Serious Problems with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a new program introduced to Catholic parishes and promises to implement new methods to make catechesis interesting and engaging. Though a quick glance at this program reveals an impressive way of teaching with hands-on materials, there are many problems under the surface. The content taught lacks the amount of information the bishops have declared is to be included in a catechism program. This is partly out of a desire to be ecumenical and not teach truths that would be offensive to other religions. “Ecumenism is not just a branch of catechesis; rather, the spirit of ecumenism does permeate the whole of catechesis” [1]. However, it is largely attributed to Montessori ideology that the child does not learn from the teacher, but taps into a special source of knowledge to which adults do not have access. As we dig even deeper, we shall find the foundation of the program is not based on misguided Christianity, but Eastern Mysticism, specifically, a group called theosophy, an organization from which the new age movement is said to have originated.

Unlike a traditional curriculum that follows a single book for all, who teach the same class, each catechist forms the class from his album page. The album page is written by the catechist during training sessions and is slightly different for each catechist depending on the instructor. There is a master plan, which generally reveals what is to be presented to all the catechists. CGS sets the foundations for the capacity for the specific doctrines to be conveyed within the album pages through these specified themes. The contents of these album pages are handwritten and passed down from the CGS instructor to the catechist during CGS training. What is problematic is that specific doctrines, as directed by the bishops, must be covered in all classes; however, time and again, the album pages reveal that vast amounts of Catholic doctrine are missing from the program.

Upon observing these album pages, you will find that the CGS system is missing many essential details on the Trinity, sanctifying grace, original sin, and angels. This is partly because CGS ideology reflects that the catechist is not to teach, but to let the child come to the conclusions through the inner spiritual knowledge of the child. The founders of CGS even admit to removing parts of catechesis they did not find essential. However, since there is no formal curriculum, CGS has never been approved or condemned by the USCCB.

The CGS catechists are restricted from teaching, for only Christ is the teacher, and the catechists are a mere guide who ask pondering questions. This, combined with only a slim outline of content that needs to be covered, means that it is unlikely that the catechists will cover the necessary material mandated by the U.S. bishops. It is true that one can adopt elements from the CGS style to convey the faith in a manner that is adequate and orthodox, but as our blog reveals, this will be done only through ignoring much of the ideology of CGS.

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd’s ideology reflects a break with the traditional understanding of passing down the faith. Rather, CGS presupposes the premise that the child already has the knowledge within himself, which merely needs to be unleashed. Thus, the catechist is heavily discouraged from teaching, reduced to a mere facilitator.

“She works from the theological assumption that Catechesis offers children the opportunity to relate to God whom ‘they innately know and perceive.’ It is not a ‘catechesis of definition but a catechesis of invitation’” [2].

From understanding this premise that the child does not need to be taught, but learns through discovering the inner truth he already possesses, we can begin to understand what at first glance appears to be a confusing teaching method of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program. This concept of learning information was passed on by the teaching of Maria Montessori, who dabbled in the theosophy of Helena Blavatsky. “With this aim in mind, the catechist embraces Maria Montessori’s vision of the human being and thus the attitude of the adult regarding the child; and prepares an environment called the atrium, which aids the development of the religious life” [3].

Maria Montessori believed that faith is not something that needs to be passed down or learned through sacred writings; rather, faith is deep within us and merely needs to be tapped into. One could simply say we do not need to learn faith, but discover the knowledge already within us. “We must remember that religion is a universal sentiment which is inside everybody and has been inside every person since the beginning of the world. It is not something which we must give to the child” [4].

Maria Montessori’s idea of learning religion was condemned by Pope Pius X as an error of Modernism, which he also stated is the synthesis of all heresies.

