GDC 131: Local Catechisms

“This section refers exclusively to official catechisms, that is those catechisms which are proper to the diocesan bishop or Episcopal Conference (canon law 775). Non official catechisms (canon law 827) and other catechetical aids (General Catechetical Directory 116) will be considered in Part V, chap. 4.” This is the note accompanying the title of GDC 131, “Local Catechisms: their necessity.”

131. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is given to all the faithful and to those who wish to know what the Catholic Church believes. (Fidei Depositum 4c) It is “meant to encourage and assist in the writing of new local catechisms, which take into account various situations and cultures, while carefully preserving the unity of faith and Catholic doctrine”. (Fidei Depositum 4d)

Local catechisms, prepared or approved by diocesan Bishops or by Episcopal Conferences, (Cf. canon law 775) are invaluable instruments for catechesis which are “called to bring the power of the Gospel into the very heart of culture and cultures”. (Catechesi Tradendae 53a; cf. Catechism 24) For this reason Pope John Paul II has offered a warm encouragement “to the Episcopal Conferences of the whole world to undertake, patiently but resolutely, the considerable work to be accomplished, in agreement with the Apostolic See, in order to prepare genuine catechisms which will be faithful to the essential content of Revelation and up to date in method, and which will be capable of educating the Christian generations of the future to a sturdy faith”. (Catechesi Tradendae 50)

By means of local catechisms, the Church actualizes the “divine pedagogy” (Dei Verbum 15) used by God himself in Revelation, adapting his language to our nature with thoughtful concern. (Cf. Dei Verbum 13) In local catechisms, the Church communicates the Gospel in a manner accessible to the human person so that it may be really perceived as the “Good News” of salvation. Local catechisms are palpable expressions of the wonderful “condescension” (Dei Verbum 13) of God and of his “ineffable” (453) love for the world.

(453) Dei Verbum 13. “Ineffable kindness”, “providence and care”, “condescension” are terms which define the divine pedagogy in Revelation. They show God’s desire to ” adapt Himself ” (synkatabasis) to human beings. This same spirit should guide the redaction of local catechisms.

My own sense is that with the wide dissemination of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there is little need, real or perceived, for a diocesan or a national catechism in the US. Indeed, the current climate in the Church doesn’t really favor such an effort. But if someone has commentary contrary to that, I’m sure we’d be interested to look at it.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in General Directory for Catechesis, post-conciliar catechetical documents. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to GDC 131: Local Catechisms

  1. Bill Logan says:

    I’m not sure what you mean by saying that there’s little need for a national catechism in the United States. The USCCB published the “United States Catholic Catechism for Adults” some years ago. IIRC, there was a “controversy” over whether or not Thomas Merton would be featured in one of its biographical sketches of American Catholics.

    Personally, I’d love to see an updated version of the Dutch Catechism. It has the most positive and encouraging tone of any catechism I’ve seen, with a real sense that it’s actually trying to engage the reader in the modern world.

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