GDC 132: “The literary genre of the local catechism”

132. Three principal traits characterize every catechism adopted by a local Church: its official character, its organic and fundamental synthesis of the faith, and the fact that, along with Sacred Scripture, it is offered as a reference point for catechesis.

– The local catechism is an official text of the Church. In a certain sense, it makes visible the “handing on of the Creed” and the “handing on of the Our Father” to catechumens and those to be baptized. For this reason, it is an act of tradition. The official character of local catechisms establishes a qualitative difference from other instruments which may be useful for catechetical pedagogy (didactic texts, non-official catechisms, catechetical guides etc.)

– Moreover, every catechism is a synthetic and basic text, in which the events and fundamental truths of the Christian mystery are presented in an organic way and with regard to the “hierarchy of truths”. The local catechism presents, in its organic structure, “an ensemble of the documents of Revelation and Christian Tradition”, (General Catechetical Directory 119) made available in the rich diversity of “languages” in which the word of God is expressed.

– The local catechism, finally, is given as a reference point to inform catechesis. The Sacred Scriptures and the catechism are the two basic doctrinal texts for the process of catechesis and must always be to hand. While both of these texts are of the greatest importance, they are not the only texts available. Indeed, other more immediate aids are necessary. (455) It is, therefore, a valid question to ask if an official catechism should contain pedagogical elements or, on the contrary, should be limited to giving a doctrinal synthesis and a presentation of sources.

In any case, the catechism, being an instrument of catechetical activity, which is an act of communication, always reflects a certain pedagogical inspiration and must always make apparent, in its own way, the divine pedagogy.

More purely methodological questions are obviously more appropriate to other instruments.


Even a local production is a serious affair–it is an official text of the Church. To be called a catechism, it must possess a certain organization. A person cannot assemble some of the truths of the faith, or pull together all of them together in some random order. And any catechism serves as a reference text. Note number 455 explains a bit of the intent, that catechesis implies something far more than just a reference work:

(455) In catechesis apart from catechetical aids there are other decisive factors: the person of the catechist, his method of transmission, the rapport between catechist and those being catechized, respect for the receptive capacity of those being catechized, an atmosphere of love and faith in communication, active involvement of the Christian community, etc.


About catholicsensibility

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