Catechism of the Catholic Church

"The design of the logo is adapted from a Christian tombstone in the catacombs of Domitilla in Rome, which dates from the end of the third century AD. This pastoral image was used by Christians to symbolize the rest and the happiness that the soul of the departed finds in eternal life. This image also suggests certain characteristic aspects of this Catechism: Christ, the Good Shepherd who leads and protects his faithful (the lamb) by his authority (the staff), draws them by the melodious symphony of the truth (the panpipes), and makes them lie down in the shade of the tree of life, his redeeming Cross which opens paradise."[1]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (or CCC) is the official text of the teachings of the Catholic Church. A provisional, "reference text" was issued by Pope John Paul II on October 11, 1992 — "the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council" — with his apostolic constitution, Fidei depositum.[2] The new Catechism was first published[3] in the French language in 1994 and was then translated into many other languages.[4]

On August 15, 1997 — the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary — Pope John Paul II promulgated the Latin typical edition, with his apostolic letter, Laetamur Magnopere.[5] The Latin text, which became the official text of reference (editio typica),[6] amended the contents of the provisional French text at a few points.[7] As a result, the earlier translations from the French into other languages (including English) had to be amended and re-published as "second editions".[8]

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church was published in 2005, and the first edition in English in 2006. It is a more concise and dialogic version of the CCC. The text is available in twelve languages on the Vatican website,[9] which also gives the text of the Catechism itself in eight languages.



A catechism has been defined as "a summary of principles, often in question-and-answer format".[10] Documents of religious instruction have been written since the beginning of Christianity and the catechism is typically an assemblage of these smaller documents into one large compilation of Church doctrine and teachings.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, for which the usual English-language abbreviation is CCC,[citation needed] is instead a source on which to base such catechisms and other expositions of Catholic doctrine, called a "major catechism." It was given, as stated in the Apostolic Constitution Fidei depositum,[11] with which its publication was ordered, "that it may be a sure and authentic reference text for teaching catholic doctrine and particularly for preparing local catechisms." The CCC is in fact not in question and answer format. What corresponds the more common idea of a catechism is perhaps the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.[citation needed]

CCC is arranged in four principal parts:

  • The Profession of Faith (the Apostle's Creed)
  • The Celebration of the Christian Mystery (the Sacred Liturgy, especially the sacraments)
  • Life in Christ (including The Ten Commandments in Roman Catholic theology)
  • Christian Prayer (including The Lord's Prayer)

This scheme is often referred to as the “Four Pillars” of the Faith. The contents are abundantly footnoted with references to sources of the teaching, in particular the Scriptures, the Church Fathers, and the Ecumenical Councils [12] and other authoritative Catholic statements, principally those issued by recent Popes.

The section on Scripture in the CCC (nos. 101-141) recovers the Patristic tradition of "spiritual exegesis" as further developed through the scholastic doctrine of the "four senses." This return to spiritual exegesis is based on the Second Vatican Council's 1965 "Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation",[13] which taught that Scripture should be "read and interpreted in light of the same Spirit by whom it was written" (Dei Verbum 12). The CCC amplifies Dei Verbum by specifying that the necessary spiritual interpretation should be sought through the four senses of Scripture (nos. 111, 113, 115-119),[14] which encompass the literal sense and the three spiritual senses (allegorical, moral, and anagogical).

The literal sense (no. 116) pertains to the meaning of the words themselves, including any figurative meanings. The spiritual senses (no. 117) pertain to the significance of the things (persons, places, objects or events) denoted by the words. Of the three spiritual senses, the allegorical sense is foundational. It relates persons, events, and institutions of earlier covenants to those of later covenants, and especially to the New Covenant. Building on the allegorical sense, the moral sense instructs in regard to action, and the anagogical sense points to man's final destiny. The teaching of the CCC on Scripture has encouraged the recent pursuit of covenantal theology, an approach that employs the four senses to structure salvation history via the biblical covenants.

