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.



  • Pingback: Inventing Controversy: The Arlington Diocese’s Fidelity Oath | Women of Grace

  • Mike Bolognese

    Why not have this pledge for high school teachers of religion nationwide?

    In “From the Heart of the Church” (Ex Corde Ecclesia), His Holiness Pope John Paul II proposed that faculty and administration at every Catholic University pledge their fidelity and loyalty to the teaching office (Magisterium) of the Catholic Church.

    Although I teach in a Catholic High School, I’m also in an apostolic work that involves education and activation of faithful Catholics for the new evangelization. In doing so, I pledge my loyalty to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and promise obedience by taking the pledge that is currently used at Catholic Colleges and Universities who have accepted the Holy Fathers teaching and invitation.

    I, —- , with firm faith believe and profess everything that is contained in the symbol of faith: namely,
    I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: By the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. I believe in the one holy catholic and apostolic church. I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

    With firm faith I believe as well everything contained in God’s word, written or handed down in tradition and proposed by the church–whether in solemn judgment or in the ordinary and universal Magisterium–as divinely revealed and called for faith.

    I also firmly accept and hold each and every thing that is proposed by that same church definitively with regard to teaching concerning faith or morals.

    What is more, 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 the authentic Magisterium even if they proclaim those teachings in an act that is not definitive.

  • Bruce

    I don’t believe in the law of gravity but I want to teach physics to ensure that others don’t believe it either.

  • Magdalene

    When I was a catechist (having taken the Marian Catechist basic and advanced courses so I had an idea of what I needed to teach) I was shocked at the condition of other RE teachers. Basically there were NO requirements but jsut being willing to try to do the job. The other catechists would blow off a holy day of obligation and so forth. The books we had were about worthless. I only used mine as dressing and taught from the catechism and other standards. The sister brought in to run the program was not pleased and because the whole parish deteriorated with the new pastor, I left.

    • Mark

      I was in a similar situation. I moved from one diocese to another, having been a grade-school catechist for quite a while. I asked to teach in our local CCD program at our parish, and was told that I would “team-teach” with another teacher who had been there 10+ years.

      Unlike the other “experienced” teacher, I attended and contributed to all of the pre-term meetings, studied the material, prepared (on my own, since the other teacher was nowhere to be found) lesson plans for the first 6 classes, and was ready to go more than a week ahead of the start of classes.

      So, 30 minutes before the start of the first class, into the classroom walks this “experienced” teacher, and proceeds to tell me that I was going to be her “aide,” and that she would set the agenda.

      Need I say that her “lesson plans” consisted solely of having the students stand and read from the book?

      I protested to the parish director of religious education (DRE), telling her that I’d be happy to work WITH that teacher, but after seeing her “methods” that it’d be a cold day in Hell before I’d work FOR her.

      The DRE backed up the “experienced” teacher.

      The pastor backed up the DRE.

      We now are parishioners at a Ukrainian Catholic parish that’s actually closer to where we live, and where (even though I’m not of the same rite) our contributions are appreciated.

  • rita

    If only ALL dioceses’ would oblige teachers to sign the pledge. Last year I was present, in a certain diocese, assisting at Mass marking the beginning of the seminary year. After Mass all the professors were required to attest to the pledge. It was very moving and a beautiful reminder of the responsibility of those who teach the faith.

  • Mattias Caro


    Thanks for writing this up and for posting this story. Funny that the post conveniently forgot to actually mention the words in this oath of fidelity. I have republished them here:

    God Bless,

    • Matt Bowman

      Excellent, thanks!



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