- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2004

NEW ORLEANS — The Roman Catholic Church is handing out failing grades to most of the religion textbooks used to instruct the country’s 680,000 parochial high school students.

A church committee that studies the material found that some of the textbooks avoid saying adultery and premarital sex are sins. Others depict the Bible as little more than a history book, the group says.

That’s not all: The panel complains that one textbook contended Jesus’ miracles were the result of luck.

Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans, chairman of the church’s national education committee, has urged all bishops to pull any high school religion textbooks that have not been approved by his committee.

“There are a number of doctrinally deficient texts that are still being widely used, supposedly to educate and form our young people in the faith,” Archbishop Hughes said in a speech to a general convention of U.S. bishops last November.

Since June 2001, just one-third of texts submitted to his committee have received its approval. Archbishop Hughes said the committee found a pattern of deviations from Catholic teaching in the books:

• Tentative language that depicts Catholic doctrine as a matter of opinion, not fact.

• Weak explanations of the importance of church hierarchy and the church’s ban on female priests.

• References to “partners” rather than husbands and wives.

• The depiction of the Bible as a historical document, only briefly mentioning its spiritual value.

• Presenting premarital abstinence as a way to avoid pregnancy or AIDS, rather than necessary to avoid committing a sin.

Archbishop Hughes told the bishops he had “grave concerns” about the quality of most high school texts, adding that his committee is considering whether to recommend a single series of religion books for use in the nation’s Catholic high schools.

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