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Formation to Christian Life

Camille Pissarro. Entrance to the Village of Voisins.
(Camille Pissarro. Entrance to the Village of Voisins. [Source])

What follows is the full text of Cardinal Marc Ouellet's first pastoral letter, dated November 1st 2004, called "Formation to Christian Life in the Catholic Church of Québec" [«La formation à la vie chrétienne dans l'Église catholique de Québec»], and available on the website of the  Quebec Diocese (in the despicable PDF format!).

Warning! This pastoral letter is long, and moreover it's written in "Catholish" (see "Do you speak Catholic?"). If you're in a hurry, my Assessment of this pastoral letter is at the very end.

For an explanation of the colors, see "The Critical Traffic Light".

[Green] To all priests, permanent deacons and pastoral agents
To people having various responsibilities in local Christian communities
To members of prayer groups and apostolate movements, of religious communities and institutes of consecrated life
To all cooperators involved in the formation to Christian life

[Green] "Seeing the crowds, he went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:" [Mt 5: 1-2]

[Green] Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Aware as I am of my responsibility to teach in the name of the Lord, I am dedicating my first Pastoral Letter to the formation to Christian life in order to implement in the Diocese of Quebec the orientations touching this area that were published last January 2004 by the Assembly of Quebec Bishops (1) . "Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:' How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven." [Mt 5: 2-3] "Formation to Christian life is designed to help discover, appreciate and deepen the Gospel proposal of an abundant life in the footsteps of Christ (2) ."

[Green] Following the Lord Jesus training his disciples on the mount so that they be messengers of happiness, I invite all those responsible for the formation to Christian life to an intensive effort in view of a new evangelization

[Red] [Red] that will imply an adaptation of places, programs and training methods to the actual conditions of our culture and society.

Really? Is the new evangelization really a question of adaptation and "inculturation"? Couldn't we say that never in the History of Mankind has the world culture been so homogenous as today? Italians drink Coke, French eat at McDonald's, the Chinese wear Nike shoes, and all these people watch Hollywood movies, learn to speak English, and imbue themselves with the American mentality using cable TV!

These days, some speak of "inculturation" as if it were a silver bullet. Is the problem of catechesis in Quebec really one of "inculturation", or could it rather be a problem of lack of fidelity to the official teachings of the Catholic Church?

[Yellow] The conditions of the formation to Christian life have very much changed following the decline of sacramental practice and the secularization of schools.

Yes, "the conditions have changed", in the sense that there are far more sick persons, and far less physicians. But these days, this kind of assertion usually insinuates that "Medicine has changed", so people won't notice that it's not Medicine that has changed, but some physicians who no longer do what Medicine prescribes.

[Green] Here and there in Québec, an intensive search is underway to revive the catechetical activity per se at the family, parish and group level in order to complete the minimal religious teaching that is given in school. New resources are also put in place to welcome young and not so young adults who are coming to the Church with a desire to begin Christian formation in view of baptism. These facts are calling out to us and demand a better dialogue between those who are primarily involved in Christian training: pastors, parents, teachers and catechists.

[Red] My predecessor, the Most Reverend Maurice Couture, s.v.,


[Green] has already provided us with some orientations (3) on this subject that I would now like to further with this Pastoral Letter that is about the official institution of the catechumenate, the implementation of the catechetical project et the future of religious Catholic teaching in schools.

[Green] These basic orientations will be followed by more practical guidelines that the Diocesan Pastoral Service will propose in view of more concrete interventions. In order to understand the distinction and complementarity of these orientations, I will begin by going back on the theological foundations of the catechetical mission of the Church.

Yes, but we could assume this to be unnecessary. Pope John Paul II published about 90 000 pages, and we have on top of that all the teachings of Vatican II, Evangeli Nuntiandi, the General Directory for Catechesis, Catechesi Tradendae, etc. At some point in time, we should be able to just tell people: "For the theological foundations of catechesis, see such and such a document".

I study  the teachings of the Catholic Church almost full time, and I don't even manage to read everything. Imagine the poor people who are already overloaded with work...


The Heart Of Our Mission

[Green] 1. The mission to evangelize has been entrusted to the Church by Jesus Christ in order to bring the good news of salvation to all men and present them with a living relationship with the God of the Covenant. The preaching of the Gospel aims at and meets with the most fundamental human longings by inviting people of all races, cultures, and conditions to love one another as God loves us in Christ.

[Green] 2. From a pastoral point of view, this mission presents serious challenges. Relations between people and the sacred, the religious, and the institutions have undergone deep transformations.

[Yellow] For various reasons, Catholics have distanced themselves from the Scriptures and the mystery of Christ and His Church.

Couldn't this sentence be clarified? Strictly speaking, if we distance ourselves sufficiently from Christ and His Church, we cease to be Catholics (See among others "Excommunication, that Gesture of Love!"). It could even be argued that the false idea, according to which we can continue to be Catholics while at the same time distancing ourselves from the Holy See is, in a nutshell, the whole problem we have in Quebec.

[Yellow] A good number of our people have even become ignorant in regards to the expressions of faith and the traditional language of the Church.

Yes, the great majority of the population doesn't understand Catholicism. But generally with this type of assertion, one tries to insinuate that we have to change Catholicism, whereas what needs to be done is to teach people what these eternal expressions of Faith mean!

[Yellow] On our part, it may be opportune to wonder if, to a certain extent, we have not become insensitive to the new forms of language of our contemporaries.

I could totally agree with this statement. See #7 in "2nd Pastoral Letter of Cardinal Cram Telleuo".

[Green] 3. To witness to the mystery of Jesus Christ and of the Church and to share the experience of the Scriptures go through a respectful presence to the other and to what that other is living. The history of our Catholic Church of Québec - from

[Yellow] Bishop de Laval

The Blessed Monsignor de Laval. He's in Heaven. We'll see later why this is important.

