50 Questions – The Catechism
1. What is a catechism?
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.
2. 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.
3. 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 indispensible 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.
4. 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 the Holy Father 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 the Holy Father officially approved the definitive version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. On December 8, 1992 the Holy Father promulgated the Catechism with an apostolic constitution.
5. What is the purpose of the Catechism?
The Catechism serves several important functions:
a) It conveys the essential and fundamental content of Catholic faith and morals in a complete and summary way.
b) It is a point of reference for national and diocesan catechisms.
c) It is a positive, objective and declarative exposition of Catholic doctrine.
d) It is intended to assist those who have the duty to catechize, namely promoters and teachers of catechesis.
6. 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, the Holy Father has said that the Catechism “is offered to all the faithful who want to understand better the inexhaustible riches of salvation.”
7. How, then, will children and young people use the new Catechism?
Children and young people – under the direction of a catechist, teacher or parent – ordinarily use texts that are developed from a variety of sources, some of which are similar to the new Catechism, such as The National Catechetical Directory and Basic Teachings for Catholic Religious Education. The new Catechism will serve as a point of reference for the development of such catechetical texts which in turn are directly used by children and young people with the assistance of catechists, teachers and parents.
8. Does the new Catechism contain a methodology for its use by the faithful?
No. The new Catechism does not include a methodology. It is a complete and accurate exposition of Catholic doctrine. It does not present methodologies for the communication and study of that doctrine by people of different ages and circumstances throughout the world. Methodology varies according to the developmental levels of those to whom the catechesis is directed and according to the cultural contexts in which catechesis is given.
9. How is the new Catechism a “point of reference?”
The new Catechism is a “point of reference” primarily for the development of national and local catechisms. We do not have a national catechism in the United States. Neither are there diocesan or local catechisms presently in use in the dioceses of the United States. Catholics in the United States ordinarily depend on catechetical materials that present what the Church believes, teaches, lives and prays in a comprehensive and systematic manner within a process that spans many years. The new Catechism will be a “point of reference” for the development of these kinds of catechetical programs as well as for catechetical materials that will be revised or developed in the future.
Secondarily, the new Catechism is a “point of reference” for bishops, priests, catechists, teachers, preachers, scholars, students and authors. Similar to a Bible commentary or theological dictionary, the new Catechism will serve as a vital reference work for all those responsible for catechesis.
10. What exactly is in the new Catechism?
The new Catechism contains the essential and fundamental content of the Catholic faith in a complete and summary way. It presents what Catholics throughout the world believe in common. It presents these truths in a way that facilitates their understanding.
The new Catechism presents Catholic doctrine within the context of the Church’s history and tradition. Frequent references to Sacred Scripture, the writings of the Fathers, the lives and writings of the saints, conciliar and papal documents and liturgical texts enrich the Catechism in a way that is both inviting and challenging. There are over three thousand footnotes in the Catechism.
11. How is all this organized in the new Catechism?
The new Catechism, like the Catechism of the Council of Trent, is divided into four major parts. They are referred to as the “four pillars” on which the Catechism is built. In his Apostolic Constitution promulgating the Catechism, the Holy Father called them the “four movements of a great symphony.” They are 1) the Creed (what the Church believes), 2) the Sacraments (what the Church celebrates), 3) the Commandments (what the Church lives) and 4) the Our Father (what the Church prays).
The Catechism consists of 2,865 paragraphs, each of which is numbered. There is an internal cross-referencing system among the paragraphs which makes it simple to find all the passages in the Catechism which treat a particular subject. In addition, the Catechism provides several indices for ease in locating particular passages. Indices are organized according to themes, Scriptural citations, symbols of the faith, documents of ecumenical councils, documents of other councils and synods, pontifical documents, ecclesiastical documents, canon law, liturgical texts and ecclesiastical authors.
12. Is the new Catechism intended to replace other catechetical documents of the Church?
No. The new Catechism is intended to stand beside the other catechetical documents such as, Catechesi Tradendae, Evangelii Nuntiandi, The General Catechetical Directory and the catechetical documents of episcopal conferences. These documents create part of the context in which the new Catechism is received and mediated to the particular circumstances of the local or national Church. The new Catechism is intended to be a resource for the continuing renewal of catechesis and the development of future catechetical materials.
