Do you feel that at least in the United States, there is a high level of ignorance when it comes to Catholic teachings? Do you feel that non Christians, and non Religious judge the Faith based on the acts of people who claim to be Christian?
Definitely. There is a shortage of solid Catholic education in the United States, and the Church in the US is suffering because of it. I think it’s safe to say many Catholics don’t understand the faith, (one doesn’t have to look further than facebook or youtube or the percentage of Catholics who voted for the president). Catholics for Choice, Catholics for homosexual marriage, Catholics for women ordination... the list goes on and on. These groups desire to be good Catholics, but unfortunately don’t understand the Church’s teaching (and maybe more importantly the reason for the teachings). If we can barely understand our faith, how can we expect other people to understand as well? Luckily, we have all the resources, but it won’t be easy. Educating Catholics and others on our faith is going to take a long time, but maybe if we started a Year of Faith or something like that we might be able to get things rolling. Oh wait, Pope Benedict XVI beat me to it. People may not like what the Church actually teaches and may leave the Church, but hopefully some will start to understand what is taught by the Church.
Also, I think most churches are judged based on how its members act, so when we have problems in the Church people do judge the Church based on their actions. I think when a scandal involves members of the clergy it becomes especially true, since they are the ones leading the people.
On a side note, I was watching Stephen Fry rip the Catholic Church in an intelligence squared event from 2009 and people were praising him for how well he tore the Church apart. I watched it and realized he completely misunderstood everything he was saying about the Church. Unfortunately, people think he knows what he’s talking about and don’t bother questioning it. This has been a problem throughout history though, and as we know the Church will go on.
A great Catholic once said that "There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be." I think that is absolutely correct. Learning what the Church really teaches may very well not convert a person, but it will certainly make them hate the Church less, perhaps not at all.
As some of the other posters pointed out, there is a lot of poor catechism going on in the United States right now. The reasons are numerous, but the poor teaching remains.
I think people get a pretty good idea of what priests do, as opposed to some half-assed perception, from the sexual abuse & shady attempts to cover it up.
Poor catechism could be caused by... what else? Abusive priests who are supposed to be teaching but are destroying innocence, youth, and people's ability to love.
As is obvious from the Christian Men Group, it's not so much a problem of poor catechism as it's more a hold over from the ancient Protestant prejudices that refuse to acknowledge that the Church has changed a bit since the days of Martin Luther. Given the falling off in mainstream Protestant religious observance, the old, unfortunately stereotypicical fear of a "foreign, monolithic" faith crawls out into the sunlight.
Folks, this misunderstanding of of what Catholics and the Church are is nothing new. Even with fairly strong catechism, you're still dealing with an ancient religious prejudice that dates back to when the Church had an at least virtual theocracy in Europe.
I think there is a lot of ignorance regarding the Catholic faith both on the side of believers and non-believers. I am glad to say that the following trend is changing but my past experiences have been that many Catholics stopped their catechesis in high school or earlier. What they got in grade school or PSR classes was it for them.
Another blockage is one we often see here on the AoM. It is basically the laudator temporis acti (praiser of times past) problem. I am speaking of those who idealize past eras without really knowing the truth about those times. Far too frequently I meet people who are adamantly resistant to accept more modern teachings regarding the faith because it just doesn’t jive well with what their grandmother believed. Evolution is probably the most well known of these types of issues but there are many others.
Where the non-religious judgementalism comes into the picture is first, as was insightfully pointed out by Will, based on media bias. Not that I am buying into the conspiracy theory of overt warfare on faith but more the overall trend toward sensationalistic journalism over real reporting. In that perspective faith-slamming makes for great headlines because it does stir emotions so strongly on both sides; believers and nonbelievers.
The second stems from our being a very analytic society (or maybe our pretending to be) at the moment. If something doesn’t bear up under scrutiny it is not simply dismissed but ridiculed. Clinging to unsupportable theories, such as the young earth idea, makes all faith belief a laughingstock. Critics of faith do seem to paint with very broad strokes and tend to view the beliefs held by some as to be held by all.
I was catechized back at the tail end of the Baltimore Catechism days, and the beginning of the "post Vatican II Church".
If I may, a few observations on catechism then & now. In both instances, the (for lack of a better word) mandatory cathecism ended when at your Confirmation. Back in the day, that was roughly the end of the 8th grade. Bottom line, unless you were preparing for Holy Orders, the Church position was that you were "fully formed" and needed only to act as a good Catholic from there onwards.
