A GENERATION BETRAYED:
Deconstructing Catholic Education in the English-Speaking World
by Eamonn Keane
(Hatherleigh Press, 2002, XXII + 316pp, hardback, $65.00. Available from AD Books)
Many people, on realising the sad state of religious education in schools and universities, are perplexed as to how this could have happened. Eamonn Keane's book provides answers.
He uncovers the foundations of the process, concentrating on the influence of two of the most prominent figures in present-day catechetics: Thomas Groome and Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza. Their influence is by no means restricted to the United States, but pervades catechetics throughout the English-speaking world.
Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, says in his Preface: "It is difficult to exaggerate the value that one will be able to attribute to the fine work by Eamonn Keane." In her Foreword, Donna Steichen states: "In this invaluable book, Eamonn Keane documents and meticulously refutes the errors that have turned the treasure-house of Catholic education into a toxic wasteland." Monsignor Michael Wrenn of New York, in his Introduction, praises Mr Keane's "masterful expose of the errors of Thomas H. Groome."
Errors and distortions
Thomas Groome, a laicised priest, is a Professor of Theology and Religious Education at Boston College. Elizabeth Fiorenza is a Professor of Divinity at the Harvard Divinity School.
When John Paul II issued his Apostolic Letter Ad Tuendam Fidem, which made changes in the Code of Canon Law aimed at protecting Catholic doctrine against current errors, Groome responded: "It's a pretentious attempt by the present Pope to stifle conversation and dialogue." He added: "I read the blessed thing and without being melodramatic, I was on the verge of tears. It is a very sad day."
A Generation Betrayed shows that the methods employed by Groome and Fiorenza are not designed to teach the Faith, but to undermine it in favour of an outlook incompatible with orthodox Christianity.
Many quotes are given to demonstrate errors and distortions by these "catechetical experts" in regard to key areas of the Faith, including the Blessed Trinity, Christ, the hierarchical Church and the priesthood. Mr Keane provides documentation for his claims, and also gives excellent summaries of the true doctrine, with numerous references to recent Church documents.
Four Australian case studies are provided, showing how the faulty methodology and errors promoted by Groome and Fiorenza have permeated the teaching of religion in our Catholic institutes. After reading these, one should not be surprised at the results of a survey conducted by Professor Dennis McLaughlin of the beliefs, values and practices of student teachers at Australian Catholic University (see chapter eleven).
Conducted at campuses in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, the survey shows, among other things, that most student teachers don't believe that the bread and wine become Christ's body and blood in the Eucharist, most reject the Chuch's teaching on premarital sex, 62 per cent think women should be ordained, and only two per cent say they accept Catholic teaching on contraception and divorce.
It is disturbing that in the Parramatta Diocese in New South Wales, its recently revised education curriculum Sharing Our Story speaks approvingly of Thomas Groome's methodology and uses it extensively.
A Generation Betrayed should be read by bishops, priests, teachers, parents - indeed, by everyone interested in religious education. It not only throws a flood of light on what is wrong in modern catechetics, but shows with admirable clarity what the Church really teaches on the vital issues being so tragically contested today.
John Young is a Sydney writer on theology and philosophy.