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On Sacramental Guidelines

Parents, Know Your Rights

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Guidelines, Policies, and Procedures are not Mandates

Proof-texting Church documents

 Links to Certified Parents, Cardinal Comments and More


Catholic parents teaching their children at home are reporting all sorts of diocesan regulations on sacramental preparation. Quite a number of these guidelines use words and phrases which make it appear that the pastor or the Director of Religious Education (DRE) can withhold or delay the Sacraments from children simply because they are homeschooled. (On a side note, a DRE holds absolutely no rights over other people's children. Church teaching found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Code of Canon Law and other documents specifically mentions only the parents, the pastor and ecclesiastical authority. In the majority of cases, the DRE is a diocesan employee but not an ecclesiastical authority. Parents should keep in mind they have the right to directly approach their parish priest).


A policy statement, a set of guidelines, a list of procedures etc. are not official Church mandates. Any sacramental guidelines can and ought to be studied and questioned by parents. Policies, guidelines and procedures are not laws written in stone (although some diocesan officials will try to convince parents otherwise).  


Further, the big problem with guidelines is that what is actually required is often tucked in between layers of suggestions. In some cases, the word required is used but the guideline itself is not in line with Church teaching. Some guidelines are stated in such a way as to appear like a commandment, like "Be involved... " when in truth this is only another suggestion. Parents must know their rights -- not only in accordance with state law but also in natural and divine law.


   What appears to be "proof-texting" is showing up in some sacramental guidelines for homeschooling parents and children. Proof-texting is a term most commonly used to explain what non-Catholics do when quoting Scripture in order to prove their argument against the Catholic Faith. Scriptural passages are used out of context and given the wrong interpretation (an opinion) in order to strengthen the proof-texter's personal convictions against the true Faith. Catholics who know this about this Scriptural proof-texting method realize that proof-texters are basing their beliefs on their opinions of what Scripture means, not what God intends them to mean.


Similarily, if such proof-texting is being used when referring to Church documents during the writing of homeschool guidelines, those same Church documents will appear to mean what a particular diocesan committee wants or decides it to mean instead of what the Church intended. No lay person, no homeschool study group, no diocesan committee, no pastor, and no bishop can lawfully do this.

The main difficulty is the use of excessive verbiage in many of the guidelines. A careful reading of guidelines which include words like "should," "are recommended," "are invited," etc. will show that these are not requirements. Neither should they present Church teaching in such a way that eradicates or lessens the rights of parents. (This is another method of proof-texting.)  


An Important Note - Keeping It Catholic's Intention

Keeping it Catholic has no intention of proof-texting various Church documents when it presents evidence in favor of parental or pastoral rights. Instead, we offer excerpts from such documents with both a hope and a stated intention. Our hope is that parents and pastors thoroughly read the mentioned documents for themselves. Our intention is to provide excerpts so that parents can easily search and refer to the entire document from which the excerpts came.We consistently refer to authentic Church teaching so that parental rights and responsibilities are clearly understood, respected, and upheld.


At the most, the study of such documents will assist both parents and pastors in realizing guidelines are not neccesary. Parents especially have an obligation to know and defend their rights since it a duty conferred upon them God Himself. At the worse, parental neglect to know their rights, duties and obligations, affirmed and upheld for them by the Church, could very well lead to all kinds of abuses perpetrated against their homeschooled children's access to the Sacraments.


Certified Parents?


Guideline Example, Cardinal Gagnon Comments on Catechesis,

"Approved" Texts and Authentic Doctrine


 Must Parents Enter a Written Agreement with the Parish?


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