19 December 2011


I. One of numerous disasters coming with the wake of Vatican II was that cornball attempt to get hip with the kidz. Everything from cartoon Jesus to children gathering around the altar at Mass, from Jesus Christ Superstar performed at school plays to the kindergarten krap of felt banners, right down to the utter embarrassment of acoustic guitar singing circles: "One bread, one body..." (shudder). Now I'm certainly not going to lay entire blame on this kitsch for my abandoning the Faith as a young lad. Nevertheless, upon reflection, the only effect all this had was to make me recoil from any kind of religiosity. Catholicism and cheese don't mix. Teenagers, even younger kids, know this by natural instinct, at least based upon my observation and "life experience" (wince). If today they mock or laugh at some hokey piece of Crayola "Catholic" artwork, I'd gleefully join in on the fun. If they are averse from going to Mass because holding hands during the Our Father makes them feel awkward or stupid, I fully understand this aversion. Who can blame them? They're absolutely correct.
II. When considering the past, I frequently wonder that, had good catechesis been my experience, instead of being a "participant" in those dreadful classes on "World Religions", or if I'd known a traditional and - yes - tough priest to look up to and model myself after, I might not had turned out to be a self-absorbed-know-it-all teenager (as a child, TH2 was naive and impressionable to a degree more than most, a mind easily moulded). At age 15, would have I've intentionally gotten bombed by drinking a mickey of lemon gin at that field party? Still remember that evening. A cool and clear night in - probably - October. Stars clearly visible in the sky, the fire we made, Rush's Permanent Waves on the boom box, the billowing clouds of cigarette smoke, the vomiting, and that cute rocker chick who not so affectionately called me a "tool". Somebody phoned the cops and we scattered, myself hightailing it into a ravine. Never told the parents about that one. So, you younger Catholics, take it from this Gen-X punk who was subjected to the comfy chair Inquisition imposed by the Nu-Church hipsters: Stay out of trouble!
III. It is in the context of the aforementioned that this blogger deems the whole YOUCAT endeavour to be an exercise in futility. That is, making Catholicism "relevant" to the younger crowd. Evidently, YOUCAT is supposed to be some modishly slick sounding acronym, short for YOUth CATechism. Sounds silly to me. Just the self-centralizing acronym itself is a giveaway, i.e. Catholicism tailored for "YOU". Even the promotional video is off-putting. The syrupy music isn't working either, though this repellent reaction may be due my preference for progressive rock. And why does the book cover have to be a gaudy yellow colour? Is that supposed to add some kind of pizazz? Why not good and reliable black or dark red? YOUCAT even cites Kierkegaard. Listen, the Dane was an mesmerizing existentialist, but let's face it, he was no fan of natural theology. Let the young people ponder Sickness Unto Death on their own time, or in a philosophy course, or whatever. Stick with the essentials. It is a catechism, yes? Why all the flash?
IV. Unsurprisingly, earlier this year problems were discovered in YOUCAT's commentaries on contraception.[1] In response to that controversy, and other apparent problems, a protest group has arisen, with its own website, petitioning for a YOUCAT recall. Content at that website also includes a series of objections, "compiled through the cooperative efforts of more than twenty-five Catholic theologians, scholars, clergy, seminary instructors, and lay Catholics involved in various Catholic apostolates". These compilers wish to remain anonymous, "fearing to be dismissed from their posts".
V. At this point in the post the reader is probably thinking the remainder will be a critical analysis of YOUCAT. Nope. Let's do a 180. Here we focus on the Recall because a howler occurs in a discussion from one of its objections. There are a total of six, and the commentaries do seem more or less adequate, except for one assertion made in Objection No. 4, relating to the Creation account in Genesis 1. It reads:

Objection #4. YOUCAT Places greater weight on modern scientific speculation than on the Church Fathers’ unanimous interpretations of the first chapters of Genesis.

Then we find these critical remarks:

...a note in the margin of page 37 [of YOUCAT] defines "creationism" as "the idea that God himself by his direct action created the world all at once, as if the book of Genesis were an eyewitness account." But the authors of YOUCAT do not tell their young readers that virtually all of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church took this "naïve" view, including the greatest Doctors of the Church, men like St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Ambrose.

