Thursday, March 27, 2008

Blessed Are We: A New Red Flag

At first glance, "Blessed Are We," a catechetical program by Silver Burdett Ginn, seems like it will meet the mark. However, after taking a closer look at its scope and sequence, one will recognize quite a few Red Flags.

Dear Readers, I hope you don't mind my sharing with you that I possess a unique perspective on these catechetical programs, since I have written "copy" for various publishers, including those who are striving to "update" their catechetical programs. Unfortunately, nothing has changed in the "politically correct department" of these publishing houses, and it is that department that hold the reins.

My original viewpoint as a catechetical contributor was one of hope. However, catechetical writers who are actually practicing, knowledgable Catholics are practically forced to express the truths of the Catholic faith in certain terms; if that does not happen, our phrasing is edited (i.e., it is diluted). Furthermore, and most distressing of all, not all catechetical writers (much less the editors) are even Catholic! Yet, in the end product, there is just enough of the truth featured, providing a nice Catholic facade for those who tend to just "glance over" these programs. (As for me, it was a good learning opportunity, and it greatly assisted me as an educator and a reviewer to experience first-hand the "inside development" of such programs.)

First of all, Silver Burdett Ginn is now a part of Scott Foresman, a secular educational company. (This fact lends further proof to my own observations and experiences that those who control the reigns to catechetical programs are secularists, if not outright progressives, liberals or modernists. )

The focus of "Blessed are We" may be summed up as follows: community, service and social justice. The program aims to "respect diversity, working for social justice on a global scale and teaching effective skills of dialogue, negotiation and non-violent ways to bring about change."

The following is an overview of the first six levels, revealing some of the program's Red Flags:

Baptism is a "celebration of becoming a member of the Christian community." (Notice that baptism is no longer about washing away Original Sin and thus becoming a child of God; instead, the focus is on "the community.")

"Recognize God's image in each person" (rather than clearly explaining that we are made in God's Image and explaining what that means, the change in terms is misleading and can easily lead to a belief in pantheism.)

The Church is defined as a " a world community of all kinds of people." (Compare this definition to that found in the Baltimore Catechism!)

The Apostle's Creed is "a set of beliefs" (i.e., not necessarily defined TRUTHS.)

Confession is termed only as "reconciliation," and little or nothing is said about repentance and penance. Instead, through reconciliation, "we can celebrate God's forgiveness and re-establish our relationship with others, God and the church community. (Notice we "celebrate" - not attain - God's forgiveness for our sins through Confession and absolution. The focus is first on others, then God - a "twist" of the first Commandment as well as the Great Commandment.)

"Blessed Are We" also teaches, "Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick are sacraments of healing which are meant to be celebrated primarily in community." (Since when are these sacraments primarily celebrated 'in community?" Thus, Confession is no longer a "private matter" between God, one's confessor and one's self. Extreme Unction is also a "community" event, but one would like to know "how" if one is sick and ailing, whether at home or in a hospital.) Unlike the Baltimore Catechism or Our Holy Faith, the sacraments are not described as sacraments of the living or the "spiritually" dead, since we can no longer acknowledge that venial sin wounds the grace in our souls or that mortal sin kills the life of grace within our souls.

Mass is introduced as "special meal that celebrates God's love for us." (It is no longer a Sacrifice, but a meal!) Later, there is an acknowledgement that Jesus is "truly present" at the Mass, but it is not made clear "how."

"Blessed Are We" acknowledges that Jesus leads us to God, but it is not made very clear that Jesus IS God. He is mentioned as "messiah" (small m), but His role is played down more to a level of another prophet. At other times, his (sic) "salvific mission" is mentioned. Most disturbing, especially once one gets to the lessons on ISLAM.

