.- In response to concerns raised by teachers and clergy, the Diocese of Cleveland has revamped its high school religion curriculum for the upcoming year, with a focus on orthodoxy and moral clarity.
Superintendent of Schools Margaret Lyons told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the new program, developed under Bishop Richard G. Lennon, was “Gospel-centered” and “very orthodox.” The new teaching materials, she said, also corrected “a shyness about talking about moral issues.”
After his appointment in 2006, Bishop Lennon heard concerns raised about the quality of religious instruction in local Catholic schools. Several years of assessments and meetings resulted in changes to the elementary school materials, and a comprehensive overhaul of the high school curriculum.
Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and guidelines from the U.S. bishops' conference, the new program reintroduces elements of Catholic tradition that were “known to previous generations of Catholics but absent from more recent instruction,” Superintendent Lyons told CNA on June 5.
The curriculum, she said, “underscores Jesus Christ and the Paschal Mystery” as the source of salvation.
Under the new program, she explained, “students read and are guided through Church documents. They are taught the role and importance of the Magisterium in guarding and passing on the faith, as well as being a sure guide to positive thinking and behavior.”
“Additionally, students are instructed in ancient prayer practices used throughout the Church’s two thousand years of history, including the Rosary, Lectio Divina, meditation, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Psalms, litanies and readings in Sacred Scripture.”
In response to widespread confusion about the nature and importance of the Church, the program also stresses the Church's unique standing as a divine and human institution, taught and governed by an apostolic authority with “its origin in Jesus Christ.”
Cleveland's new curriculum also seeks to cultivate an enduring and lifelong faith, capable of standing up to cultural secularism and moral relativism. Students are challenged to learn about virtue and understand it as the source of true personal fulfillment, Lyons said.
“The life of virtue is presented as a life that flourishes with what satisfies their desire for happiness and freedom,” she noted. “Students are instructed in natural moral law, grace and virtue as founded in God.”
Although the program seeks to correct the weaknesses of some recent approaches to religious education, it does not do away with the goal of making catechesis relevant to the modern world and the concerns of youth.
“The instructional strategy,” Lyons said, “is to show to students how Christ has been present to his Church, not just now, but throughout all of human history, and so will remain, despite sin, war and internal turmoil. The Church is the Body of Christ on earth and will remain until Christ comes again.”
It is from this Christ-centered perspective, she explained, that students will be taught to “examine the issues found in history and in the modern era that can cloud the vision of Christ.”
In his letter authorizing the release of the new high school curriculum, Bishop Lennon praised the diocesan Office of Catholic Education's program for offering “both sound doctrine and effective instructional practice and resources.”
“Save for the celebration of the sacraments,” the Bishop of Cleveland wrote, “there is no more important work than the formation of our young people in the faith.”