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Catholic Teachers Refuse Profession of Faith Print E-mail
By Austin Ruse   
Friday, 13 July 2012

Some volunteer Sunday school teachers in a parish in Arlington, Virginia are having a hissy fit, such a hissy fit that they resigned. What angered these folks so much? It seems the Diocese of Arlington, following the lead of the pope, asked Sunday school teachers to declare their agreement with the teachings of the Church. Some refused.  

A month ago, Bishop Paul Loverde sent a letter to all diocesan teachers explaining that the upcoming Year of Faith “will involve renewed efforts at catechizing the whole Body of Christ. You, who work in collaboration with the pastors of the Church, know the pressing need to hand on our Faith in an integral, comprehensive and clear way, in order that all who are present in our parish religious education programs and Catholic schools may have the opportunity to enter into a living communion with Christ Jesus…”

Loverde then asks them to sign a Profession of Faith, which is quite unremarkable. It begins with the Profession of Faith all Catholics say at Sunday Mass. And then this: 

With firm faith, I also believe in everything contained in the Word of God, whether written down or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed.
 
I also firmly accept and hold each and every thing definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.
 
Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.

To faithful Catholics, these are stirring sentences; to dissenters, well, not so much.  Diocesan spokesman Michael Donohue said, “I can’t imagine there are many teachers who have issues with the Church’s teaching on faith and morals.” And he would be right.

As a CCD teacher told me, “I’ve always assumed that parents are trusting me to help them teach their children the Catholic faith, and not some other ‘Gospel according to me.’  I take that trust very seriously.”

But there are a few dissenters, four anyway, and the Washington Post found them, or rather they found the Washington Post. Nothing quite like stamping your little feet and otherwise taking after Holy Mother Church on the front page of the local fish-wrapper.

The Post reported yesterday that the Holy Spirit has told Kathleen Riley not to sign the Profession and to resign from Sunday school at St. Ann Parish in Arlington: “as a fifth-generation Catholic who went to Catholic school and grew up to teach in one, Riley feels [emphasis added] the faith deeply woven through her.” However, “Riley knows her beliefs on the male-only priesthood and contraception put her at odds with the leaders of her Church.”


             The real St. Ann (Virgin and Child with Saint Ann by Albrecht Dürer, 1519)

Of course, this is simply a case of those nasty old “leaders” and nothing to do with the deposit of faith.  

Riley attends St. Ann Parish, known locally as an island of dissent in a sea of faithfulness. According the Post, “St. Ann’s is considered a community that deliberately doesn’t focus on such hot-button issues as abortion and same-sex relationships.”

From this, you would think one could hardly attend Mass in an Arlington-are Catholic church without being assaulted by the constant, even daily sermons on abortion and homosexuality. In fact, most Arlingtonians have likely never heard a sermon on homosexuality, only occasionally about abortion, and never ever even a single time about contraception.

Rosemarie Zagarri, a history professor at George Mason University, goes one further and calls St. Ann an “oasis of humanity.” The implications of this statement are simply breathtaking: Catholicism, inhumane; dissenters, humane.

Outside the parish school at St. Agnes Church in Arlington is a car with a Human Rights Campaign bumper sticker, that yellow arithmetic equal sign that shows among other things that the occupant does not agree with the teachings of the Church on human sexuality. The car belongs to a teacher at the school.

The Profession of Faith puts him in a bind. Maybe, though, just maybe it offers him a chance to reflect on the faith. It is at least remotely possible he has never looked deeply and prayerfully into the reasons for Magisterial teachings on homosexuality.

The bishops aren’t only looking for sound teaching in their schools. They are also looking to draw back those who have fallen away from the Church, even those Catholic teachers who may have fallen away from Catholic belief. The Profession is an invitation for the dissenters to reflect and also a promise to parents that their children will learn the faith and not something else.

But doesn’t this make the bishops like Nazis? The Post’s Michelle Boorstein, who seems to occupy the anti-Catholic desk, discovered that the Reverend Ronald Nuzzi, who heads the leadership program for Catholic educators at the University of Notre Dame, keeps a photo on his desk that purports to show German bishops giving the Nazi salute. Nuzzi says, “I keep it there to remind people who say to do everything the church says, that their wisdom has limitations, too.”

