In a historic move, the first of a series of new religion text books are to be used in Catholic primary and secondary schools of the Melbourne Archdiocese from the start of the present school year.
It is now about 30 years since text books were a regular feature of religion classes, with the present move reflecting an awareness that illiteracy in the Faith has reached crisis proportions, following a long over-emphasis on methods and activities at the expense of sound doctrinal content.
Monsignor Peter J. Elliott, the Episcopal Vicar for Religious Education in the Melbourne Archdiocese, appointed by Archbishop George Pell, has spent the last few years working with a number of experts in the field to develop a series of religion texts covering all grade levels of the primary and secondary schools. And while the latest teaching methods and educational principles are not overlooked, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the key reference point for what is to be taught.
However, given the current state of the Church and society, there are major challenges to be faced if the new texts are to be effectively implemented. Many Catholic homes reflect the widespread breakdown of the family in Australia while, as recent research shows, a large proportion of teachers graduating from Australian Catholic University are out of step with Church teachings. It is one thing to produce doctrinally sound and attractive-looking religion texts; it is quite another to have them put to effective use.
These and other questions were addressed during a recent discussion with Msgr Elliott reported on in the present issue (see pages 6-7).
AD2000 readers will no doubt hope and pray that the present "experiment" will prove a resounding success and that other dioceses follow suit.
Michael Gilchrist: Editor (E-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org)