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What is the Catechism of the Catholic Church?

After the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985, in response to the request for a new Catechism, Pope St. John Paul II commissioned a group of theologians to write the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).  There were two main editors, Fr. (later Cardinal) Christoph Schönborn and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI). This Catechism was meant to form an authoritative explanation of the Catholic Faith, that could be used throughout the universal Catholic Church and form the basis of various local catechisms and catechetical publications. These editors led an international team of experts in catechesis and Church teaching.  The various drafts of the Catechism were shared with every Catholic bishop in the world, so that he could ask his own local experts what they thought of it and share these reflections with the editorial team.


Obviously this was not an easy task.  Many thought that it would be impossible to agree on a single Catechism.  Indeed, Pope Benedict himself shared his own fears in his Introduction to the YouCat (a youth catechism based on the CCC)


“I was frightened by this task, and I must confess that I doubted that such a thing could succeed. How could it happen that authors scattered all over the world could produce a readable book? How could men living on different continents, and not only from a geographical point of view, but also intellectually and culturally, produce a text endowed with inner unity and comprehensible on all the continents?... I must confess that even today, it seems like a miracle to me that this project succeeded in the end.” 


But yes, this miracle did happen and the CCC is now over 25 years old. When he proclaimed a Year of Faith in 2013, Pope Benedict XVI was commemorating both the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20thanniversary of the CCC.


In his 2011 Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei instituting of the Year of Faith Benedict XVI wrote:


“In order to arrive at a systematic knowledge of the content of the faith, all can find in the Catechism of the Catholic Church a precious and indispensable tool. It is one of the most important fruits of the Second Vatican Council. In the Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, signed, not by accident, on the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Blessed John Paul II wrote: ‘this catechism will make a very important contribution to that work of renewing the whole life of the Church ... I declare it to be a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith.’”

For my Catechism with Fr. Neil podcast, I will be using the 2016 edition of the CCC published by the Catholic Truth Society in London.


Bibliography on the CCC

Many books have been written about the CCC.  Here is a sample of some of the titles that I have found useful in the study of the Catechism:


  • Antonio Aranda, “Creemos y Conocemos”: Lectura Teológica del Catecismo de la Iglesia Católica (Pamplona: Eunsa, 2012)

  • Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (London: CTS, 2005), 

  • Congregation for the Clergy, General Directory for Catechesis (Rome: Libreria Editirice Vaticana, 1997) 

  • Rino Fisichella, ed., Catechismo de la Chiesa Cattolica: Testo Integrale e Commento Teologico. 2nd ed. (Casale Monferrato (AL): Piemme, 2004)

  • Rino Fisichella, ed., Catechism of the Catholic Church with Theological Commentary (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2019)

  • Francis, Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel: Apostolic Exhortation on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World (Dublin: Veritas, 2013)

  • Maurice Hogan and Thomas Norris, Evangelising for the Third Millennium: The Maynooth Conference on the New Catechism May 1996 (Dublin: Veritas,1997).

  • Irish Episcopal Conference, Share the Good News: National Directory for Catechesis in Ireland (Dublin: Veritas, 2010)

  • Irish Episcopal Conference, Irish Catechism for Adults (Dublin: Veritas, 2014)

  • John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae Apostolic Exhortation on Catechesis in our Time (Dublin, Veritas, 1979).

  • John Paul II and Christoph von Schönborn, Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994)

  • Aidan Nichols, The Splendour of Doctrine: The Catechism of the Catholic Church on Christian Believing (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1995)

  • Aidan Nichols, The Service of Glory: The Catechism of the Catholic Church on Worship, Ethics, Spirituality (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1997)

  • Paul VI, Evangelii Nunciandi: Apostolic Exhortation on Evangelization in the Modern World (Dublin: Veritas, 1975)

  • Joseph Ratzinger, Gospel, Catechesis, Catechism: Sidelights on the Catechism of the Catholic Church(San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997)

  • Thomas J. Reese, The Universal Catechism Reader: Reflections and Responses (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1990)

  • James P. Socias, ed., Reflections on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Chicago, IL: Midwest Theological Forum, 1993)

  • The Companion to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: A Compendium of Texts Referred to in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993)

  • Christoph von Schönborn, Living the Catechism of the Catholic Church. 4 Vols. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995-2003)

  • Michael J. Walsh, Commentary on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1994)

  • Petroc Wiley, Pierre de Cointet and Barbara Morgan, Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Craft of Catechesis (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008)

  • Petroc Willey, Dominic Scotto, Donald Asci and Elizabeth Siegel, A Year with the Catechism: 365 Day Reading Plan(London: Catholic Truth Society, 2018)

  • YouCat: Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011)

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