I am pretty sure that Bishop Loverde and other bishops asking for Professions of Faith are not Nazis (and that most German bishops knew the Nazis were very bad news).

I am reasonably certain what they are asking teachers to do is nothing similar to saluting Adolf Hitler. They are not asking anyone to leave the Church. They are not asking anyone to stop teaching. They are simply asking Catholic teachers to be Catholic.

For some Catholics, that seems to be too much to ask.

 
Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-FAM.
 
 
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Comments (27)Add Comment
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written by Joe, July 12, 2012
Deo Gratias!
The Catholic schools have let dissenters like these "teachers" hang around way too long.

If you are authentically Catholic and you can't make a profession of faith to Christ and His Church, what "spirit" are you serving?
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written by Br. David Minot OSB, July 13, 2012
Thank you for this post! Unfortunately, there are so many people, catholic and non-catholic, who think that following the Church's teaching makes one like a zombie - mindless. Of course this is not the case!
..., Low-rated comment [Show]
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written by Michael Paterson-Seymour, July 13, 2012
I find myself increasingly reminded of Maurice Blondel's words, written in 1904, "With every day that passes, the conflict between tendencies that set Catholic against Catholic in every order--social, political, philosophical--is revealed as sharper and more general. One could almost say that there are now two quite in-compatible “Catholic mentalities,” particularly in France. And that is manifestly abnormal, since there cannot be two Catholicisms"

Those words are as true today, as the day they were written
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written by Robert Royal, July 13, 2012
To Manfred and other readers of pessimistic bent, it doesn't hurt to see the glass half-full now and then. In this case, Bishop Loverde did the right thing and let the chips fall. The Vatican has rebuked LCWR and will make the case stick. We have the Sr. Marge Farley warning. The battle for religious liberty. The media mock and use each instance to attack us, but that kind of comes with the territory of being Christian.

On the larger front, it's true that there's no quick solution to a half century of chaos in catechesis. The volunteer teachers mentioned here were probably taught by misguided Catholics in the 1960s - as were Nancy Pelosi and Kathleen Sebelius - that modern American views are the voice of conscience and "the Holy Spirit." That generation, however, is not long for this Earth and other initiatives are underway here and globally. In the meantime, let's point out problems when we see them - but take heart when we see the Church encountering resistance precisely because She's being the Church.
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written by Grump, July 13, 2012
For all those professed Catholics who dislike the Church's teachings, there is an easy solution: Become an Episcopalian. If nothing else, it's chic.
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written by Titus, July 13, 2012
Well the writer certainly places Fr. Nuzzi's comments in the most ambiguous context possible. Heaven only knows what the man actually meant to communicate.

Furthermore, let's be clear about who Fr. Nuzzi is and isn't. When someone says "leadership program for Catholic educators at the University of Notre Dame," that suggests the Alliance for Catholic Education, one of the most important Catholic educational initiatives in the country. Fr. Nuzzi is not the director of ACE, nor of its parent Institute for Educational Initiatives (that would be Fr. Tim Scully, CSC). Fr. Nuzzi is the senior director of the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program, an operation within ACE.
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written by Sue, July 13, 2012
There is a persistent meme that says we are in some type of springtime of the Church and all we have to do is wait till those bad old baby boomer elders age out (a very ageist idea, btw). While there are definitely a few young and faithful Catholic orders (who don't presently have to worry about footing their members' old-age expenses, btw) - this shouldn't be interpreted as the norm amongst Catholic youth. "The youth" brought us Obama, remember? There are still millions of lost youth who don't have the faith and many blind-leading-the-blind catechists who don't have the faith.

Until the faith (including abortion, homosexuality, contraception) is taught from the pulpits, how can we expect the catechists to really know it?

