Should Catholic religious educators be required to believe ‘each and every’ aspect of faith?

Tracy A. Woodward THE WASHINGTON POST Kathleen Riley (L) and Alison Carroll (R) resigned as teachers for St. Ann Catholic … Continued

Tracy A. Woodward


Kathleen Riley (L) and Alison Carroll (R) resigned as teachers for St. Ann Catholic Church Sunday School in Arlington because they would not sign the bishop’s new Profession of Faith.

Is your Sunday School teacher Catholic enough?

Michelle Boorstein’s story on the Arlington Catholic Diocese requiring Sunday School teachers (known as catechists) to sign onto fidelity oaths points at a local example of the global church’s recent efforts to bring dissenters in line with Vatican teaching.

The oath goes beyond requiring Catholic religious educators, who are church volunteers, to teach official church doctrine; it requires them to affirm that they believe it. From Boorstein’s report:

In a letter explaining the new diocesan policy, Arlington Bishop Rev. Paul S. Loverde wrote of the need “to assure sound teaching in our catechetical programs” by requiring that teachers make a public, annual ‘Profession of Faith,’ and that they sign a document stating that they “believe and profess every thing” contained in the Nicene Creed. The Profession of Faith also asks teachers to state that they “believe everything” contained in the scripture and tradition of the church, that they ‘firmly’ accept church teaching “on faith and morals” and that they submit themselves to the authority of the pope and bishops.

You can read the letter and the profession below.

The oath, Boorstein notes, mirrors trends in recent years to bring Catholic educators and theologians in line with official church teaching. One example cited by those who support the Vatican in its efforts to assert its authority over Catholic teachers is Pope John Paul II’s letter on Catholic Universities, which said:

YOUR TAKE: Do you think Catholic Sunday School teachers should be required to believe –and not just teach —“each and every thing” contained in the full canon of Catholic faith?

Elizabeth Tenety
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  • tOpDaWgUnVmE

    Heck NO! All people should think for themselves and stop being “sheep”.

  • pluffmud

    Martin Luther was right to get out. He could smell a rat.

  • ex-catholic

    I do not understand what is the difference between signing the Fidelity Oath for a volunteer job and reciting the creed every week at mass. If you say you belong to a religion, you have to deal with all the laws right? Here, I am not saying that Catholics laws (or moral, or beleive) are right, I am just saying that you just have to stick with the contract that you “signed” the day you got confirmed.

  • stwannabe

    I don’t know why this is front-page news. These women were surprised to be held to this standard? I think it shows the integrity of the Church to require it. Why would anyone choose to be put in the position of having to defend teachings they don’t agree with? Talk about going against your conscience. The whole purpose of a catechist is to teach and defend the teachings of the Church – what else are they doing there?

    Lumen Gentium, a major Vatican II document, says the following: Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.

    This is a document from Vatican II – part of the totally counter-cultural teaching Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. Peace out.

  • jrodrigu

    “Cafeteria” Catholics have always been outside of the church. They just were never told by some priests (morally weak) that choosing what to believe is not allowed, and their ignorance eroded the teachings that once were taught to them. It is high time to reinforce our dogma that you either believe in the Church or you have to go elsewhere. Every Sunday (something that “Cafeteria Catholics” think it is optional) you must recite what you believe as a Catholic at Mass. Perhaps they never listened to what they say. The church is not a democracy. We are never going to put to a vote which commandments we should obey. If you don’t like the rules, get out. I am sure that lots of pandering sects will love to have you.
    If on the other hand you were not taught properly the role that the church has in the Catholic doctrine, perhaps you should refresh your soul and spend some time among authentic catholics that can share the word of God with you. Catholics are not forcing anyone to join the church; but will vigorously reject dissent from heretics and morally-impaired individuals.

  • Dliodoir

    The vegan co-op asked that all employees sign a pledge that affirms their belief that meat is murder, that the use of animal derived products of any type for any purpose is unethical, that humans should in no way use, compel, own or confine any animal at any time and to further pledge and confirm that they do not eat meat themselves and do not use any animal derived products outside the workplace. Two employees who identify as vegans but who eat meat regularly and wear leather daily refused to sign the pledge and thought that it was wrong that they were fired.
    If that is how this story read, I imagine the outrage would be far more muted than we have seen in the comments section about the two “Catholics” who don’t believe in Catholic teaching being not allowed to teach the Catholic faith.

