Fidelity Oaths for Catechists?

One of the stories in Catholic news recently is the issue of some dioceses requiring catechists and religion teachers to take an oath of fidelity. In particular, the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, has been in the news after some teachers and catechists quit rather than submit to taking the required oath of fidelity. The oath, which is to be signed and publicly administered on Catechetical Sunday, basically asks catechists to state that they, “with firm faith, belive and profess every thing that is contained in the Symbol of Faith” (the Nicene Creed) but also adds the following:

With firm faith, I also believe everthing contained in the Word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed.

I also firmly accept and hold each and every thing definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.

Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff of the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.

Here are my own personal thoughts on this. If I were required to sign such an oath, I would do so – reluctantly. Let me explain. I have always taught catechists that our role requires us to faithfully transmit what the Catholic Church believes and teaches. If we have doubts or disagreements over certain teachings, we can share those with our spouse, close friends, or others in private settings. However, we have no business presenting our own opinions when we are teaching as a catechist. The reason I say that I would feel reluctance about being required to sign such an oath is because I don’t like the atmosphere it creates. It is heavy-handed and creates a climate of fear. The Sacrament of Baptism is the only solemn oath necessary (the word sacramentum literally means oath). In that Rite, we make a solemn Profession of Faith and that profession is renewed each time we proclaim the Symbol of Faith – the Creed – at Mass. We also renew that oath each time we renew our baptismal promises, especially at the Easter Vigil and throughout the Easter season. The signing of an oath of fidelity creates the impression that this is more significant than the oath made in Baptism and for that reason, I disagree with the approach.

What is your opinion? Please share respectfully by adding your comments below (Leave a Reply).

About Joe Paprocki 2199 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

69 Comments on Fidelity Oaths for Catechists?

  1. Right off hand, I don’t know if I could sign such a document. It does not state that I will TEACH the beliefs, doctrines and traditions of the Catholic Church, it states that I BELIEVE. I have had, and continue to have questions regarding many different things. These questions do not lessen my love for the Church by any means. (I see questioning as a sign of growth, not a sign of infidelity.)

    As a catechist and a catechetical leader, I feel strongly about spreading the ministry of the church in it’s true form. It is not my job to share my questioning etc. with those I teach. You’re right, those questions/opionions are for close friends, spouses, pastors, spiritual directors in private settings, but not for those I teach.

    I pray that I am never faced with having to make this type of decision. Much more thought and prayer would be involved in making this very difficult decision. Catechetical ministry is my calling and my passion.

  2. It makes me wonder what happened in the Diocese of Arlington which would spur such as a requirement and I, too, would find it difficult to sign and submit to it. I don’t remember Jesus requiring such a statement as he sent his apostles out into the world . .and I seem to remember they had some doubts, questions, and confusion, too — which often brings me comfort in my ministry.

  3. I would like to ask each U.S. bishop to sign an oath of personal integrity to never allow, or cover up, sexual, emotional and physical abuse in the Church. Will each of you as bishop take a fidelity oath to the Gospel and promise to love the marginalized?

  4. Well, as a religion teacher I always present the ability to question or be angry with God is a sign that we have a relationship with him. Through my actions and my words, I believe I live out my call to be “Christ-like”. As a catechist I strive to echo the Gospel message. I agree that to require signing such a document goes against all that Jesus required of his disciples and ultimately, us.

    Thanks for edifying us, Joe!

    Sharon

  5. As catechists we need to always present, teach, and share what the Church teaches in the religious education sessions. These sessions are not the place for personal opinions. Too often these personal opinions lead to misunderstanding and confusion. It is preceived that whatever we say in teaching a religious education session is understood as authentic church teaching. We are seen as an authority. For many we are the ‘face of the church’.

    While such Fidelity Oath signing may seem’heavy handed’,it does remind all of us of our role and responsiblity in teaching the faith. It is an awesome task we assume as catechists.