Rebuking the LCWR, after Obamacare, is like shutting the barn door after the animals have already bolted. That passel of femi-nun-ists sold catechesis down the river long long ago. Reversing their effect will require clear punishment - akin to that which the SSPX felt - and also a massive re-education of the people via the pulpit.
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written by Bangwell Putt, July 13, 2012
With sympathy for and understanding of Catholics who were denied their inheritance and either wrongly taught or incompletely taught the content of the Faith:

"The attention which Mary gave to Jesus... was by no means ... a selective groping for those ideas which suited her, which she 'felt able' to translate into reality, let alone pass on to others as her ideas. It was an entirely open-ended readiness for the Word, a readiness to participate in it, without preferences, without picking and choosing, without a priori restrictions...."

From "Prayer" - Father Hans Urs von Balthazar

Mary, our model of discipleship.
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written by Athanasius, July 13, 2012
I have taught CCD classes for 16 years, many of these to my own children, although it was not possible to teach their classes each year, and let me tell you that in those years they were taught some crazy things by well-meaning but poorly catechized catechists. Luckily, I have taken the step of receiving an MA in theology so I was able to correct this teaching for my children.

And so, I wholeheartedly support Bishop Loverde. Further, I think the Church (including those of us of the laity who are faithful) needs to embark on a program of adult catechesis to save the current generation. Some people may see the light if properly taught. Others won't, but it was no different in Jesus' time. Let's help the thoughtful and pray for the willful.
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written by petebrown, July 13, 2012
Interesting. I taught an EPS course on the Gospel of John there not long ago and had no idea from the students that anyone considered the place a hotbed of dissent. EPS teaches what the Church does and so do I.

Then again I can't vouch for the catechesis or the Sunday homilies. In fairness though, Austin, there is a little difference between being a parish being an "island of dissent" and not focusing "on such hot-button issues as abortion and same-sex relationships.” Lack of emphasis is different than active opposition and subversion.

At any rate, this profession of faith for catechists is long overdue. Kudos to Bishop Loverde. Frankly, I don't see it as a bad sign that some catechists did not want to take the profession. At least they are being honest that their beliefs are A where the Church's teachings are B. Let them go the full distance then and leave RCIA until they can embrace the faith in its fullness!
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written by the earlier Louise, July 13, 2012
If you haven't read Bishop Loverde's pastoral letter, "Fountain of Life, Fire of Love", I urge you to do so. It is probably still available on the website of the Diocese of Arlington. Very inspiring. A wonderful piece.
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written by Ted, July 13, 2012
Well, there seems to be an Episcopalian Church about three blocks away.... Maybe they might feel more "welcomed" there....
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written by R. Childress, July 13, 2012
Re: the comment from 'Grump'.

Episcopalian, or Eastern Orthodox: you can be even more 'Catholic' whilst just as thoroughly sidestepping the uncomfortable, unpopular bits of the Faith. There was a recent article in The Catholic Thing that dove-tails with this present one, entitled 'Can We Please Have Our Own Church?' by Robert Royal, editor-in-chief. That's the question: can we please have our own Church? Can we please be allowed to be Catholics? If you, in good conscience, cannot profess the Catholic Faith . . . what are you doing teaching it in the church propre? While I have all sympathy for those who were poorly catechised, if they (after careful reflection) cannot stomach the Church's teachings, it is better for their souls if they leave the Church for the time being until (and if) they can bend the knee (think: St. Paul's admonition for excommunication). This is an opportunity for careful reflection.
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written by Fr. Andrew O'Connor, July 13, 2012
The decayed politics of sexual liberation is a diversion from a decisive moment for our youth for whom environmental issues testify to the need for a moral code. For those used to a world without moral absolutes this is new and should be welcome. Economic hard times underline the hard realities of saying "yes' to serving a higher good. Catechists who assent to a living tradition witness to power of the Church to serve every age. The profession of faith is a modest parameter in comparison the work of interpreting the mystery of the Risen Christ.
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written by Chris in Maryland, July 13, 2012
As to the anecdote about Fr. Nuzzi - if that's true - it's indicative of the type of wretched, adolescent self-flattery of the progressive AMCHURCH. "We in the faculty club, the diocesan bureacracy and the 'prophetic church' will believe and do as we please, and if anyone objects, they're just like Hitler." A mentality about as deep as the floor wax in the faculty cafeteria...
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written by petebrown, July 13, 2012
FWIW there's a priest at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Crystal City (Arlington) who seems to preach on contraception every single week.

