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By Kristina Johannes   
Thursday, 26 July 2012

When you read Church history, or any history for that matter, it’s easy to forget that real people lived through those amazing events and probably had no idea they would someday have their exploits recorded for posterity.

At the same time, most of history has not been recorded and won’t be – those simple events of the unknown millions, which contributed to the formation of culture and civilization in ways whose significance will only be judged by God Himself. 

Call it Church history writ small. I have a tale to tell of one such example. 

In 1968 I was abused. No, not that kind of abuse; I suffered doctrinal abuse at the hands of the nuns who ran the prestigious girl’s high school to which I had received a scholarship. I was not alone. Everyone in my class suffered the same abuse, in fact, the whole school did, but it seems I was the only one lucky enough to have parents like mine.

They discovered this abuse when I brought home my theology book early in the first semester. Noticing the balloons on the cover my father wondered, “What the devil?,” and decided to look it over.

He then went directly to the principal’s office; his concern only deepened after his conversation with Sister. The upshot was that I spent the remainder of the year’s theology class in the library studying the prior year’s textbook by myself. The following year I was in public school. 

Before long my parents had networked with other concerned Catholics and realized the scope of the problem was much larger than my school. Hence, Catholics for the Restoration in Education of Doctrinal Orthodoxy (CREDO) was born. 

An extraordinary member of the group was Edith Myers, who later wrote for The Wanderer. My father often told me that Mrs. Myers, a convert, knew more about the Faith than any living person.

The raison d’être for the organization was to review the many catechetical texts in use at that time and make these reviews available to bishops and anyone who requested them. CREDO was the first organization to blow the whistle on the Dutch CatechismChrist Among Us also got a negative review. I still occasionally find a copy of the latter in some used bookstore and I always buy it – and take it home to the trash in honor of my parents.

My father was the president of CREDO and signed the monthly newsletters that went out to members all over the world.  Over the approximately fifteen years of CREDO’s existence, it mailed thousands of these newsletters. He once told me he was a “paper tiger” because, he said, Edith Myers wrote much of what was contained in the letters he signed. (My mother told me it was more of a collaborative effort than he let on.)

Some of the catechism reviews undertaken by the group, such as the one on the Dutch Catechism, were sent to the Holy See. Officers of CREDO had no idea if their efforts were bearing fruit; it was a real labor of faith, hope, and love.

I know that the organization gave solace to many anguished people around the world who wondered if their beloved church had gone stark raving mad. I’ve seen some of their letters.

My mother once went on a European pilgrimage led by her pastor, which included a trip to Rome. She carefully prepared a dossier of CREDO materials on the catechetical situation to give to Paul VI, if he passed by close enough to hand it to him. That’s how desperate she felt about the situation. 

When the pastor found out her plans, he was horrified and told her not to do it. He was worried that the Swiss Guard would think it a letter bomb, and arrest or shoot my mother. He was partially right, the file did contain some explosive material, but not the kind that destroyed bodies. She was nonplussed and took it anyway, but didn’t have the opportunity to hand it to the pope.

A few years after my father’s death in 1982, the Institute for Religious Life received permission to compile some of CREDO’s newsletters in a book called, On Teaching the Faith by Thomas P. Dolan. You may be able to find a used copy on Amazon.

Around 1995, while visiting my mother, I came upon a news item about a new committee of the U. S. bishops, which had discovered that most of the catechisms in use at the time were doctrinally deficient.

“Why didn’t they believe CREDO when you guys uncovered this problem twenty-seven years ago?” I asked her. She had no answer.

I suppose you can understand why current events involving the LCWR and Sr. Margaret Farley are giving me flashbacks. Some people are wondering what on earth the Vatican is doing. I am wondering what took them so long. I’m now a grandmother, for heaven’s sake.

Kristina Johannes
 is a registered nurse and a certified teacher of natural family planning. She has served as a spokeswoman for the Alaska Family Coalition, which successfully worked for passage of the marriage amendment to the Alaska Constitution.

