Throughout my entire tenure at St F, I taught CCD classes at a variety of levels, from pre-school to Confirmation. The last time I went to St F was back in 2009. This means that the little kids I was teaching for First Communion in 2005 are now thirteen and fourteen years old. Although that realization makes me feel “old” in a way, I sometimes find myself wondering what happened to those kids. Are any of them rebelling? Are the boys being roped into considering “a vocation”? Do their families still go to St F or did they jump ship for the SSPX parish or another institution? Is college going to be an option for any of these children? Do they obsess over “life issues” and “liturgical abuses”? Will they ever get the chance to read brilliant but completely anti-clerical novels like Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”? Do they ever interact with kids outside of the trad bubble? I suppose there’s no way to know this, but it’s something I wonder about it.
When I was at St F, something that was a common lament among the other CCD volunteers was the relative dearth of children who were actually taking religious education classes. The common path seemed to be that the children and their parents would take First Communion classes really seriously, and then you’d never see them again, until it was time for Confirmation. With Confirmation out of the way, you’d never see them darken a CCD classroom again.
Much of the problem stemmed from the fact that a good chunk of the parents at St F’s operated from the assumption that almost everyone else at the parish was a heretic and hence not to be trusted with the spiritual formation of their “speshul snowflakes.” I remember that there were a lot of parents who objected to the presence of the theology texts that Benedict XVI wrote when he was just plain Joseph Ratzinger in the parish bookstore because they thought the content was suspect. I know that there were a lot of parents who didn’t like the official Catechism of the Catholic Church and found that offensive. There was no real sense of community at St F, just a collection of bunker-like families who didn’t trust anyone outside of their particular clique.
As a CCD instructor, my motives were already considered suspect to many of the parents, since I was perceived to be usurping their territory as the primary teachers of their children. When I was doing my best with the pre-school kids (which was probably the hardest of all the assignments I had to do), I had one mother insist on personally observing me, lest I corrupt her darling with my liturgically themed coloring sheets. When the business with Fr B went down, things got even worse, and by the end of my tenure at St F, it would not be an understatement to say that I had gotten blackballed. On the last day of CCD classes, none of the kids came to my class and the parents that had been actively supporting Fr D in that whole mess had already pulled their kids out of the presence of such a persona non gratia. That whole experience has to rank up their with being one of the more humiliating moments of my life, especially since I was still convinced that the whole thing was my fault due to a lack of “personal purity” or whatever.
Community itself seems to be a bad word in many conservative churches, perhaps because it smacks of 1960s decadence, but it’s really no fun being in a religious institution that mixes the cliquishness of high school with the high stakes of an Inquisition (Seriously, when Monty Python asserted that no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, they didn’t know the half of it). I don’t think that the kind of “bunker families” encouraged by those in the traditionalist world are healthy, and I would be curious to hear of any first-hand experiences of someone who grew up and later escaped from such an environment.