Jul 9, 2015
The religious formation of Catholic children and young people before Vatican II generally followed a deductive method, one that understands education as an organized process of imparting clear, well-defined concepts and principles.
The tool of this system was the Catechism: a relatively short compendium of Catholic teaching in question-and-answer form. The Catechism was comprehensive, precise, and concise. All answers were given in one sentence. Memorization was the mode by which the contents were mastered.
Following the Second Vatican Council, a new approach took over in the religious education of children and young people. The method was an inductive one, which sought not so much to impart clear doctrinal information, as the Catechism did, but to draw out the student's own religious experience and shape it in the light of Jesus' life and teaching.
In recent decades, many have criticized the post-Vatican II experience-centered catechetical methods. Some texts seem to be short on content. They fail to impart a thorough and comprehensive grasp of Catholic belief, and, by spurning memorization of concise formulations, they leave children with inadequate verbal mastery of the fundamental concepts of faith.
This is a judgment with which I generally concur, and is constantly reinforced by my experience with Catholic school children and those who attend weekly religious education classes. I often hear it said that Catholic children today "know nothing" of the faith, and are unable to explain or account for it.