This is followed by a quote from St. John Chrysostom (Homilies on Genesis, 2:2), who also "expressed the common view of all of the Fathers and Doctors". The issue is not with Chrysostom's exegetical extract as such. Rather, it relates to evident ignorance or, at minimum, a misunderstanding of the recent history of Catholic exegesis on the part of the petitioners.

VI. True, "naive" is an inaccurate descriptor of exegeses done by the Church Fathers/Doctors, as it is argued. Yet the petitioners still give an impression that the Fathers/Doctors subscribed to Creationism, which they did not, since that term more properly belongs Protestantism, as in the works of James Ussher (1581-1656) or John Lightfoot (1602-1675). The accurate and correct word to use here is Concordism, meaning the reading of some scientific cosmogenesis into Genesis 1, i.e. introducing science, however indirectly, when explaining the biblical account of Creation. Why Concordism is a fallacy is clear enough: the Bible does not teach science. It is not a textbook, in a astronomical or biogeophysical sense, on how all that is came to be. Thing is, Concordism was an error persistent from the beginning, if you'll excuse the pun. Circa 1900, prominent exegetes Fr. Franz von Hummelauer and Fr. Marie-Joseph Lagrange made a shocking admission: the previous 1800 years of Catholic exegesis on Creation in Genesis 1 was not credible, unpersuasive. Why? Concordism. Fr. Stanley Jaki explained further:

Concordism kept a hold on the minds of most Catholic theologians and in fact became a quasi-official position in Catholic seminaries. Concordism, which produced an immense literature, fell merely into official disfavor with the publication November 18, 1893, of Leo XIII's Encyclical Providentissimus Deus on the interpretation of the Scriptures. The Pope emphasized that the inspired authors did not mean to teach about the workings of nature... the subsequent grappling of theologians and exegetes with this task did not improve a bit on the dismal picture that had emerged from their previous efforts.[2]

Fr. Hummelauer, a Jesuit incidentally, helped Pope Leo XIII draft that encyclical. Not only SS. Basil, Ambrose and Chrysostom, but also SS. Augustine and Aquinas[3] were derelict in that they proposed scientific parallels, however circuitous, with the Creation account.

VII. Fr. Jaki, in my opinion one the greatest thinkers of the twentieth century, tells of the proper context to which Genesis 1 must be considered:

The unusually systematic character of Genesis 1 should suggest that it contains a literary device to make very explicitly the message about the total dependence of all on God. Written as Genesis 1 was in such a way as to instruct and enlighten the uneducated, that device had to such as to be instinctively grasped by them [the Hebrews]... Contrary to preconceived notions about the irremediable primitiveness of the biblical world view, it has one major advantage over all those scientific world views.[...and it is here where the Recall people should take note] It represents an all which has a dynamic character, or an all that is not at the mercy of the fallible character of precise confines, however sophisticated. For that world view is anchored in an elemental conviction about the all which rests on God's omnipotence. Such an all is presented to man not so much as a unit to be circumnavigated easily by the mind's eye but rather as a horizon that challenges the mind to see beyond the apparent boundaries and forces him to pursue it as it keeps escaping his grasp for one reason or another. At the same time it also assures the mind that the all is never lost while one constantly loses hold of its actual confines.[4]

So it seems that a correction or clarification is in order. Beforehand, however, this writer highly advises the compilers of the YOUCAT objections to first read Fr. Jaki's Genesis 1 Through the Ages.


1. See various reports: D. Kerr, "World Youth Day catechism suggests endorsement of 'contraceptive methods'", Catholic News Agency, April 11, 2011; J.H. Westen, "Italian version of official World Youth Day Catechism errs on contraception: report", LifeSite News, April 11, 2011; M.A. Kreitzer, "Catholics demand recall of Youth Catechism", Spero News, August 15, 2011.

2. S.L. Jaki, Genesis 1 Through the Ages (London: Thomas More Press, 1992), p. 238.

3. Cf. ibid., p. 242. See also Sum. theol., i, qq. 65-74, passim.

4. Ibid. pp. 63, 285. See also Fr. Jaki's analysis in his Angels, Apes and Men (Peru, IL: Sherwood Sugden & Company, 1990), pp. 199-203. Originally published in 1984.



