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Tom Keckman wrote:

Hi, guys —

I'm a lifelong Catholic with strong morals. I have two daughters; the oldest is twelve. She is an altar server in our parish. She attends CCD classes and will be making her Confirmation this year.

The other day, she announced that last night at CCD, they learned what the "F" word meant, and
I don't mean faith. I could not believe what I was hearing. After investigating further, it was accurate. The instructors used the "F" word as an anagram. Furthermore, their homework was to look up the definition of carnal knowledge. My parish's reaction was to have a meeting with the teachers and parents to discuss this.

  • Am I wrong to demand that there is no room for discussion?

This type of language has no place in a CCD class with twelve year olds.

  • Are there any Church regulations which prohibit the use of profanity in a classroom?


  { Are there any Church regulations prohibiting this type of language in the classroom? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Tom —

I'm kind of puzzled by part of your question.

You said:
My parish's reaction was to have a meeting with the teachers and parents to discuss this.

Where's the pastor here?

He is the one responsible for the quality of CCD teachers he hires.

You are correct, this type of behavior is unacceptable. If the pastor does not wish to take action,
I would write a letter to the local bishop to make him aware of the issue then try to make an appointment with him BUT make sure you try to talk to the pastor first. Going to the bishop, without first addressing it at the local level will make a bad impression with the bishop.

You said:
Are there any Church regulations which prohibit the use of profanity in a classroom?

I'm unaware of any. The last papal document on this issue was:

I thought number 6 was interesting but you should probably read the whole thing.

6. Christocentricity in catechesis also means the intention to transmit not one's own teaching or that of some other master, but the teaching of Jesus Christ the Truth that he communicates or, to put it more precisely, the Truth that he is. We must therefore say that in catechesis it is Christ, the Incarnate word and Son of God, who is taught everything else is taught with reference to him and it is Christ alone who teaches anyone else teaches to the extent that he is Christ's spokesman, enabling Christ to teach with his lips. Whatever be the level of his responsibility in the Church, every catechist must constantly endeavor to transmit by his teaching and behavior the teaching and life of Jesus. He will not seek to keep directed towards himself and his personal opinions and attitudes the attention and the consent of the mind and heart of the person he is catechizing. Above all, he will not try to inculcate his personal opinions and options as if they expressed Christ's teaching and the lessons of his life. Every catechist should be able to apply to himself the mysterious words of Jesus: "My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me". Saint Paul did this when he was dealing with a question of prime importance: "I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you". What assiduous study of the word of God transmitted by the Church's Magisterium, what profound familiarity with Christ and with the Father, what a spirit of prayer, what detachment from self must a catechist have in order that he can say: "My teaching is not mine"!

The last document before that was:

Hope this helps,


Tom replied:

Greetings Mike,

Thanks so much for the reply. That's pretty much what my feeling was in regards to the pastor. He's rather non-confrontational. Unfortunately, he also is one of the Associate Judicial Vicars for the diocese. My fear is that the meeting they have scheduled will turn into a bashing of the teachers, which, in my opinion, should not be done publicly although I don't think there is any justification for this behavior. At the meeting, I want to try to keep emotion out of my response, but I must admit I'm angry my twelve year old daughter was subjected to this.

Thanks again,


Mike replied:

Hi, Tom —

I agree! The Church teaches in the Catechism that you, the parent, are the primary educator of your children.

If you believe your child is being subject to a CCD environment that is not conducive to Christian values, you should make your feelings known, after talking with the pastor, to the local bishop.


John replied:

Hi, Tom —

Certainly approaching the bishop may be necessary at some point but there is a protocol.
If a bishop gets a call from you, the first question he's likely to ask you is:

  • Did you discuss this with your pastor yet?
  • What did your pastor say when you discussed this with him?

Your better off going to the priest first. That way, if you've made the priest aware and if he does nothing or blows you off with a phony answer, when you go to the bishop, you will have a good reason for contacting him directly. Obviously, you'd report the lack of satisfaction you got from the pastor.

Now if the pastor is aware of this problem, you may want to attend this "meeting" with the other parents. Go and see what they say. They may want to apologize to everyone. Who knows?

I think it's very important that you stick up for your rights. I also think that it's important that you follow the chain of command, if possible. In the end, you will have more influence and credibility with the bishop's office, if you talk to the pastor or next in the chain of authority first.

That's my two cents.

John D.

Mary Ann replied:

Tom —

The bishop will want you to have gone to your pastor before approaching him. They hate what they perceive as tattle-tales.

Go to the pastor, in writing and in person then take it to the bishop, if necessary.

Mary Ann

Tom replied:

Hi all,

Thanks so much for your input. I have indeed addressed it with the pastor. He has scheduled a upcoming meeting to discuss the issue, but I see no good coming from it, only hard and hurt feelings. Here is an email I received this afternoon from the teacher. It went to all parents.
I'm amazed that only two found it objectionable.

  • Am I overreacting?

I don't think I am.

Dear Parents,

My purpose for sending this letter is twofold. First, is to inform you of the subject of the parent meeting on Tuesday. The meeting relates to a short discussion we had in class about acronyms (not anagrams). Be assured the meeting does not pertain to your child's behavior. In fact, given the large size of the class, Coleen and I have managed to maintain control and accomplish some learning at the same time.

For those of you who may be unaware, there are 29 seventh graders in the class and we meet in the Parish Center with 2 other religious education classes. The acoustics are not ideal and we were all clustered on one side of the room on this evening to facilitate hearing as the students read aloud. The reading was about symbols which led into a discussion of acronyms. The suggested teaching tip in the manual recommended exploring symbols and whether they supported the Christian message or were in conflict with it. I wrote an acronym where the letters were written vertically down the board. The letters were f, u, c, and k. This is an acronym; for unlawful carnal knowledge. I, myself, learned this in religion class at the Catholic school I attended. After the initial giggling died down, we had a short discussion about it. The lesson had the desired effect. We had all their attention and they grasped the concept of symbols. Two parents sent email complaints to Monsignor Jim; one insisting that I step down as teacher for the class.

The second purpose of this letter is to allow all parents an opportunity to hear my side of the story and afford them the time to consider this issue. I have enjoyed teaching your children throughout the past five years. However, as this is a volunteer position, I am ready to step down as a religious education teacher if that is what the majority of parents want.


John replied:

Hi, Tom —

It sounds like this woman is the product of horrible catecheses herself. It doesn't sound like she was trying to pervert the kids or promote fornication , so I'd attend the meeting see where it goes.

Looking forward, this thing shouldn't happen again, then again, as kids enter their teens it's important that they get both a pro-life and chastity talk before they are confirmed. When I was teaching that grade level, I was dealing with students who came from families where the parents claimed to be pro-choice. Some came from homes where the parents weren't married or the mother was single and her boyfriend wasn't the father. Put in that situation, in the course of explaining the Church's teaching on life and chastity, certain topics had to be covered. In doing so we tried to be as discrete as possible but certainly it's not always easy. Parents might get upset for bringing up the subject because they weren't living the Church's teachings. Other's didn't want their kids to know anything about sex. Well you can't talk about keeping yourself pure and chaste to a teenager, without mentioning what impurity is.

I'm not defending the foul language that was used, but I wouldn't be to quick to hang this woman.


Mary Ann replied:

Tom  —

  • If this is for high schoolers, it is legit, but a better way to do it would be to write the words and let the kids deduce the acronym.

  • If this is for elementary school, it is definitely wrong.

  • If it is for middle school, later grades can learn about unlawful carnal knowledge, but not in mixed groups.

Mary Ann

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