Balloons That Launched 1000 Newsletters Print
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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