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Elizabeth Johnson responds to the Committee on Doctrine.

NCR has obtained a copy of Johnson's 38-page replyto the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, whose statement [.pdf] on her Quest for the Living God claimed the book contaminates the traditional Catholic understanding of God and completely undermines the gospel. (We have a copy too [.pdf].) And you can find our posts on the dispute here.) Johnson sent the text to committee members, and executive director Fr. Thomas Weinandy, on June 1. Hope she included a copy of the book.

As I've written before, I think the Committee on Doctrine seriously misread Quest for the Living God. Riddled with errors and distortions, the bishops' statement never should have gotten out of committee. It's a shame that the USCCB Administrative Committee, chaired by the president of the conference, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, voted to publish the statement rather then send it back for revision.

Johnson herself offers a nice summary of the committee's errors:

Given these initial misreadings, what follows was almost bound to miss the mark. Ideas are taken out of context and twisted to mean what they patently do not mean. Sentences are run to a conclusion far from what I think or the text says. False dilemmas are composed. Numerous omissions, distortions, and outright misstatements of fact riddle the reading. As a work of theology, Quest for the Living God was thoroughly misunderstood and consistently misrepresented in the committees statement. As a result, the statements judgment that Quest does not cohere with Catholic teaching is less than compelling. It hangs in the air, untethered by the text of the book itself.

Johnson begins by noting that the Committee on Doctrine seems to misunderstand what Quest for the Living God is--namely, a work of theology, not catechesis. "Theological research does not simply reiterate received doctrinal formulas but probes and interprets them in order to deepen understanding. To do this well, theology throughout history has articulated faith in different thought forms, images, and linguistic expressions. Its work employs all manner of methods and ideas taken from other disciplines in order to shed light on the meaning of faith." Johnson goes to the obvious example, Aquinas, and leans on John Paul II to drive home the point:

Just as Aristotelian philosophy, through the ministry of such great scholars as Thomas Aquinas, ultimately came to shape some of the most profound expressions of theologicaldoctrine, so can we not hope that the sciences of today, along with all forms of human knowing, may invigorate and inform those parts of the theological enterprise that bear on the relation of nature, humanity, and God? (John Paul's Message to the Vatican Observatory, 1988)

As Johnson points out, the idea is not for theology to uncritically accept all ideas from another discipline. But rather that good theology will "engage with the world; dialogue critically with all forms of human knowing; bring that wisdom to bear on faith; invigorate understanding of the relation of humanity and God; bring out new possibilities in Christian expression of the revelation God has given; for the common good of all."

That last bit may blow committee members' minds, given that their statement alleges that Quest lacks "any sense of the essential centrality of divine revelation as the basis of Christian theology." More emphatically, Johnson writes that her book "does not deny, either explicitly or implicitly, any central doctrine of the church derived from Scripture and creed." Rather, as anyone who's read the book knows, Quest attempts to show how contemporary believers are "seeking to express the ancient wisdom with new relevance." That is, as Johnson points out, precisely what John XXIII had in mind when he opened Vatican II by calling for the council fathers to formulate doctrine in the literary forms of modern thought, because "the substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another."

That's a strong point, and it makes the committee's response to Quest look even worse. So does the next move Johnson makes, which is to point out that the sense of the faithful has a crucial role to play in the teaching of the church. She cites the post-Nicene controversy--covered by Cardinal Newman in On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine--when the lay faithful continued to hold to the divinity of Jesus, while many bishops slid back into Arianism. Newman finds that example "as striking an instance as I could take...that the voice of tradition may in certain cases express itself, not by councils, nor fathers, nor bishops but the communis fidelium sensus." Of course, Johnson isn't saying that the church faces a similar crisis today. Rather, she writes, the "point is that Newman's understanding underscores the legitimacy, with all due critical discernment, of consulting the faithful in matters of the doctrine of God."

That is precisely what Quest for the Living God tries to do. More thoughts later, but for now, do read the entire document here. (In case you missed them, have a look at Luke Timothy Johnson's and F. C. Bauerschmidt's takes on l'affaire Johnson [subscribers only].)


Commenting Guidelines

Very satisfactory. Eminently reasonable, evidence-based, and available to the press.

Maybe it's the Chicagoan in me, but I can't help but wonder if this whole book condemnation is political payback for the "Nuns Support Health-Care Reform, Defy Bishops" headlines midway through March, 2010. And the NCR story today tells us, "The bishops doctrine committee in late March, after studying the book for *one year*, concluded it does not accord with authentic Catholic teaching on essential points and completely undermines the Gospel and the faith of those who believe in the Gospel.