  6. I could not, in ‘good faith’ sign a document written in this manner. As a fully initiated member of the Church and ‘certified’ catechist in my home diocese I think I am capable of spreading the good news of Jesus without signing a “Fidelity Oath” and submit my ‘will and intellect’ to the Pope or bishops. The last paragraph of the oath, for me, is over the edge…

  7. I agree with Barb, and with what seems to be implied in Joe’s post, even though he said he’d sign. I certainly believe what is in the Creed, but the Oath is much more all-encompassing, and states belief, not obedience.
    I would never share questions, doubts, or disagreements with my students, with he catechists I supervise, or with the community I serve as Catholic-school principal. There are some family members and friends with whom I could share such thoughts. Even if I had no one with whom I felt comfortable sharing, questions/doubts/disagreements might still exist, and I would not feel comfortable swearing otherwise.
    It is part of a catechist’s job description to transmit the official teachings of the Church. Enough.

  8. An interesting question and not easy to answer. One thought I have is that in our diocese, we sign a ethical code, both paid and volunteer personnel, stating that we will live out our life in accord with the moral teachings of the church. No one pays much attention to the code after it is signed so I wonder if the same would happen to a Fidelity Oath.
    I do agree that it is a bit like “big brother” watching you. However, when you hear youth ministers agreeing with teens that women should be priests this oath might make people think more about what they are saying.
    I think, in light of where I live, I would be more inclined to not sign it, though I certainly agree with what is in the Creed and the oath.

  9. Joe,

    You make an interesting point. I would invite one to consider the following: Doesn’t the catechist have more responsibility than the average baptized person to pass on the faith of the Church to those they are catechizing? The Church considers the call to be a catechist very important and not merely another “volunteer role” among others (sorry I don’t have time to look up the GDC reference). It would seem that the Oath of Fidelity is an opportunity to focus on the dignity and solemn vocation of catechists. I think it has the potential to be a very positive and empowering commitment.

    God Bless you!

    • William, thanks for sharing. I wholeheartedly agree with what you say about the elevated role and responsibility of the catechist and the opportunity to focus on the dignity and solemn vocation of catechists. It’s the approach I disagree with. I think everything you talk about can be accomplished by a well-thought out commissioning service in which a renewal of baptismal promises is made and a verbal promise (“I do”) to faithfully transmit the Gospel is stated. I think the signing of a “legalese”-filled document is over the top.

      • I agree with Joe here (although William, I also think your point is well-made). The exact same purpose could be accomplished through a commissioning service and the general public hears “oath of fidelity” and thinks it’s just another sign of Catholics being required to check their brains at the door.

        Good catechist preparation should address the responsibilities we have to model a love of our faith and I tend to think it should even cover “what if there’s a teaching I struggle with? What do I tell my students?” Nothing about this oath really stops people from presenting Church teaching as “the Church says this, others would respond by saying such-and-such, what do YOU think? Go with your heart!” The signing of an oath is not a substitute for proper formation of catechists.

        • Again, well said, Dorian. We’ve heard many fine points made here on both sides (William always has something very thoughtful to add).

  10. I was kind of okay with the oath until we got to this part:

    “Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff of the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.”

    I’m not sure I want to submit my will and intellect to anyone but Christ. I pray that I am never asked to make this oath, because I would resign teaching after 42 years of service to the Lord in teaching.

      • I do not have a problem with the language. It is a reminder of what kind of obedience Christ left us. He left us a body of tradition, bible AND church. This is what is suffering today. The idea of having a hierarchy. We do have one. This doesn’t take away from our freedom but reminds us of where our true experience of freedom lie. I have moved through too many parishes and the priest is no longer the head. I have been at bible studies where the catechist has proclaimed that God is more feminine and other sort of personal beliefs and the disdain for the present hierarchy was palpable and made me ill and sad. Again, it may be territorial necessity more than a universal need so we have to take what we witness and see what may be the better outcome of such action.

  11. Thank you, Joe! Again we see the need of your services! You have articulated very well why we might not want to sign such a document….any one of us could easily be ‘upset’ simply because we may not understand the ‘what’ and ‘why’ behind this… I like your explanation of our Baptismal promises and the making of a solemn Profession of Faith continuously in our lives….further explaining why we need more Catechist Formation beyond even “basic”…I hope this reaches out and helps others! God Bless!

  12. I agree with you, someone who is interested in being a Catechist should already have the calling in them to want to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

  13. If there is to be an oath, I’d rather see an oath to teach the curriculum and/or to attend continuing education that gives direction on what should be taught. The Catechists are also learning on their own journey as they teach. Maybe they are not quite there yet on some of these issues but that doesn’t mean the cannot share their faith under the structure of the curriculum chosen by the pastor or diocese.

