As we consider the topic of my article in this issue of Catholic Life, various perspectives could arise. Nevertheless, I would like to draw your attention to the significant and prominent role that the Church assigns to parents in understanding and promoting the authentic Catholic education of their children. Observe, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators. This role in education is so important that only with difficulty can it be supplied where it is lacking. Parents are the ones who must create a family atmosphere animated by love and respect for God and man, in which the well-rounded personal and social education of children is fostered. Hence the family is the first school of the social virtues that every society needs. (Gravissimum Educationis)
Pope Saint Paul VI was prescient when he stated in his encyclical Humane Vitae that the importance of education (along with the sacredness of Catholic marriage, for that matter) would be lost in a society blinded by its ignorance and caught up in the short-sightedness of selfishness and moral relativism.
[COVID-19] also reconfigured how we participate in and attend Mass, observe prayer and practice our Faith. It additionally affected the religious education of our children in that same Faith. Taken together, the very essence of “teaching the Faith” and learning the catechism is being undermined.
More recently, the global COVID-19 pandemic dramatically affected various aspects of our society, including our politics, economics, philosophies, social behavior and cultural practices. It also reconfigured how we participate in and attend Mass, observe prayer and practice our Faith. It additionally affected the religious education of our children in that same Faith.
Taken together, the very essence of “teaching the Faith” and learning the catechism is being undermined. Indeed, as we often hear that almost 70% of Catholics — Catholics, mind you — in our generation, do not believe in the real presence of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. This lack of faith in such a fundamental truth is tragic. Many now view the catechism’s teaching on the Real Presence as a myth, fable or outright falsehood in today’s “make it up as you go along” Church.
The Catholic Faith’s beauty, wisdom and depth are being eroded in many ways by a generation that lacks a clear moral compass. The pursuit of the latest media clicks, in many cases, seems to dictate how we’re governed in the Catholic Church and how much credence we put in Her leadership.
The so-called public media talking heads often raise questions about sensitive and significant issues and then ask, “Where are the parents?” We tend to look up to our leaders—political, social, legal, financial, ecclesiastical—instead of our parents for these answers.
The current lack of properly formed minds and consciences is now, in many ways, leading to culturally backward and erroneous observations and identity politics, which resemble a pre-World War II era sense of living and thinking. The acceptance of immorality, including abortion, cohabitation and the objectification of human beings, is confusing and fundamentally wrong when measured against the essential teachings of Christ and His Church. The current world situation, as evidenced by conflict, riots in the streets, resistance to authority and the inability to allow virtue, charity and justice to be known and respected, certainly reflects the breakdown of the family.
The catechism teaches that the home, not the Church, is the natural environment for initiating a human being in solidarity and communal responsibilities. Parents must teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences that threaten human societies.
The task for all the redeemed—and especially for all those blessed with the gifts of children—is to have the courage and wisdom to live like Jesus and make His Gospel known through our actions.
I’ll see you at Sunday Mass.
Most Reverend William Patrick Callahan
Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of La Crosse
Published in the January/February 2024 issue of Catholic Life Magazine