. . . completely undermines the Gospel . . ."Completely? ? Oh, wow, this must be one bomb-shell of a book! Is there not even one little part of Jesus' message left standing? Jeanne, I think you're right. Such an over-the-top accusation makes one wonder which nerve(s) this book really touched. Hmm.

Grant,Thanks for this excellent post. I am wondering if you can clarify the role of the USCCB Administrative Committee in the original statement, and particularly that of Archbishop Timothy Dolan. He receives praise from Professor Johnson in her classy response for even bringing the document to her attention. Furthermore, I had been told that the document itself came as a surprise to even him upon its release.

Just to clarify my previous question - I am aware that Archbishop Dolan received permission from that committee to inform Professor Johnson and Fordham University President Father Joseph McShane, S.J. ahead of the publication of the document to the public. Does a statement like that need a positive vote from that committee in order to be published?

Dan,Before the Commitee on Doctrine's statement could be published, the Administrative Committee had to decide whether to approve it. As president of the USCCB, Archbishop Dolan chairs Administrative Committee meetings. So he would have called for the vote to approve the statement. (Although that doesn't mean he would have voted either way.) As a matter of course, members of the Administrative Committee receive pertinent documentation well in advance of meetings. I asked the Archdiocese of New York whether the archbishop had seen the Committee on Doctrine's statement before the meeting, and I was told that if he had received the statement beforehand, he hadn't seen it.

Thanks for that clarification.

So...will any US bishop speak up publicly and say that Prof Johnson was unfairly treated and unjustly accused? ISTM that the committee on doctrine speaks for all the USCCB members unless someone speaks up in dissent. And no, genteel "fraternal correction" in the exclusive and confidential corridors of the USCCB meeting won't do the trick. Otherwise, the voice of the USCCB belongs to those who would, with the impunity of their office, malign respected theologians. Compare the question of refusing Communion to pro-choice politicians: a couple bishops eventually demurred, saying "it won't be handled that way in my diocese." Not an exactly parallel situation, but close. Who among the bishops will speak up?

I have been working through Quest for the Living God and it appears to be a textbook type overview of what has been going on in mainline theology for the past 100 years - so nothing really shocking. I also believe this is all about women's ordination as well. But a little red flag came up when I read p. 97. On that page, Dr. Johnson relates a play in which a woman states "I found god in myself and I loved her fiercely" This may cross the line on the creator/creation dichotomy. So maybe they were right in making the accusation that her panentheism crosses the line into pantheism. I will let you know about any other things I find.

Dennis --It might be that there is something objectionable in the book. But that Sister was not given the opportunity to defend what she said and meant is still outrageous, as are the falsifications of what she said. The USCCB needs a new committee, and the present members should be publicly censured. I wonder if this will even be mentioned at next week's USCCB meeting.

"Dr. Johnson relates a play in which a woman states I found god in myself and I loved her fiercely This may cross the line on the creator/creation dichotomy. So maybe they were right in making the accusation that her panentheism crosses the line into pantheism"DennisYour lost me. To say that God is in us is hardly unorthodox. I believe that Augustine says something like God is more in me than my inmost self--Interior intimo meo?--and I do not doubt that someone who knows Augustine inside and out can tell us where.

I guess that is the problem - she kind of left the quote hanging. So we don't really know her views on this. Much of the bishops' criticism had to do with this issue. But I agree with Ann, she should have been given a chance to respond before the censure.

Aquinas says that by Gods knowing, the universe exists. If the universe is God knowing, then God is everywhere. The mystery that creates and sustains things in being exists intimately in everything and is wholly and entirely in every place. Divinity is everywhere. For Aquinas, God is more intimately present to us than any of us can ever be to each other: God is in the invisible, pervasive, permeating stuff and structure of the universe."Divinity is better represented by the whole universe than by any single thing. ... Not only are individual creatures images of God but so too is the whole cosmos. (ST, 1a. 47. 1) Yet I doubt if anyone would consider him a pantheist.