    • I always remind my catechists that our Catholic faith is the pearl of great price, the hidden treasure worth selling everything to possess. I temper that romantic idea with James 3:1: “…we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” And when in doubt, stick with the textbook (Loyola’s Finding God series). There’s a reason we use it!

  14. I would have to read carefully this oath. But as the lead cathecists in every diocese I would want to see the Bishop all members of his management team. I also would have to follow my priest in publicly signing the oath. How about the parish council? They guide the entire parish.
    This is a bad idea and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Another dig at the people on the front line.

    • Thanks Liz. One thing I have thought of is the fact that pastors DO publicly sign an oath of obedience to the bishop when they are installed as pastor.

  15. Unfortunately this appears to be a sign of the times. I wish such a document wasn’t necessary, but the level of outright dissent to Church teaching is starting to spread like a civil war and I doubt it’s going to get better any time soon. In extreme times extreme actions are sometimes necessary. There are quite a few Catholic politicians who recite the Apostle’s Creed each week who obviously do not adhere to Church teaching. I wonder if any of the Church’s martyrs would hesitate to sign this oath?

    The magisterium of the Church and the Bishops comes directly from Christ (Matthew 16:18-19). I’d be happy to sign this oath.

    • I, personally, would be fine signing this oath as well, but I feel like it bypasses a greater issue of “how do we catechize the catechists?” It is not a very pastoral approach to addressing the challenge of how to meet catechists where they are and then help them to grow in understanding of their faith so that they may better pass it along to others.

  16. I had a catechist a few years back who some of my families complained about. She was a good teacher! The complaint was that her and her partner co-taught. And that they lived together.
    I explored this with my Diocese. What we came up with is that we don’t ask other people their sexual orientation. I still have no idea if they were partners or not. I’m not sure if it was gossip. I just know she was a great teacher and she taught the Catholic faith.
    At the time my pastor wanted me to come up with an oath, but we never did in practice. So I would guess something like that might have happened?
    I have always questioned what would happen if a DRE got pregnant without being married… or what if a DRE was homosexual… or the case of the Catholic school teacher in that one state who had In-Vitro and was fired. Are some sins greater than others… what is expected as workers in the Catholic Church? What is expected of catechists?
    None of us are perfect, and we all have a story.
    I have no answers. But I have thought of these things.
    I think an oath makes sense only if it actually says, in class I promise to teach the Catholic faith to the best of my ability. I think most people question parts of the faith. It makes us stronger when we resolve those questions in our hearts.
    I think it’s a dis-service if we don’t allow kids to question the faith, and to let them know it’s normal to question and try to find answers. Kids who don’t question will fall away from the Church in my opinion. We can’t expect blind obedience.

    • Jen –
      You really brought up some good points.
      About 5 years ago, it came to light that one of our (male, single) youth ministers in our parish cluster had fathered a child the year before. Evidently the pastor had known about this for quite some time. I challenged the pastor that if this had been a female youth minister in such a situation, there would have been no question that she would have lost her job. He said I wasn’t being fair and that I was being judgmental. Our two clustered parishes merged into one parish, so a job search went out for a new youth minister. This was the pastor’s way of handling the situation.
      Again, evidence of a maleoriented church, I suppose.
      Christine

  17. Having been a catechist for almost 25 years myself, I believe that an oath is a good idea for anyone teaching the Faith. I have witnessed priests, nuns and DRE’s who hijacked entire programs to promote their heretical agendas. We had a series that did not even mention Jesus for the entire year. Can you believe that? It could have been used to teach at a synagogue(that was the heretical DRE and priest, by the way. Even the timelines used BCE/ACE vs. BC/AD.
    We take an oath every time we receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. As you said, sacrament means ‘oath’. When we say ‘Amen’, we are willing to die for the fact that it is our risen Lord we are receiving.
    To be a catechist is a serious calling. I remind myself constantly what Jesus said about it being better to have a millstone around the neck and to be cast into the sea that to lead one of His little ones astray.
    We are experiencing many of our issues precisely because of poor catechesis — some purposeful and some due lack of understanding. I agree that we try to believe teaching, but can someone who really doesn’t believe something really teach it? I refer to core beliefs such as the Eucharist, marriage, life, male priesthood, etc.

