I have two words for Bishop Paul S. Loverde: thank you. If I could add three more: it’s about time.
In May, the bishop announced that he would be mandating an “Oath of Fidelity”, requiring them to submit “will and intellect” to the teachings of the Catholic Church. I didn’t have to reflect for long on this new requirement to see its wisdom, and the more I think about it, the more grateful I am that Bishop Loverde has exercised his leadership in this attempt to preserve the traditions of my Faith from personal interpretation and distortion. I think that requiring a profession of faith for catechists makes complete sense and is justifiable for several reasons.
First, the church is a membership organization with the right to regulate its membership, just like any other organization. When a person is accepted into the Catholic Church, he or she must profess the faith and then be baptized. Membership is not compulsory, but in order to maintain one’s good standing, a person must continue to profess what the church teaches.
Secondly, contrary to popular desire, the church is not a democracy. Its members profess the faith given to us by Jesus Christ; they don’t create the faith. As members and representatives of the church, we follow its rules. In making a profession of faith, far from abandoning our reason (as is commonly asserted), we more easily avoid error and are freer to come to a greater understanding of ourselves and our relationship to God and neighbor than we would be able to achieve independently.
As Christ so elegantly in teaches in John’s Gospel, “the truth will set you free.” Once I accept the truth, I can use my reason to come to a deeper understanding of the things that I already know are true, rather than worry about whether I know anything correctly in the first place.
With so much of the spirit of confusion about who we are as a church and as individuals prevailing after Vatican II, it is appropriate that on the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, our spiritual leaders would try to bring a renewed order and clarity to the transmission of the authentic teachings of the church, especially in educating our children who trust us so much. Last year, I signed a document similar to this one as a requirement to teach at a Catholic school in the diocese. At various points throughout the year, I recalled that I had signed that document, and it made me a better teacher because I was more careful to formulate what I taught in an accurate way. Oaths have that effect sometimes, for those who take them seriously.
So essentially, if I decide that I want to help out in my parish, a Catholic school, or other organization where I am representing the Catholic Church, then it is completely within reason that Church leaders would have the right to regulate what I teach in their name. It defies logic to assert that teachers of the Catholic faith should be free to misrepresent what that faith is.
Ultimately, I think we need to realize that what this comes down to is a classic case of don’t shoot the messenger. Bishop Loverde didn’t invent the teachings of the cChurch, Jesus did, and as bishop he is simply asking us to be honest in passing along those teachings when we call ourselves Catholic catechists. As a Catholic school teacher, a former CCD teacher, and now an aspiring seminarian, I am grateful to Bishop Loverde and our other church leaders who are working tirelessly to preserve the unity of our faith through a renewed and clear commitment to the truth who is Jesus Christ.
Bill Erwin is a teacher at Seton School in Manassas. He plans to enter the seminary this fall.