That old catechism, and the Gospel cycle of the old Latin Mass had a great emphasis on two core messages, "You are a sinful person, and you'd better hit the Confessional each and every Saturday" and "He that exalteth himself, he shall be humbled, and he that humbleth himself, he shall be exalted."
IMHO, we also have a large influence, derived from the Epistles, that Catholics should not "Bible-thump" (in the manner of say, the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Mormons, who I cite as the most publically committed proselytizing faiths of my experience) but should primarly lead and demonstrate our faith through acts rather than words.
I must fall back on something my pastor says, "The Church is a family, at times a dysfunctional family, but a loving family."
I think you are right in your summation of the older state of affairs. However, with V-2, the intention was for the laity to become more educated than was practical prior to. Unfortunately a large number of folks took V-2 in a hippie-drippie direction it was never intended to go. Blame it on zeitgeist I suppose. The problem now is to get folks fired up to study their faith in depth even if holy orders aren't in the cards. From what I've seen biblical scholarship is on the rise in the catholic laity and it is a good thing. The sad part is that it is still a minority fired up enough to put in the effort.
I'm not so sure that Bible study, on its own is the answer to increasing catechism. IMHO, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is more informative about the faith than the Bible.
While I'm not expert on either the Catechism or the Bible, the Catechism is far more useful than an impressive ability to "cite chapter & verse" (Which unfortunately can lead some of the more agressively anti-catholic Protestants to cite the passage about the Devil quoting Scripture for his own ends.).
On a practical note, again IMHO, most formal adult catechesis suffers from the inability of many folks to simply find the time to engage in the activity.
Between the demands of work, household, and family activites (which include the required chores, marketing and logistical work of a household), many adults are pressed to find the time for grace before meals and bed-time prayer, much less formal ongoing instruction in the faith. It's the old "Practical Catholic" dilemma, to which you add the fact that historically, Catholics have received the majority of our religious instruction during the Liturgy of the Word eachSunday, and the Protestant ethos was to do it yourself by parsing Scripture on your own.
most formal adult catechesis suffers from the inability of many folks to simply find the time to engage in the activity.
I hear this pretty frequently and I don't buy into it. It has very little to do with time and everything to do with priorities. These same folks, who haven't time to learn about their faith have time to sit in front of the TV 4 -6 hours a night. They will read every Twilight, Harry Potter book, or whatever the current fad is that comes out but won't crack the cover of anything by Jeff Cavins or Scott Hahn.
It is like hearing people complain about not having enough money for food but who manage to support a three pack a day smoking habit and who always have a 12-pack in the fridge. That dog just don't hunt for me. Fortunately, I see the numbers of the laity who are taking a deeper interest on the rise.
Another interpretive possibility is not that there isn't enough or good-enough quality catechism, but that the catechism itself no longer speaks to people. It does not connect them, emotionally, spiritually, or intellectually, with the highest that they can be (that is, Jesus Christ).
In this possibility, the humans who formulate catechism got it wrong and it needs to be re-formulated.
Let us not assume just because it is the catechism of the Catholic Church that it does not come with its faults or shortcomings. It's well thought-out, the product of centuries, but it has also changed drastically from 1st century Jerusalem to 21st century America, and therefore is not permanent or unchanging.
I kind of like what they have done with the YOUCAT. It's a great way to reach people. For me I like the index in the big green book. It's nice when people try to place Catholics in with people like Fundamentalist or Puritans. Or they make up what they think our beliefs are based on the actions of others. The YOUCAT is still pithy and nice. It still retains the depth of the current Catechism.
People love to attack the Catholic Church. Many Christian denominations don't even consider Catholic as Christians (to which I am tempted to reply with the words, "well, we're the one true faith," though I never say that out loud because that would be stooping to their level and wouldn't exactly earn me any friends besides).
And the media seizes any opportunity to make fun; you don't see the crap hurled at Catholics directed at any other denomination. So yes, I do think people who aren't Catholic often -- though certainly not always -- delight in hurling stones our way.
Personally, I laugh that the people who are the most outspoken about how intolerant Catholics are -- those who promote gay marriage or abortion or whatever topic that conflicts with Catholic teaching -- often are the most intolerant of all because they can't fathom any other perspective that conflicts with their own. (Hello? Double standard much?)
Don't agree with Church teaching? OK; that's your right. But don't disrespect me or deny my right to my faith. Last time I checked, we are all equal in dignity.