About the JimmyAkin.com Master Catechism
I am pleased to present this integrated, hyperlinked collection of five historic catechisms. It contains the two Church-wide or “universal” catechisms the Church has issued — the Catechism of the Council of Trent and the new Catechism of the Catholic Church — plus three “particular” or local catechisms of great historic influence — the Catechetical Instructions of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Baltimore Catechism (4), and the Catechism of St. Pius X.
The catechisms are presented in historic order. First, the Catechetical Instructions of St. Thomas Aquinas, an introductory work the great saint preached during Lent in 1273 (making it the last thing he ever wrote, as he died a few months later; it is also much simpler to read than his immortal Summa Theologiae). Second, the Catechism of the Council of Trent, first released in 1566 in the wake of the Protestant Reformation (this catechism is also known as the Roman Catechism and the Catechism of St. Pius V, who was pope at the time). Third, the Baltimore Catechism number 4, first released in 1891. Fourth, the Catechism of St. Pius X (this work was suggested by St. Pius X when he was still archbishop of Mantua). Fourth and finally, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was released in 1992 and is the current teaching standard of the Church.
Each catechism is uniquely valuable in its own way. Aquinas’s and Pius X’s catechisms are shorter and useful as summaries, while the two “universal” catechisms are longer and useful for finding in-depth explanations. The Baltimore Catechism (4) is a bridge between the two kinds, as it contains a short catechism (the Baltimore Catechism number 2) with commentary to give a more in-depth explanation.
Aquinas’s catechism is written as a brief prose summary of Christian teaching. Trent’s catechism is written in a in-depth, informative style and is meant to be used as a basis for priests to preach their homilies from. The Baltimore Catechism (4) is written to help catechists have more detailed background on the lessons they are teaching. Pius X’s catechism is written in a memorizable, question and answer format. And the CCC is written in an in-depth, inspirational style for a global audience.
Reading the catechisms in their historical order is very informative, as they are each written to apply the Catholic faith to five very different cultures and historical circumstances. For example, in Aquinas’s day, every Christian understood God’s use of the sacraments as instruments of his grace, so Aquinas whizzes over this part of Christian doctrine more quickly than the later three catechisms, which were written after a sizable number of Christians had begun to reject this part of the faith of Christ. The CCC, on the other hand, is written to engage a global audience which is largely un-Catholic (secular, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, and otherwise), while the four earlier catechisms are written for those in Catholic cultures, except for the Baltimore Catechism, which was written for the Catholic minority in America.
There is also a development in doctrine across the course of the five catechisms, due to the efforts of the Holy Spirit in progressively leading the Church “into all truth” (cf. John 16:13; the development of doctrine across history being something even Protestants recognize).
And there is a shift in the disciplines across the five Catechisms, due to the fact that each time and culture has different pastoral needs which must be addressed. Thus, for example, the regulations concerning matrimony, receiving the Eucharist, the so-called “minor orders” (acolyte, exorcist, rector, and porter, together with subdeacon), and dealing with non-Catholics have changed over time. One should always consult the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as the current Code of Canon Law, to find out the current pastoral regulations. One should not assume the old disciplines are still in force, as they often are not (the situation of the average Christian in Aquinas’s Middle Ages being very different from that of the average Christian in the Post-Modern world, with the pastoral needs of the time being correspondingly different).
HOW TO USE THE NAZARETH MASTER CATECHISM
The five catechisms included are based on a common four-fold structure–sections on the Apostles’ Creed, the sacraments, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer. This enables us to present a common link system among them. On the Master Catechism Index Page one can click on icons showing what any of the five catechisms has to say on a subject.
Each catechism is unique, and there are some variations. Some catechisms put the four sections in different orders (this has been standardized on the Master Catechism Index Page), have included special sections others lacked, have excluded special sections others had, or have divided the clauses the Creed slightly differently.
For example, one catechism may not divide the articles of the Creed exactly the same as the others, so if you are looking for what a particular creed says on a particular phrase of the Creed and can’t find it, try the clause before or after it, for that catechism may have grouped the phrases of the Creed slightly differently.
Similarly, some catechisms may not have a special section on a particular thing (for example, the Catechism of Trent does not have a special section on the Hail Mary, which used to be more commonly called the Angelic Salutation, since it begins with the salutation of Gabriel to Mary); when this happens, the icon for that catechism will remain blank and will not be linked to anything but will just be a place holder (see example).
Finally, some catechisms have special sections which are not replacted in others. To see these sections, use the original contents pages of the catechisms:
The 1983 Code of Canon Law requires all new catechisms and new translations of catechisms to carry the imprimatur or be approved subsequently by ecclesiastical authority. Since these are reproductions of existing catechisms (not new editions, since they do not change the words of the catechism but at most add annotations), the original imprimaturs apply (as was verified with a conservative canon lawyer before posting this). We therefore present the original imprimaturs of the five catechisms:
The Catechical Instructions of St. Thomas Aquinas
- This translation was made by Rev. Joseph B. Collins of Catholic University of America. It was given the Nihil Obstat by E.A. Connolly (S.S., J.C.D., Censor Deputatus) and the Imprimatur by Most Rev. Michael J. Curley (D.D., Archbishop of Baltimore), February 9, 1939.
The Catechism of Trent
- This translation was made by John A. McHugh (O.P.) and Charles J. Callan (O.P.). It was granted the Nihil Obstat by V.F. O’Daniel, T.M. chwertner, and A.J. Scanlan, the Imprimi Potest by J.R. Meagher, and the Imprimatur by Patrick J. Hayes (Archbishop of New York), January 3, 1923.
The Baltimore Catechism (4)
- This word was granted the Nihil Obstat by D. J. McMahon (Censor Librorum) and the Imprimatur by Michael Augustine (Archbishop of New York) on September 5, 1891. It was also granted the Nihil Obstat by Arthur J. Scanlan (STD, Censor Librorum) and the Imprimatur by Patrick J. Hayes (D.D., Archbishop of New York) on June 29, 1921.
The Catechism of St. Pius X
- This translation was made by Msgr. John Hagan (Dublin) in 1910. Imprimatur information forthcoming.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
- This translation was made by the Vatican. Imprimatur information forthcoming.