“Should anyone ask how it is that this need of the divine which man experiences within himself grows up into a religion, the Modernists reply thus[:] … [i]n presence of this unknowable, whether it is outside man and beyond the visible world of nature, or lies hidden within in the subconsciousness, the need of the divine, according to the principles of Fideism, excites in a soul with a propensity towards religion a certain special sentiment, without any previous advertence of the mind: and this sentiment possesses, implied within itself both as its own object and as its intrinsic cause, the reality of the divine, and in a way unites man with God. It is this sentiment to which Modernists give the name of faith, and this it is which they consider the beginning of religion” [5].

The pope firmly taught that religion is not learned as a sentiment from within, but must be taught and handed on. As we can see, his condemnations use the same wording and terminology as Maria Montessori.

“However, this Agnosticism is only the negative part of the system of the Modernist: the positive side of it consists in what they call vital immanence[.] … But when Natural theology has been destroyed, the road to revelation closed through the rejection of the arguments of credibility, and all external revelation absolutely denied, it is clear that this explanation will be sought in vain outside man himself. It must, therefore, be looked for in man; and since religion is a form of life, the explanation must certainly be found in the life of man. Hence the principle of religious immanence is formulated. Moreover, the first actuation, so to say, of every vital phenomenon, and religion, as has been said, belongs to this category, is due to a certain necessity or impulsion; but it has its origin, speaking more particularly of life, in a movement of the heart, which movement is called a sentiment[.] … It is this sentiment to which Modernists give the name of faith, and this it is which they consider the beginning of religion.” —Pascendi Dominici Gregis

We can now clearly see that the founders of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd held the same modernist positions of Maria Montessori. “She works from the theological assumption that Catechesis offers children the opportunity to relate to God whom ‘they innately know and perceive.’ It is not a ‘catechesis of definition but a catechesis of invitation’” [6]. As we shall see, Maria Montessori was heavily involved in theosophy and wrote a plethora of articles for The Theosophy Society in India, where she spent the last years of her life. Thus, a look into the life of Maria Montessori reveals that she was not a faithful follower of Catholicism.

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Maria Montessori was raised Catholic but was heavily influenced by revolution and theosophy. At her young age, she was heavily involved in feminism and altering the relationship of women in the family. This would apparently be a result of the Theosophy Society of which she was a member and led to her not raising her child in spite of her advanced degree and capacity to make a higher salary. Maria neglected to care for her child out of wedlock and spent her time attempting to educate the mentally ill. Her involvement in theosophy formed her education methods as well as her understanding of God and religion.

One of the ideas of theosophy is that all religions contain elements of truth. It would appear that this is what would set the stage for CGS to be heavily embraced in ecumenism. “Ecumenism is not just a branch of catechesis; rather, the spirit of ecumenism does permeate the whole of catechesis” [7]. This has led to a catechesis that has removed many teachings that are uniquely Catholic or counter-cultural.

Not only were the founders of CGS overjoyed that other religions adopted the CGS program, but the CGS program encourages children to participate in other religions. An organization called the Center for Children and Theology is closely associated with CGSUSA and holds the annual CGS workshop, Weaving Our Gifts. Not only do they promote the prayers of other religions, but they also sell materials to be used in the CGS atrium such as hands-on Islam and hands-on Buddhism material to be used in the atrium. Notice that both hands-on packages contain materials to pray according to the dictates of these foreign religions. They even sell a zen gong to be rung before each class. At one of the Weaving our Gifts sessions was a speaker by the name of Sr. Linda Gibbler, who appeared with a yin-yang necklace around her neck. Clearly, there are some serious problems with this catechesis program.

For more information on the problems of the Catechesis of the good shepherd, visit

[1] Sofia Cavalletti, Religious Potential of the Child: 6-12 years, 123

[2] Scottie May, Sofia Cavalletti,

[3] The Characteristics of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd: 32 Points of Reflection,

[4] Maria Montessori, The Child, Society and the World: Unpublished Speeches and Writings

[5] Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis

[6] Scottie May, Sofia Cavalletti,

[7] Sofia Cavalletti, Religious Potential of the Child: 6-12 years, 123

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