February 12, 2007

Examine Your Sources!

One of the biggest challenges librarians and teachers face is teaching that sources of information should not just be copied verbatim and taken at face value. We try to teach students and researchers (often the same person!), of any age, that just because it's in print does not mean it's true. Similarly, to examine that just because it's in print it may be true.

In other words, we try to teach seekers to examine their sources carefully. This is tailored to different age levels and levels of knowledge but the basis premise is the same. Teaching the seeker to "research the research".

When I was a kid I remember trekking to my neighborhood public library, when I was not using the school library, and looking up assignments in the World Book Encyclopedia. I, like many young students, copied a lot of the text verbatim onto our papers. The teacher knew we did this, of course. The point when we were very young was to get us to use the library and know some standard reference sources.

Gradually, as I got older it became unacceptable to just copy the text. The teacher wanted it in our own words. Eventually, they wanted our own words and many sources.

When I was in school, there was more physical effort to find source material. I had to walk, bike or take the bus to the library. We did not own a set of encylopedias at home and there was no World Wide Web then. Owning a computer in the home was unimaginable. We did not subscribe to the newspaper or really any magazines. We had one television in the house with about 5 channels.

Information now is much more readily available. We have seen the decline or outright cancellation of many, of what used to be, standard print references. Everyone just wants to go to the Web and Google it.

A lot of people don't realize that NOT EVERYTHING is on the Web. There are excellent materials that never will be on the Web due to their rarity or fragility. I work with educated people everyday who think they can just type in a search term and there it will be. They are frustrated when they realize that is not always the case.

However, no matter what our source material: webpage, book, microfilm, cassette tape, podcast, we need to be careful to examine the source.

Is the source biased? Do they prove their material with references? Do the references check out? Does their research method make sense? Do their statistics add up? What's the margin of error?

Misuse of source material is the number one weapon of dissenting Catholics. A lot of the time the dissenting Catholics don't know what they profess is wrong because they don't know the source material to begin with. They just heard this or were told that. This is easier to believe so it must be true.

KNOWING the source material is the number one weapon of faithful Catholics. You don't have to have a degree in Catholic Apologetics from a university to be an effective Catholic apologist.

Realizing that I had learned Catholicism based upon defective source material was the number one reason for my reversion. When I actually went and read a Catechism I was stunned. When I actually took the time to read some of the documents of the Second Vatican Council II was overpowered by truth and ashamed of my malleable stupidity.

For years, I was taught, and I believed, that the Catholic church's teaching on conscience means we can all follow as much or as little of Catholicism as we, personally, see fit. I was even given isolated quotes from the Catechism that seemed to support this. For example:

1782 Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. "He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters."53

53=Dignitatis Humanae 3$2

Once I actually picked up a Catechism and read it. I was dismayed to realize that there was an entire section on Erroneous Judgement that had been conveniently left out of most of the "englightened" Catholic works I'd been encouraged to read. For example:

1792 Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one's passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church's authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

Furthermore, the formation of conscience should be done in accordance with:

1785 In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path,54 we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord's Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.55

54=Psalm 119:105
55=Dignitatis Humanae 14

Well, I was definitely aided by the advice of others (erroneous as it was). "guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church" that was a new one. What authoritative teaching?

And so it began. The dominoes of lies began to fall.


Blogger Adoro te Devote said...

Thank you.

I'm teaching about sin on Wednesday, and I intend to start with what "Primacy of Conscience" means.

Will you be a guest speaker?


February 12, 2007 8:36 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: Sure, if I don't have to speak! Ha-ha!

February 13, 2007 4:17 AM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

Holy Cow!

I take back what I said/wrote that local bloggers should be disqualified from the Catholic Blog Awards contest because none of us were nominated in the Best Apologetics Blog category. So we must not be able to defend our faith.

I'm going to have to write you in as my choice in that category, Cathy of Alex!

Great Post. Definitely something to link to.

February 13, 2007 9:37 AM  
Blogger Sanctus Belle said...

Great post! Why don't more Catholics read the Catechism? It is a treasure of information which, if heeded will lead us to heaven! As a product of 70's "God is Love - all huggy and goodie" religious ed, I suspect part of the problem is of nomenclature: Faith Formation. This is too nefarious - we need to go back to LEARNING the Catechism! Our children have a canonical right to right teaching - how often is this treaded upon!

February 13, 2007 12:15 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Ray: I don't think they allow "write-ins" so be sure to vote for me in some other category that I was actually nominated in! ;-)

Sanctus Belle: I believe most people (including non-
Catholics!) don't read the Catechism for 2 reasons: a) most people don't want to do what it asks us to do. b) it's not salacious. Really, I look at a major, supposedly serious, news page like CNN.com in the last week and it looks like the front page of the garbage I see in the check out line at the grocery store. Must work for them as far as readership or else they would not post that stuff.

February 13, 2007 12:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nicely done, C of A -

Even though I get on this old computer quite a bit these days...I still love the standard print references. I notice that my kids' teachers tend to direct them toward the internet for research, however, as the librarian-mom, I like to introduce them to print resource too.

Good points on the Catechism too! You've just given me a great idea for a lenten discipline...read the Catechism during lent.

February 14, 2007 3:14 PM  

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