JP said...

I haven't actually seen a copy of Youcat.  Like you, I do not like the "catchy" title which I, too think is silly.

I'm in less of a rush now than I was a few minutes ago.

Seraphic said...

Ah! I'm sure all Toronto lecteurs/lectrices d'un certain age will recognize that Rush/bonfire/ravine scene. Bravo! Lemon gin, though... Shudder. 

YOUCAT is undoubtedly yellow to match the Vatican flags pilgrims carried at World Youth Day. 

TH2 said...

You "recognize" that? Interesting. Never thought you Loretto girls to be that rebellious. Always assumed you spent Friday nights doing macramé, drinking apple cider, watching Little House on the Prairie and, for real fun, fawning over David Hasselhoff in the latest issue of Tigerbeat magazine.

Dixie Alberta Bear said...

Youcat sounds very much like Pentecostal and Southern Baptist youth activity groups. When will it be realized that orthodoxy and Tradition are far more attractive, in the sense of bringing in and retaining youth especially? But what does one do when our bishops are gung ho about Wicked Youth Day events?
And other events and activities that are more harmful than helpful to the faith?

"One bread, one body..." Heavens I remember hearing this at the major seminary in Alberta many a year ago.
It was sooo bad even some of the seminarians came up with a parody
"One bed, one body, O Lord it is true, the seminary wasnt built for two." Alas even in that it is a pretty sad picture of the state of affairs at that time. I dont know if it is any better.

Seraphic said...

Good heavens. David Hasselhoff. How old do you think I am? The photos that festooned lockers nearest mine were of Jon Bon Jovi and River Phoenix, I remember vaguely.

Meanwhile, Loretto girls spent Friday nights drinking peach schnapps with Choir School boys in Mr Greenjeans at the Eaton Centre, thank you very much.  

Anita Moore said...

Best line: Catholicism and cheese don't mix.  Very succinct, and perfectly sums up  my own views on the subject.  You should make a T-shirt out of that!The misguided attempt to be "relevant" misses the fact that Catholicism is already relevant by definition!

TH2 said...

Like that parody.

TH2 said...

JP: Having trouble with what you mean in your last sentence.

TH2 said...

But, m'lady, you're a Valley Girl, i.e. from California. I thought you love the cheese.

...a blessed Christmas to you and yours.

JP said...

After reading your write-up on YouCat, I was in less of a rush to read it than I had been...and I was in NO rush before.

Succinctly= not at all interested.

JP said...

What exactly is the problem with "One Bread,"?  It's taken from the Didache, I thought, fairly closely.

JP said...

As a priest friend said to me once, anything that is "relevant" can also be 'irrelevant", thus making Catholicism "relevant" is not something to strive for.

TH2 said...

More so it's the music, i.e. acoustic guitar, a regular hokey ditty at NO Masses.

Happy Christmas to you and yours, JP.

JP said...

Ah of course!  I am still in a place where a guitar is not so odd at Mass...which is actually a far cry from the-more-guitars-the-better...which is pretty much where I started!

We did declare ourselves a Landry-free zone more than a decade ago though!

Paul Turner said...

It's pretty sad to think Geddy, Alex, and Neil are probably closer to orthodox Catholicism than Youcat.

Anita Moore said...

Give me cheese on my pizza, my burgers, my Triscuits or my macaroni...NOT in my church.

Merry Christmas to you and yours also!

JP said...

Amen to that.

Dd sang "O Holy Night" at Mass last night.  And got applause.  Sigh.  And it wasn't even the END of Mass.

Cheese, anyone?

TH2 said...

You just may have something there.

Fluffy Kerpuffle said...

Your accompanying picture is brilliant.  (Which one is you? :-))  Two of them bear a striking resemblance to Derek Zoolander, which brings to mind this alternate title for the book: "YOUCAT: by boomers who can't teach good."

TH2 said...

My bouffant most resembles the guy with his arm on the drum. Used too much hair gel once upon a time. Zoolander would have been a good lead-in image as well.

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