  • Dliodoir

    The term “cafeteria Catholic” is simply name calling and doesn’t help anyone. We ALL fall short of fulfilling the call to holiness. We ALL struggle to conform our selfish personal interest with the selflessness that Christ asks of us. Remove the plank from your own eye before removing the splinter from your brother’s. . .right? Rather than name calling, be the best Catholic you can as a model to others. Pray for people to understand and accept the truth. Calling people names just allows them to write you and all Catholics by association as hateful and mean spirited. Remember. . .it is all about LOVE! That doesn’t mean we have to agree with dissenters. . .but we do have to love them.

  • quiensabe

    Churches are not democracies. If someone does not agree with the articles of a faith, they should resign, as these women did. This issue is no different than the feminist movement trying to change the Catholic Church. Perhaps these women dissatisfied with the Catholic Church should start their own.

  • ThomasBaum


    You wrote, “It is high time to reinforce our dogma that you either believe in the Church or you have to go elsewhere.”

    Do you consider the Church to be an instrument of God or that God is an instrument of the Church?

    Jesus’s invitation, by the way, was to “Come follow Me”, it was NOT to ‘come follow My Church’.

    The Church is not the rules and regulations, the dogma and doctrine but it is the living stones, people, not made of human hands there are what the Church is.

  • itsthedax

    So you can actually believe what you’re told to believe?

  • ThomasBaum

    I’ve heard some speak of the Jewish people taking the 10 Commandments and expanding those into something like 613 rules.

    One could say that the Church has taken one word, LOVE, or could say a command: Love one another as I have loved you or two commands: Love God and Love neighbor (humanity) and expanded these into the Code of Canon Law which not only might take a forklift to lift up but you just might have to be a canon lawyer to understand that you don’t understand all that is in it.

    God made it so simple that a child can understand it and this simplicity will drive some of the “wise and learned” right up the wall.

  • CCD Teacher

    CCD teachers for the Church should teach what the Church instructs Catholics to believe, if you are a Catholic. And if you do not believe what you teach, students see the insincerity and confusion follows. The Laity part of the Teaching Church. If you want to teach something other than what The Catholic Church professes, you need to start your own church.
    Martin Luther did, Henry the 8th did.

  • CCD Teacher

    Religion is a matter of belief – faith. You cannot teach what you do not profess.

  • quiensabe

    If you’re born again, itsthedax, you don’t need to be told what to believe. You can discern whether what you are told to teach is wrong and you should not teach it. And, you should resign, like I said.

  • nkri401

    But, I thought the Bishops were for the religious freedom??

  • quiensabe

    Yes. And you are free to accept their beliefs or go someplace else. That simple.

  • nkri401

    But the Bishops want to impose their belief on my paycheck.

  • fmblack

    yes,yes, yes. My children were educated by liberal clergy and laity in Catholic schools (K-college) during the sevenities, eigthies and nineties and I am sad to say the watered down theology has left them void of Catholic Church teachings. Maybe all teachers should have to read and understand the catechism before they take a job in a Catholic insitution. Or maybe the secular media should find out if teachers in Jewish and Christian schools have to be faithful to their relgious group as well.
    With the present high employement rate I am sure all Catholic schools can find Catholic teachers willing to sign the letter and live their faith openly.

  • itsthedax

    “If you’re born again, itsthedax, you don’t need to be told what to believe. You can discern whether what you are told to teach is wrong and you should not teach it. And, you should resign, like I said.”

    But that’s not what’s happening here. The diocese is requiring “submission of will and intellect”. This means that the teachers are supposed to match their beliefs to the instructions from the church.

  • amelia45

    “Do you think Catholic Sunday School teachers should be required to believe –and not just teach —“each and every thing” contained in the full canon of Catholic faith?”

    I don’t even recognize what is happening as Catholic. I was taught by nuns to think, reason, pray. As a child I was taught to obey those in authority over me. But, I grew up. And, I expect to be given information and to be reasoned with – I do not expect others to expect that I will unconsciously, unthinkingly agree with everything and just obey because someone wears a soutane – and I don’t really care what color are his caps and shoes. There is much to be learned from priests, but unthinking acceptance because “Father” said, is not going to come again.

    If the Church really enforces this oath – and requires that those who teach religion also live every single part of their lives according to the Church – I dont’ think there will be a whole lot of people who can teach religion. Will all Catholics tell the truth – about birth control, about what they really believe about gay marriage, or priestly celibacy? Will they radically obey – as Monsignor Lynn did, trusting that his bishop/cardinal was right – and then watch sin envelope those around him while he continued to obey?

