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Foreword                                                   9
Preface                                                   13
I Why the Church Needed a New Catechism                   21
II How the New Catechism Came About                       60
III The Initial Reception of the Catechism               101
IV The English Translation of the Catechism              129
V A Catechetical Establishment Response to the Catechism 164
VI A Theological Establishment Response to the Catechism 204
VII Can Such Things Be?                                  247
VIII A New "Local", "Inculturated" Catechism?            286
IX "What Shall We Do?" (Acts 2:37)                       325
Appendix I The Translation of the Catechism              357
Appendix II The Catechism in English: The Art
                        (or Artifice?) of Translation    383
Appendix III Comparative Translations                    406 
Biographical Note                                        411
Index                                                    413


No one would deny that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a priceless gift to all of us who stand, as we do, on the threshold of the third Millennium. The tremendous welcome that this magnificent instrument of the deposit of our holy faith has received worldwide attests to its timeliness and significance. In the Archdiocese of New York, for example, all of our catechetical efforts, whether in school, nonschool, or adult-education programs, are presently being designed whenever necessary in the light of the vast treasures that a careful and prayerful reading of the Catechism can profitably yield.

The authors of Flawed Expeciations are, ahove all, concerned with seeing to it that a proper reception and authentic interpretation be given to the Catechism. They have set forth, in great detail, a number of unfortunate negative reactions to the Catechism that have appeared in several commentaries published in die United States and elsewhere.

They deserve a resounding bravo for their efforts in analyizing tendencies that are counterproductive to the Catechism's sole intent to assist he faith of God's people to become living, conscious, and active through the light of instruction. I find Flawed Expectations highly troubling, in that, however relentless its criticism may Seem, too much of the criticism rings true and is well documented. Moreover, much of the criticism was foreseen even before the publication of the Catechism, so that the authors of this text are often merely verifying the actualization of what was anticipated by others. 9

Archbishop Eric D'Arcy, of Hobart,Tasmania, for example, in speaking of the need to produce classroom-type catechisms for different countries and cultures, in line with the Catechism itself, predicted:

This is an exhilarating prospect. It offers faith-educationists their greatest opportunity in four hundred years. Nevertheless it bristles with difficulties, and in the English-speaking First World those are particularly acute. One of these cuts deeper than all the others: many of our most dedicated faith-educationists do not believe the CCC to be a providential initiative at all. They simply do not believe in a faith-education which is sympathetically doctrinal and systematically addressed to the cognitive powers— reason, imagination, memory.

I myself, in lecturing in advance of the formal publication of the Catechism, suggested that putting the Catechism to work would be a monumental task for bishops, quite apart from any fault that anyone might find with the publication itselt. I quoted, for example, from our holy Father's apostolic exhortation Catechesi Tradendae. Speaking of catechists in general, he observes: "Catechesis is intrinsically linked with the whole liturgical and sacramental activity, for it is in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist, that Christ Jesus works in fullness for the transformation of human beings." He goes on, then, to include the homily within the context of sacramental activity:

Respecting the specific nature and proper cadence of this setting, the homily takes up again the journey of faith put forward by catechesis and brings it to its natural fulfillmentt. Accordingly, one can say that catechetical teaching, too, finds its source and its fulfillment in the Eucharist, within the whole cycle of the liturgical year. Preaching, centered upon the Bible texts, must then in its own way 10 make it possible to familiarize the faithful with the whole of the mysteries of the faith and with the norms of Christian living.

Now, the most favorably inclined bishop, theologian, or catechist, however receptive towards the Catechism, finds the Pope's expectations of catechesis a tremendous challenge. if the Catechism is to be the foundation or the basic source-hook for meeting the challenge, the work ahead was cut out for us long before its publication. Nor has the challenge diminished since.

I make these observations here, not to parry the thrust of Flawed Expectations, but simply to suggest that its authors' findings are substantially in accord with what many had anticipated before the Catechism even appeared.

If at times the authors' prose is charged and if they seem to he prepared to joust, this can, undoubtedly, be excused because of their zealous devotion to and defense of the Catechism and all that it portends for the future of the Church.

May Flawed Expectations assist catechists in becoming aware of those counterproductive theological and catechetical tendencies that the Catechism of the Catholic Church was originally intended to correct.

Archbishop of New York


Please note that page 12 in the original book is blank.


As many basic courses in Christianity regularly point out, Our word "apostle" comes from the Greek apostolos, meaning "one sent out"; the word is related to the Greek verb apostellein, "to send out". Thus, Jesus himself originally sent out "the apostles whom he had chosen" (Acts 1:2). "You shall be my witnesses", he told them, "in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the cord of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Or again: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you . . ." (Mt 28:19-20).