13. What is the teaching authority of the new Catechism?
The Catechism is part of the Church’s official teaching in the sense that it was suggested by a Synod of Bishops, requested by the Holy Father, prepared and revised by bishops and promulgated by the Holy Father as part of his ordinary Magisterium. The Holy Father has said that the Catechism “is given to serve as a sure and authentic source book for the teaching of Catholic doctrine.”
14. Is the new Catechism simply a list of doctrinal formulations?
No. The new Catechism presents the history and tradition of the Church’s doctrine in a complete yet summary way. It draws heavily from Scripture, Patristics, Liturgical texts and the lives and writings of the saints to illustrate the doctrinal content. The witness of these sources, especially the words and example of saints and scholars, underscores the Church’s ongoing, living tradition.
15. Is this new Catechism intended to be used “as is” in all the pluriform Churches throughout the world that make up the universal Church?
Although it will be translated into several languages, there is only one new Catechism for the whole Church. The new Catechism contains what the Church holds and teaches throughout the world. It is a resource for the development of culturally-sensitive catechisms and catechetical materials. By its own acknowledgment, the Catechism does not intend to achieve this cultural sensitivity itself. Rather “such indispensable adaptation, required by differences of culture, age, spiritual life, and social and ecclesial condition among God’s people,” belongs in other catechisms inspired by this work, and is the particular task of those who teach the faith.
16. How will the new Catechism be “adapted” to the multi-cultural situation of the Church in the United States?
This is the task that lies ahead for the bishops and the authors, editors and publishers of catechetical materials. The revision of catechetical materials presently in use in the dioceses of the United States and the development of any new materials will have to take the new Catechism‘s entire content as well as its general directive for “indispensable adaptation” very seriously. Together they will have to find ways to communicate the Church’s universal teaching as it is expressed in the experience of the Church in the United States. That experience is multicultural, therefore any catechetical materials developed from the new Catechism will have to be faithful to particular cultural experiences as well as to the entire content of the new Catechism.
17. What is the doctrinal authority of the Catechism?
The Holy Father ordered the publication of the Catechism by the Apostolic Constitution, Fidei Depositum, on October 11, 1992. An apostolic constitution is a most solemn form by which popes promulgate official Church documents. The new Code of Canon Law, for example, was promulgated by the Apostolic Constitution, Sacrae Disciplinae Leges.
18. What did the Holy Father say about the doctrinal authority of the Catechism?
In Fidei Depositum, Pope John Paul II said, “The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved on 25 June, 1992, and whose publication I command today in virtue of the apostolic authority, is a presentation of the Church’s faith and of Catholic doctrine witnessed to or clarified by sacred Scripture, the apostolic tradition and the Church’s magisterium. I acknowledge it as a valuable and authorized instrument at the service of the ecclesial communion and as a sure and certain standard for the teaching of the faith.”
19. Is the doctrinal authority of the Catechism equal to that of the dogmatic definitions of a pope or ecumenical council?
By its very nature, a catechism presents the fundamental truths of the faith which have already been communicated and defined. Because the Catechism presents Catholic doctrine in a complete yet summary way, it naturally contains the infallible doctrinal definitions of the popes and ecumenical councils in the history of the Church. It also presents teaching which has not been communicated and defined in these most solemn forms. This does not mean that such teaching can be disregarded or ignored. Quite to the contrary, the Catechism presents Catholic doctrine as an organic whole and as it is related to Christ who is the center. A major catechism, such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church, presents a compendium of Church teachings and has the advantage of demonstrating the harmony that exists among those teachings.
20. Is the doctrinal authority of the Catechism equal to the documents of the Second Vatican Council?
Just as the Catechism contains the most solemnly defined dogmas of the Church, it also contains the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. The worldwide consultation of the bishops that preceded the promulgation of the Catechism gives it a collegial character. It is, as the Holy Father has said, “the result of a collaboration of the whole episcopate.” It would seem, however, that the Catechism did not have the benefit of the complete exercise of effective collegiality that accompanies the writing, disputation, revision, consensus, agreement and eventual promulgation of documents of an ecumenical council. But it must be noted that the form of a catechism is distinct from the form of conciliar documents. They are complimentary, but they are not identical.
