Solid catechesis is a necessary step in reclaiming our Catholic identity. We have stressed this a number of times on Cream City Catholic. A lasting, meaningful renewal within the Church depends on rediscovering three things: our spiritual, liturgical and intellectual heritage. Spiritual renewal points to the need for prayer, penance and holiness. Liturgical renewal points to a rediscovery of the sacred in the liturgy, seen primarily as a Sacrifice and not merely a cozy community get-together. By an intellectual renewal, I mean rediscovering the great moral and catechetical wisdom passed on to us by the great doctors and teachers of the Church. We cannot dismiss the Church’s moral signposts, passed down to us for over 2,000 years as “rules and regulations” that merely get in the way of doing what I want. We need to rediscover how to think critically and rationally.
One of the mistakes that is often made in Catholic circles is to attempt to be more like another movement or trend in society, in the hope that more people will be drawn in. In this way, many liturgies, especially those geared toward youth, resemble millennial-run Protestant services. Also, many aspects of traditional Catholic devotional life (Eucharistic adoration, processions, relics, Lexio Divina, etc.) have been replaced by trendy currents of today, like yoga. You might remember the regrettable “Sacred Catholic Yoga” affair of last year.
But what about the intellectual life?
You may have heard of ALPHA? An anemic and watered down quasi-evangelization tool originally developed by Anglicans, the feelings-based ALPHA program attempts to win over converts through non-Catholic means, heavily emphasizing the emotions and dismissing several aspects of church teaching. Detroit’s auxiliary Bp. Mike Byrnes, a proponent of ALPHA has even admitted, “Okay, we haven’t heard much about Mary, we haven’t heard much about the Saints, we haven’t heard anything really about the Sacraments, except for maybe Baptism, umm…, we haven’t heard anything about the Magisterium, about the Bishops and the Pope…. Because it is ALPHA.” He went on further to say in an email correspondence, “Yes, ALPHA represents an Evangelical Protestant prospective, especially in its Ecclesiology.” The ALPHA program also strongly pushes and is predicated upon a Protestant charismatic agenda, emphasizing emotional catharsis and speaking in tongues.
ALPHA and its supporters are not hiding the fact that ALPHA in a catholic context is no different than any other ALPHA program being run in a protestant church. According to an ALPHA in a catholic context brochure, “The Alpha Course that is run in a Catholic context is therefore exactly the same course in content and style as an Alpha Course run in any other context.” Bp. Mike Byrnes goes on to agree with the fact that ALPHA is not Catholic, “…[W]e’re giving really just the essentials, and its not protestant essentials, its not even orthodox essentials, its not Catholic essentials; it’s the essentials of being a Christian.”
If ALPHA is not Catholic, then why promote it in the Catholic church?
Here’s what Cardinal Raymond Burke had to say about ALPHA.
Having studied the program (ALPHA), both from the perspective of doctrine and methodology, I must make it clear that the program may not be used, in any form…While, like so many similar programs, ALPHA may seem to offer a more attractive and effective form of evangelization and catechesis, it does not have the doctrinal and methodological foundations required for the teaching of the Catholic Faith.
So why are parish leaders borrowing from non-Catholic pedagogues after Cardinal Raymond Burke has publicly denounced the ALPHA program, and the ALPHA program openly admits that it is not catholic? The Catholic Church already has a host of excellent catechism programs, e.g. the Marian Catechists. Perhaps parishes have become so enamored by ecumenism, that they’ve lost their Catholic identity in the process. Do we no longer believe the words of the Nicene Creed as a definitive summary of our Catholic faith when we say “I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church,” as we have professed since the year 381 A.D.?
Cream City Catholic contributor Peter O’Dwyer has rightly stated:
Although parishes are hoping ALPHA will help teach the Faith and stem the hemorrhaging of Catholics from the Faith, its watered-down, protestantized program is unlikely to do so. Rather than leading people into the depths of Catholic understanding, it is a primer to lead people into Protestant denominations. As long as the hierarchy embraces these programs and ignores the rich catechesis available, the bleeding will continue.”
(For further reading, Eric Sammons recently penned an excellent essay on the problems with Alpha.)