Oct 28, 2018
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is one of the most successful features of post-Vatican II liturgical renewal. It replaced the old inquiry class model, in which the priest (generally a priest) taught the inquirer (or inquirers) about doctrine and morals. The place of formation was the classroom, the symbol was the blackboard, and the leader was like a lecturer. This model continues in some parishes today.
With the near demise of the inquiry class model after Vatican II, there emerged a second (and current) model which focuses on personal religious experience in a group setting. The model is akin to the therapy group (like that of Alcoholics Anonymous). The place of formation is like a living room, the leader is a therapist, and the symbol is the mirror – in which one sees only oneself.
In this newer approach, it is commonplace to hear an emphasis on personal experience over doctrine. Doctrinal formation is secondary to personal story-telling and group reflection.
Without wishing to return to the old inquiry class format, or keeping the current experience-based model, there is, perhaps, a third way of viewing and practicing RCIA formation which would avoid the problems of the first and second models, yet incorporate the strengths of both.
In 1984, the Yale University Lutheran theologian George Lindbeck wrote a landmark book entitled, The Nature of Doctrine. While Lindbeck was not concerned with the RCIA, his theological insights are helpful in envisaging a more adequate model of RCIA formation.