[Green] [Green]  and the first missionaries - was built, on the one hand, on the living faith, the tenacious hope, and the active charity of its members [cf. 1 Thess 1: 13], and on the other hand, on the recognition of the dignity and value of each person encountered. This is still true today. What kind of a presence, what kind of an accompaniment do we offer to enter into a constructive dialogue capable of promoting a mutual listening and a sharing of the Word? For the message of Jesus to be heard and accepted as a living relationship with the God of the Covenant, our project of Christian life training must reach deeply into the people's aspirations and personal human situations.

[Yellow] This is the heart of evangelical salvation.

Shouldn't we rather say that the heart of salvation is Jesus Christ, True Man and True God? "People's aspirations and personal human situations" are what needs to be saved, not what does the saving, right?

[Green] This is the heart of our mission.

The Catechetical Action In Transformation: Starting Again From Christ

[Green] 4. "The definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch, but also in communion and intimacy, with Jesus Christ."(4) This common outlook of the catechetical action in the universal Church invites people in positions of responsibility to direct their actual practices for the formation to Christian life so that they will "promote an authentic following of Christ, focused on his Person."(5) Far from denying the need to transmit a solid, articulated, and coherent knowledge such as we have known during previous decades, this outlook emphasizes even more the importance given to the experience of an encounter with Christ, a living relationship.

[Yellow] 5. The starting point of the formation to Christian life thus involves an experience with the Word of God. This Word enables dialogue with Christ who is coming to meet all humanity and each person in his or her real life and who proposes his friendship as a way to enter into the Church, the family of the children of God.

Of course, in a way this is true. But one of the threats here in the Diocese of Quebec is protestantization. Protestants falsely claim that Divine Revelation is contained in the Bible. We Catholics know that Divine Revelation is contained in the Bible AND in the Apostolic Tradition, both these sources being authentically interpreted by the Magisterium. [General Directory for Catechesis, #44.]

It seems like a good idea to repeat it, especially given the current situation, in 2004, here in the Quebec Diocese. "Inculturation" also means we have to insist on the aspects of Christ's message most likely to be misunderstood or discarded, because of the bad habits of a particuliar culture. Notice that this is the exact opposite of the usual meaning given to "inculturation" here in Quebec, where it means: "Let's get rid of everything which displeases sinners".

The Catechetical Act: Action of the Spirit

[Green] 6. The catechetical act is less the activity of a "catechetical lesson" or a catechumenate meeting as such, as it is the very action of the Word of God in a person's heart. This action gives rise to fundamental questions: What kind of a call does it send to become a disciple of Christ? What kind of an invitation to respond in the affirmative to the Covenant does it prompt in the area of human freedom? The catechetical action goes beyond the scope of ordinary educational strategies without ignoring them, quite the contrary. To speak of catechetical action, it is to refer to the action of the Spirit which fulfills in the community, as well as in the heart of catechists and catechized, the ultimate prayer of Jesus, "that they may know You, the One True God, and the one you have sent, Jesus Christ" [Jn, 7:3)].

Communities, Catechists and the Catechized: Partners in the Faith

[Green] 7. "Catechesis is concerned with the community, but it does not neglect the individual believers." This statement from the General Catechetical Directory (April 11, 1971), §31, emphasizes the call to communities as well as individuals to be nurtured on the very life of Christ in order to be in the world a society of witnesses to the new life he generates. Thus there are not a Christian community on one side and individuals that must be catechized on the other. Together, catechists and those catechized are truly partners in the faith. Those catechized, as well as the catechists who greet them and introduce them into the Christian mystery, are cooperating with the grace of God that grants them growth in the faith. As it is with disciples, communities that are nurtured at the table of the Word of God and that of the Body of Christ find their true identity in the communion of the Church through the action of the Holy Spirit.

A Humanizing Project of Evangelization

[Green] 8. The recent document by the Assembly of Québec Bishops entitled Orientations pour la formation chrétienne (2004) is putting into perspective the humanizing dimension of the catechetical project considered for our time. In this respect, it is important to note that the catechetical aim

[Yellow] is not merely to teach a set of dogmatic notions nor develop ritual practices.

Of course, as soon as a Quebec Bishop talks about catechesis, he has to take a dig at the Little Catechism!

It would be nice if just once the Bishops ate humble pie, and said publicly that even if people attack the Little Catechism, the fact remains that in those days, the churches were full, and we didn't have a shortage of Priests! The drivel often served to our children these days has nothing to be proud of...

Firstly, any subject (Math, Biology, Computer Science, etc.) taught with heavy-handed memorization, and no comprehension, is bad. Secondly, many religion teachers obviously did a lot more than force children to memorize the Little Catechism. We shouldn't insult them. Thirdly, I know several people who received "post-conciliar" catechism courses. These people went to all those courses, but never learnt what was the Eucharist, or Confession, or mortal sin, etc.! They were forced to "draw Zaccheus in his tree", etc.! Some, thank God, eventually found a Little Catechism along the way, and were able to come back to the Church, because they finally were able to clearly read what She taught!

Of course, we can do better than the Little Catechism, but these days, the trend is rather to do a lot worse!

[Yellow] It is first seeking to make possible an experience that will reveal to people their profound dignity as God's beloved, while allowing them discover their ability to fully share in the divine life and to make "people and the world more human.(7) "

At some point in time, we also need to convert, which means among others things to turn away from one's sins... This is an essential aspect which is too often suppressed these days.

[Green] In other words, a catechumenate and a catechetical project strive to make Christians living on Jesus Christ and being responsible for building a better world. On its part and although inserted in school curricula, religious teaching also aims at being a leaven for the building of the human community.


[Green] The basic orientations I now want to share with you about the catechumenate, the catechetical project, and religious teaching in school belong to this vision of a project of formation to Christian life nurtured on the Holy Spirit and on the love of Him who invites us to be with Him in witnessing to his mission: Jesus Christ.