  18. I would have no problem signing such an oath. I believe that none of the Catechists in our Parish would object to signing this oath. How I wish this had been required years ago before dissenters taught their nonsense to a whole generation of innocent and vulnerable children. It is a huge responsibility to pass on the entire teachings of our Church to our young people. They have a right to hear the TRUTH, the WHOLE TRUTH and NOTHING BUT the TRUTH from our Catechists. The Church needs to be pruned of Catechists who value their own opinions more than the TRUTH. Obedience takes true humility. It is not blind.

  19. I guess I am concerned with the timing of this and the possible relationship of this to other control events arising in the church today, e.g. the disciplining of theologians who ask too many questions or who disagree with the magisterium, the disciplining of the American nuns, the total ignoring of the abuse of children issues, the general punitive atmosphere surrounding anyone who questions. Failure to ask questions perpetuates ignorance. Are catechists seen as the next in line of those who must be brought under control? Are we out of control? What is the impetus for this move? Does anyone really think we will ever find out?

    • Allan,

      A couple of questions/thoughts for you:
      1. What theologians have been disciplined for asking ‘too many questions’?
      2. Theologians are supposed to teach the Faith. Where is the problem in disciplining those who refuse?
      3. Why were the nuns disciplined? They were going against Church teaching.
      4. Where do you see a ‘general punitive atmosphere’ regarding anyone who questions? I have never seen an issue where someone questions to seek understanding. However, it is not right to question(as in refuse to believe) dogma as in defined Church teaching. There is a huge difference.

      Failure to ask questions can indeed perpetuate ignorance. Questioning with disobedient heart, however, promotes anarchy. Just think of when Christ taught about the Eucharist. It is the only teaching over which His disciples abandoned Him. Yet, He turned to the Twelve and asked, “will you also leave me?” He meant what He said. If they wanted to stay they needed to accept His teaching while seeking understanding. I can assure you that at least 11 of His apostles did not teach that the Eucharist was other than what Jesus said it is.

      • They needed to accept his teaching while seeking understanding. That thought and the last paragraph of the oath seem to me to be in conflict. I also am in prayer and pondering. However I have always taught the faith and not my seeking and ponderings. If anything, I’ve tried to encourage others to share the faith and deepen their relationships among their families, with the Trinity, with the communities they come in contact with and the world beyond them. If I signed this oath, would I now not be allowed to walk the road to Emmaus?

      • Leo, you put a number of qualifiers in my statement that are not justified. Are you judging me? The list of theologians who have been disciplined is long and some very recent. Are you unaware of them? Are you assuming that they are not teaching the faith? To whom do you believe the magisterium go for answers to theological questions? And on what would it be based that theologians are teaching falsehoods? Which nuns were “going against the teaching of the church?” Which teachings? Failure to question is ignorance. Truth need not fear questioning.

  20. Sr. Dolores Ann writes:

    I certainly agree with you. I would sign it also as we are to teach what the Catholic Church teaches and be a witness to the living truths of the Gospels, and not our own beliefs. I believe there have been times when this was not followed through by a few catechists. However, this signing would create a climate of fear. I would want to speak to the catechists before I have them sign it in order to avoid hard feelings against the program and the Church.

    Sister Dolores Ann, DRE

  21. Patricia writes:

    I always speak with faith and truth in the God who created us and who speaks to us through the Magisterium of His Holy Catholic Church. Apparently, the fidelity oath came about to insure that catechists teach faithfully about abortion, birth control, divorce, homosexuality and other issues contested by the world we live in.
    Patrica Russo

  22. Bev writes,

    Joe, you are so right! As I remember, Jesus did not ask his followers to agree to an oath. He asked each of us to pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit whenever we speak about our faith. Bev

  23. Sarah writes:

    Dear All,
    Could it be conjectured, that this Diocese is taking this “strong handed” approach to compensate for the years of disobedience to Ecclesial Authorities which has been allowed to exist in our beloved Nation (and particularly the West) for many years? Perhaps there is another way of looking at this issue, and that is merely the goal of reminding catechists that we too are merely servants of the Faith passed to us through the Magesterium. Perhaps it is an attempt to simply put the heirarchial order back to the forefront and gain more wide-spread obidience to our Church Leadership, which has been ignored and even rejected for many years. If they follow up with Catechesis about the deeper intention (not merely “blind” obidience) I see it as a potentially valuable Catechetical teaching moment at this point in our History.
    Respectfully Submitted,
    Sarah Nelson

  24. Joe, I disagree with your statement, “If I were required to sign such an oath, I would do so – reluctantly.”

    I see this oath as an Affirmation of Faith. It’s like when soldiers are preparing for battle, they band together and reaffirm their commitment to their cause. As a coach and former volleyball player, I see it as getting into the huddle at the beginning and end of each practice or game and reaffirming our mission and goals to play our best and be victorious.