The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (15)Add Comment
written by Manfred, July 26, 2012
I am very familiar with CREDO as I used its materials to argue with the principal (Christian Brother) and the pastor of the "catholic" H.S. my seven children attended for the excellent Advanced Placement courses. Christ Among Us, which the auther cites, was written by Fr. Anthony Wilhelm and was given an Imprimatur by Peter L. Gerety, Abp of the Archdiocese of Newark, NJ. and from 1976 to 1986 (TEN YEARS!?), Abp Gerety and Cdl Ratzinger, Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, communicated by mail: Ratzinger asking that the imprimatur be removed, while Gerety responded "NO"! Finally, Gerety was invited to Rome and at age 74, one year before his mandatory retirement as a bishop, this heretic was removed from office by the man who is now our pope. Mr. Gerety just celebrated his 100th birthday. By the way, Christ Among Us is still published by Paulist Press sans imprimatur, even though the Vatican asked that it ceased to be printed. How to explain the Church over the last fifty years? George Weigel cites the Truce of 1968 when the Vatican, fearful of schisms, advised bishops around the world to "look the other way". When your leadership is comprised of low-testerone men, they respond as they always do, i.e., they wait for their enemies to die. In the meantime, the damage done is irreparable. Thank you for a great article! It brought back many memories.
written by Deacon Ed Peitler, July 26, 2012
The Church will be saved not by bishops but by courageous lay men and women who love Christ and His Church. The tide is now changing. To all bishops we say: "Lead, follow or get out of the way."
written by Frank, July 26, 2012
Bravo Kristina!
Sorry for your having to suffer the abuse and you provide a perfect example of another form of abuse at the hands of others that is not sexual in nature. There are times I wonder which is worse. My daughter suffered a similar form of abuse at the hands of a Nun all in the name of "education." This Nun was no educator, she was just downright mean. We got my daughter out of that school and into another Catholic school where she did just fine. i'm not familiar with CREDO but I will look into it further. Thanks for the insight!
written by Bangwell Putt, July 26, 2012
"On Teaching the Faith" by Thomas Dolan is also available on the used book site alibris. I have just purchased a copy.