Points of controversy

American Catholic bishops have stated that, though theological opinion was not intended to be a part of CCC,[15] it in fact "does not distinguish between matters of faith and theological opinion."[16]

A commentator, quoting Pope Paul VI to the effect that the Catholic Church has made a conscious attempt to adopt "a more humble and fraternal attitude ... that of a search for the truth",[17] claims that CCC displays a shift away from presenting dogma as fact and toward presenting the Catholic faith itself as a search for truth. Referring also to the statement in the Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum that "the contents are often presented in a new way in order to respond to the questions of our age," he claims that the "new catechesis ... attempts to produce existential reactions rather than intellectual conviction."[17]


Pope John Paul II declared the Catechism of the Catholic Church to be universally authoritative and "a sure norm for teaching the faith" and thus "a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion".[2]

In 1992, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) noted[18]:

It clearly show[s] that the problem of what we must do as human beings, of how we should live our lives so that we and the world may become just, is the essential problem of our day, and basically of all ages. After the fall of ideologies, the problem of man — the moral problem — is presented to today's context in a totally new way: What should we do? How does life become just? What can give us and the whole world a future which is worth living? Since the catechism treats these questions, it is a book which interests many people, far beyond purely theological or ecclesial circles.

See also

  • Youcat - the Youth version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church


  1. ^ From the Copyright Information, pg. iv.
  2. ^ a b "FIDEI DEPOSITUM". Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 1992-10-11. Retrieved 2007-10-05. 
  3. ^ Copyright 1994, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Citta del Vaticano.
  4. ^ In the United States, the English translation was published by the U.S. bishops in 1994 (copyright 1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.—Libreria Editrice Vaticana), with a note that it was "subject to revision according to the Latin typical edition (editio typica) when it is published." (From the Copyright Information, pg. ii.)
  5. ^ The Latin-text copyright is 1994, 1997, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Citta del Vaticano.
  6. ^ "LATIN EDITION OF CATECHISM PROMULGATED". L'Osservatore Romano. 1997-09-17. Retrieved 2007-10-05. 
  7. ^ "MODIFICATIONS from the Edito Typica". Amministrazione Del Patrimonio Della Sede Apostolica. Retrieved 2007-10-05. 
  8. ^ In the U.S., the bishops then published a new English translation, from the official Latin text. (English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Modifications from the Editio Typica, copyright 1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.—Libreria Editrice Vaticana.) The U.S. bishops added a "Glossary and Index Analyticus" (copyright 2000, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.) and published the new translation, with glossary and index, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, "revised in accordance with the official Latin text promulgated by Pope John Paul II". (From the title page.)
  9. ^ Vatican website
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^ [3]
  13. ^ "Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation"
  14. ^ (nos. 111, 113, 115-119)
  15. ^ Levada, Archbishop William J. (1994-02-07). "The New Catechism: An Overview". United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Office for the Catechism. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-10-05. 
  16. ^ Wrenn, Michael J.; Whitehead, Kenneth D. (1996). Flawed Expectations: The Reception of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Ignatius Press. p. 208. ISBN 0-89870-591-6. 
  17. ^ a b Amerio, Romano (1996). Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the XXth Century. Sarto House. ISBN 0-9639032-1-7. 
  18. ^ "The Catechism of the Catholic Church in Context". United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Office for the Catechism. 1992-12-09. Archived from the original on 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2007-10-05. 

External links

  • Catechism of the Catholic Church – English translation (U.S.A., 2nd edition) (English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Modifications from the Editio Typica, copyright 1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc. — Libreria Editrice Vaticana) (Glossary and Index Analyticus, copyright 2000, U.S. Catholic Conference, Inc.). ISBN 1-57455-110-8
  • Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church – English translation (USCCB, 2006). ISBN 1-57455-720-3
  • United States Catholic Catechism for Adults – English "... resource for preparation of catechumens in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and for ongoing catechesis of adults" (USCCB, 2006). ISBN 1-57455-450-6

Sites that carry the full CCC text

Sites that carry comments on the CCC

Text of the Compendium of the CCC

  • Compendium at Vatican/Holy See website available in Byelorussian, English, French, German, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Lithuanian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovenian, Spanish, and Swedish (as of 17 July 2011)

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