The Catechism of the Catholic Church

By Vic Scaravilli

Whenever there is a question of the Catholic faith, we should turn to the Catechism of the Catholic Church to find an answer. We are fortunate to have a concise book that states the beliefs of our faith. This book presents the teachings of the Catholic Church on faith, sacraments, morality, and prayer in an orderly and complete manner.

Since the deposit of faith cannot change, it is the responsibility of the Church to preserve, protect, and interpret it. Pope John Paul II states in the introduction of this catechism that “Guarding the deposit of faith is the mission which the Lord entrusted to His Church, and she fulfills in every age.” As Catholics, we believe that Christ established an authoritative Church, through the Magisterium or teaching authority, that has the ability to define the truth of Christ’s teachings.

Catechisms have been in existence since the 1500’s after the Council of Trent. They have been used as a guidebook to define and explain both Oral Tradition and Scriptures. The latest catechism supplements the Baltimore Catechism that has been in existence for many years.

The title of the current catechism is Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is 800 pages and is full of vital information on the faith. A commission of twelve Cardinals and Bishops, chaired by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Austria, oversaw this six-year project. There was input from the Bishops of the whole world as the text was finalized. This latest version was released in 1992.

The Catechism is divided into four major sections: Creed – The Faith Professed; Sacraments – The Faith Celebrated; Morality – The Faith Lived; and Prayer – The Faith Deepened. These four major areas are defined in great detail explaining the faith.

Each major section is fully explained by use of Scriptures, decisions of ecumenical councils, and quotes from Church Fathers. The majority of the text is referenced to these sources of information. Also, when in doubt, this is a useful way to obtain an interpretation of Scriptures.

Part One, The Profession of Faith, is about the Creed. Our Creed summarizes the gifts that God gives man and contains most of the beliefs Christians believe. The four major components of this section are defining God and who He is, Jesus and what He did for us, the Holy Spirit and Its gifts, and the marks of the Church that Christ instituted.

Part Two, The Celebration of the Christian Mystery, explains how God’s salvation, accomplished through Christ, is made present in the sacred actions of the Church’s liturgy and in its seven sacraments. The sacraments are effective signs of grace, instituted by Christ, entrusted to His Church.

Part Three, Life in Christ, deals with ways in which we can live out our lives as children of God. The first half deals with God’s law and the grace He gives to each one of us to live in accordance to His desires. The remainder discusses the 10 Commandments and how they affect us.

The last section, Christian Prayer, deals with the meaning and importance of prayer in the life of believers. The Lord’s Prayer is also discussed in great detail showing that it is a family prayer Christ gave us.

As Catholics, we are fortunate to have a catechism that defines our faith. We can turn to it whenever we want to learn more about our faith or need to clarify a question we might have. Also, since the catechism was developed by the Magisterium, we know that it is the infallible truth that Christ taught to His Church.