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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 03 May 2002

Catholic Doctrine QUESTION from Elaine June 13, 1999 I am a Protestant considering a position in a Catholic private secondary school. Should I take the position, I would be required to attend mass and answer any unusual student questions by stating how the Catholic Church views the matter, should it differ from my personal viewpoint. I have no problem with this; however, I need a suggestion of where to locate this information in a condensed format. I am unsure how the Church feels about many things, other than highly publicized items. In the past I have considered conversion; but I feel that a job is not grounds to do so. I need to be well informed in many areas first and feel compelled to convert in my heart. My primary need at this time is doctrine knowledge in order not to confuse any of my students. Thank you for your response.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius on June 16, 1999 Dear Miss Elaine:
I applaud your dedication to try to relate the Catholic faith to Catholic students even though you are not Catholic yourself; and to try to do that as accurately as possible.
There are several books that you should get that will give you an overview of Church teaching.

Catechism of the Catholic Church (however there has been some correction made since the book was published in English. You can find the finalized version at: There is also a search utility so you can search the Catechism by subject title. This is the single most important resource you can use.

The Companion to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This will give you the quotations from all the footnotes in the Catechism. This way you don’t have to go searching through many books to look up the footnote references.

The Teaching of Christ: A Catechism for Adults, edited by Bishop Donald W. Wuerl

The Catholic Cathecism by Father John A. Hardon, S.J.

The little booklet, Beginning Apologetics. This book is found on our website at:

And perhaps a Catechism, based upon the new Catechism of the Catholic Church that is written for the age group you are teaching

for History, you need the high school text: Christ the King, Lord of History by Anne W. Carroll.

And finally to round off the list I would recommend the older High School series, A Course in Religion by Fr. John Laux. This is a four volume set. Book 1 is Chief Truths of the Faith; Book 2 is Mass and the Sacraments; Book 3 is Catholic Morality; and Book 4 is Catholic Apologetics.
These books should give you a basic knowledge of Catholic thinking to be able to answer most questions that would come up in class.
I must say, however, that personally I don’t believe a non-Catholic should teach in a Catholic school, anymore than a Catholic should teach in a Baptist school.
While you may be able to answer questions from out of these recommended books, there are nuances that cannot be learned from books, but must come from the heart. Someone who is not Catholic cannot have that heart-knowledge because they do not believe in the Catholic faith no matter how hard they try to honestly relate the faith from the books they read. As with the doctrine of all denominations, it is not merely a matter of academic definitions, but also a matter of faith and worldview.
But if you are going to be in a situation of teaching in a Catholic school, I praise you for your honesty and desire to not allow your own views to get in the way as best you can.
But based upon my own conscience I would have to say that you shouldn't take a position in a Catholic school is you are not Catholic. You may find serious conflicts of interest without your own belief system that would cause you to feel uncomfortable, but more important is that it is not possible for you to relate a faith to the children that you do not yourself have. And the kids WILL pick-up on that no matter how accurately you answer questions from the books recommended. A little bit of oursevlves also comes through in our teaching.
But, if you do take the position, the books I recommended above will more than get you started.
God Bless.
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