Have we all forgotten Augustine's notion that God is intimior intimo meo. Because Johnson quotes Alice Walker's character doesn't mean she endorses everything Walker or the character says. But God is not only transcendent but also incarnate and immanent -- as Augustine reminds us so clearly

Poor Sr. Johnson. How it must hurt to be accused of completely undermining the gospels and the faith of those who believe in them. And by those whose earthly bindings are bound in heaven. 15. Q. Where is God?A. God is everywhere.--Baltimore Cathechism

Terry, it's interior intimo meo, not intimior.Why the aversion of the bishops to Sr J's book? Having read her erudite response, I can only surmise: gynephobia aka horror feminae.

Dennis To infer what someone may think from what she did not say and had no reason to say is no way to proceed.

The climatctic moment of St Augustine's Confessions X.27 bursts into poetry:Late have I loved you, beauty so ancient and so new , late have I loved you! But look, you were within me and I was outside...sero te amavi, pulchritudo tam antiqua et tam nova, sero te amavi! et ecce intus eras et ego foris, et ibi te quaerebam, et in ista formosa quae fecisti deformis inruebam. mecum eras, et tecum non eram. ea me tenebant longe a te, quae si in te non essent, non essent. vocasti et clamasti et rupisti surditatem meam; coruscasti, splenduisti et fugasti caecitatem meam; fragrasti, et duxi spiritum et anhelo tibi; gustavi et esurio et sitio; tetigisti me, et exarsi in pacem tuam.This is the most essential passage from St Augustine, where the rhetoric professor reaches for the essence of his life. (my apologies for only translating the beginning, but I could not let the Latin end there.)It certainly is much different from the experience of Celie in The Color Purple, and very similar as well.

Thanks to Google I see that "interior intimo meo" is from Confessions 3.6.11.

There's a nice piece by Camille Derienzo at NCR relevant today.

Bob that piece by Camille is sensational. What a travesty that such great teachers are not appreciated by the church. Bernard Haring was shining light for the church. And so abused by her. Camille likens the church to the prodigal son who should be forgiven. Very nice.

The first of Johnson's "fundamental issues" asks is what is meant by "the faith of the Church." For Johnson, it consists in fresh, new insights arising from the lived experience of believers. I would imagine that the committee has in mind the credal faith. In the Rite of Baptism, after the profession of faith, the minister says, "This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it, in Christ Jesus our Lord." Thus the starting point of the lived experience of Christianity, in sacramental terms, is the credal expression of faith.

Why not both?Read the book yet?

I, too, would welcome some specific observations from Prof. Bauerschmidt in which he points out where Prof. Johnson legitimately opens herself up to conclusions that her work undermines, completed or only partially, the Gospel. And I'd like to hear, too, where her response, in maintaining that the Committee misread her work, falls short of meriting assent. My suspicions remain with the thesis that it is not so much what she says but what may be inferred as to her theological positions that prompts the claim that Prof. Johnson's work in Quest, left unaddressed, serves to unravel orthodox positions. I am happy to be corrected in the discovery that things she actually claims in Quest materially and substantively erode the deposit of faith.

Perhaps this has already been done elsewhere, but I'm wondering if Prof. Bauerschmidt has any comment on her response. In his essay in the previous issue of Commonweal, he stated that he agreed with much, if not all, in the bishop's critique. Having read both the statement and her response (and some of her other work though, I do confess, not Quest) I'm curious if his position still stands and if he'd be willing to give some more detail. I ask this because I have read several things by him (mostly on de Certeau--a writer far more problematic for an orthodox Christian than Johnson!) and find him a very supple thinker. His insights might help cast further light on the issues at stake, especially for someone like me, who basically agrees that Johnson was most likely profoundly misinterpreted and whose work seems to me to be totally orthodox.

The beat wil go on.At the CTSA opening, Professor Ms. Tilley spoke of the two views of Church that are in division.This is truly interesting insofar as the theme of the Confence is about holiness and sainthood (of many types -see the CTSA propgram.)Meanwhile, in Detroit, the Bishop holds his own "Call to Holiness" in oposition to the action groups of the Catholic Alliance there.The big dichptomy of views certainly is part of the Sr. Johnson tale that we'll continue to hear more of.(IMO, the command and control policy Church that wiped out, essentially, NPLC and common ground) doesn't appear capable of reaching any common ground with views other than their own..

May I ask: what is next? The bishops' committee on doctrine has criticized the book; professor Johnson has replied; does this end the tale?

Is reading the book a requirement for comment on this thread?

