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Friday, October 15, 2010


Todd Newbold

I am confused why the Gospel of Mark is so rarely read in Catholic or Christian churches? Matthew and Luke are read at every Mass while John is read at Protestant services. Homilies or sermons are always about Paul. Mark was for the Romans who created this political/secular culture. Why not read more Mark? I think Im going to go buy another copy of the Gospel of Mark from Ignatius press, and a copy of "The Inklings".

Carl E. Olson

Todd: In the three-year cycle of readings at Mass, Matthew is read throughout Cycle A, Mark throughout Cycle B, and Luke throughout Cycle C. John is read throughout Easter each year (as well as other, select times).


I wish Fr. Barron would have commented on the actual questions posed by the study. As Carl wrote about before, only a handful of questions were actually about Catholic doctrine with others being political or demographically based. I'm not saying the survey was wrong necessarily (I think we all know how out-to-lunch some nominal Catholics can be) but that the survey itself could be misleading because of the kinds of questions it asked.


there was a time when the beginning of St Johns Gospel was read at the end of every Mass.

Fernando Umberto Garcia de Nicaragua, Prefectus Minimus: The Jacksonian Institute

Yes, Tiggy. I hear it every day when I go to Low Mass at my FSSP parish.


Yea, I'm with Greg. If you read the Pew research questions, it's not what the headline says it was. I'm with Fr. Barron that we all need to better know our faith, yet, Pew asks questions about other faiths as well. I encourage the naturally curious to explore such knowledge, as long as your keeping the home fires burning fine.

Gail F

Three questions, I think, were about Mormons. Considering that Mormons read the Bible (not their own version of various Bible stories, like the Muslims, but the actual Protestant version of the Bible), it's no wonder that they would score better than Christians -- they know the Christian answers and the Mormon answers. So that at least is accounted for.

Also, I am always skeptical of questions about the Real Presence in surveys. It's been pretty well proved that large numbers of Catholics don't understand the Real Presence, largely because they are not taught about it anymore. But I also think it's reasonable that people who do believe in the Real Presence will answer this sort of question negatively, because they think that they're being asked if they believe that the wine and the bread turn into human flesh and human blood, which they obviously do not. I certainly wouldn't want anyone thinking I believed that -- and there is no opportunity in such a survey to discuss transubstantiation. This question seems to have been worded pretty well, but people still might have thought that was what they were asked.

Lee Gilbert

I am struck here, as so often in the Catholic blogsphere, with the emphasis on adult concerns to the exclusion of any notice whatever that our children are growing up uncatechized.

Sure, let's get back to Irenaeus, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, etc.. Fine. It is a beautiful idea and very necessary.

First, however, let us get back to the Baltimore Catechism and put it in the hands and in the minds of our children. In contrast to the program Fr. Barron lays out this is NOT hard. From this large pool of well catechized 6 yr olds would come, in a mere 12 to 19 years, many seminarians, religious and priests avid for more of the Tradition which they had tasted as children. These elementary teachings of the BC implicitly do contain a great deal of Origen, Aquinas, Augustine and the Fathers. This would go a long way toward giving our children the desire for God and the love of learning that would animate the large and arduous program Fr. Barron lays out.

Ray Marshall

Fr. Barron is one of the best preachers extant today. but his comments really didn't pertain to the Pew survey.

The Pew survey didn't have questions on Catholicism in particular. It had questions on many religions, Christian, non-Christian, Islam, Bhuddism, Hinduism, etc.

People who scored well on that test probably are people who read a lot and who are knowledgeable in many different subjects. That would probably include lots of atheists and agnostics.

But just because a Catholic doesn't know Bhuddist concepts, doesn't mean that he doesn't know his Catholic faith well.

But then again, if the 35 questions had included nothing but "Catholic" questions, I'm not confident that most Catholics would score well.

For the beliefs, teachings and practices of the Church haven't been taught well in most parishes for 50 years.

Carl E. Olson

Lee: The issue of catechesis for children, while not mentioned in this post, is a topic that has been addressed several times on Ignatius Insight and Insight Scoop. Ignatius Press publishes an excellent catechetical series, "Faith and Life", that has been praised by Cardinal Razinger (referring to the German edition), Bishops Myers, Olmsted and Sheridan, and lay theologians such as Dr. Scott Hahn. Free samples and downloads are available on the "Faith and Life" website.

Carl E. Olson

Ray: To your points, which I agree with, here is what I wrote in a longer post here on Insight Scoop about the Pew Forum survey:

So here's the rub: during that same twenty year period, as the general quality of education has worsened, the percentage of Americans who say they have no religious faith has steadily increased. For example, In 1990, 18% of Oregonians identified themselves as having "no religion", a number that increased to 24% in 2008; Vermont, to take another state, increased from 13% to 34%. And so forth. In other words, it would appear that as education has worsened (and who is really agnostic or atheist about that?), religious faith has decreased at a notable, even dramatic rate. According to, there was a 110% increase in the number of folks who are "nonreligious/secular" from 1990 to 2000 (the site notes that many atheists prefer to be called "nonreligious" rather than "atheist").

