GDC 133: “Aspects of adaptation in a local catechism”

How to adapt for a local catechism? The title of this section is footnoted with a reference to a later section: Cf. part IV, chapter 1 (GDC 168-170). Note that the adaptation mentioned below to “age” seems to fit the effort of YouCat.

133. The Catechism of the Catholic Church indicates those aspects which must be taken into account when adapting or contextualizing the organic synthesis of the faith which every local catechism must offer. This synthesis of the faith must exhibit the adaptations which are required by “the differences of culture, age, spiritual maturity, and social and ecclesial conditions among all those to whom it is addressed”. (Catechism 24) The Second Vatican Council also emphatically affirms the need for adapting the Gospel Message: “Indeed, this kind of adaptation and preaching of the revealed word must ever be the law of all evangelization”. (Gaudium et Spes 44) Hence:

– The local catechism must present the synthesis of the faith with reference to the particular culture in which catechumens and those to be catechized are immersed. It will, however, incorporate all those “original expressions of life, of celebrations and of thought which are Christian”,(Catechesi Tradendae 53a) proper to a particular cultural tradition and are the fruits of the work and inculturation of the local Church.

Again, the emphasis on catechumens.

– The local catechism, “faithful to the message and to the human person”, (Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 55c; 1977 Synod of Bishops, Message to the People of God 7; General Catechetical Directory 34) presents the Christian message in a meaningful way and is close to the psychology and mentality of those for whom it is intended. Consequently, it will refer clearly to the fundamental experiences of their lives. (Cf. Catechesi Tradendae 36-45)

… and on the lived experience of the faithful in the world.

– It shall pay attention in a special way to the concrete manner in which religion is lived in a given society. It is not, for example, the same thing to prepare a catechism for a society permeated by religious indifference as it is for a profoundly religious context. (Local catechisms must give attention to the question and orientation of popular devotions (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi 48; Catechesi Tradendae 54 and Catechism 1674-1676). Equally they should be concerned with ecumenical dialogue (cf. Catechesi Tradendae 32-34; Catechism 817-822) and with inter-religious dialogue (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi 53; Redemptoris Missio 55-57 and Catechism 839-845)) The relationship between belief and science must be treated with great care in every catechism.

An interesting note here that should impact the situation in the US. First, we have a situation in which there is a generic public religion, mostly Protestant, as a background. We also have a civic tradition that incorporates some aspects of religion, and others of culture (economics, athletics, history, expansionism, exceptionalism) that may or may not be in harmony with the Gospel. Note that the GDC considers the modern world’s relationship with science and reason.

– Problems arising from social conditions, especially those arising from its more profound structural elements (economics, politics, family) are a factor in the contextualization of a catechism. Drawing inspiration from the social teaching of the Church, the Catechism will offer criteria, motivations and modes of action to highlight the Christian presence in these critical situations. (Libertatis Conscientia 72 distinguishes between “principles of reflection”, “criteria of judgement” and “directives for action” which the Church offers in her social doctrine. A catechism should also distinguish these various levels)

This would suggest that a local catechism in the States would draw upon and comment on situations such as the recent HHS mandate. But it would need, of course, to expand its view to cover past and potential obstacles to the Gospel–not just the present.

– Finally, the concrete ecclesial situation lived by a particular Church shall provide the context to which a catechism must make reference. Obviously one does not refer hereby to contingent situations, which are addressed by other magisterial documents, but to the more permanent situation which demands a more specific and appropriate evangelization. (It refers fundamentally to “the different socio-religious situations” faced by evangelization. These are examined in Part I, chap. I)



About catholicsensibility

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