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Catechetical Directories, National


Catechetical directories are a new genre of writings in Roman Catholic religious education that furnish guidelines delineating pastoral principles, set goals, and suggest means for religious education. The directories were mandated by Vatican II in Christus Dominus. They are pastoral in purpose and "deal with the fundamental principles of such [catechetical] instruction, its arrangement, and the composition of books on the subject" (art. 44). There are two kinds: a general directory for the universal Church and particular directories which address special needs of the faithful required by "the different circumstances of particular nations or regions" (for a discussion of the former, see general directory for catechesis).

The French hierarchy promulgated a directory for use in the dioceses of France in 1964. The Argentine bishops published a similar one in 1967, and in 1971 the Mexican bishops issued a directory ad experimentum. The Italian hierarchy commissioned a foundational document, Il rinnovamento della catechesi (1970), which in effect is a catechetical directory, thought its guidelines are implicit rather than explicit. In April 1972 the National Conference of Catholic Bishops initiated a process to produce a catechetical directory for use in the United States. Working under the direction of the Bishops' Committee of Policy and Review was a directory committee composed of 12 persons: four bishops, two laywomen, one layman, two women religious, one brother, one religious priest, and one diocesan priest. The result of their work, Sharing the Light of Faith: National Catechetical Directory for Catholics of the United States, was approved by the NCCB in 1977 and by the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome in October 1978; its authority comes from this approval.

Sharing the Light of Faith is a handbook containing directives (norms, standards) and guidelines (recommendations, suggestions) for the catechesis of Catholics of all ages (cradle to grave) and in all circumstances of life. It is designed to serve as a foundation or base for the development of catechetical materials appropriate for every time and circumstance of life in contemporary U.S. society.

Not all parts of the document are of equal weight. Only those parts that deal with the teaching of the Church in regard to revelation (chap. III) and the Christian message (parts of chaps. V and VI), and the norms and criteria for teaching these (art. 47) are normative and are thus to be observed by all. The other portions of the directory are also important, but the treatment of such matters as stages of human development, methodology, catechetical roles and training, organization and structures, and resources is subject to change in light of new knowledge or different circumstances.

Bibliography: b. l. marthaler, Catechetics in Context: Notes and Commentary on the General Catechetical Directory (Huntington, Ind. 1973); The Living Light 9 (1972) 720; Religious Education 66 (1971) 357363.

[b. l. marthaler/

w. h. paradis]

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