The latest rage within Catholic catechesis is a Protestant program called ALPHA. Several Catholic leaders, including Fr. Mike Schmitz, have promulgated the program within the church. The program should never be used within a Catholic context because it is a Protestant program that presents a watered-down version of the Gospel and the faith.
When our priest first introduced the program a few years ago to adults as a “study” and an evangelical method to invite those who were not Catholic to the church, I had no reservations. I trusted the program would be solid theology. I was wrong. The problem continued when the priest and Director of P.R.E. (Parish Religious Education) at our church (for which I was the teacher of the 7th grade first year confirmation class) instructed us to use the program as the curriculum for the class. It is a poor catechesis program which further causes youth and weak Catholics to leave the church.
The program has created a “Catholic” version of the series. The “Catholic” version is not Catholic at all. It is, in fact, the same series with an incomplete and false presentation of the faith. For example, the program only recognizes two Sacraments. It mentioned baptism and the Eucharist. The theology presented by the program teaches an inaccurate view of both sacraments. It teaches Baptism from the Protestant version. It ignores the forgiveness of original sin through baptism. It teaches the Eucharist as a representation of a historical event and not as the Real Presence, further causing more disbelief in the Real Presence within Catholics. Holy Communion is presented as something unaffiliated with church membership and is given to anyone who attends the retreat held halfway through the course.
ALPHA presents the Protestant ideology of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ outside the church and sacraments. It promotes this view of faith as a personal view and church appears to be only a gathering place. It reduces church membership to something similar to a country club membership that is optional and a “relationship” with Jesus as something obtained from a simple prayer. Additionally, the Bible verses and versions recommended and publicized by the program are Protestant versions of the Bible and not Catholic.
Catholic truths such as the papacy, communion of saints, the Blessed Mother, Penance, and purgatory are all ignored by the program. It is true that not every program used within the church needs to address all the core beliefs of Catholicism. It does, on the other hand, need to teach the importance of the sacraments and truth of the Real Presence if it is being used to prepare youth for confirmation or teaching adults who may have fallen away from the belief in the Real Presence.
Cardinal Raymond Burke has warned against using the program and trusting its content. With the truth staring us in the face that only 30 percent of Catholics actually believe in the Real Presence is not to be ignored when considering what catechesis is being used on our youth and within adult teachings. Our youth should be taught with the most solid Catholic catechesis programs available and not with Protestant theology with the label Catholic tacked onto it.
“The holy Eucharist completes Christian initiation. Those who have been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood by Baptism and configured more deeply to Christ by Confirmation participate with the whole community in the Lord’s own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist….The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’ The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.” (CCC 1322, 1324)
Do you see where a program that downplays the significance of the Eucharist and ignores all other sacraments can be harmful to the laity? Do you see the dangers in using a program for confirmation preparation and catechesis which ignores the ‘source and summit of the Christian life?’ How can a program be promoted and utilized for the preparation of confirmation when it teaches the Eucharist is nothing more than a symbol and remembrance?
It is important to know that Alpha did not come from the Catholic Church. It originated in Holy Trinity Brompton Anglican Church in London, England. It was further promulgated and popularized by Anglican vicar Nicky Gumbel. It is in poor taste to use a Protestant originated program for confirmation catechesis. It is a dangerous program for any Catholic to put too much weight into believing. ALPHA should not be used in the Catholic Church. It is not Catholic and minimizes the sacred truths held by the church. It even teaches false ideology. There are multiple Catholic catechesis programs as alternatives for parishes.