I. Official Institution of the Catechumenate

[Green] 9. The mission of the Church is directly hailed by the context of profound cultural transformations and search for new ways of evangelization I have just been talking about. With this missionary concern in mind, by this letter,

[Yellow] I am establishing the catechumenate in our diocese,

There wasn't any before you? Well then how did the Blessed Monsignor de Laval get to Heaven?

Also, you speak of "our diocese", so why does this document constantly refer to "the Catholic Church of Quebec", and not to the "Diocese of Quebec"?

We'll see later how this ambiguous terminology attacks the foundations of our Diocese.

[Green] as I had already announced it last April 7, 2004, during the Chrism Mass. Catechumenate is to be understood as being:

[Green] 1) the various steps of initiation to the Christian faith and life taken by teenagers and adults who wish to receive the sacraments of initiation, that is baptism, confirmation and Holy Eucharist (8) ;

[Green] 2) the array of services cooperating in that endeavor, be it at the diocesan level or at the local Christian community level.

An Angle of Evangelization

[Green] 10. In the perspective of a new evangelization, the will to restore the catechumenate - as it existed during the first centuries of Christianity - has been expressed at the Vatican II Council (9) . The catechumenate is a service a particular Church is giving to itself in order to help men and women to awaken to the beauty and strength of the Gospel. It is designed to accompany them as they ask to be admitted to the sacraments of initiation. This is why it is, strictly speaking, an evangelization practice par excellence pertaining to the responsibility of announcing the Good News to everybody.

[Green] 11. The catechumenate is a mechanism that takes care of those who are asking to become Christian, but it can also motivate us in the various areas of Pastoral work that are calling for us to communicate our live experience with Christ. Among the great benefits brought by the catechumenate, there is a strong renewal in the faith of the believers themselves. Since we are called to become its architects and witnesses, shall we not all be placed in a position of becoming more aware and happy of our baptismal membership in Christ

[Yellow] and in the Church?

Notice now the consequences of the ambiguity flagged above in #9. When we talk about being in communion with "the Church", are we talking about "the Catholic Church of Quebec", or "THE Church", the real one?

A Progressive Introduction into the Christian Experience

[Green] 12. Requests for the reception of baptism, confirmation and Holy Eucharist during adolescence and adult age carry the necessity of progressive steps of maturation in the Christian faith and of introduction into the Christian experience. Thus, the perspective here is broader than a catechesis or a preparation immediately centered on the sacraments. It corresponds to a profound experience of conversion to Jesus Christ. In order to support parochial and diocesan people responsible for this accompaniment, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (10) presents a structured set of periods and steps aimed at the fulfillment of becoming a Christian and the progression toward the sacraments of initiation.

[Green] 13. In this perspective,

[Yellow] I have requested the Diocesan Director of Pastoral to provide Christian communities with a Guide that will propose guidelines,

Ouch! More red tape!

[Green] in conformity with the directives contained in the RCIA, aimed at supporting the people in their progression toward the three sacraments all along the initiation process. This Guide will also formulate proposals attuned to the spirit of the RCIA that will offer a more sustained preparation of the persons who, having been baptized as infants, wish to finalize their initiation and ask to be confirmed and make their first communion.

A Shared Work

[Green] 14. We know it but it is good to say it again: the catechumenal process of initiation to the Christian faith and life is made easier through the support of a spirited Christian community. But it is also within the responsibility of a Diocesan Service of the Catechumenate to help Christian communities in the welcoming of concerned persons, the acknowledgement of their desire and their accompaniment all along the way.

[Yellow] This double relation between a particular community and the diocesan Church is very important; it is a witness to the ecclesial communion that is one with the catechumenal work and provides that work with a strength increased tenfold in the building of the Christian identity.

Why insist so much on "ecclesial communion", without speaking of the essential communion with Rome? The "diocesan Church" which is not in communion with Rome, is no longer the Church of Jesus Christ... This is not a minor detail!

The Contribution of the Christian Community

[Green] 15. In the catechumenate, the entire Christian community, united in the Spirit of Christ, is highly concerned. First, in that it is responsible for begetting in the faith. Obviously, it is not always the whole community that is involved in a catechumenal exercise with the people in initiation process. However, even when they intervene alone or as a group, the members of the community never do it in their own name; they are always acting on behalf of that community and in relation with it. Furthermore, the structure of the initiation process as presented by the RCIA anticipates numerous liturgical moments where the participation of the whole community is called for. The focus is here on the interdependent contribution of the members of the community to the faith of people in initiation; however, it must be emphasized that it is not a one-way relation. Everybody, be it as faithful involved in catechumenal service as well as those in the receiving end of that service, makes the other richer.

[Green] 16. Second, the catechumenal work comprises a learning of the ecclesial reality itself that belongs to the Christian experience. In this regard, the contribution of the community is also essential. It consists in helping discover the Church by always gradually proposing practical experiences of life in the Church. The catechumenal itinerary normally takes the following route: it begins with a meeting with a member of the Church (an accompanist); it continues with the occasional association with a Church cell that plays the role of a sponsoring group; it comes out then to larger gatherings at parochial

[Yellow] and diocesan levels. Little by little, the sense of ecclesial family grows.

Same comment as for #14 above.

[Green] 17. This ecclesial dimension, a constituent of the catechumenate, is expressed by the setting up of liturgies in the presence and with the participation of the community that emphasize the progression of persons in initiation process. Chief among those celebrations is, of course, the one that takes place during the Easter Vigil. While catechumens are baptized and receive communion for the first time, every member of the community is invited to renew his or her faith in the risen Christ.

