By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Attempting to bring religious instruction in Catholic schools and parishes into greater alignment with the universal Catechism of the Catholic Church, the U.S. bishops unanimously adopted a new set of guidelines for textbooks and other instructional materials.
The bishops also adopted a separate set of guidelines for instruction in what they called "chaste living," meaning instruction in church teaching on sexual morality.
Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., who led the effort, said the aim is to respond to the questions Catholic young people encounter out in the world.
"We're trying to explain, even in the face of what they're hearing from their peers and their society, why this remains the truth," Wuerl said.
The assumption behind the effort is that Catholic publishers will develop textbooks and other teaching tools based on these guidelines, which would then come to the bishops' conference for a doctrinal review.
Cardinal-designate Daniel DiNardo of Houston said from the floor that he hopes the new guidelines will encourage publishing companies to bring out new materials. In recent years, DiNardo said, some publishers seem to have pulled back, in part for financial considerations.
The first document, "Doctrinal Elements of a Curriculum Framework for the Development of Catechetical Materials for People of High School Age," establishes a specific curriculum framework for the instruction of the faith for high school students. It is primarily for use in Catholic high schools, but is also adaptable for parish youth ministries and home-schooling. The document offers a framework of instruction within a four-year, eight-semester course.
The second item, "Catechetical Formation in Chaste Living: Guidelines for Curriculum and Publication Design," is intended to promote education in morality and virtue. The document acknowledges the primary role of parents in instructing children on matters of human sexuality according to Church teachings, and describes the role of the Church in helping and supporting parents in their responsibilities.