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Catechism of the Catholic Church
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Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is an exposition of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, first published in French in 1992 [1] and issued by Pope John Paul II.

Table of contents
1 Contents
2 Reception of the CCC
3 External links
4 Footnotes

Contents

A catechism is a summary of principles, often in question-and-answer format.[1] (This is distinguished from a summa, which is a comprehensive treatise.)[1] Often abbreviated as the CCC, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is an infallible (from the ordinary Magisterium)[1] exposition of Church dogma, doctrines, and introductory theology that endeavors to be a catechetical compendium.[1] It is of particular use to Bishops, catechists, and all other members of the Church, and has been translated from the original French into Latin and many other languages. The CCC is richly footnoted with passages from the Scriptures, Church Fathers, and Ecumenical Councils to offer support for the contents which are organized around the Apostles' Creed, the Catholic sacraments, the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, and other elements of the faith.[1]

Reception of the CCC

This catechism, which has sold millions of copies worldwide, has been criticized by some for perceived heterodox teachings in some measure inconsistent with traditional Catholic theology (see Critique link, below). For example, an unclear theology of the union of the Son of God with human nature; implicit support for the theory of evolution; a supposition that the Hebrew faith is under a separate covenantial relationship with God; tacit support for ecclesial communities (e.g. Protestants) that are not in communion with the Pope; the efficacy and justice of religious gatherings involving non-Catholics; encouragement for collaboration with secular society that tends to promote a sense of working for mankind rather than for the Church; the incipient suggestion that homosexuality is not the same ultimate species (a scholastics term) as bestiality, as has always been taught; are examples of questions people have raised. The infallibility vests not within the book itself, but, as with all Church teachings, within the teaching, which is always subject to previous teachings.[1] An exceptionally clear statement to this effect occurred in A.D. 476, by St. Simplicius [1], who cited among other Scriptures, Gal 1:8-9 (Denziger 160). Some theologians have highlighted a related problem. For example, Fr. Francis Buckley, S.J., states that the CCC "does not distinguish between matters of faith and theological opinion"¹ although theological opinion was not intended to be a part of the CCC.[1]

Another observation made by some is that while previous catechisms such as those of St. Thomas Aquinas [1] and the Baltimore Catechism are focused on making clear statements about the Catholic faith, the CCC has, to some, a more ponderous feel, which some may welcome as more inviting or engaging. To give a flavor of this, we offer a comparison of two catechism definitions of the Catholic term, "venial sin":

 

Venial sin in Baltimore Catechism [1]

Venial sin in CCC [1]

Q. 290. What is venial sin?
A. Venial sin is a slight offense against the law of God in matters of less importance, or in matters of great importance it is an offense committed without sufficient reflection or full consent of the will.

Q. 291. Can we always distinguish venial from mortal sin?
A. We cannot always distinguish venial from mortal sin, and in such cases we must leave the decision to our confessor.

Q. 292. Can slight offenses ever become mortal sins?
A. Slight offenses can become mortal sins if we commit them through defiant contempt for God or His law; and also when they are followed by very evil consequences, which we foresee in committing them.

Q. 293. Which are the effects of venial sin?
A. The effects of venial sin are the lessening of the love of God in our heart, the making us less worthy of His help, and the weakening of the power to resist mortal sin.

Q. 294. How can we know a thought, word or deed to be sinful?
A. We can know a thought, word or deed to be sinful if it, or the neglect of it, is forbidden by any law of God or of His Church, or if it is opposed to any supernatural virtue.

   

From the Glossary: Venial Sin: Sin which does not destroy the divine life in the soul, as does mortal sin, though it diminishes and wounds it (1855). Venial sin is the failure to observe necessary moderation, in lesser matters of the moral law, or in grave matters acting without full knowledge or complete consent (1862).

1855: Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it.

1862: One commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law, or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent.

1863: Venial sin weakens charity; it manifests a disordered affection for created goods; it impedes the soul's progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good; it merits temporal punishment. Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin. However venial sin does not break the covenant with God. With God's grace it is humanly reparable. [There is then a brief quote from John Paul II and Mt 12:31 is quoted.]

   

Scholar Romano Amerio, a consultant to the Second Vatican Council, states that there has been a conscious attempt to adopt "a more humble and fraternal attitude...that of a search for the truth",² for which he quotes Pope Paul VI. In other words, there is a shift away from presenting dogma as fact and toward presenting the Catholic faith as a search for truth. The CCC reflects this shift. Some people may prefer an exposition not arranged in question-and-answer format. The Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, issued on the publication of the CCC, states that "the contents are often presented in a 'new' way in order to respond to the questions of our age." Amerio also proposes that the "new catechesis...attempts to produce existential reactions rather than intellectual conviction."³ As a consequence of these doctrinal and pedagogical issues, some Catholics prefer to read the Catechism of Trent, from the Council of Trent.

The CCC has nonetheless proved very popular, and is a handy reference guide, containing over one thousand quotes from Church Fathers and other Church writings apart from the Scriptures. It is also a book designed to stimulate interest in Church teachings in circles beyond the faithful themselves, and is having that effect, according to Joseph Card. Ratzinger[1]:

It clearly show[s] that the problem of what we must do as human beings, of how we should live our lives so that we and the world may become just, is the essential problem of our day, and basically of all ages. After the fall of ideologies, the problem of man — the moral problem — is presented to today's context in a totally new way: What should we do? How does life become just? What can give us and the whole world a future which is worth living? Since the catechism treats these questions, it is a book which interests many people, far beyond purely theological or ecclesial circles.[1]

It may be that a catechism in other than question-and-answer format was thought a way to appeal to a wider audience that has not decided to attend a pedagogical session. The Church, e.g. the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, does still issue documents in question-and-answer format[1], and the Church is currently preparing a question-and-answer format summary of the CCC.[1]

External links

Footnotes