21. Does this mean that the Catechism can be disregarded?
No. The Catechism is part of the Church’s ordinary teaching authority. The Holy Father has placed his apostolic authority behind it. Its doctrinal authority is proper to the papal magisterium. In Fidei Depositum the Holy Father has termed the Catechism a “sure norm for the teaching of the faith” and “a sure and authentic reference text.” He has asked “the Church’s pastors and the Christian faithful to receive this catechism in a spirit of communion and to use it assiduously in fulfilling their mission of proclaiming the faith and calling the people to the life of the gospel.”
22. As the Catechism sets forth a systematic presentation of Catholic doctrine, does it neglect the context for that doctrine, namely God’s relationship with his people.
The theme of “covenant” is evident throughout the new Catechism. It is one of the threads that weaves the Catechism into a unified whole. While it is true that both the German and French catechisms for adults organize their content around the “covenant,” the new Catechism emphasizes that central theme of God’s relationship with his people in appropriate ways with frequent references throughout the text.
23. Does the new Catechism remove the content of faith too much from the lived Christian life?
The largest portion of the Catechism treats the content of the faith (Book One), but the second largest treats the moral life (Book Three). The relationship between what one believes and consequently how one behaves on account of that belief is very clear and forceful in the new Catechism. This is especially evident in the section on the Church’s social teachings. Faith, then, is presented as more than the systematic knowledge of doctrine. In mediating the new Catechism within local churches, the relationship between faith and life needs continually to be demonstrated so that transforming power of the Christian message might be evident.
24. Since the Catechism is written in a declarative and expository rather than apologetic style, does it discourage searching and questioning?
The new Catechism sets forth the content of the faith in a comprehensive yet summary fashion and in a positive and explanatory manner. In this sense, it answers many questions about doctrine in a clear and unambiguous way. On the other hand, however, the Catechism recognizes that faith is an ongoing journey on which questions and doubts come naturally and need to be addressed at the opportune moment. The new Catechism – far from preempting discussion – provides accurate information with which to carry on informed discussion.
25. Can an individual’s quest for God be helped by the new Catechism?
While the Catechism is organized around the four traditional pillars of catechesis, it can be used as a valuable resource for the formation of catechumens in a group or for an individual. Since the Catechism does not intend to offer a methodology for catechesis or impose a single learning pattern, its content can be used in a variety of catechetical methods and settings with equal value. The Catechism has an inherent flexibility that can correspond to the particular faith journeys of all believers.
26. Is the new Catechism a spiritual book in any sense?
The Catechism‘s spirituality rests on the foundation of Trinitarian life. The relationships among the persons of the Trinity provide the model for human relationships. Some have suggested reading Book Four (Prayer) first to put the rest of the Catechism in the context of prayer. But the frequent references to the saints and the spiritual doctors of the Church throughout the Catechism make this unnecessary. In fact, the Catechism can be read from the point of view of a spiritual journey in which what the Church believes, celebrates, lives and prays combine to yield information, formation and the hope of transformation by God’s grace along the way. The centrality of the Trinity as the organizing principle of the Catechism assures its spiritual orientation.
27. Is the Catechism intended to substitute for local, approved catechisms and catechetical materials?
No. The Catechism is intended to encourage and assist national and local churches in drafting new catechisms and catechetical materials. As the Holy Father said in the Apostolic Constitution, “Fidei Depositum,” “It is intended to encourage and assist in the writing of new local catechisms which take into account different situations and cultures but which carefully guard the unity of the faith and fidelity to Catholic doctrine.”
28. Is the Catechism an expression of inculturation on the global or universal level?
Yes. The Church is not bound exclusively to any race, nation, way of life or custom. The Church enters into communion with all different forms of culture. The Catechism re-expresses the Christian message at the level of the universal Church and therefore represents a successful inculturation of the faith at that level. It reformulates the documentary tradition of the Church within the global culture in an admirable way.
29. Does the Catechism require inculturation on the local level?
Yes. The Catechism does not undertake adaptations of its content nor does it espouse particular catechetical methods required by differences of culture, age, spiritual life and the social and ecclesial situation of those to whom it is addressed. These indispensable adaptations are left to the catechisms which will follow the Catechism and, even more importantly, to those who instruct the faithful.
