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?
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?
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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This post was published in 2015 and updated in 2020.