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Update: Committee sees growing number of texts, rise of digital technology

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Update: Committee sees growing number of texts, rise of digital technology

BALTIMORE (CNS) — A growing
number of texts, not only in English and Spanish but in other languages, and
the rise of digital technology is having an impact on the work of the U.S.
bishops’ Subcommittee on the Catechism, said its chairman, Bishop Frank J.
Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The subcommittee, which uses
bishops, staff and contractors to read proposed catechetical texts from
publishers, is charged with certifying that they are in conformity with the
Catechism of the Catholic Church. Spanish texts also must go through a
“translation verification” process that is supposed to render the
English-language catechism faithfully.

“We have seen a dramatic
increase in the variety of and number of such texts,” Bishop Caggiano said
Nov. 14 during the U.S. bishops’ fall general assembly in Baltimore.

Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of
Hartford, Connecticut, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and
Catechesis, said earlier that the subcommittee would typically receive 5,000
pages of material. But, noted Bishop Caggiano, “a single publisher sent a
single series that was consisting of 10,000 pages. With only two full-time
staff members overseeing the review process for religious education in the
entire country, it’s simply becoming unmanageable.”

And that’s just from the
traditional print format in English. An increased number of materials in
Spanish have been submitted by publishers.

“We do not have the
competency or the resources to date to review those cultural materials in those
languages other than English. We don’t have the resources, the personnel to the
competency to review a culturally sensitive work via the protocols (either).
Quite frankly, as these catechetical materials in Spanish and other language
might bleed into the digital content,” he added, “we do not have a
clear answer on how to proceed.”

Another phenomenon is publishing
on demand, which will “allow a publisher to edit a particular text to meet
the particular needs a diocese, school or even a particular parish, and print a
limited amount of texts based on that need,” he added.

Digital publishing represents
“a change in the landscape of catechesis that is both complex and
continues to grow,” Bishop Caggiano said. “When we speak of
digitization, we must remember there are variety of ways in which a text can be
published in a digital format.

“One mimics a standard
textbook,” he continued. Others, though, are “not subject to a
standard format; it can be changed today, this afternoon, tomorrow, next week,
and can be linked to website that have a vast amount of information that has
varying degrees of quality and accuracy,” none of which had been vetted
through the subcommittee. It is known in tech circles, Bishop Caggiano said, as
“blended learning, a mixture of printed text and something that is in digital
or electronic format, including videos.”

Archbishop Blair said the
subcommittee must also supervise the copyright of the catechism “on behalf
of the Holy See,” which requires a “consistency review of any text
using 5,000 or more words from the catechism.” These are typically sent to
a trained contracted reviewer. He added 24 bishops currently review texts, and
70 have done so since the catechism was first published in 1992.

While there were no quick fixes
offered, Bishop Caggiano listed four “desired outcomes” from the
current situation.

“First, we hope to become
more proactive rather than reactive in the formation of catechetical
texts,” he said. “We will find ways to collaborate with publishers so
that texts and materials they create, regardless of the format and the language to be used, will be more in conformity with the cathechism.”

Bishop Caggiano added, “Our
fervent hope to be able to extend our oversight as a committee beyond
traditional printed texts and to exercise oversight over all catechetical
materials, including customized printed material, digital texts and Spanish
language material. We will have to reimagine what such oversight would entail.”

It is important, he said, to
“retain the relationship, which is collaborative and quite positive, with
publishers of catechetical material. Effective materials must be placed in the
hands of competent catechists,” he said.

“Lastly, however we
reimagine our work, that we will provide assistance to any bishop who needs to
review texts for their diocese, while providing specific assistance to bishop
in dioceses where publishing houses are now located.”


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