The Catechetical Review - Communicating Christ for a New Evangelization

Loss and Retrieval of the Holy Trinity in Catechesis

Authored by Dr. Caroline Farey in Issue #29.4 of The Sower
Is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity actually taught any more? This may sound like an alarmist question. One would imagine that the sign of the cross and its accompanying words, ‘In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen’, are still used and explained by the vast majority of Catholic parents, catechists and teachers. Sadly, this is not as common as one might have presumed in the past. In many catechetical resources circulating in Britain the Blessed Trinity is no longer mentioned at all. In this article I’ll be highlighting three simple points: a) that the Trinity is still being eliminated from some Catholic teaching materials, b) that this matters, and c) that we can know the reasons why the Trinity is not being taught and can thus retrieve effectively the very foundation of Christian faith, hope and love. The Editor of The Sower recently revealed the following statistic: The Report of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Working Party on Sacramental Initiation, On the Threshold, ‘manages to compile a 66 page report of recommendations about RCIA without once referring to the Trinity, to the Father, to the Son or to the Holy Spirit’.[i] The text uses unvaryingly the word ‘God’ throughout. Another document, from the Catholic Education Service, called, On the Way to Life,[ii] subtitled, ‘a framework for Catholic Education, Catechesis and Formation’, in its 99 pages, mentions the Trinity only once and that is in a quotation from Pope John Paul II. An electronic search of the document for ‘God the Father’ reveals that the phrase appears only twice and each time as part of the title of Mary Daly’s book, Beyond God the Father![iii] Of course, these are not catechetical programmes in themselves but guidance documents. Surely, you might say, actual sacramental programmes will be imbued with references to the persons of the Trinity? At a recent diocesan day for catechists it was discovered that, in the participants’ examples of catechesis of the Christmas story, not a single catechist present referred to Jesus either as God or as the Son of God. Such catechesis about Christmas will be portrayed as a story of a strangely extraordinary man (or baby) if it is not explicitly taught that Jesus is God become man, Son of God sent by his Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. More and more frequently one finds catechetical texts referring to ‘Jesus’ and to ‘God’ and ‘Jesus praying to God’ as though he were a man like us and not God, or with a special relationship (never explained) with God. There are, then, different ways of not teaching the doctrine of the Trinity. One, as we have seen, is by omission; the other is by teaching heresy. For example, the adult formation programme for the Archdiocese of Westminster, At Your Word Lord, began with a session on the Trinity as ‘three aspects’ of the one God. These three aspects, it continues, have a loving relationship with each other. The notion of aspects rather than persons having a loving relationship, sadly increases the confusion. Resources for Children’s liturgy in the United Kingdom almost invariably teach children the heresy of modalism on Trinity Sunday, prompting children to draw (or even wear in the offertory procession) three different types of hat.

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