"Blessed are We" does not correctly teach the difference between respecting a person of a different religion, because that person is also made in God's image (not to mention that person's soul needs salvation through the Catholic Church) and his belief system; instead it teaches we must also "respect" a person's non-Catholic religion, with a special emphasis on respecting Islam. Furthermore, "Blessed Are We" does nothing positive for the student by presenting these "belief systems" since it does not correct them with true Catholic doctrine. Instead, it indoctrinates the student with the false viewpoint that other beliefs are acceptable, thus promoting the sin of religious indifferentism (i.e., the false belief that all religions are perceived as good and equal.)

Please allow me to provide a specific example (with all emphasis below mine), a very revealing excerpt from the "Blessed Are We" website, which states:
We are one with our Muslim brothers and sisters. Let us take it upon ourselves to become more knowledgeable and respectful of Muslims and Islam.

The content below was developed by Maureen Gallagher, Ph.D. Archdiocesan Delegate to Parishes in the Milwaukee Archdiocese. Adapt and integrate the content for use in the home, school, or parish.

Some Frequently Asked Questions about Islam, Muslims, and Related Issues

This overview, by the nature of the format, is very cursory. You are encouraged to study the issues in much more depth and explore the resources named at the end of the questions.

1. What is Islam?
Islam is one of the great world religions. It was articulated by the prophet Muhammad in the seventh century. The word `Islam' means submission--submission to the will of God--and is derived from a word meaning peace. The name given to God in Islam is Allah, which is the Arabic name for God.

2. Who are Muslims?
Muslims are people who practice the Islamic faith. Muslims are the second largest group of religious people in the world, next to Christians. Muslim people come from many races, nationalities and cultures. Many parts of the Asian and African world are Muslim. About 18% of Muslims live in the Middle Eastern Arab part of the world. However, it should be noted that all Arabs are not Muslims. Some are Christians and others practice other religions. Many African- Americans are Muslims as their original religion in Africa was Islam. Muslims do not see themselves as a "new religion," but rather the last stage of God's revelation that began with Abraham continued to Moses, Jesus and ultimately Muhammad. Many people of American and European descent have embraced Islam.

3. What do Muslims believe?
Muslims believe in One God. They often use the words, One, Unique, Incomparable God. They believe in angels and in the prophets through whom God's revelations were made known. Muslims believe in life after death and in accountability for one's actions.

4. Do Muslims believe in Jesus Christ
Muslims believe Jesus Christ was a great prophet. They do not believe that Jesus Christ is the second person of the Trinity, the son of God.

5. Is there any connection between Muslims and Christianity?
Muslims trace their origins back to Abraham as do Jews and Christians. They believe that Muhammad, their great prophet, was descended from Abraham's son Ishmael and that Moses and Jesus were descendents of Isaac. Muslims believe in many of the prophets of the Old or First Testament as well as in the prophetic mission of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ.

6. Who was Muhammad?
Muhammad was born in 570 and orphaned as a young child. As he grew up people noticed that he was a truthful, generous and sincere person. He was deeply religious and contemplative. He was known as a fair arbitrator. According to Islamic belief when Muhammad was forty years old he received his first revelation from God through the Angel Gabriel. His revelations continued for 23 years. The revelations were written down and formed the Islamic holy book or Qur'an (Koran). The Qur'an has passages very similar to the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, plus unique revelations that Muhammad received.

7. Do Christians believe in Muhammad?
Christians recognize Muhammad as a great religious leader. The Catholic Church has a high regard for Muslims.

8. How do Muslims practice their religion?
There are five pillars in Islam:
One: The Creed The creed is very simple. Basically, it is as follows: There is no god except God. Muhammad is the messenger of God.
Two: Prayer Prayer is central to Muslim religious practice. Muslims pray five times a day: dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall. Muslims pray in mosques or wherever they are. The prayers are based on the Qur'an and said in Arabic, although personal petitions are said in the vernacular.
Three: Fasting During the month of Ramadan Muslims fast from dawn until sundown as a means of purification and as a way of identifying with the hungry of the world. The Muslim calendar is based on a lunar year. This year Ramadan begins toward the end of November.
Four: Purifying Tax (Zakat) Muslims believe that all things belong to God and that possessions are a trust given to people. The "Purifying Tax" is a way of exercising detachment from things as well as a way of providing for the poor. It is similar to the concept of stewardship or tithing in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Five: Pilgrimage The journey to Mecca is required once in a life time, if it is possible. Mecca is in Saudi Arabia.