    Recently, I had a friend who complained about their Alma Mater, Shorter College, which is making the faculty sign a Personal Lifestyle Statement. I attended a Fortnight for Freedom event and heard Professor Hunter Baker speak about having to sign a statement to live according to the standards and principles set forth by Union University and its faith. His response was he signed it. He added that if you don’t believe or follow the principles set by your employer, then you should leave.

    Now with the HHS Mandate, our religious freedoms are being threatened. Is now the time to do something reluctantly or with vigor? Our faith must be strong in times of turmoil.

    You stated, “The signing of an oath of fidelity creates the impression that this is more significant than the oath made in Baptism.” I don’t see the oath as being more significant than any sacrament, but as a statement of faith. Let me also say that I am by no means perfect. I believed the lies of the world about contraception and many other things.

    I think that as Catholics we must take a stand and reaffirm our faith and commitment in God and the Church daily.

    Thank you for your post and encouraging a discussion on this topic,
    Diana

    • Thank you Diana, for your thoughtful comment and good insights. I am not a big fan of the ultimatum approach (follow or leave). This was not our Lord’s approach and is not a good evangelization tool. Intelligent and respectful conversation such as we’re having on this thread is what’s needed. Yes, we must take a stand and reaffirm our faith. However, when some do not fully accept it, we should not be quick to dismiss them but should pursue further dialogue in hopes of eventually winning them over. Thanks again for adding so much to this conversation.

      • Joe,
        I guess where I diverge from your opinion here, Joe, is where you say, “When some do not fully accept it, we should not be quick to dismiss them.” We are talking about people who want to be catechists, we are not talking about someone who sees him or herself as needing evangelization. Not everyone should be a catechist. We need to be more “heavy-handed” about who we allow to be catechists. There are definitely some people who, by their own thinking, should be disqualified from being a catechist.
        God bless you,
        Brian

  25. I carry a printed card in my wallet that says basically, I profess to believe all the Catholic church holds true. It was handed to me at Easter Vigil a few years ago…I already took the oath when I joined the church. To me the oath is a bit redundant since we profess our faith everytime we profess the N. Creed… I’d take it though b/c it does not say anything that should not be true for a catecist. On the other hand, being human it is a struggle every day to live out my faith. so maybe the oath should be more about continuing one’s own conversion… cradle catholics and converts alike (another subject for another subject day)…continuing to study, learn, pray, practice the sacraments…LOVE, etc. Jesus and Mary are the other only “perfect” humans that I know of.

  26. “Jesus and Mary were the only perfect humans” is what i meant to say… am not counting myself among the perfect…no far from it

  27. Dear Joe, Can you email a copy of that Oath of Fidelity? I mentioned it to my Pastor and he agrees it is a nice thing to do. Thanks so much for bringing it up!

    • Diane, follow the link on my post…it takes you to story and the story contains a link with verbiage you’re looking for. If you are going to pursue this avenue, please be sure you are following Dorian’s advice and accompanying it with proper formation that catechists deserve. Catechists certainly owe fidelity but the Church owes them formation.

      • Thank you! Our Diocese offers ample formation opportunities in the form of Catechist Certification Classes which are faithful to the teachings of our Church. Diane

  28. I can relate to the all that has been said. Keeping this in mind – refer to the GDC, pg. 234 10.C – “parents are the most influential agents of catechesis for their children. They have a unique responsibility for the education of their children; they are the first educators, or catechists.” The paragraph goes on with more information – why not have parents sign the oath? Why just catechists?

  29. I think the idea of having catechists affirm that they are going to teach the plain old Catholic faith and nothing but is reassuring to parents — both on the right, and on the left. I teach in a very politically diverse parish, and we have to steer students through sensitive issues where differences of opinions are legit — I wouldn’t want my students being confused by a mixing up of widely-held opinions versus actual Catholic teaching. (Um, mostly about guns, actually. Go figure. It’s the South.)