An Initiation Process under the Responsibility of the Diocesan Bishop

[Green] 18. Christian communities play multiple and necessary roles to practically and progressively introduce adolescents and adults into Christian faith and life. Nonetheless, the catechumenate is a service within Episcopal purview; it belongs to the office of Diocesan Bishop. The RCIA expressly mentions that he is responsible for seeing to its organization and good running. I would even say that it probably is one of the most important and gratifying functions of the office of Bishop: to welcome and support people who are asking to better know Christ and his teaching and be received in the Church. The direct participation of the Bishop in the initiation process indicates that the sacraments of initiation link not only with a Christian community

[Yellow] but also with the Church of Christ at large, everywhere, past and present.

Good, but after having weakened the expression "Catholic Church", we remain in doubt. This would need to be clarified! Notice that nowhere in this Pastoral Letter do we find expressions like "Pope", "Supreme Pontiff" or "Holy Father"! It's at least very peculiar!

[Green] 19. With this close connection to a Bishop's responsibility, I want to assure you of my strong interest and support for everything you will endeavor in relation to the catechumenate. The Diocesan Service of the Catechumenate is at your disposal and wants to be a competent and useful partner to help you in its implementation. In this regard, I wish that this service closely cooperate with you to facilitate, among other things, the efficient participation of the Bishop in the various steps of initiation, particularly by having him preside the "deciding call" and the confirmation. This encounter with the Bishop as the pastor entrusted with the communion between Christian communities with one another and between the Diocesan Church

[Yellow] with other Churches shows that the sacraments of initiation open to other Christian communities, relate to the entire Church and make people belong to the whole Church.

OK, we're getting there! Insist a bit! Talk about the Church One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, of which we are only a little diocese!

II. Implementation of the Diocesan Catechetical Project

[Green] 20. The routes that are leading people in being interested in Jesus Christ and in better knowing him are many and diversified. This contemporary situation does not allow us any more to organize catechesis for a unique clientele gathered for a specific time. We are called by the Holy Spirit to a renewed faithfulness to the mission entrusted to us by the Lord and, thus, create for today particular modes of a diocesan catechetical project that will be attentive and kind to the persons for which it is designed.

A Kind Welcoming Structure

[Green] 21. While we are searching together, as partners in the Church, for a mobilizing project of formation to Christian life, many parish communities have already implemented a process to that effect and have undertaken pastoral interventions that are rich and stimulating. However, it may happen that the large demand for the sacramental initiation of children dampen our enthusiasm for a renewed approach because we are afraid not being able to satisfy the expectation of parents.

[Green] 22. This pastoral situation demands that our invitation to enter into this privileged moment of a catechesis of initiation be truly linked with the life of the community as whole where young families will have a place. Nonetheless, it is most important, for the persons who come to us as much as for the community that is thus involved, to welcome all requests with kindness. For many parents, this step is the main access road to the community, if not the first.

[Yellow] I thus wish that a kind welcoming structure be put in place in each community so that a person-to-person dialogue be initiated, whether individually or collectively, not only to make clear the underlying motivations and practical questions, but also to examine in more detail the desire to let oneself be approached and transformed by the Word of God.

That sounds really pretty. But what does it mean, practically speaking?

The Framework of the Catechetical Project

[Green] 23. The multiple spiritual situations of our contemporaries and our burning desire to offer the Gospel in such a way that it will deeply touch the persons we meet serve as a basis for giving ourselves, in every community, a catechetical project that will insure a progressive discovery and a deepening of the Christian faith and life, according to the inspiration given by the catechumenal  10 model which I talked about in the preceding paragraphs. The catechetical project envisioned will harmonize with the three "essential moments" of this evangelization process as specified by the Assembly of Québec Bishops 11 . These moments are about "the initial proclamation", the Christian initiation" and the "pastoral activity". Corresponding with each of these moments that intersect in various manners, the following will be more particularly found: a catechesis of awakening to the faith, a catechesis of initiation, and a permanent catechesis.

A Catechesis of Awakening to the Faith

[Green] 24. The catechesis of awakening to the faith is more particularly referring to the moment of the "initial proclamation" and, among other things, is taking the form of a simple and fraternal dialogue or

[Yellow] of shared reflections on an event of life.

The evangelists in the Bible don't "share their emotions". On the contrary, they proclaim the Truth, outright.

Let's look at the "initial proclamation" of Saint John the Baptist:

"O Generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance [...] And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." [Lk 3:7-9]

Of course, we don't claim this is the only way to go about doing an "initial proclamation" (especially for small children)!

But on the other hand, there is a tendency in Quebec to separate evangelization from conversion. Catechesis teachers are  quite willing to talk about Jesus and the Sacraments, but often they don't dare tell people they have to turn away from their sins, if they want to turn to God.

[Yellow] This moment is catechetical.

Shouldn't we say "can be catechetical"? If it was naturally catechetical, churches wouldn't be empty in Quebec these days!

[Green] As a matter of fact, adults as well as young people and children are encountering in their lives events, actions, persons and many other realities that seize them, astonish them, fill them with wonder, and are beyond them. These situations create in the heart of the individuals thus awakened a "resonance", a kind of "echo" that in its own way opens a space to the dimension of the Mystery and welcome of the All-Other and, eventually, even a space for a conversion of heart.

[Green] 25. This moment requires to be accompanied with great respect and tact. Hence the importance of a kind welcome for the persons coming to request a "religious service" to the community, since every new situation in the life of an adult may set in motion a spiritual move. A fraternal support is also primordial for families whose role is most important in this instance: at the rhythm of family life, parents and children are opening up to the world of faith through experiences and practices impregnated with deep human values and often inspired by the attitude of Jesus with children. On the other hand, the welcoming of young people in parish programs of formation to Christian life will be marked by a steady attention to a religious awakening often prompted by religious teaching or activities organized by the spiritual life and community involvement department, such as those involving social and humanitarian solidarity and proposed by youth movements.

[Red] 26. In our situation where a good number of the baptized have lost a sense of living faith or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church, a "new evangelization" is then required, centered on the initial proclamation and a basic catechesis (13).

Of course, in a way this statement is perfectly true.

