Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Creating Catholics: Catechism and Primary Education in Early Modern France

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

Creating Catholics: Catechism and Primary Education in Early Modern France

Article excerpt

Creating Catholics: Catechism and Primary Education in Early Modern France BY KAREN E. CARTER UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME PRESS, 328 PAGES, $40

Before the seventeenth century, few rural French laymen knew basic prayers, let alone many tenets of the Christian faith, but by 1800 almost every child in France had access to some form of religious education. Boys as well as girls were expected to recite the entire catechism as a condition for first communion - and they could. In Creating Catholics: Catechism and Primary Education in Early Modern France, Karen Carter examines catechisms and visitation records from multiple dioceses to explore why, by the time of the French Revolution, French Catholics knew - and zealously embraced - "the doctrines and behaviors of their religion."

By 1800, though there was no uniform catechism in use in France, there were 181 catechisms published in 102 dioceses. Bishops took personal responsibility for educating the young laity, selecting a catechism and distributing it in increasing numbers. During the bishops' visitations, the curés were required to produce children who could recite that catechism perfectly.

Carter delves into the details of parish schools, the problems of maintaining sexually segregated classrooms, and the limitations of this type of education. …

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