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 “traditional Catholics” had an aversion to this catechism. Nevertheless, I purchased a copy and I understood why. The language is flowery and beautiful, but it is nevertheless very vague compared to other catechisms I had 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.
So, Which Catechism Should a Traditional Catholic Use?
A balanced approach is to read the CCC but also have other references nearby, such as the Catechism of the Council of Trent (Roman Catechism) 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 could 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? How many people actually read the Didache or Saint Augustine’s De Civitate Dei (City of God)?
Okay, okay, but which Catechism Should a Traditional Catholic Use?
All of them.
If any confusion or 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.
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