[See DEAR DEBORAH, Page 1]
Thanks for your notes about RCIA. I do think it is great to let parishes customize their programs. The people leading the program I attended are well-intentioned. But the bottom line is that their program is full of barriers for people just coming to faith in general or specifically exploring the Roman Catholic [RC] faith. The largest number of attendees that night had a vested interest in becoming Catholic…principally in joining their spouse in the Catholic faith or coming back to the church with confession and reconciliation.
Hopefully, a full picture of the first class is conveyed from this list:
- The RCIA class series (September to April) costs $60. People were told they can pay all at one time or break it down in payments of $20 or so.
- We were told we were required to purchase the Catholic Bible and the simplified United States Catholic Catechism for Adults [red cover], offered together by the church bookstore at $25 for both.
- One woman inquired about the cost of the books: could she use her King James Bible? [KJV] She clearly didn’t have the money.
- The leader did not accept the King James Bible and offered no guidance in helping the woman access the Deuterocanonical books from some other source to use in conjunction with her KJV.
- No options were given [book cart or loaner for class reference] for people to use Bibles and Catechisms on loan for the RCIA program.
- The RCIA program was outlined in a well-done syllabus. But the syllabus and RCIA program were presented as you might expect for a military induction class or freshman college class Intro to Faith. Emphasis was on meeting all the requirements so that you will be allowed to receive the sacraments seven months from now. Leader pointed out that people from the previous class had “failed” and did not get to receive the sacraments.
- The list of “requirements” was interesting. Certainly, there were good ideas on the list. But, again, the presentation focused on the requirements. Example: “You are required to choose a saint. We’ll be talking about them later. There are some books about saints. You will have time to get familiar with a few of them in our classes.” Many in the class expressed anxiety about this, not having a familiarity with the saints or who they might want to choose.
- Again, similar anxiety was expressed when we were told we were “required” to have a sponsor for entry into the church. The instructor moved on quickly, stating, “We’ll talk more about this later in the classes.”
- One requirement is a 3-day Crusillo retreat on the schedule for a weekend in November. The implication is that if you do not attend the retreat, you will have “failed” to “pass” the RCIA program. There is an additional charge for the retreat.
- The attendee questionnaire emphasized proof of baptism and marital history. In class, our leader said that you must be married in the RC church in order to receive sacraments at Easter. She was speaking quickly and might have been able to more fully explain this. But as she left it, that would tell me (if I didn’t know better) that I would not be able to enter the church.
In general, as an example of The New Evangelization, this RCIA class would not encourage any fledgling Christian who needs more understanding of the RC faith. Instead, it would reinforce every negative stereotype about Catholics…rules…regulations…fences and walls…buying our entry into the sacraments with class fees and “works”.
My key question? What options exist in the Roman Catholic Church structure for constructing RCIA instruction, helping well-intentioned lay people who lead these classes to effectively meet and come alongside seekers and Protestants who are willing to explore the Catholic Church?
Hopefully, this suffices to lay out my most pressing questions. I was hoping that you, as a former Protestant, seminary graduate, and classroom teacher, might resonate with my concerns. My heart aches for people who need the RCIA program to lead/instruct them as Paul taught…as babes able only to drink milk.
Meanwhile, Catholic leaders speak of the need for all Christians to live a life of ongoing renewed conversion. What is the boundary between the introduction to learning the Catholic faith and that of the lifelong learning and ongoing conversion we all need to embrace Catholic doctrines?
Finally…RCIA, 7 months, and “requirements”…all of this before one is “permitted” to receive the sacraments…how does this comport with Acts 2:40-41:
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
The first Pope preached one day and baptized 3000. If he was able to sufficiently catechize them in 24 hours…what are we hoping to accomplish in effectively “withholding” the sacraments for seven months?
I say this all of this with the greatest love and respect for the Catholic Church and its people. Hopefully, it is clearly communicated, even if you are not in agreement with my concerns.
I will welcome any words you offer.
NEXT: THE ECHO CHAMBER
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