Why the USCCB catechetical list is not the place to find out if a religious education series is good.
If you haven't read the other posts in this series, please start there.
Unit 2 of BAW is called We Ask God's Forgiveness.
Family time to prep for this chapter is titled “We Can Choose What is Good”.
The section starts by asking the question “how do we figure out what the good is?”
We try to form a good conscience to help us identify what is good and then try to conform our behavior to our conscience. Being Catholic helps us understand that God gives us free choice, and yet he is always ready to forgive us when we choose sin.
Remember, this section is for the parents to read and then discuss with their kids. Notice how there is no mention of learning what the Church teaches to form a good conscience? If you think that that explanation comes later, you haven't read the previous posts critiqueing this program.
Another thing that this section and the entire chapter does is replace the word “will” with “choice”. For example, the various prayers in the chapter thank God for giving us “free choice”. “Will” is never mentioned. This is disturbing for a couple of reasons. First, Catholic theology is a very precise subject and swapping out words that don't mean the same thing is not wise. Second, God doesn't give us “free choice”. There are many things that we don't get to make choices about but we always have free will.
The “Our Heritage in Art” section this time includes Rembrandt's painting Return of the Prodigal Son and a retelling of the story.
The “Something to do” section suggests that
During the Penitential Rite, reflect on the choices you made during the week. Thank God for his guidance.
That's a good thing to do but since the explanation of where God's guidance comes from is incomplete, the child is going to develop a deficient conscience if this book is his only source of religious education training.
Chapter 5 is called “We Can Choose What is Good”
You would assume that this chapter would explain how to figure out what is good when you have a question. You would be wrong. The chapter starts with an activity where the child draws a happy or sad face next to statements depending on whether the choice is good or bad. Next, the chapter retells the story of the Prodigal Son and then explains:
The boy in the story knew he had done wrong. His conscience told him so. God gave everybody a conscience. Our conscience tells us the difference between what is right and wrong.
Again begging the question, “How do we know our conscience is telling us what is right?”
The next paragraph, “Our Church Teaches” explains:
We sin when we freely choose to do bad things. When we sin, we hurt our friendship with God and with other people. God wants us to be sorry for our sins. God loves us very much, and he is always ready to forgive us.
You might expect that at some point the book would explain why hurting our friendship with God is bad or what the consequences are. Again, you would be wrong.
The sidebar has a section entitled “We Believe”
God wants us to choose good and stay away from evil. But God lets us decide what to do. We call this free choice. (emphasis original)
Again, the phrase “free choice” has replaced “free will”.
The page ends with the question “How can we practice making good choices?”
The answer – listen to the story of Peter Rabbit and explain what bad choices he made. I'm not kidding. The next page has a word scramble activity where kids are shown choosing to do good including not fighting, sharing and telling the truth. The page ends with the question “How can we celebrate the gift of free choice?”
Choosing to do good actions is a type of prayer. When we act in good ways, we praise God. We thank God for the gift of free choice.
Celebrate making good choices.
Pray this prayer together.
Thank you for the gift of free choice.
Help us to use this gift to choose what is good.
First, choosing to do good actions CAN be a type of prayer but it isn't automatically. We have to WILL our actions to be a prayer. An athiest can do good without praying. And again, the annoying replacement of “free will” with “free choice”.