But according to me it's dishonest to talk about "a good number of the baptized", whereas it's the vast majority of the baptized. We need to pull our heads out of the sand, at some point in time. The statistics are there!

Moreover, it's shameful to perpetuate the lie according to which Quebec is filled with "non-practicing believers". Hire a serious Sociologist, and perform a scientific survey. According to my experience, most of these people are not "non-practicing believers", but non-practicing people who are also non-Catholic!

This fact is important, not to reject these people, on the contrary! It's to better welcome them! If we want to heal a sick person, the first thing the Physician has to do is to open his eyes and observe the actual state of the sick person! If somebody is having a heart attack, we don't love them if we offer a little Aspirin!

A Catechesis of Initiation

[Green] 27. The catechesis of initiation unfolds within the moment of "Christian initiation" understood as being "an itinerary of faith and conversion, a first learning of the life in communion with Christ (14) ." The period of initiation is mainly designed to implement the decision to enter in a conversion approach. This period is structured through a catechetical movement, rituals and celebrations as well as Christian life practices. The sacraments of baptism, Holy Eucharist, confirmation, and penance are usually celebrated during this process.

[Green] 28. It will be understood that the catechesis of initiation goes largely beyond the sacramental initiation. - which is otherwise one of its components - and cannot be satisfied with a few additional meetings after the sacramental preparation. As we are reminded by the Assembly of Québec Bishops, this catechesis of initiation proposes a first appropriation of the Gospel "centered on the core of the Christian experience, on the certainties of faith and on the most fundamental gospel values (15)." Letting itself be inspired by the catechumenate, this catechesis constitutes a privileged moment of preparation to the confessing of faith and to a full and entire participation to Church life. As with any other training, it implies lots of attention and time.

A Permanent Catechesis

[Green] 29. The permanent catechesis better finds its fulfillment in "pastoral activity", although it should not necessarily be put in chronological relation with the two other moments. In many ways and usually to the rhythm of the community life, the essential role of this catechesis is to bring life to the faith of the community itself, as well as to each of its members, to nurture the sense of belonging to the Eucharistic assembly and to sustain its "growth in humanity after Christ (16)."

[Green] 30. At the implementation level, a new and particular care will be given to catechesis surrounding birth, marriage and anniversaries, and even deaths. Furthermore, in the spirit of conversion to Christ to be permanently renewed, catechetical journeys will be offered during Advent and Lent, in close connection with the Liturgical Year. A rediscovery and a deepening of the paschal mystery as celebrated in the Eucharist will also be promoted, notably from initiatives related to the Eucharistic Year that I wish to be numerous and evangelizing.

[Green] 31. Furthermore, in the perspective of the apostolic mission of proclaiming the Gospel to all, I wish that a priority be given to adult catechesis so that new disciples be generated and, in the name of their faith, commit themselves within the Church and the world. On this point,

[Yellow] it is desirable that many parishes pool their resources since it is a demanding task.

Is catechesis so mysterious and complicated that from one Parish to the next, everything changes? Couldn't we rather have a common project for all dioceses in Quebec? See among others the "2nd Pastoral Letter of Cardinal Cram Telleuo", #7.

A Strategic Plan of Organization

[Yellow] 32. The implementation of the catechetical project articulated in three "essential moments", as defined above, cannot be done without planning, organization and coordinating where the contribution of human resources is important. To this effect, I have requested the Diocesan Director of Pastoral to put together a resource team at the service of parishes. The role of that team will be:

[Yellow] 1) to assist parish pastoral teams in establishing priorities of intervention and seeing to their implementation;

2) to pinpoint the various catechetical tools according to the priorities retained;

3) to support an organization related to permanent training of catechists;

4) to promote the movement of information and facilitate meetings between the various communities in the diocese.

[Yellow] 33. This diocesan team will work in close cooperation with experts in practical catechesis, training specialists, as well as with members of personnel in pastoral regions who are more aware of the needs proper to each pastoral unit within their territory. I wish that this leadership taken over by the Diocesan Pastoral Department allow each member of parish teams and each catechist to see themselves as responsible and true partner in the implementation of diocesan orientations for the formation to Christian life.

You'll excuse my formal training as an Infantry Officer, but this doesn't seem to be a "Strategic Plan of Organization", but rather a "Pious Wish of Organization".

Why? Because the catechesis which is already being done in the Diocese could continue as is, with no changes whatsoever, and it would still be totally consistent with this "Strategic Plan".

But we know that something isn't right with the catechesis given in the Diocese...

III. Placing higher value on Religious Teaching in School

[Green] 34. The proper role of the Quebec School System has been deeply questioned during the last decades. In this context and especially the one surrounding bill 118 (17), the government has been led to establish a greater distinction between the contribution of the school in matters of religious education and that of the Church. However, the place of religion in the school, and more precisely that of religious teaching, remains a worrying and ever-present question for many Quebecers as well as for the

[Yellow] Catholic Church of Québec.

See our comment for #9 above.

The Basis for Religious Teaching in School

[Yellow] 35. Many models of religious teaching in school have appeared throughout history. Religious teaching has been deeply modified in its structures as well as in its methods and framework. Each generation must re-invent better and more profitable modes for the formation of school children. Ours is not exempt from this task.

"Re-invent" seems a bit strong. Some things remain. Many "models of religious teaching" have appeared, yes, but many of these models are bad and anti-Catholic, and other models were good, are good, and will remain good forever.

[Red] 36. Today, religious education in school does not correspond, as it used to, to the goals of the Church's mission.

Ah yes, really? As it is done now in Quebec? Or by its very nature? This is a serious ambiguity.

Apparently, according to Vatican II, we have to do everything we can to have Catholic denominational schools:

"Consequently this sacred synod proclaims anew what has already been taught in several documents of the magisterium, namely: the right of the Church freely to establish and to conduct schools of every type and level. [...] The Council also reminds Catholic parents of the duty of entrusting their children to Catholic schools wherever and whenever it is possible and of supporting these schools to the best of their ability and of cooperating with them for the education of their children." [Gravissimum Educationis, #8]

[Green] However, its contribution to the formation of young people to Christian life, although different, is nonetheless real and complementary. Hence my great interest for the place and quality of religious teaching in school.