The second of Johnson's "fundamental issues" asks first whether she and the bishops are working from different models of revelation. According to Avery Dulles' Models of Revelation, each of the models has limitations. According to Dulles, for the fifth model, Revelation as New Awareness, "The most persistent objection has to do with the fidelity of this model to Scripture and Tradition." He writes, "One wonders in some cases whether Christ is being made into a mere cipher for an epochal advance in human consciousness." Even more interestingly, Dulles asks whether this consciousness model is adequate to religious and theological experience. He writes, "It corresponds to certain kinds of experience, in which people have a lively sense of the presence and activity of God in their own labors and in the great movements of current history. But it would be a mistake to dismiss other types of religious experience which are less well served by this model--for example, that of classical theologians, who tend to find God in a realm above and beyond history, and that of dialectical theologians, who encounter the divine in mysterium tremendum, totally other than self and world."

Kathy,Am I the only one who can't follow you?Faith is a gift from God that leads people to Baptism; credal faith, expressed with "I believe," is rooted in the personal guidance of God that brings a person to the Church. "We believe," otoh, is the faith of the bishops gathered in Council, and is an after the fact summary of what we all believe. That the conciliar creed is based on the personal profession of faith is one of the great virtues of Christianity imo.So it boggles my mind that you seem to be suggesting that the conciliar creed precedes the personal lived experience of the Church. Or are you suggesting something different? And what is the "both" that Grant mentions?And I cannot get much farther with your second note. You start by saying all models have limitations, which seems like the basis for criticising the bishops, because their model of revelation does not allow room for Ms Johnson's? Or are you saying Ms Johnson does not allow room for the bishops' model? The latter seems like quite a stretch.I generally enjoy your contributions, even when I disagree with you, because they highlight important issues. But that frustrates me when I cannot even guess at what your point is.

Thanks to Andy Buechel and William FitzGerald for calling attention to Frederick Bauerschmidt's article in Commonweal, half of a brace of responses to the controversy, Luke Timothy Johnson's forming the other panel of the diptych. It's worth noting that Bauerschmidt's concurrence with some of the bishops' critique is hardly the main point of the article; the bulk of it is an interesting analysis of the Committee on Doctrine's initial statement and some suggestions, which I thought on point, on how bishops and theologians could interrelate more effectively.Luke Timothy Johnson's (using his full name repeatedly in order to distinguish him from Elizabeth Johnson) somewhat more ireful piece contains this: "the catechetical deficiencies of contemporary college-age Catholics are totally the responsibility of the bishops, not members of the theology department at Fordham or other Catholic universities. The theology students in Catholic universities should have been taught their catechism a dozen years earlier. The responsibility for such learning belongs to the bishops themselves, who have been running diocesan educational programs for the past forty years. It is a craven denial of such responsibility to shunt it onto college theology classes, claiming that books used in religious studies/theology courses at Catholic colleges and universities must be seen as de facto catechetical and formational texts. Such a position, moreover, reveals a grotesque misunderstanding of the distinctive social function of the university. It is impossible to imagine St. Thomas Aquinas at the University of Paris shielding his students from contact with Maimonides and Averros and Avicenna and restricting his teaching to formulas such as quis fecit te (who made you)."Without disagreeing that bishops are primarily responsible for catechizing the faithful, nor with Luke Timothy Johnson's view of the social function of the university, I have to say I do question his implicit view that baptized Catholic college professors are somehow more exempt from catechetical responsibility than baptized Catholic parents, bishops or primary school teachers. The responsibility for catechizing belongs to all of us. As I've commented here in the past, I feel a great deal of sympathy for college professors who really, really don't want to engage in remedying formation deficiencies that should have been addressed in primary school. I feel the same sympathy for college English instructors who would really like to be teaching Jane Austen but who also teach Writing 101 because incoming freshmen can't construct a coherent paragraph, or even a complete sentence.

Who was the 1? Weinandy, perhaps?

"The starting point of the lived experience of Christianity, in sacramental terms, is the credal expression of faith."When you start studying topology, the first chapter of the book says "a space is compact if and only if every open cover has a finite subcover." So you memorize that (or put a yellow sticky on the page) without really understanding what it means. You know what the terms mean, but it isn't clear why anybody would bother to define something like that.Then as you proceed through the book, you begin to realize how that definition is necessary for almost every proof in the theory. In fact, it took most of the nineteenth century for mathematicians to figure out that that definition was what was needed in order that all those theorems could be proved satisfactorily.Some parts of the Creed are like that too. "I believe in one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church" is more than just a loyalty oath. Deducing theorems from definitions is relatively easy; figuring out which definitions you need in order to deduce worthwhile theorems is hard.