30. Can this “indispensable adaptation” be accomplished?
Yes. The Catechism uses a straightforward doctrinal style to communicate the content of the Catholic faith. Such a style presents Catholic doctrine in an intelligent and coherent way which can only assist authors, editors and publishers of national and local catechisms and catechetical materials. It is their responsibility, under the guidance of the bishops, to adapt or mediate the Catechism to the local culture and to use this major catechism as the primary resource in the development of minor catechisms.
Two additional guides for the indispensable adaptation of the Catechism might be suggested. First, the documents of the post-conciliar catechetical Magisterium, especially the General Catechetical Directory and Catechesi Tradendae, contain criteria of a more general nature for the mediation and inculturation of the Catechism. Second, the qualities and attributes of the local, regional and national catechetical ministry contain more particular criteria for the mediation of the Catechism.
31. Who will collaborate within this process of adaptation and inculturation?
The Catechism is intended primarily for bishops, so their pastoral leadership and participation in the process of inculturation is decisive. Under the grace and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the bishops should be joined by pastors, catechists, authors, editors and publishers of catechetical materials as well as the local community in finding ways to inculturate the Catechism in their local dioceses.
32. Is the Catechism an example of the collegiality of the bishops?
Yes. The Catechism is an historic example of episcopal collegiality. The collegiality of the Bishops whose unity is presided over by the Bishop of Rome was one of the truths professed by the Second Vatican Council. The establishment of the Synod of Bishops is perhaps the most evident form of episcopal collegiality since the Council. In his address to the Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops on April 30, 1983, Pope John Paul II said: “The Synod is in fact a particularly fruitful expression and the most effective tool of episcopal collegiality, that is, of the special responsibility of the Bishops in conjunction with the Bishop of Rome.” The Catechism is one of the direct results of the deliberations of the Synod of Bishops.
33. How is the Catechism one of the direct results of the Synod of Bishops?
The Catechism originated in Synod. The Fourth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 1977 focused on the renewal of catechesis and raised the question of the need “to prepare a basic catechism.” The Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod in 1985 examined the idea of a catechism in greater depth and then almost unanimously adopted a proposal to “draft a catechism or compendium of all of Catholic doctrine regarding faith and morals.” Pope John Paul II said: “This compendium of the Catholic faith, requested by the Bishops gathered in the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod in 1985, is the most mature and complete fruit of the Council’s teaching and presents it in the rich framework of the whole of ecclesial Tradition.”
34. How, then, is the Catechism an example of episcopal collegiality?
The Catechism is an example of episcopal collegiality because it was requested by the Synod of Bishops and affirmed by the Bishop of Rome; it was conceived, designed and written by Bishops primarily for Bishops; it was examined by the Catholic episcopate worldwide and it was officially promulgated by the Bishop of Rome.
Episcopal collegiality, then, seems to be a primary characteristic of the preparation of the Catechism. When he presented the Catechism to the Holy Father, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, president of the Commission for the Catechism, said: “The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the result of a collegial episcopal effort…Thus, once again, the affective and effective collegiality of the Episcopate has been engaged in real and concrete terms, with abundant fruitful results.”
35. Does the Catechism itself say anything about episcopal collegiality?
In several references, the Catechism describes the essential elements of a definition of episcopal collegiality. Episcopal collegiality originated in the will of Jesus (#1444); it is apostolic in nature (#857); it is necessarily related to the primacy of Peter (#552); it is essentially a pastoral ministry (#1444); it underscores the collegial responsibility of the Bishops for the universal Church (#1577); it depends on a sacramental character (#1559-60); it has a co-natural relation to priestly orders (#857) and it reveals the eschatological dimension of the episcopal collegial mission (#1577).
36. Since the Catechism originated within the college of Bishops and is intended primarily for the college of Bishops, does it have a missionary thrust?
Yes. To say that the Catechism is intended in the first place for Bishops is not to say that its purpose is exhausted when the Bishops receive it. On this precise point, in his address on the occasion of the promulgation of the Catechism, Pope John Paul II said: “The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a qualified, authoritative instrument which the Church Pastors desired first of all for themselves, as a valuable help in fulfilling the mission they have received from Christ to proclaim and witness the Good News to all people.” The Catechism, then, is a primary instrument for evangelization and catechesis. It is entrusted to the Bishops for the good of the Church and the world.