[Green] 37. Religious teaching is a privileged place to offer students with significant learning that may contribute to strengthen their religious culture and make them responsible citizens. One of its foundations rests on the fact that all students are called to develop, as men, every aspect of their personality in view of their own happiness and, at the same time, that of those with whom they are called to live.

[Red] The aim of religious teaching in school is to allow students to receive an education open to transcendence.

Once again, a serious ambiguity. Are we talking about Catholic religious education as it should be done? If so, then the objective of such an education is to unite us with Jesus Christ, not to open us to some vague "transcendence". Are we talking about the Atheism-flavored "religious education" that is taught in most of our schools? Then the objective of that education is to yank Catholicism down to the level of all other religions, and to yank all religions down to the level of irrational superstitions that are meant for the weak unable to stand upright.

[Yellow] It enables them to identify this foundation aspect, first in the religious experiences of their own community, then in those of others. Finally, the object of such a teaching is to relate to history and to the contents proper to the believing communities, especially the privileged link between the Catholic Church and Quebec culture.

See our comment immediately above.

A Relevant Denominational Teaching

[Green] 38. A religious and moral teaching is still relevant in a pluralistic Québec. With the Bishops of Québec, I want to "restate once more our profound conviction that Catholic instruction faithful to its roots and well entrenched in a pluralistic society is a wealth of culture that Québec schools and Québec society as whole must not be denied. During the initial school years especially, such programs provide an outlook complying with the wishes of a great majority of parents (18).

[Red] Education consists in helping young people to find their own identity within their family tradition, while gradually broadening their point of view. With time, whether they distance themselves from that tradition or make it their own on a more personal level, they will at least become acquainted with the Christian tradition so profoundly entrenched in Quebec culture (19)."

If we believed some Bishops of the Province of Quebec, catechesis would be a kind of History course helping us understand how people lived "way back when". Catechesis is not a question of "Quebec culture", but a question of spiritual life or death!

For crying in a pail! Can you imagine Jesus saying: "Well, ya know, that's how things went on in my family with Mary and Joseph, but if you want to distance yourself from it, no problemo, man!"

Jesus says: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life", not "I am one Possible Option, a Relativity to consider, One Choice among others"!

"Only if the Christian faith is truth does it concern all men; if it is only a cultural variant of the religious experience of mankind that is locked up in symbols and can never be deciphered, then it has to remain within its own culture and leave others in theirs." [Ratzinger, Josef. Truth and Tolerance, San Francisco, Ignatius, 2004, p. 184]

[Green] It is important to point out that this way of thinking is in agreement with the wishes of many immigrants, a majority of which is Roman Catholic (20). "A program such as this is likely to help newcomers to stay in touch with their past while

[Red] understanding the history of Quebec and the development of Quebec's identity.

Jeepers, Jesus is no longer God who can save us (if we reject our sins), but a History teacher!

[Green] Furthermore, because Christian tradition establishes a link between faith in Jesus Christ and service to the human person, the religious program that we envision will help young people to take in

[Red] the fundamental values of democracy

The last time a democracy tried to base itself on "values", we ended up with Nazi Germany. Let's not forget this. See among others "Good Scouts Don't Have Values".

[Red] and to develop more profoundly their own spiritual journey. Finally, by expanding their vision to the sphere of other religions and of unbelief, this program will encourage dialogue and mutual respect within society (21)."

Another popular lie these days. One of the most vicious "dogmas of Faith" of modern Atheism is that anybody who claims that truth exists is intolerant. According to these Atheists, the only reliable people are the ones who are lost in Ethical Relativism and Skepticism.

Remaining Vigilant

[Yellow] 39. The real situation of religious teaching in school is, however, uneven. As a matter of fact, in certain places, the time allotted to religious teaching, and by the same token moral teaching, is less than minimal, which leads to believe it will eventually disappear. It also happens that the department in charge of the organization of spiritual life and community involvement 21 , which should be open to denominational activities, is devoid of them because of a faulty interpretation in the opposite. Finally, resources granted to this new complementary department are sometimes so few that students are forced into a limited and often occasional participation.

I know neither Bill 118 nor its application, so I can't have an opinion.

[Yellow] 40. This situation, even on a small scale, is regrettable since, little by little, it will jeopardize the spirit of bill 118. However, the injustice made to young people and their parents is even more serious since it touches their rights in matters of moral, religious and spiritual education. As well, the value and quality of educational practices in this area are also greatly compromised. We cannot remain insensitive in the face of such a reality resulting from a restrictive interpretation of the new legislation.

This seems to imply that Bill 118 is good, and that the elimination of catechesis courses was acceptable.

[Yellow] 41. An unfailing vigilance must be exercised on the part of parents and pastors with the school boards of each school so that the students be given what their parents are expecting for them. Even in places where decisions appear to have been taken at the parents' satisfaction and in the respect of their rights, it is essential that a considerate attention and a cordial understanding be maintained. Christian communities may offer their support to that effect.

We've lost our denominational schools, in large part because of some Quebec Bishops. Why now ask parents to be vigilant? Rather, it is these parents who should now hold some Bishops accountable...

Weaving Different Links

[Green] 42. The missionary duty of the Church vis-à-vis the entire temporal order and cultures has not disappeared in the school milieu with

[Red] the transformation of the formal links we knew to exist at the different levels of the organization.

Ah! The "transformation of the formal links"! That sounds so much nicer than "the systematic dechristianization of our schools!"

[Red] It is clear that the distinction of responsibilities in matters of youth formation calls for a new partnership between the Church and the school.

"A new partnership"? They are trying to wipe us off the face of the Earth! It's about time we realized this!