    That said, while this oath doesn’t bother me a bit in its wording, since I understand it, I agree with Dorian it can come across as heavy-handed and intimidating. I would never write something this way, and plan to present it to my fellow catechists, because our backgrounds and knowledge base vary widely. I think you’d need a strong pastoral back-up to make sure catechists understood the context and meaning, and reassurance that it isn’t a question of witch-hunting those with all the ordinary doubts and struggles of any serious Christian. Part of catechist formation needs to include training on how to respond to doubt and difficulty in a faith-filled and intellectually honest way.

    So my thought is that good catechist formation and a simpler, less imposing statement would be a much better tactic. But I’m thrilled the bishop is making a serious effort at a good thing, however awkwardly. It’s a start. Presumably he has good pastoral reasons for doing it as he is.

  30. As one of the catechists in the Arlington diocese who resigned (and there are many, many more than those mentioned in the article), I must clarify that these catechists were devout Catholics who would have been more than willing to sign a document attesting that their teaching would conform completely to church teachings. There is a great deal of material to be covered in Sunday religious education, and there is no reason why anyone should be wandering off into personal opinions or politics. It is rare that anything the least bit controversial comes up in class, but I was always prepared to answer any question on church teaching accurately and thoroughly, whether or not I had private reservations or concerns of my own (“The Church teaches that…” ). If I was ever stumped, the DRE was always available to help. As a representative of the church, I took my responsibility to communicate correct church doctrine very seriously, and I lived my life in a way that was completely consistent with those teachings. However, I believe firmly that I may not, as a Catholic, promise “submission of will and intellect” to anyone but God.

      • Sadly, this has torn up a truly exceptional CCD program at St. Ann’s. The teachers were excellent, well educated, doctrinally sound, and passionate about their Catholic faith. The DRE was wise and a true example of Christ’s love. There were no problems I ever heard about with incorrect teaching or, except for some minor confusion on the death penalty and war from some of the more excitable conservatives, no problems with the insertion of opinion over doctrine. Even for those minor problems, however, the DRE handled them expertly. The reputation of these catechists was spotless. If people had private misgivings about certain teachings, you never would have known from their classroom teaching or from their public conduct. It was, in every way, an exceptionally well-run program with exceptional catechists, and these events have devastated it.

  31. For the past few years, we have asked our catechists to sign a Catechist Commitment Form, the content of which is below. We have not had anyone question this.

    Catechist Commitment Form

    The National Directory for Catechesis calls catechists to holiness. The life of a catechist should be exemplified by:

    — A coherence and authenticity of life that is characterized by their faithful practice of the faith, in a spirit of faith, charity, hope, courage, and joy;

    — Personal prayer and dedication to the evangelizing mission of the Church;

    — Active participation in their local parish community, especially by attendance at Sunday Eucharist. (NDC, p. 229)

    Catechist Name: ________________________________________________ (please print)

    I attest that I am a practicing Roman Catholic who has received the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. I receive the sacraments regularly, am a registered member of ___________ Parish, and am a person of high moral character, who lives by the precepts of the Catholic Church. I understand the responsibilities of being a catechist, agree to be an authentic witness of Jesus Christ to my students, and will pray for them daily.

    Catechist Signature_________________________________ Date___________

    • Joann, thanks for sharing your experience. The wording of this is very pastoral. Even the title – A Catechist Commitment Form – is more pastoral than an “oath of fidelity” and the legalistic jargon it contains.

  32. My catechists are already intimidated by the 5 forms including Code of Conduct, and Policies on care of youth and vulnerable (which you sign after reading a 20 page document), as well as the Diocesan-required catechetical formation program. This formal language is not pastoral. We as church need to somehow get this message across without the formality of this oath. We have toyed with the idea of a commitment or ‘contract’ but I instead deal with this with a paragraph on the expectation to teach and live the faith in the handbook. It is also addressed in the start-of-the-year workshop.

    • Thanks, William. This is a very good article and is also very pastoral…just the kind of thing that is needed for catechists to hear and reflect on as opposed to simply being asked to sign a form. Language always needs unpacking and that’s what went missing in Arlington.

  33. A catechist should be no more intimidated by an oath of fidelity to the faith that he or she professes and teaches than a man is of an oath of fidelity to the woman he loves. It is possible to love someone deeply without making such an oath, but by doing so the relationship is raised to a higher dignity and imbued with grace that will sustain it.

