What is the Catechism of the Catholic Church?
A catechism is a text which contains the fundamental Christian truths formulated in a way that facilitates their understanding.
There are two categories of catechism: major and minor. A major catechism is a resource or a point of reference for the development of minor catechisms. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is an example of a major catechism. The Baltimore Catechism is an example of a minor catechism.
What is a “universal catechism?
”A “universal catechism” is a major catechism which is intended to be a resource or point of reference for the development of national or local catechisms and catechetical materials throughout the world. Such a catechism can be termed “universal” in that its primary audience is the universal Church.
Is the Catechism of the Catholic Church a “universal Catechism?”
Yes. Insofar as it is intended to be a resource or point of reference for the development of minor catechisms throughout the universal Church, it is a “universal catechism.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church was titled the Catechism of the Universal Church in an earlier draft, but it was never officially titled the “universal Catechism.” The Catechism is in need of what its Prologue terms “the indispensable mediation” of particular culture, age, spiritual life and social and ecclesial conditions. The Catechism is “universal,” then, because it is intended for use by the universal Church.
What is a brief history of the Catechism?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church originated with a recommendation made at the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985. In 1986 Pope John Paul II appointed a Commission of Cardinals and Bishops to develop a compendium of Catholic doctrine. In 1989 the Commission sent the text to all the Bishops of the world for consultation. In 1990 the Commission examined and evaluated over 24,000 amendments suggested by the world’s bishops.
The final draft is considerably different from the one that was circulated in 1989. In 1991 the Commission prepared the text for the Holy Father’s official approval. On June 25, 1992 Pope John Paul II officially approved the definitive version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. On December 8, 1992 Pope John Paul II promulgated the Catechism with an apostolic constitution.
What is the purpose of the Catechism?
The Catechism serves several important functions:
- It conveys the essential and fundamental content of Catholic faith and morals in a complete and summary way.
- It is a point of reference for national and diocesan catechisms.
- It is a positive, objective and declarative exposition of Catholic doctrine.
- It is intended to assist those who have the duty to catechize, namely promoters and teachers of catechesis.
For whom is the Catechism intended?
The Catechism is intended, first of all, for bishops as teachers of the faith and pastors of the Church. They have the first responsibility in catechesis. Through the bishops, the Catechism is addressed to editors of catechisms, priests, catechists and all others responsible for catechesis. It will also be useful reading for all the faithful.
While the Catechism is not intended for direct use by young people or children, Pope John Paul II said that the Catechism “is offered to all the faithful who want to understand better the inexhaustible riches of salvation.”
For more questions and answers about the Catechism, visit the USCCB website.
Photo by reallyboring