Austin, I actually have heard more preaching against abortion and birth control in the Arlington Diocese than in any other place I have lived (including Steubenville).

Let's please not give non-Arlingtonians too bad an impression of the state of things in our Church.
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written by Grump, July 13, 2012
To all and sundry: Lest I be misunderstood, I would have used a sarcastic font if I had one.
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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, July 13, 2012
Now if we could just get every other bishop to get their catechists, lectors, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, RCIA leaders, Catholic school teachers, Catholic Charities employees, and nuns out of uniform to sign this or a similar statement we'd all be headed in the right direction.
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written by Graham Combs, July 13, 2012
If Jay Akasie's editorial -- "What Ails Episcopalians" -- in Friday's WSJ is to be believed, for episcopal high-handedness nothing tops Presiding Bishop Kathleen Jefferts-Shori. At this year's General Convention, she and an elite with the House of Bishops and House of Deputies have highjacked everything from the church budget to the selling the New York headquarters to a legal black-budget for sueing "rogue" parishes. The current bicamerial governing body is being condensed to one house for budget reasons. Meanwhile the South Carolina delegation walked out. There will always be authority. The questions is on what it is based. Other item's on this convention's agenda: apologizing FOR Christianity and whether to condemn genetically modified foods. For those Catholics with chronic complaints about the liturgy, how would feel about a proposed Book of Common Prayer funeral rite for cats and dogs? But it does sound like a more congenial home for these Catholic school teachers who believe in everything but Jesus Christ. Maybe it isn't about ecclesiastical authority, maybe it's just about status and money...
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written by Thomas C. Coleman, Jr., July 13, 2012
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Austin!! I think that we can all take some enouragement in the fact that enough of us who read this are on the side of Holy Mother Chruch, even if we are not a scietific sample. I can breathe again, if only for a moment, before I must do combat with neo-Protestants who teach not only the young but RICA. I got roped into (Okay I'm gutless) filling a quote for one of those on-online courese froma Jebbie shcool, and I enouctered a CCD chap who "doesn't see eye to eye with the Church on"gay" marriage. They'll problem expel me for telling him that dissent on this is not optional for Catholics. Our RiCA lady thinks it's jsut fine that her niece, a Confirmed Catholic, is converting to Judaism to marry a Jewish man, since she might not have had "a mature personal relationship with Christ in the first place." So when I read that there people like all of you out there my spirits are lifted. Now, besides pray our heads off, what do we do next? Thanks again, Austin and everybody!
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written by s. walter, July 13, 2012
Great column, Austin. But a quibble: Arlingtonians should have heard at least 1 contraception sermon, because a few years ago +Loverde ordered that on a particular Sunday every Mass have a sermon on the topic.
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written by Frank, July 14, 2012
Bishop Loverde is my Bishop and I've heard a few of his homilies and of course I get the weekly diocesan newspaper. He's out front against the HHS mandate, he's sharp and crazy like a fox. Those who would underestimate Bishop Loverde should think twice.
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written by Mark, July 14, 2012
I'm amazed at how often unfaithfulness among Catholics is attributed to bad teaching by teaching. "If only the catechesis were better! If only the priest spoke more about abortion!"

Admittedly, catechesis and homiletics could be better, but Catholics, especially adult Catholics, have a responsibility to form their faith. Now adult Catholic can honestly be confused about the Church's teaching on abortion or contraception, for example. Both are spelled out clearly in the Catechism. Likewise, no Catholic child should be confused about such since the primary duty of educating them belongs to the parents not CCD volunteers.

It's well past the time for Catholics to stop passing this particular buck.
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written by Austin Ruse, July 14, 2012
Make no mistake, I am a huge Loverde fan! And feel blessed to live in this diocese which is truly orthodox!
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written by George, July 15, 2012
Matthew 5,34-37
(No Oaths)
But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:
Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
Neither shall you swear by your head, because you can not make one hair white or black.
But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these comes from evil.
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written by Jack,CT, August 10, 2012
I never could understand people taking a job that they WILL be at odds with, almost makes me feel like they are "Looking
For Trouble"

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