9. What are some other things unique to Muslims?
Muslims are restricted from eating pork or drinking alcoholic drinks. Their weekly holy day is Friday. They worship in mosques. Three mosques are particularly important: Mosque of Kaaba in Mecca, Mosque of the Prophet Muhammad in Medina and Masjid Aqsa, next to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

10. What have Muslims contributed to the quality of life in the world?
Since the early centuries of Islam, Muslims have made significant contributions to society in the fields of medicine, chemistry, mathematics, arts, poetry, spirituality and physics. Two well known landmarks in Chicago, the Sears Tower and the John Hancock building were designed by a Muslim architect.

11. Why is it that some people associate terrorism with Islam and Muslims?
There are small groups of Muslims who have distorted the practice of Islam and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad by choosing terror and violence as a means of fighting perceived injustice. They are extremists. This does not mean that all Muslims are violent killers. The vast majority of Muslims oppose these violent acts. Just because some Catholics and Protestants act violently in Northern Ireland does not mean all Catholics and Protestants are violent. Most Christians and Muslims live throughout the world in peace and harmony with their neighbors. There are approximately 7,000,000 Muslims living as good neighbors in the United States today.

12. What is the Taliban that we hear so much about these days?
The Taliban currently rules most of Afghanistan. The country has been torn by civil war for the last thirty years. The rise of the Taliban and the United States' role in this is complicated. The word, `Taliban' in Arabic means "seekers of truth." The Taliban is an extremist Islamic group that controls ninety percent of Afghanistan. Their interpretation of Islam is not shared by the majority of Islamic people. Under their interpretation of the "truth," television, dance, film, playing cards, chessboards, fashion catalogues, neckties, photography, kite-flying, non-religious music have been banned. Women cannot attend school or work and generally receive little or no medical care. Famous statues of the giant Buddhas have been destroyed. The majority of Islamic scholars call the Taliban interpretation of Islam a gross distortion.

13. What are the causes of terrorism?
There is no easy answer to this question. Many acts of terrorism are rooted in the experience of oppression and social injustice. Terrorists choose to use violence to eradicate injustice rather than political processes or non-violent approaches as Ghandi or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did.

14. How can terrorism be eliminated?
Terrorism can be eliminated by helping all people respect diversity, working for social justice on a global scale and teaching effective skills of dialogue, negotiation and non-violent ways to bring about change. We must also continue to promote the sanctity and basic dignity of all human beings in such a way that we grow in a global respect and promotion of human dignity.
15. As Catholics what should our attitude and our relationship to Muslims be?

Nowhere is this better stated than in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council:
"The Church has ... a high regard for Muslims. They worship God, who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men. They strive to submit themselves without reserve to the hidden decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted himself to God's plan, to whose faith Muslims eagerly link their own.

Although not acknowledging him as God, they venerate Jesus as a prophet. They honor his virgin Mother and even at times devoutly invoke her. They highly esteem an upright life and worship God especially by way of prayer, almsgiving and fasting. Over the centuries many quarrels and dissensions have arisen between Christians and Muslims. The sacred Council now pleads with all to forget the past, and urges that a sincere effort be made to achieve mutual understanding; for the benefit of all, let them together preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values." (Nostra Aetate 3)
The info above comes from
Blessed Are We. Since my original 2003 Red Flag alert, the site has removed its preview pages of the program. The information was on The Resource page, which featured a paragraph about links, including the one about Islam (now a dead link).

(First posted Oct. 8, 2003 to the original blog, Keeping It Catholic - with Marianna Bartold)

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