  34. My concern is not with the oath itself, but with the general air of distrust that it belies. I agree with Joe. The profession of the Creed that we make each Sunday is, in fact, a renewal of our vows of baptism. The renewal of baptismal promises at Easter is even more explicit. I would contend that those who feel a need to elicit an additional “Oath of Fidelity” from those called by the Holy Spirit to share the light of faith as catechists suggests a lack of trust in the rites of the Church and in the work of the Holy Spirit.

    • and i think it suggests a sober realism about the state of catechesis these past few decades and the unabashed attempts by the part of many catechists to undermine authentic magisterial teaching. Priests, Religious, and Spouses all profess vows. Does this mean we suffer an inherent mistrust of them? Or is it, perhaps, that this Oath actually endows the role of the Catechist with greater dignity in much the same way vows do for the roles mentioned above? I think so.

  35. It appears to me that Archbishop Paul S. Loverede has little confidence in the competency and credibility of his priests, pastors, catechetical leaders and Catholic school principals in fulfilling their role and responsibilities in the recruitment, education and formation, and when appropriate the termination of catechists and Catholic school teachers.

    Dan Pierson
    founder,
    eCatechist.com

  36. I profess the Nicean Creed every Sunday and I believe it with my heart and mind. I am a catehetical leader and have been for over 30 years.I studied at a seminary with an amazing group of men, in various stages of formation. To this day, I respect them and have very interesting discussions with them.I could not sign an oath like that nor would I ask my catecists to sign. Many of the Bishops in the past few years have been anything but models of faith. I could not and would not “give obedience or religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.”
    Jesus did not demand this of the apostles. I truly believe that the bishops are trying to make the faithful non-thinkers and in this day and age that will not happen. Certainly with the courses we teach for catechists formation and that fact that we know them before they ever catecize the children, it is very unlikely that they would teach something contrary to church teachings.

  37. What does authentic magesterium mean? I think we are confusing the nature of the man with the nature of the office and our relationship thereof. The fear I think being experienced is more a personal response to how we all feel let down by our Bishops (one way or another, some in the most disgusting ways) but the key hear is that perhaps we are not aware of what it means to be acting in a magesterial way. Not everything a Bishop does is magesterial right? Just trying to help bring us to the same page. I do not really hear anyone saying I want to be against the church and teach thereof. It is sad that some would leave for this but it is better to see where we are and start helping one another in this.

  38. I signed this 3 years ago as a catechist in the Diocese of Arlington and did so with great joy, having taught beside catechists who openly disputed Church teaching in front of 6th graders during class. Also, it lets parentsand my pastor know that this is my full intent, so if I should happen to inadvertantly provide incorrect information, that it is with no malice or dissent. I also think there is a difference between questioning and dissenting, for which better wording might be advisable. I’m revisiting this question again today because I have begun a Youth Choir and I take the resposibility seriously, such as when kids ask what words/phrases mean.

    • Dear Alison,
      Great thoughts.

      Every assignment I’ve had as a pastor I’ve taken an oath of fidelity. The bishop trusts me at some level and this helps him to trust me even more. I’m not annoyed or saddened by it. I like to demonstrate my integrity. And why should he trust me at every level? He shouldn’t until I can demonstrate otherwise. There are different levels of trust and for different things.

      I find myself in the same position as my bishop as a pastor. I don’t know all my ministers and so I think oaths could help.

      For example, an EMHC has to believe in the infallible teachings of the Church to be an EMHC. But some don’t (eg they reject Christian marriage, sexual ethics etc…) and by doing so they are saying: “I believe the Church can infallibly pass on teaching (i.e. the Eucharist) but I also believe the Church can’t pass on infallible teaching (say in the case of Christian marriage).”

      Oaths help prevent people from compromising their own beliefs, even if dissenting. It pushes them to connect the logical dots as in my example of whether they believe in the magisterium (you can’t logically believe it works sometimes and then sometimes it does not just cuz). Oaths also provide me a point of contact to dialogue with them if they aren’t on board with all of Christ’s truth.

      Helping people live personal integrity is pastoral.

      You notice this thread is kind of dead. The last comment before yours was 2012. Haha oh well. That’s why I’m addressing these comments to you. It sounds like we are on the same page.

      God bless you, Alison and your diocese!

      Fr. Anthony

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