Why are students from Catholic schools doubtful, skeptic, and not firm in faith?
December 23, 2011 7 Comments
Question (from a reader):
Can you comment on my observation that most students who graduated from Catholic schools tend to be the ones who are doubtful, skeptic and not firm in the faith? What must be done?
In the study of theology, we must study all objections to the faith in order to present the truth of the Catholic faith. This is what St. Aquinas did in his Summa Theologiae. First he presents the question, then raises all objections or difficulties, and finally presents his resolution. I think the problem in the current teaching of theology is that it limits itself to presenting the question and raising the objections, but never the Catholic resolution. Even if the official Catholic teaching is presented, it is presented in such a way that it is only one of the many interpretations or resolutions. Thus, the student ends up choosing for himself what truth is, which leads to Cafeteria Catholicism.
Surprisingly, it is possible to teach the Catholic faith even to Muslims, Buddhists, and Pagans, by phrasing the question as follow: “What does the Catholic Church officially teach about such and such question?” This is an objective question which demands an objective response that does not require assent of faith. The problem with some theology courses, they go to higher ordered thinking skills without making sure the simple objective questions are easily answered by the students. For example, the student must first be able to state the dogma of the Transubstantiation, before he can discuss in what sense is the Church the Mystical Body of Christ and how it is different from the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Other theology courses also uses reading lists which has majority written by of modern theologians which are considered by the Church as heretical; only a small fraction is by the Doctors of the Church or the Encyclicals of the Pope. And the Catechism is even never mentioned in the discussions.
How do we improve the teaching of theology? I shall recommend only one thing which the popes themselves recommend: teach St. Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae. As Pope Leo XIII wrote in his Encyclical Aeterni Patris:
“Z 1. But, furthermore, Our predecessors in the Roman pontificate have celebrated the wisdom of Thomas Aquinas by exceptional tributes of praise and the most ample testimonials. Clement VI in the bull In Ordine; Nicholas V in his brief to the friars of the Order of Preachers, 1451; Benedict XIII in the bull Pretiosus, and others bear witness that the universal Church borrows lustre from his admirable teaching; while St. Pius V declares in the bull Mirabilis that heresies, confounded and convicted by the same teaching, were dissipated, and the whole world daily freed from fatal errors; others, such as Clement XII in the bull Verbo Dei, affirm that most fruitful blessings have spread abroad from his writings over the whole Church, and that he is worthy of the honor which is bestowed on the greatest Doctors of the Church, on Gregory and Ambrose, Augustine and Jerome; while others have not hesitated to propose St. Thomas for the exemplar and master of the universities and great centers of learning whom they may follow with unfaltering feet. On which point the words of Blessed Urban V to the University of Toulouse are worthy of recall: “It is our will, which We hereby enjoin upon you, that ye follow the teaching of Blessed Thomas as the true and Catholic doctrine and that ye labor with all your force to profit by the same.”(35) Innocent XII, followed the example of Urban in the case of the University of Louvain, in the letter in the form of a brief addressed to that university on February 6, 1694, and Benedict XIV in the letter in the form of a brief addressed on August 26, 1752, to the Dionysian College in Granada; while to these judgments of great Pontiffs on Thomas Aquinas comes the crowning testimony of Innocent VI: “His teaching above that of others, the canonical writings alone excepted, enjoys such a precision of language, an order of matters, a truth of conclusions, that those who hold to it are never found swerving from the path of truth, and he who dare assail it will always be suspected of error.”(36)
St. Aquinas is the most lucid of all theologians: straight, direct to the point. An oral exam in Theology courses usually takes 15 minutes. This would just be enough to explain one question in Summa, with its objections and resolutions. Teach Aquinas and in four years, the students will leave the university with a firm faith in the Catholic teaching.