    As worrisome as it is to require teachers of children to profess an unthinking acceptance and obedience to the Magisterium and everything taught by the Catholic Church, it is horrifying to think that Catholic theologians are told they may not, in fact, be theologians, but only repeaters of the already established line of thinking. They can find new ways to “reveal” what is already known, but heaven help those who seek the feminine side of God, or explore what original sin really is because there was no Garden of Eden, and Eve was not made from Adam’s rib, and there was no tempting of Adam to “eat of the tree of knowledge.” And if there was no original sin, what is the Immaculate Conception? Or explore sexuality, and how it is e

  • amelia45

    Well, that would include Scalia. Bet he would be surprised!

  • kelpius

    If you don’t believe the Catholic Church’s doctrine, there are many protestant churches who need church school teachers and would welcome you with open arms.

  • cricket44

    Did you read it with your eyes closed? That’s a fascinating misinterpretation.

  • NeoConWatch

    Luther never intended to start the Lutheran church. His intent was to reform the RC church. He may yet succeed.

  • NeoConWatch

    Thomas Baum is a rare commenter who understands the challenges, burdens, and risks of talking from the mystical perspective. He’s right.

    Some of us, in our attempt to be living stones, become living pincushions. We must grow some armor, just like the male managers of the church do.

  • amelia45

    Guess that would mean Scalia needs to start hunting for a protestant church to go to – and any other of the Catholic Supremes who support the death penalty. That would include most of the politicos – I doubt if there is a one who accepts all doctrines of the Church – certainly not a single one who voted for the Republican budget cuts to decimate programs for the poor – they certainly do not believe in the “preferential option for the poor.. And that would exclude the 70% to 90% of Catholic women who use birth control and their husbands, who made those decisions with their wives. In case we have missed any, that would exclude those who support gay marriage as a civil right.

  • wolfeja

    My children went though Catholic schools and my wife volunteer on the Arlington Diocese school board. Many of the teachers and students are not Catholic or even Christian. Non-religious subjects are frequently taught by non-Catholics.
    I respect the church and many of its leaders. They are as human as the rest of us. Some are slime. Some are admirable. But, this fidelity oath is the hight of hubris.

  • ThomasBaum

    Seeing as catholic means universal, maybe the universal qualifying criteria to be a Catholic is that one is a sinner and admits it, alright that is two, so maybe just being a sinner.

    Seems as if I have heard that Jesus said something to this effect.

  • di89

    The article uses the word “tradition,” small “t” which is a much wider swath of material than “Tradition,” capital “T” which refers to things which the Church has taught for a very long time and/or defined outright, not the level of the Creed or Scripture itself but very important and central points, which is the term in the document. It sounds like a trivial distinction but it isn’t. It does not include local traditions, particular individuals’ points of view, historically bound and limited ideas, nor does it mean you are not permitted to have an opinion on matters open to opinion. Where and how to express that opinion is a matter of common sense and courtesy, of course–but it is everywhere.

    It’s kind of like having to sign a contract about behaviors at work–you will follow policies important enough to have been put in the contract.

  • Secular1

    I wonder if all these pro-bishop apologists would also support the proposition that when a pharmacists or biology teacher be required to a pledge that they whole heartedly believe in birth control and evolution and that they will teach only scientifically established theories and nothing else? I wonder if a Walgreens would be within its right not to hire any sunday school teachers of catholic persuasion?

  • Secular1

    I wonder how all the bloggers here with a straight face bring themselves to proclaim that this man, “bishop or whatever he calls himself”, is correct. RCC has been the most flexible institution in the world with the most flexible ethics and morals. These defiant RCC men will pontificate about religious freedom, blah, blah, blah. But when they are incharge, they make no accommodation to other religious thoughts period. Take for instance when Poland threw away communist dictatorship, RCC swooped in and immediately stopped other religions from proselytizing. This was promoted by that previous chief clown in gown, yes the same
    a$$hole who has been turned into a saint by the RCC, yet the same a$$hole who covered up the pedophile scandal of nearly 100 years.

  • Banyansmom

    “Religious submission of will and intellect,” due to the teaching of the pope and bishops in the exercise of their ordinary Magisterium, is different from the “assent of faith” required for the articles of the Creed and the dogmas of the Faith. The “assent of faith” means that one truly believes something in the depths of one’s soul. “Religious submission of will and intellect” simply says that although one may not understand a teaching, or may in fact be wrestling with doubts, one accepts that it is the teaching of those to whom Christ entrusted the duty of safeguarding the deposit of faith.

  • itsthedax

    Reference, please.