Thus, when Jacoby writes, "I regret this dumbing-down of religion profoundly, because religious education is one of the most effective tools ever devised for creating religious skeptics", my clouded, God-fearing brain must ask: does her conclusion follow from the evidence and her presuppositions? I think not. On the contrary, I think the facts support an entirely different conclusion: that as both public and religious education declines in rigor and quality, the number of people who call themselves "atheist" or "nonreligious" grows significantly. Or, put in a more blunt manner, there seems to be a direct correlation between the increase in poorly educated (but confident!) students and the increase in atheists.

For the record, I think that sort of conclusion is a tad simplistic and a wee bit unfair. I think a more balanced and thoughtful approach would take into consideration additional factors, including dramatic increases in divorce, births outside wedlock, single parent homes, a morally corrosive popular culture, drug use, technological diversions and distractions, disrespect for authority, rejection of objective truth, and so forth. Is it surprising, for example, that a sixteen-year-old boy who attends a public school which either ignores or discredits religious belief would eventually reject vaguely understood (if understood at all) religious notions regarding premarital sex and consider himself at least "nonreligious" if not "atheist"? No, of course not.

Most practicing Catholics could tell Jacoby—using plenty of stories taken from personal experience—that Catholic education, on the whole (there are exceptions, of course), has been mediocre to dreadful for some forty years or so, the result of several factors, one of them being a severe crisis of faith. Sadly, tragically, during that same time large numbers of Catholics left the Church and even renounced all religious belief. I've had the curious experience, on several occasions (hey, I live in Oregon!), of talking to people who say, "Yeah, I went to Catholic school" or "I'm a recovering Catholic", but who know less about basic Catholic beliefs and practices than I do about rocket science. And in most cases, those same people act as if they know everything about the Catholic Church. They are, in short, delusional; they think they are immensely educated, but their education is usually either seriously lacking or, in some cases, highly specialized, resulting in both a skewed perspective of the world and of their own grasp of facts.

And, to conclude, I don't find that fact to be really contrary to the results of the Pew Forum survey, because although the survey was extremely basic, most Americans do not receive even a basic education in matters religious during their high school years.

Read the entire post.

Lee Gilbert

Carl: Thanks for the reminder about the Faith and Life series which I used as a fifth grade religious ed teacher about ten years ago. It was very good and would not say a word against it. It would be a mistake in my view to present the Baltimore Catechism as a rival to any other series, esp not Faith and Life, and I did not mean to do so. The BC has a place and a purpose all its own and could be/should be used in conjunction with other catechetical programs.

That place is in very early childhood education, at that time when children are in the "poll parrot stage" and love to memorize things. Dorothy Sayers discusses this in her essay, "The Lost Tools of Learning":

"The Poll-Parrot stage is the one in which learning by heart is easy and, on the whole, pleasurable; whereas reasoning is difficult and, on the whole, little relished. At this age, one readily memorizes the shapes and appearances of things; one likes to recite the number-plates of cars; one rejoices in the chanting of rhymes and the rumble and thunder of unintelligible polysyllables; one enjoys the mere accumulation of things."

This age is approximately ages 3-6. Children are learning languages at this time, and I can think of a three year old who is tri-lingual, so the memorization of the BC would be a piece of cake. I know it sounds absurd, but I have seen this work with my own 4 yr old daughter and heard of it in other cases, where the parent is catechizing a 6 yr old and the 4 year old is absorbing it all as well. Of course, they will not *understand* everything. Let "Faith and Life" explain what is already long in the child's memory.

Many are the adults in the generations now dying off who on being asked “Why did God make you?” would instantaneously reply, “God made me to know, love and serve Him in this life and to be happy with him forever in Heaven.” There is definitely a place for memorization, one that the succinct answers of the BC wonderfully supplies.

Todd Newbold

Modern Protestant/Catholic teaching seems to be all about Relationship. What would a survey result say about this question Relationship or Beatitudes? The dominoes have been naturally falling.

Gerald C. Paris

Dear Gail,
They are the body and blood of Jesus Christ under the appearances of bread and wine. When Jesus said to the Jews "eat my body and drink my blood" they took Him seriously and left. If the bread and wine are not truly the body and blood of Christ, what are they? More importantly what are we, idolators?

Suzanne Mostly

Don't you think Gail means they irroneously interpret it on the level of cannibalism, which is not what we believe. That is a very common misunderstanding. The host does not bleed whenever a communicant bites into the host (which i do not do).
It is more on the level of his glorified Body and blood - truely him, but as Jesus said, these words were spirit and life.

Todd Newbold

If Holy Eucharist cannot be 1) the Body and Blood of Christ i.e. "a mystery", how can one believe in 2) God Incarnate " a mystery" 3) the Ascension " a mystery"? The theme is a suspicion of anything mysterious, which is imbedded in Human Nature. To deny mystery would be to deny Love. What is Love spelled backwards?

Todd Newbold

I just finished Chapter 1 of "Looking for the King." and I did buy another copy of my favorite book "The Gospel of Mark" by Ignatius Press.


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