GDC 124: The Literary Genre of the Catechism

Did you know the Catechism has a literary genre? We continue our examination of the Catechism (GDC 119-136) with a description of the kind of book we are talking about.

124. It is important to understand the literary genre of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in order to foster the role which the Church’s authority gives to it in the exercise and renewal of catechetical activity in our time. The principal characteristics of this follow:

– The Catechism of the Catholic Church is above all a catechism; that is to say, an official text of the Church’s Magisterium, which authoritatively gathers in a precise form, and in an organic synthesis the events and fundamental salvific truths which express the faith common to the People of God and which constitute the indispensable basic reference for catechesis.

– In virtue of being a catechism, the Catechism of the Catholic Church collects all that is fundamental and common to the Christian life without “presenting as doctrines of the faith special interpretations which are only private opinions or the views of some theological school”. (General Catechetical Directory 119)

– The Catechism of the Catholic Church is, moreover, a catechism of a universal nature and is offered to the entire Church. It presents an updated synthesis of the faith which incorporates the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council as well as the religious and moral concerns of our times. However, “by design this Catechism does not set out to provide the adaptation of doctrinal presentations and the catechetical methods required by the differences of culture, age, spiritual maturity and social and ecclesial condition amongst all those to whom it is addressed. Such indispensable adaptations are the responsibility of particular catechisms and, even more, of those who instruct the faithful”. (Catechism 24)


It is the nature of a catechism to collect the essentials of faith for presentation.

Special interpretations, be they from an individual or a “school” of theology are generally excluded. The part of the Catechism I’m most familiar with deals with the sacraments and liturgy. I’ve found it curious that there’s a certain …. quaintness … to some of the expressions there. Nothing outright wrong, of course. Just a weakness in certain pieces regarding matters like the initiation sacraments and an aspect here and there of liturgical reform.

The last paragraph of this section explains that these particular presentations are more the realm of catechists and of those particular catechisms we’ve read about so far.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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