The successors of these original apostles Jesus, the bishops of the Catholic Church, have in our day not ceased to carry on this essential work of "teaching . . . all that I have commanded". Most recently, and perhaps as compellingly as compellingly as any generation of bishops for centuries, they have carried out this work of teaching by commissioning, preparing, and issuing the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, an authoritative, comprehensive, and wholly up-to-date statement of what the Catholic Church holds and teaches, as it has been guarded, interpreted, developed, and handed down in the Church with the help of the holy Spirit from the time of Jesus until the present day.

The current head of the bishops of the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II, searching for the appropriate term to describe what this Catechism means for us and for our children. has several times returned to the word "gift"; it is a gift for both the Church and the world, according to the Pope. It has lays out for us the teachings of Christ for the sake of our 13 sanctification and salvation; we cannot go wrong following this guide. In bringing out this great work, the Catholic bishops have thus, Once again, proved themselves quite literally to be the authentic "witnesses" to Jesus "to the end of the earth" that he intended and commissioned them to be.

After twenty centuries, the Church of Christ is a somewhat more complex organization than was the case in the days when the bishops were the heads of small communities of believers in Christ, among whom they perhaps personally lived among and ministered. While every bishop today continues to be "sent out" in the name of Christ, he is obliged, in the nature of things, to "send out" many others in his turn.

The Church's educational and catechetical enterprise today, for example, is vast and complex, consisting of many people, institutions, entities, and layers between the bishop, who is the primary teacher and overseer, and those who are being directly catechized in the faith, whether they are children or adults.

In addition to the catechists who are directly engaged in teaching the faith, whether professional or volunteer, there are pastors and priests; there are school principals, administrators, and teachers; there are directors of religious education (DREs), whether at the diocesan or parish levels (not to speak of all the personnel and offices and committees engaged in educational and catechetical endeavors at the national level!).

In addition, there are the graduate schools and catcchetical institutes that form and train those who teach the faith, just as there are the professors and theologians who staff these higher-education institutions involved with catechesis. There are also the authors and editors and publishers of religion textbooks and other religious-education materials. 14

Not least, there are the myriads of volunteers who staff the average parish CCD program; some studies have indicated that over 90 percent of our catechists in the classroom are volunteers.

Properly speaking, all these people occupying such offices and carrying out such functions in the Church's educational and catechetical enterprise are "sent out"; they, too, are "apostles", even if only perhaps at secondary, tertiary, Or even lower levels. The bishops do not, and cannot, teach the faith by themselves. Certainly the pope cannot do it. by himself (although Pope John Paul II sometimes gives the impression he is trying to!).

With the issuance of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Pope and the bishops have now admirably fulfilled one of their basic functions. We have the book; it is easily available; it is hard to misunderstand—you would almost have to work at misunderstanding it, if that were your aim. The Church's full teaching is now systematically laid out in the Catechism for anyone who wants to take the trouble to find out what it is.

There can no longer be any serious question, for example, ahout what it is that has to be taught in the Church's formal catechesis; for what it is that has to be taught is now all carefully laid out, in the Catechism.

The basic question now is whether or not what is now so lucidly and completely set forth in the pages of the Catechism will be effectively conveyed and transferred into the minds and hearts of Christ's followers and potential followers, in this generation and in generations to come. The question is, in other words, whether the Catechism will be properly and effectively implemented at various levels in the Church.

Or, to put the question in yet another way: Now that the Catechism is out, how is it being, received? Is it being accepted, 15 read, studied, used? Or is it in some places perhaps being neglected, ignored, put on the shelf, or even actively opposed? Where it is being accepted, is this sometimes mere lip service? Are there those who continue to hold a different idea of what catechesis should be than what the Catechism lays out? Will the new Catechism really make any difference in the Church's current teaching of the faith on the pastoral and practical levels? What is the long-term outlook for the Catechism?

Two of the principal architects of the Catechism, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Christoph Schönborn, have identified the reception of the book as one of the most important issues concerning it:

The deeper reception of the Catechism in the life of the Clurch still lies ahead. Preaching and proclamation have yet to discover in it an aid to comprehending and comunicating the faith as a living organic whole. Furthermore, the Catechism is meant to assist theology, which has become sterile and cold on account of overspecialization and rationalistic desiccation, to realize anew "the admirable unity of the mystery of God" (John Paul II in the Apostolic Constitution on the Catechism), in order to recover joy in the beauty of the faith and wonder over its vital energy.

Catechesis must he encouraged to recognize that its paramount task is the transmission of the knowledge of the faith. For all believers, the Catechism is a "sure norm for the teaching of the faith" (ibid), which is designed to help them know their faith better, to live it more profoundly, and to hand it on with firmer conviction. [*] 16

The principal aim of this book is to focus on the basic question of the reception of the Catechism, particularly (but not exclusively) in the United States; and particularly among the people, functions, and levels in the Church with formal responsibilities for the catechesis, that is, transmitting the authentic faith of the Church to others. There can be no doubt that the Catechism has already been accorded an enormously favorable popular reception, in the United Stags as well as around the world: the sales of the book alone indicate that. But what kind of reception is it getting among those with responsibilities for teaching the faith?