[Yellow] Even though formal juridical links are weaker, there is nothing to justify the Christian communities from adopting an attitude of indifference for education activity and life in the school milieu, no more so than it would be to distance themselves from social life in general.

[Yellow] 43. The Catholic Church of Quebec always acknowledges the school's contribution in the awakening process to spirituality and faith on the part of young people. The designs of religious teaching as well as of the new department for spiritual life and community involvement offer young people who are taking advantage of them an important place for their search of a meaning that will open them to a process of spiritual growth and humanization by keeping in touch with the message of Christ.

The poor Blessed François de Laval must be turning in his grave! A Cardinal who hails with joy the fact that catholic religious education is replaced with a "dechristianized department for spiritual life and community involvement"!

[Red] 44. In the spirit of a new partnership, full of respect, of gratitude and of mutual esteem,

We've been robbed of our schools! The whole schooling system in Quebec was built and paid for by the Catholic Church! We've been robbed of our schools! Where is the respect? Where is the gratitude?

[Yellow] I want an open dialogue and neighborly terms develop between families, school personnel and those in charge of parish communities. This can take the form, among others, of informal and fraternal gatherings around a good meal. Offers of cooperation with teachers can also be envisioned, especially on the occasion of activities that require Christian witnessing. Parish environment can also be a resource for the school in projects opening young people to community involvement.

Next time a thief steals your wallet, make sure you develop "an open dialogue and neighborly terms" with the thief, like sharing a fraternal meal, for example!

[Yellow] Finally, a simple and easily accessible gesture would be to pray daily for teachers who are opening the Bible for their students so that this action may allow a real desire of knowing Christ to arise through the inspiration of the Spirit.

Unbelievable! Imagine if an unjust law kicked all surgeons out of hospitals. Do you thing the surgeons would start to pray for the Voodoo doctors to handle the scalpels correctly? No! They would do everything they could to get back into the hospitals!

Since when are Atheists and Pagans the most qualified people to talk about Jesus and the Catholic Church?

The Renewal of the Derogatory Clause Which Protects Denominational Teaching

[Green] 45. The Public Education Act, like other pieces of legislation, is provided with a derogatory clause. Its goal is to protect social and historically acquired rights of Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations. In practice, it permits to exempt religious denominational teaching from juridical challenges that would come from a too strict application of the Charter of Rights and Freedom and from the 1982 Constitutional Law.

[Green] 46. This clause, also called "notwithstanding clause" is not a period of grace given to groups while waiting for the eventual disappearance of an existing practice. This "holding" attitude on the part of certain members in position of responsibility in our communities as well as certain school managerial staff does not help in building up a dynamic vision for the future

[Red] in harmony with the fundamental values that have shaped our society.

Please, once in a while, stop talking about History and values, to talk about Truth! Jesus Christ is God, not a bloody "value"! And even if Quebec's culture had never been touched by Catholicism, we would still need to spread the Gospel! It is very "politically incorrect" to say it these days, but we must evangelize to save people from Hell, not to "be in harmony with our cultural heritage"...

[Yellow] It is up to the government, on behalf of the entire community, to act responsibly in the matter of the derogatory clause and choose the adequate way to protect the fundamental religious identity of our people open to religious diversity but also intent of continuing in its own tradition.

While you're at it, why don't you say: "It's the Government's responsibility to defend Catholicism, since we the Bishops aren't doing it"!

[Yellow] 47. I hope, along with the Assembly of Québec Bishops, that a clear political will on the part of the government will allow the application of Bill 118 to improve and create conditions favorable to the formation of teachers, the improvement of programs and teaching system so that the precious heritage of Christian tradition that has been handed on from our forefathers may be transmitted to new generations searching for a meaning to their lives.

The Premier of Quebec could snap back that Cardinal Ouellet isn't even able to control his own Priests (See among others "Please, Mr. Cardinal, Could You Leave Us One Parish?"). If the Cardinal isn't able to "clean things up" where he has full authority, why waste his time telling the politicians how to manage the non-Catholic schools?


[Green] Many and complex are the challenges to the formation to Christian life and they go far beyond the implications of bill 118. The catechetical renewal lies within the updating of the mission of evangelization given to the Church. The recent changes in the school environment are forcing the main actors in catechesis and religious teaching to a joint effort in order to form responsible citizens on the one part, and disciples who know and follow Jesus Christ on the other.

[Yellow] The implementation of a living catechumenate and the effort put in the setting up of a diocesan catechetical project for the renewal of Catholic religious teaching in school are calling to hope all the new evangelization makers!

Yes but, apparently, this Pastoral Letter presents everything except a credible action plan to renew catechesis in the Quebec Diocese.

[Red] Do we not have the presence of the Spirit among us to help us read the signs of times and make judicious choices so that our Church may proclaim to this world, here and now, the happiness of the Gospel?

Obviously not! The Catholic Church in Quebec is dying, first and foremost because of a succession of bad decisions taken by some Bishops for the past thirty years or so. See among others FAQ #7.

We can hope, of course, but only if we radically change our way of thinking and acting. We have to stop struggling against the Holy Father and the official teachings of the Catholic Church. Otherwise, we have no reason to hope.

[Green] Will not these workings of formation to Christian life which I declare and desire to be largely open through this Pastoral Letter allow us to better respond in truth to this burning question of the Lord: "But you, who do you say that I am?" I am entrusting this diocesan undertaking of formation to Christian life and all our efforts therein to Mary, Mother of the Church and model of believers. May she help us let the Spirit of the Gospel model our attitudes and convictions in the image of Christ. I humbly ask Blessed François de Laval, first Bishop in North America, to sustain our hope and our patient faithfulness in adapting his apostolic work to today's age and society.

Given in Quebec City, on this first day of November two thousand and four
On the Feast of All Saints.

Marc Cardinal Ouellet
Archbishop of Québec

My assessment of Cardinal Ouellet's First Pastoral Letter

Nothing heretical as such, but nothing particularly useful either.

