Prohibiting the Faithful from Being Faithful

The Washington Post is reporting on the decision by the Diocese of Arlington to require its Catholic teachers to profess that they actually believe Catholic teaching.

Just let that sink in a bit: it is considered news for the Church to require the people who teach children Catholicism, that the teachers actually believe Catholic teaching.

The real question is, why is this controversial, and what does it say about the people who are upset. The faithful are already required to profess a creed at every Sunday Mass. I didn’t see a New York Times article about people who are outraged that the Church continues to include the Nicene Creed in the order of Mass.

Of course the Washington Post includes a gratitutous reference comparing the bishops to Nazis, by a Fr. Ronald Nuzzi. The liberal elite, including Catholic dissenters, are advocating that the Church has no right to teach what it believes, yet they call the Church the Nazis. They say the Church must let people teach children, in its name, things that contradict its teachings.

The critics of the diocese are quite simply attacking the ability of Catholics who do believe in Catholicism to associate with one another in a Church. Those critics would deny Catholics the ability to coalesce into a Church body under a shared set of beliefs–because once the faithful coalese, any dissenter can join and insist on contradicting the beliefs, in the group’s own name, as teachers of the group’s own children. This is equally an attack on parental rights, forcing parents to have their children be taught beliefs contrary to the Church they have gathered under.

But the opposite is not true: no Catholic who accepts Church teaching is telling dissenters they can’t form their own churches and teach their own children their own beliefs. No faithful Catholic is insisting that unitarians must let them teach unitarian children that unitarianism is wrong.

Unlike the Washington Post and Fr. Nuzzi, I don’t think the Nazi spectre is appropriate on either side of this debate. But advocates for dissenters should be careful about calling faithful Catholic bishops Nazis, all the while those same advocates would refuse to let the faithful teach faithfully. If there is any intolerance in this news story, it is akin to external people and internal dissenters telling the Church it cannot teach its own teachings, depriving faithful Catholics of any possibility to form community based on shared beliefs. It was the Nazi movement that pressured churches to reject core Christian beliefs.

Fr. Nuzzi says he “keeps a photo on his desk from the 1940s that shows all the German bishops in their garb, doing the Nazi salute,” to “remind people who say to do everything the church says, that their wisdom has limitations, too.” But what about requiring faithful Catholic churches to “salute” to the demand of dissent and its media cheerleaders, by telling churches it is wrong to conform their teaching of children to their own precepts, if those precepts happen to contradict the “wisdom” of the liberal political climate? Apparently everyone’s wisdom has limitations, except the wisdom saying the Church’s wisdom is too limited to define what Catholicism means.

Note that the Arlington Diocese and others are not requiring an additional promise of fidelity to Catholic teaching just to be able to come to Mass, or receive Communion or other sacraments. Only people who step forward and say “I want to teach Catholicism,” usually to children, are being asked to additionally affirm that they believe official Church teaching. And the disgruntled people admit that they reject some Church teaching, but insist they should be allowed to teach anyway.



  • Phil

    Interesting. If a Catholic teacher has a crisis of faith, or experiences doubt, must he or she resign? Or is it enough that the teacher in question teaches their subject in accordance with Catholic beliefs? I suspect that’s why some observers find this matter unnerving: it doesn’t seem to be strictly about what the teachers are teaching, or even about what they are doing in their private lives. It’s about what they believe, in their minds and hearts. Is it not a very different thing to pledge one’s beliefs to a man or a school administrator than it is to pledge one’s beliefs to God?

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