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The Case for RCIA, The Case Against RCIA

Discussion in 'Catholic DIR' started by pearl, Aug 12, 2022.

  1. pearl

    pearl Well-Known Member

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    I have to admit my surprise at Father Greeley's, one of my favorite Catholic authors, distain for the RCIA.
    The following articles from America Media present both the pros and cons. Considering his involvement with the RCIA in his parish I'm hoping for opinion from metis others who may be involved with baptism of adults.


    “THE R.C.I.A.,” I have been told often in the last couple of years, “is the answer.”

    I respectfully submit that it is not the answer, even assuming that we know what the question is, which I don’t think anyone does anymore. The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RC.I.A.) is just that—a rite. When it is imposed as an obligatory paradigm, it violates the freedom of the Spirit and the integrity and the dignity of individual human persons. I protest against it even when it is imposed as an obligation on those who have never been baptized. I protest against it a fortiori when it is imposed on those who have already been baptized. Finally I protest against neo-gnostic oppression of which the R.C.I.A. is only the most recent, though possibly the most offensive, manifestation.

    Psychologist Abraham Maslow remarked that the person with the “answer” is a hammer and those on whom the answer is to be imposed are nails. In the hands of its enthusiasts, the R.C.I.A. has become a hammer and the presumably Spirit-less laity—Catholic or would-be Catholic—have become nails.

    Like most liturgical innovations of the years since the Second Vatican Council (the most notable exception being the Mass of the Resurrection), this rite is not particularly distinguished either by its artistic beauty or by its linguistic felicity or by its responsiveness to human needs. It is spun out of historicist and academic concerns and displays no sensitivity to either the nature of contemporary religious experience or the cultural environments where it is to be exercised. (How can you call people the “elect” or require “scrutinies” or babble about “mystagogy” in the final decade of the 20th century?)

    At a very general level it makes two important points that have been forgotten in the past and of which contemporary Catholics needed to be reminded—that becoming a Christian is a process and not an event, and that it is a process which of necessity should involve some sort of community. I would have called these two “points” guidelines, save that in contemporary clerical culture “guidelines” means “rigid laws” (just as “dialogue” means accepting a bishop’s order). For all I know those who actually drafted this rite intended nothing more than making these two points. Yet, the process, contrary to what is thought by those in the R.C.I.A. movement who interpret the document, is not necessarily that which is administered by the parish “staff.” and the community is not necessarily the parish “R.C.I.A. Team.”

    At a very general level it makes two important points that have been forgotten in the past and of which contemporary Catholics needed to be reminded—that becoming a Christian is a process and not an event, and that it is a process which of necessity should involve some sort of community. I would have called these two “points” guidelines, save that in contemporary clerical culture “guidelines” means “rigid laws” (just as “dialogue” means accepting a bishop’s order). For all I know those who actually drafted this rite intended nothing more than making these two points. Yet, the process, contrary to what is thought by those in the R.C.I.A. movement who interpret the document, is not necessarily that which is administered by the parish “staff.” and the community is not necessarily the parish “R.C.I.A. Team.”
    The Case Against R.C.I.A. | America Magazine

    Perhaps it will be more palatable for Father Greeley to hear from his distinguished colleagues in the social sciences that the R.C.I.A., as the premier initiatory statement of the Roman Catholic Church, is of ENORMOUS significance, and not just another program that will fail as it becomes routine and its groupies move on to the next fad.

    The genius of the R.C.I.A., as Father Greeley correctly notes, is connected to its insight that becoming Christian is a process, not an event, and that of necessity its context is the life of a local community of faith. What he seems to be unaware of, in addition, is the integral part played by the wedding of ritual and catechesis in that communal process. The “dismissal” of catechumens at the end of the Liturgy of the Word, when properly done, is not experienced as “ordering someone out of the church,” as Father Greeley described it. Rather, it is experienced as a warm invitation to feast more richly on the real presence of Christ in the Word, mediated by a community of living tradition in the person of the catechist. As a statement of liminality for those in the process of “becoming” but not yet there, it is also unsurpassed by any of our other rituals. Given Father Greeley’s frequent praise of the sacramentality of our Catholic tradition, it seems strange that he would miss the potential of this provocative sacramental procession.

    The R.C.I.A.’s understanding of how we best minister to their conversion experience calls for us to immerse them all in the life and common struggles of a community of faith where they will discover both their uniqueness and their common ground. Coenobius may need and profit from conversations with scholarly Father Prudens about the religious aesthetics of Peter Paul Rubens. But I’d wager his spiritual health will be better served by inviting him to share deeply each week with Sarah and the others the meaning of the Sunday Scripture as it is heard and lived in the context of the Catholic tradition.He is not, in fact, seeking to enter a community of literary critics, but a church where rich and poor, unlettered and degreed, saint and sinner, literally rub shoulders and offer a sign of peace every Sunday. What has been so invigorating to R.C.I.A. ministers around the country is the way conversion happens when small groups of uniquely different individuals gather to listen prayerfully to Scripture to share its meaning in the light of Catholic tradition and their own lived experience, to work together to build up God’s reign, and to celebrate the stages of their conversion using rituals that resonate authentically with their growing faith.

