This chapter, in setting forth policies and resources for promoting Catholic identity and religious education in the archdiocese, seeks to implement the principles governing the rights and responsibilities of the Christian faithful and Church leaders as these are articulated in the Code of Canon Law. Various canons of the Code of Canon Law, particularly those dealing directly with catechesis and education, generally speak in broad terms even while stipulating specific kinds of action and structures of accountability. The directives, expectations, and suggestions in this chapter are to be understood and interpreted in the light of these canons.
At the heart of the Code of Canon Law message on catechesis and education is the right of the Christian faithful "to receive assistance" from their bishops and pastors "out of the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the word of God and the sacraments" (Canon 213). Indeed, by reason of their baptismal call to lead a life in keeping with the teaching of the gospel, "the Christian faithful have a right to a Christian education by which they are to be instructed properly to strive for the maturity of the human person and at the same time to know and live the mystery of salvation" (Canon 217). The laity in particular have the obligation and the right "to acquire knowledge of Christian doctrine appropriate to the capacity and condition of each in order for them to be able to live according to this doctrine, announce it themselves, defend it if necessary, and take their part in exercising the apostolate" (Canon 229.1).Thus the canons on catechesis begin by spelling out the mutual responsibilities and roles of Church leadership and the faithful, most especially parents/guardians:
Canon 773 – "It is a proper and grave duty especially of pastors of souls [i.e., bishops and parish pastors] to take care of the catechesis of the Christian people so that the living faith of the faithful becomes manifest and active through doctrinal instruction and the experience of Christian life."
Canon 774.1 – "Under the direction of legitimate ecclesiastical authority, solicitude for catechesis belongs to all members of the Church according to each one's role."Canon 774.2 – "Parents above others are obliged to form their children by word and example in faith and in the practice of Christian life; sponsors and those who take the place of parents are bound by an equal obligation."
The canons on Catholic education are similar:
Canon 793.1 – "Parents and those who take their place are bound by the obligation and possess the right of educating their offspring. Catholic parents also have the duty and right of choosing those means and institutions through which they can provide more suitably for the Catholic education of their children, according to local circumstances."Canon 794.1 – "The duty and right of educating belongs in a special way to the Church, to which has been divinely entrusted the mission of assisting persons so that they are able to reach the fullness of the Christian life."Canon 794.2 – "Pastors of souls have the duty of arranging everything so that all the faithful have a Catholic education."
The Code of Canon Law's concern about proper preparation in general for receiving the sacraments reflects the same approach:
Canon 843.2 – "Pastors of souls and other members of the Christian faithful, according to their respective ecclesiastical function, have the duty to take care that those who seek the sacraments are prepared to receive them by proper evangelization and catechetical instruction, attentive to the norms issued by competent authority."
Since the enterprise of Christian education is so central to the mission of the Church and depends on the participation and cooperation of everyone concerned, it is for the diocesan bishop, having observed the prescripts issued by the Apostolic See, "to make provision that suitable instruments of catechesis are available … and to foster and coordinate catechetical endeavors" (Canon 775.1). Again, the code indicates that the diocesan bishop "has the right to watch over and visit the Catholic schools in his territory" and to issue "prescripts which pertain to the general regulation of Catholic schools" (Canon 806.1). It is these two canons under which the archbishop of Los Angeles publishes the policies found in this chapter.The oversight of Church leadership extends explicitly to the appropriate formation or training of catechists and educators:
Canon 780 – "Local ordinaries are to take care that catechists are duly prepared to fulfill their function properly, namely, that continuing formation is made available to them, that they understand the doctrine of the Church appropriately, and that they learn in theory and in practice the methods proper to the teaching disciplines."
Canon 804.1 – "The Catholic religious instruction and education which are imparted in any schools whatsoever or are provided through the various instruments of social communication are subject to the authority of the Church. It is for the conference of bishops to issue general norms about this field of action and for the diocesan bishop to regulate and watch over it."Canon 804.2 – "The local ordinary is to be concerned that those who are designated teachers of religious instruction in schools, even in non-Catholic ones, are outstanding in correct doctrine, the witness of a Christian life, and teaching skill."
There are many more provisions of the Code of Canon Law regarding aspects of catechesis and education. When a policy in this chapter depends on a canon not already mentioned, it will be referenced as appropriate.