GDC 120: The Catechism and the GDC

Okay. So we’re getting close to halfway through this document, and perhaps a few of you have commented, “So what? It’s not the catechism.” What is the relationship between the two?

120. The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the General Catechetical Directory are two distinct but complementary instruments at the service of the Church’s catechetical activity.

– The Catechism of the Catholic Church is “a statement of the Church’s faith and of Catholic doctrine, attested to or illuminated by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church’s Magisterium. (Fidei Depositum 4a)

– The General Directory for Catechesis provides “the basic principles of pastoral theology taken from the Magisterium of the Church, and in a special way from the Second Vatican Council by which pastoral action in the ministry of the word can be more fittingly directed and governed”. (General Catechetical Directory Introduction)

Both instruments, each taken in accordance with its specific nature and authority, are mutually complementary. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is an act of the Magisterium of the Pope, by which, in our times, in virtue of Apostolic Authority, he synthesizes normatively the totality of the Catholic faith. He offers the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in the first place, to the Churches as a point of reference for the authentic presentation of the content of the faith. The Catechetical Directory, for its part, carries that authority normally vested by the Holy See in instruments of orientation by approving them and confirming them. It is an official aid for the transmission of the Gospel message and for the whole of catechetical activity. The complementary nature of both of these instruments justifies the fact, as already mentioned in the Preface, that this General Catechetical Directory does not devote a chapter to the presentation of the contents of the faith, as was the case in the 1971 General Catechetical Directory for Catechesis under the title: “The more outstanding elements of the Christian message”. (General Catechetical Directory Part III, chapter 2) Such is explained by the fact that this Directory, as far as the content of the Christian message is concerned, simply refers to the Catechism of the Catholic Church”, which is intended as a methodological norm for its concrete application. The following exposition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church seeks neither to summarize its contents nor to explain this instrument of the Magisterium. It simply seeks to facilitate a better understanding and use of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in catechetical practice.

Does this strike you as adequate? The mission of 1972’s GCD was complemented by the 1992 Catechism. That mission was refined by the current document (1997) we’ve been examining, by fine-tuning its content and focus. Many of the principles of pastoral catechesis are considered the same or similar to that of twenty-five years prior.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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