    FATHER GREELEY is not alone in his suspicion that exaggerated claims are being made for the R.C.I.A. But there is a history even longer than Father Greeley’s list of best-sellers of those who are skeptical about divine power at work in our rituals. The deep sacramentality of the Catholic tradition, however, has always expected miracles of grace to be at work in the church’s rites.Whether expressed in the 4th-century rhetoric of mystery religions (the disciplina arcani), 12-century scholastic jargon (ex opere operato) or 20th-century buzzwords, (R.C.I.A.), we Catholics have always held the church’s sacred rites in the highest esteem. That a priest of Father Greeley’s reputation should title an article “Against R.C.I.A.’’ and then proceed to belittle the rituals by which the church marks a convert’s spiritual journey is almost beyond belief. What enchantment with his own rhetoric could lead this champion of authentic catholicity to protest against the church’s baptismal ritual “when it is imposed as an obligation on those who have never been baptized”? To quote Father Greeley: “Give me a break!”

    In short, my invitation is to recognize the R.C.I.A. for what it truly is: a visionary gift of the Spirit to the church of our time, a remarkable instrument of individual and communal conversion, a clarion call to renewed ministry on the part of all of the baptized, a striking blend of ritual and catechesis, pastoral care and spiritual formation at their best. If the parish where you worship, Father Greeley, is offering anything less, then you’re being cheated badly and may well have grounds for divorce!
    The Case For R.C.I.A. | America Magazine


     
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  2. exchemist

    exchemist Veteran Member

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    I know nothing of the RCIA itself but I instinctively warm to Fr Greeley when I read things like this:

    "I AM ESPECIALLY OFFENDED that “liturgists” are the ones who are trying to impose the R.C.I.A. on the rest of us. They have mucked up everything they have touched (again excepting the Mass of the Resurrectino) since the end of Vatican II. They are responsible for abandonment of chant and polyphony, the terrible state of liturgical music, art and architecture; the repudiation of popular devotions; the horrible English translations, the listless, boring and interminable Liturgy of the Word (after which the homilist is hard pressed to wake up the congregation); the long delay before the Offering of the Gifts, while ushers mess around with collection baskets in the rear of the church and the endless fussing with the distribution of the Eucharist."

    I am reminded how when we were about to get married (at the ages of 40 and 46, mark you) I was told by several parish priests, with barely concealed delight, that there was a minimum of 6 months preparation for Holy Matrimony, so our request to get married in 2 months' time was out of the question. In the end we neatly side-stepped it by going to a Jesuit who said that, as he did not in fact report to the bishop, he did not need to abide by diocesan rules! We had several sessions with him, which he extemporised, and that was fine.

    It may be fine to have the outline of a structured process, but once it gets taken over by rules and rigid hurdles, with certain people elevated to a position of power over the "supplicants" (which they may enjoy rather unhealthily), it can destroy all spontaneity and spirituality and become like a driving test.
     
  3. pearl

    pearl Well-Known Member

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    Not unlike the publishing of 'America Media', as a Jesuit publication, it' s answerable only to the pope for its contents. I remember John Paul II being displeased with the then editor, he replaced him.

    Long before Vatican II and the implementation of the RCIA, which was not some new innovation, but has its historical roots in the second century, there existed requirements that must be fulfilled, and the extended instruction. For me personally the beauty of reestablishing RCIA is the order of baptism used in the Church, from the order of Hippolytus in the 2nd century.
     
  4. metis

    metis aged ecumenical anthropologist

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    A lot depends on who's "boss". When I first started teaching it, the nun I worked under wasn't very ritualistic at all, and that was fine & dandy with me. The 2nd nun was quite ritualistic and spent much time on it, so she did her thing, and I did mine [general theology].

    After coming back after a 20-year stint within Judaism, the man who now runs the show is a lot like the 2nd nun but not to the same extent. Unfortunately, he injected partisan politics into it fairly often, and I almost quit until he decided to back off. This upcoming year I have to decide whether to return or not as I'm still chafing a bit over what he has tried to slip in at times, plus our priest also has a secular political bent which I confronted him on. IOW, I don't know what I'm going to do as of yet.

    I don't know if I delt with what you were looking for, so let me know if I didn't answer your question clearly enough.
     
  5. pearl

    pearl Well-Known Member

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    Well, its true that the best programs are at the mercy of those in charge. But I can't imagine this program without giving ritual its due, what would you have left out as unnecessary? Absolutely there is no place to intro one's politics.
    I have no idea how the RCIA program today in our parish differs with 30 years ago as I am no longer involved with religious ed board which decides the curriculum for all programs. But initially this offers very close to ours; Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults - Wikipedia.
    I certainly hope you continue.
     
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  6. metis

    metis aged ecumenical anthropologist

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    Not so much left out as how much time should be spent on it.

    Obviously, I agree.

    Thank you and I'll keep you posted.

    Have a Most Blessed Lord's Day, my friend.
     
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