Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD)

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The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, an association of the faithful devoted to the work of Catholic religious education, traces its origins to sixteenth-century Italy. Prompted by the need to counteract widespread ignorance of Church teachings and indifference toward religious practice, zealous individuals began to organize groups of catechists, priests and laity, for the instruction of youth. The movement spread in many Italian cities including Rome, where about 1560 a Society of Christian Doctrine (Compagnia della Dottrina Cristiana ) was established that gained the approval of Pope Pius V in 1571. Meanwhile the reform-minded Archbishop Charles borromeo was promoting a similar group, the Sodality of Christian Doctrine, in Milan, where he directed that it be established in every parish church. It was St. Charles more than anyone who gave the association it early structure, pastoral guidelines, and juridical status.

In 1607 Pope Paul V with the apostolic brief Ex credito nobis established the Society of Christian Doctrine as an archconfraternity with headquarters in St. Peter's Basilica. The pope thereby implicitly recognized that even its members participated in the teaching mission of the Church. He further encouraged its members by extending to them a number of indulgences. At the beginning of the twentieth century Pope Pius X breathed new life into the confraternity. His encyclical letter Acerbo nimis (1905), regarded as the magna carta of the modern CCD, lamented the neglect of catechesis and ordered that the confraternity be established in every parish as a way of providing the pastor with lay helpers in teaching the catechism. The 1917 Code of Canon Law (c. 711.2) incorporated the command, directing that parish units be established by formal decree of the local ordinary and affiliated with the archconfraternity in Rome. During the pontificate of Pope Pius XI, the congregation of the council further decreed that diocesan and national offices be established to promote, support, and coordinate the work of the confraternity at local levels (Provido sane, 1935).

CCD in the USA Shortly after the publication of Acerbo nimis the individual parishes in the U.S. began to organize the confraternity and in time it became a national movement. In the initial stages, the CCD was promoted in dioceses like New York and Pittsburgh where there were a great number of recent immigrants. In 1922 the confraternity was organized in the diocese of Los Angeles under the auspices of the Office of Catholic Charities to reach out to the immigrant families from Mexico who were moving into the area. The diocesan and parochial structure of the Los Angeles CCD became the model for other dioceses.

By the early 1930s the CCD had become a national movement, and Bishop Edwin V. o'hara of Great Falls, Montana, gained permission from the Holy See to establish a national office to coordinate its activities. An episcopal committee with O'Hara as president was named in 1934, and it in turn established the national center for CCD under the auspices of National Catholic Welfare Conference in 1935. Throughout the first quarter century of its existence the national center reflected the zeal of Bishop O'Hara, the guiding spirit in its foundation, and that of Miss Miriam marks, early aide to Bishop O'Hara and executive secretary from 1935 to 1960.

The national center developed a highly structured model for the confraternity at the parish level. At its head was the priest-director, the pastor or his delegate, whose function was to direct the members' activity and form them spiritually. Collaborating with him was a lay executive board consisting of the officers and the chairs of each of six departments: teachers, fishers, helpers, parent-educators, discussion clubs, and the Apostolate of Good Will for those who were not members of the Church. After the Second Vatican Council diocesan directors of the confraternity formed the National Conference of Diocesan DirectorsCCD to coordinate their efforts. Its executive secretary acted as liaison with the national center. It was the forerunner of the national conference of catechetical leadership.

The national center offered many support services to the field in the way of congresses, handbooks, catechetical resources, and graded catechisms. Every year from 1935 to World War II it organized national congresses, the first held at Rochester, N.Y.; after the war, the national congresses were held every five years, the last in 1971 in Miami. To make the Scriptures more accessible to both CCD teacher and student, Bishop O'Hara took the initiative in organizing the Catholic Biblical Association and commissioning it to produce the confraternity edition of the New Testament, which was later subsumed into the new american bible. In 1964 the national center began publication of The Living Light, a quarterly under the editorship of Mary Perkins ryan designed to provide resources and pastoral counsel to catechists.

Although the early focus of the confraternity in the U.S. was on immigrant families, its principal concern came to be the religious instruction of children who were not attending Catholic schools. It designed programs to meet a variety of situations, urban and rural: Sunday school, released time, and summer vacation school. In addition, the CCD had three other special areas of concern: preschool children and their parents, the further Catholic education of adults in general, and, greatest of all, the hardly touched harvest of those outside the Church.

In no other country was the confraternity as highly organized as in the U.S. Yet with the publication of the General Catechetical Directory in 1971, which made no mention of the CCD, the structures of the confraternity went into decline. In 1975 the National Center of Religious EducationCCD was suppressed and its ministry assigned to the department of education of the United States Catholic Conference. For a while CCD served as a generic term for non-school programs, but it no longer signified the highly organized and, in many places, very successful program of the early years.

Bibliography: The Confraternity Comes of Age: A Historical Symposium (Paterson, NJ 1956). j. b. collins, Religious Education and CCD in the United States: Early Years (19021935), American Ecclesiastical Review 169 (1975) 4867; Bishop O'Hara and a National CCD, ibid., 237255.

[j. e. kraus/eds.]

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Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD)

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