37. Is the Catechism intended for use by “the people in the pews?”
Yes. In his Apostolic Constitution, “Fidei Depositum,” the Holy Father says, “I ask all the Church’s shepherds and faithful members to receive this Catechism in a spirit of communion and to make careful use of it in carrying out their mission to proclaim the faith and to call to the gospel life. This Catechism is given to them to serve as a sure and authentic source book for the teaching of Catholic doctrine and especially for the composition of local catechisms. It is also offered to all the faithful who want to understand better the inexhaustible riches of salvation.”
The Prologue to the Catechism underscores the Holy Father’s point when it says, “It (the Catechism) will also be useful reading for all the faithful.”
38. Should “the people in the pews” be encouraged to read and study the Catechism?
Yes. Many Catholic adults are searching for a positive, coherent and contemporary statement of what the Church believes and teaches. The new Catechism provides such a statement in a comprehensive, yet summary manner.
Research has told us that Catholic adults are better educated than at any other time in our nation’s history. They are expected to make use of resource books and reference works in the other areas of their lives. The Catechism is such a point of reference for the religious and spiritual dimensions of their lives. They should be encouraged to read and study the Catechism.
39. Is the Catechism written in a style that would be too difficult for “the people in the pews?”
The Catechism is a source book, a reference work and therefore has the stylistic characteristics appropriate to that form of writing. It is written in a positive, declaratory style and makes use of concepts, sentences, phrases and words which are part of the Church’s doctrinal tradition and are therefore familiar to many. Its tone is inviting and encouraging, challenging and searching. It is not written in an apologetic or argumentative tone. In the style of a source book, the Catechism sets forth the teachings of the Church in a complete and unambiguous way.
40. Do the “people in the pews” need some theological background in order to understand the Catechism?
It would be helpful if the reader had some theological background, but the Catechism itself presents a considerable amount of theological background material. As one of the Church’s teachings is presented, for example, the Catechism ordinarily traces the teaching’s history, its sources, its formulation through the ages and cites its principle commentators. The Catechism, in this sense, can be an educational instrument itself and not only a source for the composition of national and local catechisms and catechetical materials.
41. Will the “people in the pews” receive any assistance in developing an understanding of the content of the Catechism?
The Catechism “is intended primarily for bishops, as teachers of the faith and pastors of the Church.” Therefore, the “people in the pews” can expect some assistance in the first place from their bishops. Many bishops are already incorporating the Catechism into their teaching and preaching. Many are providing continuing education opportunities focused on the Catechism for their priests, parish leaders, deacons, seminarians, teachers, catechists and faithful. In addition, many Catholic newspapers and periodicals are already offering their readers commentaries and guides for understanding the Catechism.
42. How can the Catechism be most effectively used by editors of catechisms and other catechetical materials?
Authors, editors and publishers of catechisms and catechetical materials should be guided by the Catechism in the revision and improvement of catechetical materials. The content, plan and spirit of the Catechism should shape the development of all future catechetical texts. Authors, editors and publishers of catechisms and catechetical materials should assist in the adaptation of the Catechism‘s doctrinal presentations to the particular circumstances of those for whom catechetical texts are developed. Together with other catechetical documents within the Church’s magisterium, the Catechism holds a privileged place in the formulation of catechetical materials. As the Holy Father has said, the Catechism is a “sure and authentic source book for the teaching of Catholic doctrine and especially the composition of local catechisms.”
43. How can the Catechism be most effectively used by priests?
Since the Catechism presents the content of the faith in a complete and organic summary, it is an invaluable pastoral resource for priests. It offers the Church’s teachings in a positive, expository manner avoiding argumentation or apologetic. As such it easily lends itself to use in teaching, counseling and preaching. For example, when the faithful seek responses to questions concerning doctrinal matters, the Catechism is a user-friendly resource with its cross-referencing system and many indices. In addition, as doctrinal issues are suggested in the liturgical cycle of readings, the Catechism can provide fertile backgroud for the priest to address these issues directly in his homilies. Since seminarians can also benefit from the use of the Catechism, they, too, should be encouraged to read and study it.
