Industrialization, urbanization, and poverty often put great strains on immigrant families. Educational levels in general among largely poor Catholics were low and to some extent it made sense to entrust the critical task of religious education to the Church. But the effect was the marginalization of parents as the primary religious educators of their children.Share
And this would have lasting effects when the system of priests and religious collapsed in the 1970s. Religious sisters and priests, once a numerous and effective army of teachers, diminished and largely disappeared almost overnight. Despite this, parents were still kept on the periphery. But, frankly, how could catechesis have been redirected back to the home at that time? For at least three generations, Catholics had been led to relegate religious formation to the parish rather than the home. Attitudes change slowly and there was also little catechetical experience to rely on within the family.
In reaction to this, many well-meaning but at-first-untrained laity stepped into the gap to prop up the parish-based system. Despite the revolution of the late 1960s and the exodus of religious, parish-based religious instruction continued as usual.
Add to this problem the fact that “professional class” of religious leaders and teachers in the 1960s and later came to be infested by dissenters. Poorly trained adults were at first little equipped to resist those dissenters and were easily led astray.
So the first problem is that it is never good when parents and other adults are told to consign the religious education of their children to others. It tends to remove faith from the home and allows a class of dissenters too much access and influence. As we shall see, this left many chronological adults with a faith that was little more than elementary. (Read more.)