“We can never substitute our own ‘version’ of Jesus or offer watered-down or partial versions of his teachings”

The following are excerpts from a column by Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez published March 23 in the archdiocesan newspaper, The Tidings. A link to the full article is provided below.

This is a big week for our local Church.

Beginning this Thursday, March 22, we will be hosting our 45th annual Los Angeles Religious Education Congress at the Anaheim Convention Center. This amazing four-day event will attract more than 40,000 catechists, religious educators and teachers from across the country. This is the biggest gathering of its kind in America and probably in the world. There are about 280 workshops and talks this year — on topics ranging from spirituality and music to biblical studies and catechesis. 

The REC is a great service that our Archdiocese offers to the Church in our country. I’m grateful to Sister Edith Prendergast, RSC, director of our Religious Education Office. She and her fine staff have dedicated themselves to this event for nearly 25 years. To me this Congress is important because catechesis is at the heart of the Church’s mission.

Jesus commissioned his Church to make disciples in all nations and to teach all men and women to live by what he commanded. So from the start, religious education has included everything that we do in the Church to make disciples, to strengthen the living bonds of communion and community that we have in the Church, and to help us to live our faith in the world…

Catechesis is “mystagogical.” That means it tries to take us to a deeper knowledge of the mysteries we celebrate in the sacraments. It tries to help us truly live the divine life of grace that we receive in the sacraments.

To do this kind of work, takes a special person. It takes a “servant’s heart.” It requires a spirituality that is rooted in a simple, unselfish desire to do God’s will and to serve his purposes.

Catechists need to be engaging and imaginative in proclaiming the faith in this culture. But they don’t bring any teaching of their own. They are here to teach Jesus Christ.

When we are teaching in the Church, we can never substitute our own “version” of Jesus or offer watered-down or partial versions of his teachings. Because only the truth — and the whole truth — about Jesus can save us and set us free.

Jesus himself said that he only taught what he had learned from his Father. He said: “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.” And his words should be impressed on the hearts of every true catechist.

In our day, there are many competing “gospels” and contrary messages. And our secular culture seems more set against religious viewpoints than ever before.

In this culture, our religious education more and more must include a new “apologetics.” We need to make a new “case” for Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church. We need to communicate the joy of knowing Jesus and the power and beauty of our Catholic way of life. We need to be able to show our neighbors how the Gospel provides real answers to the problems we face in our lives and in our society…

To read the archbishop’s full column, Click Here.


Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012 2:12 AM By Adram
Clerics base their power on this special union with Christ and the clerical culture bases its power on the belief that the institutional Church is the Church and was created with a hierarchical structure by God Himself. The fact that there is no solid scriptural or historic evidence for this has never had a bearing on the fact that the hierarchy insists that every Catholic must believe it and act accordingly. The Vatican council reintroduced the ancient teaching of the Church as The People of God. Yet even before the council ended the Vatican curia and not a small number of bishops began the process of dismantling this teaching because it seriously threatened the immense power base of the curia and the bishops.

Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012 2:13 AM By Dan
I wasn’t there, and haven’t been there since 1883. But if words have significance, then the REC I just missed should have represeented an outastanding display of fidelity to the Holy See and reinforced the CCC 2nd ed. For those who went, was this in fact the case? Is it time to reconsider going next year?

Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012 2:39 AM By Sieber
God grant that this is a “shot across the bow” to so many of the participants.

Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012 5:58 AM By Juergensen
“When we are teaching in the Church, we can never substitute our own ‘version’ of Jesus or offer watered-down or partial versions of his teachings ” ~ Sounds good. However, I downloaded the complete 105-page “Program Guidebook” for this 2012 Religious Education Conference, and it contains not a single mention of the word “catechism.” Let me repeat that: the 105-page “Program Guidebook” makes NO mention of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Having eliminated the Catechism of the Catholic Church from its agenda, how can this conference teach anything BUT “our own version of Jesus”? Alas, “Dissent Fest” lives on.

Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012 6:31 AM By Angelo
Looks like the beginning of the end of the “Dissent-Fest”. Sounds like Archbishop Gomez plans renewal, reform, change ect… of the Anaheim convention. He says it all. Congratulations Kenneth M. Fisher and CRCOA and all those who battled for years to end the dissent.Laus Tibi, Christe!

Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012 7:27 AM By Joan of El Cajon
Arbp. Gomez should actually attend some of the REC sessions to see how the many heterodox speakers substitute their own ‘version’ of Jesus and offer watered-down or partial versions of his teachings, especially in the area of human sexuality. It is disappointing to discover that, even with a new archbishop at the helm in Los Angeles, this year’s speakers included a full roster of dissenters such as Fr. Richard Sparks, Fr. James Martin, Dr. Orlando Espin, Dr. Greer Gordon, Sr. Fran Ferder, and many others of their ilk. I pray that Archbishop Gomez puts an end to the wRECk in its current form and insists on orthodox speakers for future congresses.

Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012 7:27 AM By MacDonald
Archbishop Gomez is a member of Opus Dei, which is not exactly known for being wildly liberal and New Age in its approach to the Faith. So, his statement reminds me of the few times I attended the REC years ago and found it good for my soul. (Although I was careful to avoid any workshops that sounded too zany.)

Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012 8:43 AM By Larry
“Catechists need to be engaging and imaginative in proclaiming the faith in this culture. But they don’t bring any teaching of their own.” They don’t? Gee. That’s not what I’ve been hearing about this conference. This statement makes it clear that the REC as presently constituted has the full endorsement of Archbishop Gomez, which is what I’ve been arguing on these posts. Direct your protests to Rome, not the Chancery in Los Angeles.

Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012 9:06 AM By Catechist
Yes, there is a liberal element in the REC, but there are many orthodox speakers as well – and more are coming. I think the REC is a reflection of the larger Church. We are moving toward a message more faithful to the gospel. So don’t throw out the good with the bad! I get a lot out of going to the REC, and if I hear something “if-y”, I ignore it and critique the speaker in the evaluation I send in. It’s easy to make pot-shots on the internet. How many of you naysayers teach catechism outside of your family? What are you doing to make things better?

Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012 9:21 AM By Maryanne Leonard
Yes, but . . . isn’t there a lot more Archbishop Gomez should be saying and doing about this out-of-control bash? It is such a great opportunity to teach our under-catechized and often mis-catechized fellow Catholics! Why is it being allowed to remain out of control? Why should attendees have to use their own careful discernment in deciding which lectures are “safe” to drink in? If it is offered under the auspices of our archdiocese, it ought to be pure Catholic teaching. Gentle words are always pleasant and soothing, but this fetid situation calls for a strong sanitation treatment.

Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012 9:23 AM By Bob
A liberal element in REC is only matched by some who lead our Catholic schools (and teach CCD in our parishes). Last year’s REC, our teachers were discussing with the principal the events of the congress and she knew the fundamentalist Catholic pastor who led the first session (seriously, I felt like some people were going to roll in the aisles at any moment). She made a point to defend him and implied there was something wrong with me. This from a person who changed the lyrics of a song because we “worship Mary too much.” This from someone who wanted the classrooms to look less “religious.” All in all, a perfect example of what happens at congresses like this – the problem becomes when these people reach positions of influence. The longer our bishops take to correct these problems, the more the “Peter Principle” continues to rule.

Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012 10:12 AM By Mark from PA
Thank you for sharing this. I think Archbishop Gomez’s words are better than the negative attitude of some. People need to remember that Archbishop Gomez is the Archbishop for all the people in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, not just a small select group. Some people may want to rid the Church of people who don’t think like them or look like them but the Archbishop needs to serve all the Catholics in his Archdiocese.

Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012 10:27 AM By Larry
“The fact that there is no solid scriptural or historic evidence for this [hierarchical Church] has never had a bearing on the fact that the hierarchy insists that every Catholic must believe it and act accordingly.” The FACT? Whoa, now, Adram! Christ’s charge to Simon, “You are Peter and upon this Rock I will build my Church,” and his charge to the Apostles to go teach all nations and baptize, and “He who hears you hears Me. He who rejects you rejects Me and rejects Him who sent Me,” is all the Scriptural authority anyone needs. It is more than enough. Benedict XVI is the successor to St. Peter. The other bishops are the successors to the Apostles. The charges given to Peter and the Apostles are thus given to the modern pope and bishops. You wouldn’t, perhaps have learned your errors at the Los Angeles REC, would you?

Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012 11:02 AM By Linda
There is not a lot of time to ‘begin’ to be faithful to the Gospel! The REC may be the reflection of the sad condition of our Church, but only the faithful will be able to withstand what is coming at us. The ‘progressives’ will go the way of the world. And ALL need to hear the Truth.

Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012 11:10 AM By Clinton
I pray for Absp. Gomez that he can and will eventually (the sooner the better) turn the LA Archdiocese around and that the day will come will this dissent fest will be a thing of the past and the Church Militant will grow in holiness as her members embrace orthodoxy.

Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012 11:51 AM By Just sayin’
Let’s petition that next year the list of speakers will include many from the pro-life activist movement, from EWTN, from experts on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, from experts on the EF (Traditional) Latin Mass, from experts on the Magisterium, etc.

Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012 1:27 PM By Bob One
I reviewed the outlines of the presentations at this year’s REC. I can’t figure out what people are so against. Here is a sample of the outline for a presentation by a priest that some on this site consider contravercial: Would you like to meet Jesus as if for the first time? Join Fr. James Martin as he invites you to encounter Jesus in his time by the Sea of Galilee. Can you feel called like the disciples? Can you step out of the boat like Peter did? Can you let him feed and forgive you as he did after his Resurrection? Reflections on these New Testament passages, stories from his own life and recommendations for prayer will help you to hear him say, “Follow Me.” How can that not be an interesting seminar? Many, many many seminars were about how to teach religion to young people, teens, young adults and older people. They were, at least in the description, very Christian in their approach. I could not find one that didn’t interest me at least a little. Someone has criticized the fact that the CCC#2 wasn’t mentioned. Why would you expect it to be? If you went to a conference to learn how to teach history, would you expect people to expect you to read the encyclopedia? Teaching the faith is hard enough without making kids memorize huge tomes. Good teachers take that material and present it in interesting and child appropriate ways, and use it as reference material. It is obvious from his statement the the Archbishop knew what was going on at the REC and approved of it. He even congradulated the director that so many of you find lacking. I would think that if we haven’t attended recently, we have no basis for complaints. Next year, why not join the 40,000 from all over the world that attend this great event.

Posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012 2:36 PM By k
Archbishop Gomez understands the importance of proper catechesis. If you attended the REC and you found something incorrect or just confusing, please contact him. Also, Bob One, I was just attending a talk by a Catholic priest and everything was OK- until the question and answer session. Then he started to say things that were not correct.