44. How can the Catechism be most effectively used by catechists?
Catechists do not teach in their own names. Neither do they teach their opinions on doctrinal matters. Catechists teach in the name of Christ. In fact it is Christ who they teach. In light of this, catechists are teachers of the truths of the faith. The Catechism provides them a handy reference work which could be used together with their catechist manuals for use in the preparation of lesson plans. Catechists will find the Catechism to be a reliable and credible companion in their catechetical ministry.
45. How can the Catechism be effectively used by all others responsible for catechesis?
While this part of the Catechism‘s intended audience is indefinite, it would seem that diocesan and parish educational and catechetical leaders would be included. The Catechism provides a treasury of personal and professional resources for all those responsible for catechesis, especially those in leadership positions. Diocesan and parish educational and catechetical leaders, under the direction of the local bishop, could assist in the evaluation of catechetical materials based on the Catechism.
46. How can the Catechism be most effectively used by “all the faithful”?
Many Catholic adults are searching for a positive, coherent and contemporary statement of what the Church believes and teaches. The new Catechism provides such a statement in a comprehensive, yet summary format. Catholic adults should be encouraged to read and study the Catechism. While private study of the Catechism might fit most comfortably into the learning styles of some adults, most benefit greatly from organized discussion groups or study circles. Growth in the knowledge of the faith which one believes tends to deepen the quality of the faith by which one believes. Thus the Catechism can be used by the faithful as an instrument for the wholistic maturation of their faith.
47. Why does the Church need the Catechism at this time?
The Second Vatican Council re-defined and re-affirmed the Church’s traditional teachings for the contemporary world. Just as in the cases of previous ecumenical councils, after the Second Vatican Council, there was a need to consolidate those teachings and re-present them in a compelling and inviting way. In addition, today many people are looking for a clear and coherent presentation of the Church’s teaching. The Catechism provides such an intelligent and complete presentation.
48. Will the Catechism strengthen the Church’s bond of unity or cause division within the Church?
The Holy Father has said that the Catechism provides “the service of supporting and confirming the faith of all the disciples of the Lord Jesus, as well as to strengthen the bonds of unity in the same apostolic faith.” The Catechism, then, is intended to “carefully guard the unity of the faith and fidelity to Catholic doctrine.” The Catechism sets forth what Catholics believe throughout the world without regard for their particular cultural situations. It seeks to foster the unity of the faith as it is lived distinctively throughout the universal Church. In addition, the “In Brief” summaries especially offer a common language of faith for diverse believers to express and celebrate the one Catholic faith. The Catechism has a great potential to diminish division within the Church and draw believers closer to one another and to Christ.
49. What effect will the Catechism have on Church life?
The Catechism is an historic document which the Holy Father considers one of the most outstanding achievements of his pontificate. While its effects will be felt in every area of Church life, they will be most profoundly felt in that dimension of the Church’s mission which is explicitly catechetical. The Catechism will continue to encourage the renewal of catechetics which has been going on since before the Second Vatican Council. Preachers, teachers and catechists will depend on the Catechism as a primary resource. Authors, editors and publishers of catechetical materials will look to the Catechism as a touchstone and guide for the revision of their catechetical texts and materials. Pope John Paul II has said, “The Catechism cannot be considered merely as a stage preceeding the drafting of local catechisms, but it is destined for all the faithful who have the capacity to read, understand and assimilate it in their Christian living.”
50. Will the Catechism assist the Holy Father in what he has called the “new evangelization?”
Yes. The Pope John Paul II has termed the Catechism, “an instrument for the new evangelization.” The “new evangelization” which the Holy Father has consistently proclaimed involves both the transformation of contemporary culture and the personal, ongoing conversion of the individual believer. The new Catechism presents the message of Christ in its entirety. It presents the message of Christ faithfully. It consistently offers the teachings of the Church in relationship to the person of Christ who is at the heart of the Church’s beliefs. These three elements make up the energizing center of the “new evangelization.”
The Holy Father has said, “The new evangelization, however, requires first of all a catechesis that, presenting the plan of salvation, can call people to conversion and to hope in God’s promise on the basis of certitude about the true resurrection of Christ, the first proclamation and root of all evangelization, the foundation of all human development and the principle of every Christian culture.”