does this say about the current state of Religious Education in the Catholic Church?  With ? of all Catholic families choosing not to enroll their children in religious education is there little wonder that less than 70% of the people of confirmation age nowadays are confirmed?

 If a school were unable to turn those numbers around in a few years, it would likely be shut down. Yet, we are accepting these dismal figures in the Church.  Why?  Shouldn’t religious education be more important than secular education in the scale of things?

And yet  there is not a real panic because for decades now, Catholic parishes in the United States have invested in religious education programs that have proven no more effective. Today, more than half of Catholic millennials report going to MassC a few times a year or less, and, according to a 2014 poll, 68 percent of Catholic parents decide not to enroll their child in any formal Catholic religious education.

Regardless of sacramental practice, most Catholic parents today do not currently have their children enrolled in Catholic school-based or a parish-based religious education program. In all, more than two-thirds, 68 percent, do not have any of their children enrolled in formal Catholic religious education. Here again there are some differences by frequency of Mass attendance with 42 percent of weekly Mass attenders having a child enrolled in a parish-based religious education compared to 27 percent of monthly attenders,  11 percent of those attending a few times a year and only 4 percent of those who rarely or never attend Mass.

A new survey confirms what many have suspected: Catholics born in the 1980s and ’90s are less likely to be active in parish life and are more doubtful about God’s existence than their older peers. That’s according to a study published Tuesday by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, which revisited a 2008 survey in order to look for changes in how Catholics of all ages practice the faith.

The interesting thing about this study and these facts is that this is not a new problem.  Pope Leo XIII addressed this very same problem 124 years ago in his AFFARI VOS ,  when on the 18th day of December, 1897:

The Need of Religious Education

5. There is another point upon which those will agree with us who differ from us in everything else; it is not by means of a purely scientific education and with vague and superficial notions of morality that Catholic children will leave school such as the country desires and expects. Other serious and important teachings must be given to them if they are to turn out good Christians and upright and honest citizens; it is necessary that they should be formed on those principles which, deeply engraving on their consciences, they ought to follow and obey, because they naturally spring from their faith and religion. Without religion there can be no moral education deserving of the name, nor of any good, for the very nature and force of all duty comes from those special duties which bind man to God, who commands, forbids, and determines what is good and evil. And so, to be desirous that minds should be imbued with good and at the same time to leave them without religion is as senseless as to invite people to virtue after having taken away the foundations on which it rests. For the Catholic there is only one true religion, the Catholic religion; and, therefore, when it is a question of the teaching of morality or religion, he can neither accept nor recognize any which is not drawn from Catholic doctrine.

6. Justice and reason then demand that the school shall supply our scholars not only with a scientific system of instruction but also a body of moral teaching which, as we have said, is in harmony with the principles of their religion, without which, far from being of use, education can be nothing but harmful. From this comes the necessity of having Catholic masters and reading books and textbooks approved by the Bishops, of being free to regulate the school in a manner which shall be in full accord with the profession of the Catholic faith as well as with all the duties which flow from it. Furthermore, it is the inherent right of a father’s position to see in what institutions his children shall be educated, and what masters shall teach them moral precepts. When, therefore, Catholics demand, as it is their duty to demand and work, that the teaching given by schoolmasters shall be in harmony with the religion of their children, they are contending justly. And nothing could be more unjust than to compel them to choose an alternative, or to allow the children to grow up in ignorance or to throw them amid an environment which constitutes a manifest danger for the supreme interests of their souls. These principles of judgment and action which are based upon truth and justice, and which form the safeguards of public as well as private interests, it is unlawful to call in question or in any way to abandon. And so, when the new legislation came to strike Catholic education in the Province of Manitoba, it was your duty, Venerable Brethren, publicly to protest against injustice and the blow that had been dealt; and the way in which you fulfilled this duty has furnished a striking proof of your individual vigilance and of your true episcopal zeal. Although upon this point each one of you finds sufficient approbation in the witness of his own conscience, know nevertheless that we also join with it our assent and approval. For the things that you have sought and still seek to preserve and defend are most holy.

Brothers and sisters, Pope Leo XIII once again hit the mark talking about something that was almost 125 years in the future. Our future and future of the Church will rest upon our religious education of today.  We can not wait until this gets fixed.  We must take action right here and right now.  There is no more important job in the Church than that of a teacher.  If you want to help- tell your priest, no demand of your religious education director that you would like to teach the youth of your parish.  Your priest needs you, your parish needs you, and your Church needs you now and forever. Amen.  Comment below.

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