For example, what does the average religious educator think about the Catechism? What is the average religious educator being told to think about it? Does it appear that this authoritative, comprehensive, and entirely usable new summary of the Church's authentic teaching is generally being received among professional religious educators with docility and gratitude, if not enthusiasm? Will it henceforth be made the basis of what is being taught?

After all, religious educators, too, have not ceased being "sent out"; they, too, are supposed to be "apostles". The faith they teach is the Church's faith, not just their own; and the Catechism sets forth this faith of the Church. What do they think about it? How are they using it?

Or yet again: What do today's Catholic theologians think about the Catechism? Many are the ones who usually train the religious educators, and the latter, in their turn, often tend to look to professional theologians and experts for guidance and inspiration. They often do so more naturally, more quickly, and more easily than they might look even to their pastors or bishops, as a matter of fact. This is probably inevitable in an era and in a culture that generally looks to professionals, to experts, for guidance and that also depends 17 upon published materials, courses, outlines, discussion questions, videos, and the like for instruction. it is a simple fact that the guidance religious educators receive from their pastors and bishops often comes to them via theologians and experts, or via the catechetical conferences and publications where these same theologians and experts often appear.

Of course all the theologians and experts are supposed to be "sent out" by the bishops too, and not just theoretically. On the evidence, though, how many of them today do see themselves as sent out by the bishops as "apostles" of Christ by the commission of the Church? And that means, not incidentally, by the commission of the current actual leadership of the Church, not that of some ideal "Church" existing- in their own minds.

Are there. in other words any "reluctant apostles" out there among those with responsibilities for teaching the faith as far as the new Cateclusm is concerned? Especially among the ranks of professionals in the Church, are there any whose vision of the faith, for whatever reason and under whatever influence, is different from the vision now firmly embodied and clearly set forth in the Catechism? Would any such differences, if they exist, be likely to produce "reluctant apostles", now that the Catechism has been so solemnly and firmly mandated as the Church's basic document for teaching the faith?

These are the primary questions this book will he dealing with. They are important questions, because the answer to the important question of whether or not the Catechism will be able properly to do the work for which it was intended and designed may depend, at least in part, upon the answers to some of these other questions.

At the present time, the picture is still a very mixed one; 18 in many ways, the Catechism has already proved to be a resounding success. However, much, very, much still needs to he done in order to ensure that the whole Catechism enterprise can successfully build on its own very promising beginnings.

It is in the hope of being able both to help clarify what still needs to be done and to assist in the process of doing it that the present authors have been motivated to prepare this book on the reception of the Catechism. After having reviewed a significant number of the materials currently being issued in connecuon with the implementation of the document, especially commentaries, it is our contention that the Catechism is not being everywhere received in the manner in which both the Catholic bishops and the Catholle people had a right to expect, especially considering what the Catechism is and what it represents. Indeed, upon examination of some of the typical products supposedly aimed at implementing the Catechism, we can only conclude that these expectations are in some very important and even crucial respects seriously flawed expectations—hence, our title.

Since what is at stake here is so serious, it is not sufficient for someone merely ro allege that the Catechism is not being everywhere properly received. It is necessary to show this where it happens to be the case. This we have undertaken to do in the chapters that follow our general introdunion to the subject of the Catechism, The why and how of it, which comprises our first two chapters.

We do not apologize for the detail into which we have felt obliged to go in treating the way in which some have been receiving the Catechism. This detail has been necessary in order to prove our points.

Of course, the picture is not wholly negative, and we have also tried to give credit where credit is due. The Catechism 19 has been available in English-speaking lands only for about a year as we write, and in spite of obstacles, and, especially the lukewarmness and even opposition to the Catechism that we have found, especially in some of the Church's professional circles, we remain convinced that this Catechism is nevertheless going to be at the very heart of a renewed evangelization of the world in the course of the twenty-first century.

In any case, the whole subject is surely one of the utmost seriousness. The Church's bishops did not labor for nearly seven years to produce the Catechism only to have its message minimized or downgraded by some of the very people responsible for implementing it.

In the end, of course, it is the reader who will have to be the ultimate judge with respect to how well this book succeeds in its aim of showing how the Catechism is in fact being received. Nobody can deny, however. that the subject is a vitally important one. 20


*. Joseph Ratzinger and Chrisroph Schönborn, Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), 7.

Chapter 1

This above book has been discontinued by Ignatius Press and is being reproduced with the permission of Ignatius Press and the copyright holders. It is hoped to publish further parts of this book in the coming months.

Copyright ©; Kenneth D. Whitehead and the family of the late Msgr. Michael J. Wrenn. 1996 & 2009.

Version: 31st March 2009

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