WHICH CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH SHOULD A TRADITIONAL CATHOLIC USE?
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The Catechism of the Catholic Church, revised in 1997 (CCC), was seen as a “great cause for joy”, by Pope John Paul II.
“With today’s promulgation of the Latin typical edition, therefore, the task of composing the Catechism, begun in 1986, is brought to a close and the desire of the aforementioned Extraordinary Synod of Bishops is happily fulfilled. The Church now has at her disposal this new, authoritative exposition of the one and perennial apostolic faith, and it will serve as a “valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion” and as a “sure norm for teaching the faith,” as well as a “sure and authentic reference text” for preparing local catechisms (cf. Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, no. 4).”
Even while learning about Catholicism on the internet, I already sensed that some “traditional Catholics” had an aversion to this catechism.
Nevertheless, I purchased a copy and soon understood why.
The language is flowery and beautiful, but it is nevertheless very vague compared to other catechisms I have seen.
Therefore, I pretty much ignored that catechism for years and stuck to the Baltimore Catechism and the Catechism of the Council of Trent.
Fortunately, our Catholic faith is not stagnant and we mature and grow in understanding.
Eventually I realized that it makes absolutely no sense to ignore everything that came after Vatican II, including the CCC.
The CCC is part of our patrimony.
And Then We Have the Catechism of the Council of Trent
The Catechism of the Council of Trent, also called the “Roman Catechism” is the Holy Grail for traditional Catholics.
“The Fathers of Trent, therefore, ‘wishing to apply a salutary remedy to this great and pernicious evil, and thinking that the definition of the principal Catholic doctrines was not enough for the purpose, resolved also to publish a formulary and method for teaching the rudiments of the faith, to be used by all legitimate pastors and teachers.’ “
The first edition was published in 1566 and the last edition although editions came after, including simpler catechisms like the Baltimore Catechism, it was the go-to authoritative text on Catholic doctrine until 1978.
So, which catechism should we use?
A balanced approach is to read the CCC but also have other references nearby, such as the Catechism of the Council of Trent as well as other local catechisms such as the Baltimore Catechism.
After all, the CCC should not be promulgating any new doctrine.
The United States Conference of Bishops says on its website:
“The 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.”
Speaking of Footnotes, the best Feature of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is its footnotes!
The CCC is a scholar’s dream. Every page has numerous references that you can look up, if you so desire, for greater understanding. What better way to not only understand the tenets of our faith better or to be exposed to volumes of work you might have never been exposed to on your own?
Your average Catholic probably doesn’t read the Didache or Saint Augustine’s De Civitate Dei (City of God).
Here is a sample of footnotes on one of the pages
There are actually 71 but I only took a snapshot of a portion.
As you can see, you can look at the original sources, like in this case, Leo XIII’s Immortale Dei.
You can read to your heart’s content, all those encyclicals you never heard of or are not familiar with.
Sounds good, but which Catechism Should a Traditional Catholic Use?
The answer is …. DRUM ROLL … all of them!
If there is any confusion or if doctrine is explained in a vague or unsatisfactory way, look at the references.
Do they match up to your understanding of the CCC passage?
If they do not, then you can’t go wrong by following a clearer passage in a referenced text such as the Catechism of Trent and the Baltimore Catechism.
If this is too much work and you’d prefer a simpler approach, the Baltimore Catechism will never fail you.
Where do I Find These Catechisms?
You can read them online at the links below.
However, if you are like me, you prefer to hold a book in your hand, I’ve included links below for where to buy them as well.
- Baltimore Catechism Online
- Catechism of the Council of Trent
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, online
- Baltimore Catechism
- Catechism of the Council of Trent
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition
- Doctrina Christiana: The Timeless Catechism of St. Robert Bellarmine
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Great post Cynthia. For years, while under the spell of my “traditional” Catholic friends, I too looked at the CCC as just another suspicious, post-Concilliar document to be ignored. But when I asked for specifics, that proved their reasons for dismissing it, they had none. It is actually a nicely assembled synthesis of Church teaching. And, as you noted, the footnotes and references are a treasure in themselves.
It’s a process!
I hope you don’t delete this. I am a covert to Catholicism from paganism. My problem is that the post Vatican II church teaches that false religions are worthy of esteem. No one has the right to do evil but civil authority can prudentially tolerate it. In fact JPII and his successors have continuously broken the first commandment and committed acts a previous pope wrote was apostasy. The pre– and post- Vatican II teaching in ecumenism and religious liberty are diametrically opposed. It’s almost as if they think pagans will be offended and so the gospel should be modified to make them feel better. These are people deceived by the devil and on the path to hell!
You notice real problems with churchmen and what they are saying in these days. Stay steadfast in your faith, and let it not waver.
And yes, there are some problems in the new CCC, but there are some beautiful passages too. So yes, some kind of balanced, and even eclectic approach to it is needed.
You used one of my favorite words: balanced. That’s the approach I take.
Uh except being a Catholic is about truth, and having the true faith and not propigating error, error harms your soul and the souls of others and can lead to a lack of faith. Truth cannot be balanced by error. The Church is the spotless host, it’s not “well the catechism is 51% good, and 49% problems, so it’s a balanced approach! and overall good!”
Like protestant bibles, the CCC should be burned, like Pope St. Pius X said should be done to protestant bibles if a Catholic has one.
This is the pick and choose Catholicism pope John Paul spoke about. Look what Henry the 8th did because he couldn’t keep it in his pants! The Protestants have and always will be off truth.
the Catholicism of the catholic Church
You mean the Catechism of the Catholic Church, right?
I can’t find pre-1962 CCC.
Council of Trent is solid
I own the,”Catechism of Christian Doctrine” published by order of Pope St.Pius X. This 116 page 5×8″ paperback book has 433 questions and answers. It also contains Prayers and Catechetical Explanations. It’s the best small traditional Catholic book that I have.
Is it also referred to as the Catechism of St Pius X?
Not sure if you have heard of it, but there is a series of
Books in the process of being printed now by Sophia Press.
They contain a collection of many, if not all of the Catechisms together. They are doing this to make it convenient to compare , enjoy and appreciate the differences. I believe the Company doing this fine thing is Tradivox. I have seen a volume….they will be beautiful and very useful. -Anonymous
Never heard of this. Interesting!
I disagree that the CCC is worthy of being used. I have CCC 2nd edition, Catechism of St. Pius X, Penny Catechism and am awaiting a copy of the catechism of the Council of Trent.
The CCC thrives in ambiguity…the goal of modernists, to make the catholic faith relativist so you can personally interpret it. It’s about emotions, not intellectual clarity.
All the other catechism provide clarity.
I have no grown spiritually by the CCC. It wasn’t promulgated to teach the catholic faith, but to teach Vatican 2. It even says that in its introductory documents.