written by DS, July 26, 2012
Mrs. Johannes' parents did their work faithfully and turned it over to the church authorities, trusting that the Holy Spirit would do the rest. That is Catholicism at its best. It's interesting to note how - in some of the comments - the faithfulness of the laity (and, apparently, deacons) can quickly become a de facto congregationalism: they become the ultimate arbiters of orthodoxy on self-annointed missions of enforcement, determining whether bishops are orthodox or heretical, or whether their testosterone count is high enough. In an election year, it's good to remember that Archbishop Gerety had the courage to take publicly take the Democrats to the woodshed in 1976 for their pro-abortion platform. And, for the record, the proper way to address him in the Roman Catholic Church is not "Mr.", but The Most Reverend Peter Gerety, Archbishop Emeritus of Newark.
written by Jon S., July 26, 2012
God bless you, Mrs. Johannes; and God bless your parents, CREDO, and Edith Myers. May we all do our own part to help guard the Deposit of Faith.
written by Ellen, July 26, 2012
I would love to see a compilation of such stories in a book. I applaud your brave parents and others who fought the good fight in those dark years.
written by Manfred, July 26, 2012
Archbishop Emeritus Peter L. Gerety was co-sponsor of Call to Action in Detroit, 1976. At that meeting homosexuality, lesbianism and contraception for married couples were endorsed. Also, the ordination of women, female altar servers (unknown at the time) and married priests were also endorsed. It was also recommended an American Catholic Church separate from Rome be considered. Abp Bruskewitz, the Ordinary at Lincoln, Nebraska, stated emphatically that any member of his flock who joined Call to Action in any of its forms, would be excommunicated. On June 12, 1976, Abp. Gerety allowed John Shelby Spong, an Episcopalian priest, to be consecrated as an Episcopal bishop in the sanctuary of Sacred Heart Roman Catholic cathedral in Newark, N.J.
I always have to recall that many (most?) of the readership at Catholic sites have never been catechized and as a result they would not recognize heresy when they encounter it.
written by Jon S., July 26, 2012
Dear DS,
I appreciate the spirit in which you wrote your comment, and there is truth in it.
However, Catholicism at its best is when the hierarchy makes good prudential judgments and allows proper development of non-infallible doctrine--since the fullness of the means of salvation already objectively subsists in the Catholic Church.
Next best is when the hierarchy accepts sound criticism of any bad prudential judgments it has made and any improper development of non-infallible doctrine it has allowed (and inevitably will do so this side of the Kingdom of God).
Unfortunately these last 40-50 years, there have been all too many examples of members of the hierarchy not listening to fair and accurate criticisms made privately to them. 1,000 newsletters are sometimes necessary to serve Our Lord.
It is not congregationalism to call the hierarchy to its responsibility to guard the Deposit of Faith. We can take as our guides Saint Catherine of Sienna and Blessed John Henry Newman, who were not "on self-anointed missions."
written by Naomi, July 26, 2012
Manfred is quite the historian...and a faithful Catholic. I applaud his loyalty to the Church.I agree with DS that the use of Mr. was inappropriate but the way he recommends may be correct but not for common usage. After all, we read about and hear remarks from Archbishop Lori, Archbishop Chaput, Cardinal Dolan, etc.
Back to the issue: I am amazed at the number of people who are supporting LCWR members. I saw a picture of the two "nuns" coming out the door from a meeting with the CDF.
Who could tell they were nuns? Such a leveling of the playing field...and I don't mean dress alone...
I was in the late 50's in a religious community which I loved, including the Superiors. I could see what was coming though, and knew it was going to be threatening to my fidelity to Christ. So I left. And I see now, how one of them is really in big with the President...
My kids are products of the dumbing down of our faith..good, solid kids, themselves with children, but not connected to any Church, kids not baptized, etc. I am Mom...and to them, a hearkening to the good old days. I dearly and with all my heart would love them to be reading and following our Holy Faith now..I pray for them. But I myself, apart from reading, praying, the Eucharist,
do thank Almighty God for EWTN which is a powerful, reverent Light in this darkness. And I thank you all for sharing TCT with me.
written by Carol O., July 26, 2012
Unfortunately, there's still a need for "Christ Among Us" --more than ever before, actually. I treasure my copy -- it saved what was left of my own chilled Catholic heart from going over to some loving faith (or, before I'd had a chance as adult to realize most thankfully that the heart of the Church is not rigid Catholicism--It is the Eucharist).
written by kristinajohannes, July 26, 2012
Thanks to all for your kind words.
Frank, your apology really touched a chord of my heart even though I know you weren’t at fault. We’ve all suffered but so many graces abound.
Yes, there is nothing that can adequately replace the shepherds in God’s design for His Church.
Carol, your comment reminded me of something G.K. Chesterton wrote in his book “Orthodoxy”. He described a nursery school on top of a mountain with sheer sides. At recess the children came out and huddled near the door of the school, afraid to venture any further for fear they would fall over the side. Then a large strong fence was erected around the playground. Now the children came out and played with abandon, even bouncing off the fence in their play. They could give full vent to their joy because they were protected from harm. This was his image for the protection that the rigid structures of doctrine give to us—they allow us to go through life like joyful children. I hope you will someday come to see this.
written by Lorra, July 27, 2012
I am wondering what has taken them so long myself. Just think of all they could have avoided. Fortunately, I was taught the faith before the Dominican Sisters went kooky. They still haven't recovered. Nor do they think they have taken a wrong turn. Consequently, they are dying out.

"I always have to recall that many (most?) of the readership at Catholic sites have never been catechized and as a result they would not recognize heresy when they encounter it."

Manfred, too true.
written by kristinajohannes, July 27, 2012
Lorra, I had eight good years of Catholic school education before disaster struck and I will always be thankful for that. I’m sure that is what helped save my faith.

Three or four years ago I wrote a tribute column for a paper about the nuns who taught me during those years because they had become the butt of so many jokes and I wanted to show that there were people out there who appreciated and loved them. It never made it into print even though it was supposed to run during vocation week. Maybe I’ll dust it off and try again.
written by Lorra, July 28, 2012
I attribute the saving of my faith to the Sisters too. Those early years are so important in a child's life. What you learn then stays with you for the rest of your life.

By all means, dust off the tribute column!! I'd love to read it. We sound about the same age, and our experiences are probably very similar.

I owe more than I could ever say to those Dominican Sisters. I called them up quite a few years ago and told them all they had done for me.

God bless you!

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