Christian Religious Education (CRE) in Catholic Schools Lacks Doctrinal Depth

I have a friend who went through Holy Family Bukalasa Minor Seminary for four years. He is now a happy and successful husband and dad, contributing to the common good of his community. He is a proud alumnus of the Bukalasa seminary, and very active in issues pertaining to his alma mater. However, he became a Muslim just a few years after he left the seminary. He says that one of the reasons why he left the Catholic faith for Islam is that his four years of seminary formation never convinced him of the veracity of the Catholic faith. His family and his mugigi classes (that lasted for a few months) did not give him a good Catholic foundation. He joined the seminary after primary school thinking that he would have a formal class on the doctrine of the Catholic faith. He was eager to take Christian Religious Education (CRE). He later on realized that the subject matter of CRE was nothing Christian. Despite formation talks and homilies at Mass, he never got a solid formation that convinced him of the veracity of the Catholic faith.

The above experience of my friend is one among many. Many people who have defected from the Catholic faith attribute lack of proper Catholic education as the number one reason for their exodus from the Catholics faith. My friend got a distinction in Christian Religious Education at O’Level. However, he says that there’s no subject that is as nonsensical as CRE in Catholic Secondary Schools. Apart from the Catholic doctrine he acquired from mugigi school (which was short lived), there is nothing he learned about the Catholic faith in the seminary CRE classes. For those unfamiliar with CRE, its subject matter does not include anything essential to the Christian doctrine. Nothing about Scripture, Grace, sacraments, commandments, the Paschal Mystery, history of the Church/Christianity. Students study general topics such as “change in a society,” “work in a society,” “leisure,” and many other things of the sort. One has to search elsewhere in order to learn things pertaining to the Christian faith. To use philosophical terms, the subject matter of CRE is the accidents of the Christian faith—not its essence.

My friend says that when he studied Islamic Religious Education (IRE) at A’ level, he learnt a lot that convinced him of the veracity of the religion he now subscribes to. The subject matter of IRE, unlike CRE, is essentially about the Islamic faith. Students of IRE have to study and master the Quran, history of Islam and its pillars, prayers and practices, and the sayings/writings of prophet Mohamed. CRE on the other hand does not want to indoctrinate anyone about Christianity. It seems its drafters wanted to please everyone by not talking about things that are essential to the Christian faith.

Authentic Christian Religious Education should be concerned primarily about the redemption of Christ and things that are essential to the Christian faith. Christ came to save us from sin and eternal death. He left us the Church and sacraments as ways of experiencing the salvation he brought us. Topics such as change, work, leisure, are important but these should be secondary in a subject worth the name CRE. It is high time that Christian educators modified the syllabus of CRE to make it Christian. What makes a thing what it is, is its essence-not its accidents. An orange is an orange not because of the yellow color of its skin, but because of its orangeness. CRE will be truly Christian education if its content is primarily Christian.

If Catholic bishops, educators, priests, parents, and all those concerned about religious education don’t wake up to provide real Catholic religious education in their schools, we will see a massive exodus from the Catholic Church (as in Europe and North America), decreasing Church attendance and a large number of those who identify themselves as Catholics only in name. Schools are places were children are formed. Although it is primarily a duty of parents to form their children in the faith, schools too have a great impact. Catholic schools should borrow a leaf from Muslims schools that teach fundamentals of their faith.

I’m not suggesting that Catholic educators should ban the current CRE syllabus from their schools. Rather, they should augment CRE classes with topics that are essential to the Christian faith such as Church history, bible lessons, Sacraments etc. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a great resource on this matter. For seminaries, the current CRE should be secondarily to Catholic instruction. The current CRE syllabus is inadequate in seminaries in attending to the doctrinal formation of the seminarians.

Fr. Joseph LugalambiFr. Lugalambi is a priest of Masaka Diocese.