If you put in a room a Catholic Bishop, a Protestant Pastor, and an atheist bureaucrat from the Quebec Department of Education, and forced them to find a consensus (no matter how watered-down), the result might be this letter.

When Jesus said: "Ut unum sint" ("that they be one" [Jn 17:11]), He didn't mean the unity between God and Satan, but the unity between God, and the men who convert to God!

To have an idea of the kind of Pastoral Letters concerning catechesis that a courageous Catholic Bishop could write, see:

1st Pastoral Letter of Cardinal Cram Telleuo


2nd Pastoral Letter of Cardinal Cram Telleuo

I could also submit the following comment. Catechesis, if well done, is a very good thing. Except Catechesis is by definition for people who want to be Catholics, not for people who reject the Church!

These days in Quebec, most people are either Atheists or Protestants who don't realize they are Protestants. If all we do is Catechesis, the majority of Quebecers will "slip through the meshes of Peter's net". For Atheists and Protestants, we need at least two more "tools" in the Evangelization "toolbox": Apologetics and Polemics.

Trying to do Catechesis with Atheists and Protestants is like trying to drive nails in with a saw!

Footnotes (sorry, some are still in French)

(1) Assemblée des évêques du Québec, Jésus Christ chemin d'humanisation. Orientations pour la formation à la vie chrétienne, Médiaspaul, Montréal, 2004, 109 p.

(2) Id., p. 7.

(3) Lettres pastorales de Mgr Maurice Couture : L'évangélisation au coeur du projet pastoralde l'Église, revue Pastorale-Québec, vol. 111, no 11, 22 septembre 1999, p. 3-13 ; Pour une véritable action catéchétique : l'Église de Québec se mobilise!, revue Pastorale-Québec,vol. 14, no 2, 11 février 2002, p. 15-18. Please note that in September 2002, a set of sheets had followed on the basic conditions necessary to the realisation of a diocesan catechetical project.

(4) Congrégation pour le clergé, Directoire général pour la catéchèse, Concacan Inc. 1997, no 80.

(5) Directoire général pour la catéchèse, no 67.

(6) The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us in many places of the importance of these foundations for the essential of the life of faith to which we must witness. Paragraphs 101-141 deal with the place of the Church and of Holy Scripture in the life of faith. As to the mystery of the Word made flesh, it is touched on throughout the entire work although more concentrated teaching elements on the subject can be found in paragraphs 422-682. Finally, paragraphs 748-975 are painting a broad picture of the Church in the History of Salvation.

(7) Cf. AEQ, Jésus Christ chemin d'humanisation, p. 52.

(8) We are talking here about the catechumenate of people aged 14 years old and up. The various steps toward the three sacraments of initiation taken by children of school age are also to be implemented according to the catechumenate model. In fact, the Church has already promulgated a Rite of Baptism for Children of Catechetical Age that proposes modes of implementation close to that of the catechumenate of adults. Furthermore, the dioceses of Québec, in consultation, have just given themselves excellent tools of accompaniment for this type of initiation: Je marche vers mon baptême, Montréal, CICA/OCQ, 2004.

(9) Cf. Christus Dominus (décret sur La charge pastorale des évêques) no 14; Sacrosanctum concilium (constitution sur La Sainte liturgie), no 64; Ad gentes (décret sur L'activité missionnaire de l'Église), nos 13-14.

(10) Ce rituel a été publié par la Commission francophone pour les traductionset la liturgie (deuxième édition française de l'édition typique du Rituel del'initiation chrétienne des adultes, confirmée par la Congrégation pour le Culte divin et la Discipline des sacrements en 1996), Rituel de l'initiation chrétienne des adultes, Paris, Desclée/Mame, 1997, 245 p.

(11) Rituel nos 47 et 104.

(12) AEQ, Jésus Christ chemin d'humanisation, p. 45-54.

(13) Directoire général pour la catéchèse (1997), no 58c et no 26.

(14) AEQ, Jésus Christ chemin d'humanisation, p.48.

(15). AEQ, Jésus Christ chemin d'humanisation, p.49 et Directoire général pour la catéchèse, no 67.

(16) AEQ, Jésus Christ chemin d'humanisation, p.51.

(17) Ensemble de modifications apportées à la Loi sur l'instruction publique et rassemblées sous le titre : Loi modifiant diverses dispositions législatives dans le secteur de l'éducation concernant la confessionnalité, 14 juin 2000.

(18)  It should be noted that, in 2003-2004, 80.1% of parents have chosen to maintain Catholic religious teaching in primary school and 61.6% in the first cycle of secondary school. We should also be reminded that during the last census, 83.2% of Québec population declared themselves to be Roman Catholic.  14 tradition, while gradually broadening their point of view. With time, whether they distance themselves from that tradition or make it their own on a more personal level, they will at least become acquainted with the Christian tradition so profoundly entrenched in Quebec culture 18 ." It is important to point out that this way of thinking is in agreement with the wishes of many immigrants, a majority of which is Roman Catholic.

(19) Position of the Assembly of Québec Bishops with respect to confessional instruction in public schools 2, The Most Reverend Raymond St-Gelais, President of the AQB, October 26, 2004.

(20) On this subject, the Council for Intercultural Relations points out that "62.8% of people born in foreign countries are Roman Catholic [...] In fact, the Roman Catholic Church is the denomination presenting, and by far, the greatest ethno-cultural diversity." See CONSEIL DES RELATIONS INTERCULTURELLES, Laïcité et diversité québecoise: l'approche québécoise, Opinion presented to the Minister for Relations with the Citizens and for Immigration, March 26, 2004.

(21) Position of the Assembly of Québec Bishops with respect to confessional instruction in public schools 2, op. cit.

(22) This new department common to all students has replaced the department for pastoral (Roman Catholic) and the department for religious activities (Protestant).

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