Jim,Thank you for your kind words. In those two comments, as I'm sure you realize, I was responding to issues that Dr. Johnson's essay treats in length. I hope to do more.In the Baptismal rite, as in the Creed at Mass, the credal faith is expressed in the first person singular, "I believe." Our current translation of the Mass misses this point. Before being baptized, the person must profess the faith of the Church as his/her own. I agree with Felapton that the theologoumena derivable from these principles are not usually known at the time. Neither are the personal, intellectual, and moral demands they imply. In history they sometimes implied martyrdom. The "faith of the Church," the bishops say, should be the starting point of a Catholic work of theology. That does not mean that theology is limited to the words of the Creed or to catechesis, but that the credal faith is the ineluctable basis.In my second comment I was simply reiterating one of Dulles' points in his complex book. The "models" are imperfect; they have limitations. Although I might be mistaken, not having read her book, I take Johnson's work to be about the fifth model.

In what is cited as an unusual step, CTSA members voted (147-1( for a resolution expressing their displeasure with the bishop's committee on doctrine's handling of this matter. See the NCR story.

Felapton --Fine analogy. But the trouble with theology is that often what the theologians have to deal with are metaphors. But metaphors are never totally true, so they're very different from definitions. Though Thomas calls theology a "science", really can't be one. Many bishops do not have a professional level of training in theology, and they don't seem to be aware of their own, personal limitations. They seem to think that since they are all equally bishops, they are all equally capable of understanding a text. (If being a bishop were what qualifies them to read theology well, then advanced degrees in the subject would be superfluous.) I wonder how many well-trained theologians were on that committee which condemned Sr. Johnson's book. I checked out Apb. Dolan, and he has only a licentiate.

The question is how to use metaphors in theological or mathematical reasoning.Many advances in knowledge take place by a process that goes something like this: "Look, this thing is similar to this thing and both are similar to this other thing. Let us try to make a definition of what it is that the three things have in common. Then we will be able to deduce from the definition which properties of each of the three we expect the other two to have. And we can also look for other things which the definition applies to and which we accordingly expect to have properties in common with these three things. Once we have a reasonably large set of definitions, we can prove some theorems (by plain old deductive logic.)"Making a definition doesn't happen in a vacuum. You define something because it is a pattern that a few or several things you have observed in the universe seem to correspond to.Mathematical and theological definitions are similar in that both are often patterns you only or mostly observe inside your own brain. This can be confusing, because you can't be sure other people's brains really work quite the same way. In theology (more rarely in math) sometimes people say, "I have no idea what the point of that definition is; it doesn't seem to mean anything."

If the problem is that undergraduates arrive at Catholic colleges without basic knowledge of the Catechism, why not make a placement exam. Something like this:1. Which of the following is NOT a Fruit of the Holy Spirit?A. BenignityB. ContinenceC. Self-EsteemD. Joy2. Who are the three persons of the Blessed Trinity?A. Larry, Curly and MoeB. Caesar, Pompei and Crassus C. The Father, the Son and the Holy GhostD. Baba Yaga, Mother Theresa and Uncle Pervy... and so forth ...Students who flunk the placement exam will be required to take Remedial Catholicism, not for credit, but at a reduced price. Hire adjuncts to teach it.I have read an objection that this is not appropriate for non-Catholic students, but this difficulty is easily overcome. For one thing, non-Catholic students who enroll at a Catholic university should not be surprised to discover they are required to learn some basic Catholicism. Or you could have a dual-track religion requirement, in which students have an option of taking Catholic Theology, for which passing the placement exam is a prerequisite, or some kind of World Religions thing, for which it isn't.

The analogy between poor catechesis and insufficient preparation for the intellectual and bureaucratic work of higher ed is appreciatively noted. If writing proficiency is scandalous, much more so is reading proficiency. Definitions (unlike axioms) are no more "totally true than" metaphors; they, too, are always arguments.

