CRISIS IN RELIGIOUS EDUCATION
by Eamonn Keane
(Association for Renewal of Religious Education, Sydney, 2003, 80pp, $8.00 plus postage. Available from the publisher, PO Box 56, Pennant Hills, NSW 2125, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
This booklet is a synthesised version of Eamonn Keane's larger work titled A Generation Betrayed. The summary on the back cover states the book's purpose: "Throughout the English-speaking world, Catholic religious education has been heavily influenced by the ideas of Thomas Groome. His method of religious education, which he calls Shared Christian Praxis, is a blueprint for the destruction of Catholic Faith. Nevertheless, his ideas underpin the religious education curricula of several Australian Catholic dioceses. Do you know the type of religious education your children are being exposed to? If not, it is in their eternal interests that you find out. This book by Eamonn Keane will assist you do this."
With persuasive logic, Keane shows that not only is Groome a leading public dissenter from Catholic teaching, but also that his method of RE is internally structured so as to foster an attitude of scepticism in regard to the teaching of the Magisterium. That Catholic religious education authorities could remain enthralled for so long by Groome's anti- doctrinal and neo-Marxist inspired method of religious education is an important factor, I suspect, explaining the state of chaos that has overtaken RE in Catholic schools in recent decades.
As well as lucidly transposing the anti-Catholic elements embedded in Groome's methodology, Keane also illustrates the destructive influence its adoption has had on the development of Parramatta's diocesan RE curriculum Sharing Our Story. This curriculum is used in other Australian dioceses, including Canberra- Goulburn, Wilcannia-Forbes and most recently, Wagga Wagga.
While the Draft Support Units used to implement Sharing Our Story contain many quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as Keane points out through numerous citations, these Units also recommend books for teacher reference and student use that actually contradict the teaching of the Catechism. Also, at times statements from the Catechism are combined "with erroneous or confusing commentary."
In his Preface to Keane's earlier work A Generation Betrayed, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska, said: "Eamonn Keane has given us in his critique of Thomas Groome's Shared Christian Praxis ... not only a work of superb content and high intellectual order, but also an inspiration to confront courageously the malign and pervasive germs and viruses, which have in recent decades infiltrated and, in some instances, infected the various aspects of Catholic ecclesial life, particularly catechetics and Catholic education".
Bishop Bruskewitz's words could just as easily be applied to Crisis in Religious Education. It is a clear, concise and readable exposé of what can rightly be considered one of the most stealth-like forms of subversion Catholic education in Australia has ever had to confront. For anyone interested in the poor state of RE in many Australian dioceses today, this booklet is a must.
Damien Tudehope is a Sydney Catholic writer.