William FM --In the language of logic definitions are neither true nor false. Only statements are. Definitions say *what* a particular kind of thing might be, if there were anythings of that kind in existence. They're about mere possibilities. Of course, this meaning of defintion refers to the *meanings* of words, not the words themselves. (Yes, for logicians "definitions" are meanings, not the words which mean them.) But, yes, it's alsot rue that words are essentially ambiguous, and so their meanings admit of a lot of argument in a given context.One of the glories of meta-logic/math is its success in being exact and consistent about these fundamental matters. Yes, there are still some problems left to be solved, but that doesn't mean that everything is up for intellectual grabs.It seems to me that one of the main reasons for the alienation of many contemporary intellectuals is their assumption that we can't know anything with much certainty, or that we can't really know anything at all. Unfortunately, these skeptics seem to include a lot of English teachers, and given the influence of English teachers (they are often the only source of basic ideas for kids in high school and college) that skepticism has become endemic in our culture. But I digress. Sigh.

I note Bernard's initial comment on the new thread on the cTSA resolution nd the mess the bishops made.I think all of us are indeed, as Jim pointed out, responsioble for catechesis.I am concerned, however, about the quality of education our clergy are receiving and trying to pass on, with(as we noted eleswhere) absolute fidelity by oath/promise to any magisterial pronouncement or obedience to the "sacred " canons.I think there is a big gulf from that world and the world of academe with not only more academic freedom but also (pace mandatum) less power and control.I think Lakeland clearly got at that in his talk on the role of the Spirit.I need to say that despite the backbone of CTSA, I fear SOS from above , but worse, a coming smaller poorer, not purer for indoctrination not formation.

Felapton,I think this is a wonderful analogy, despite any problems with it.When you start to study topology, you set out to understand space and its relations. You have a "lived experience" of space, but do not have the vocabulary to discuss it with others, so you memorize definitions, etc. with the hope that your perception of space will deepen and gain insights from others. You would not be in that class unless you had an interest in spaces.The analogy with baptism is clear. The credal profession of faith at Baptism is beyond the comprehension of most who are baptized. (esp. the infants?) But it does reflect the lived experience of those who come to the waters. For the infant, the lived experience is through dependence on the faith of the parents, part of their dependence on parents for all things. The theologumen are not accepted intellectually as understood, but are an expression of lived experience of God, Christ and the Church. "I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church" does not mean "I have a full comprehension of unity and unicity, holiness and apostolicity" but "I have faith that this Church that I have encountered is Christ's." This lived experience of faith, that is the basis for baptism, only later developed into sophisticated expressions of technical issues in faith. Those intellectual aspects of the faith are not the beginnings of faith, but a mature expression of it. They are no substitute for the lived experience that is the basis for baptism. There are few people studying topology who have no interest in spaces, yet are fascinated by finite subcovers.So thanks for the example.

Kathy,the faith of the Church has to be the basis, not the mature expression of that faith in the creed. The lived experience of God in Christ through the Church is the start; the conciliar summary expression is a later acquisition, as one reflects on the lived experience in light of past expressions of faith.I take it this description of the faith of the Church is different from what you mean by it. I support Ms Johnson's reliance on the lived experience of the Church because that is the faith expressed at baptism; that is the faith of the Church. It is one with the conciliar expression of faith in the Creed, but those theologumena are attempts to express the faith, not the starting point for faith.In a similar way, catechesis is about formation, not information, as is said in the RCIA. That is why Felapton's multiple choice test is inappropriate. A well catechized college student is better characterized by joy, benignity and continence than by the ability to list the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Some of my children recently took some Advanced Placement exams (a burgeoning trend which I support if it saves me a semester or so of their college tuition), and caused me to imagine an Advanced Placement exam in introductory theology for Catholic colleges. For all I know, such a thing exists already. In my own undergraduate studies, the first theology class was a basic-terms-and-concepts course, which I believe all undergraduates were required to take, so at least at that place and time, some attempt to fill in gaps was already happening. In our first year of deacon formation, my class was subjected to a test-your-knowledge-of-Catholicism quiz, from which Felapton might have drawn his examples :-), and which apparently we flunked, because the following semester we found ourselves in a Catechism Basics course.The problem of poorly catechized youth is beyond huge. Luke Timothy Johnson is right, in that, if they arrive poorly formed to study theology in college, the church has already failed.Off now to contemplate Moe, Larry and Curly as fruits of the Holy Spirit, and wondering whethere Shemp fits in that definition ...

Jim P. ==Right! So what's the solution? Hate to be politically incorrect here (well, not really), but I think a good dose of one of the more advanced Baltimore Catechisms would do a lot to remedy the situation. You can hardly disagree with something if you don't know what you're disagreein with.Actually, I see the Creeds as sort of catechisms without the questions. The problem then becomes interpretation. As always,t without a starting=point we ain't going nowhere.