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Un Catechisme Universel pour l'Eglise Catholique du Concile de Trente a nos jours.

Although the final text had not yet been published when Simon wrote, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the occasion and focus of his work. S. first sketches, by way of background, the discussions leading to the Catechismus ad parochos commissioned by the Council of Trent and the scheme De parvo catechismo of the first Vatican Council. He then describes in detail the reasons that Vatican II opted for a General Catechetical Directory instead of a catechism. Finally, he chronicles post-conciliar developments that led to the recommendation of the Synod of Bishops in 1985 for "a catechism or compendium of all Catholic doctrine regarding both faith and morals." A three-page English precis of the work is provided.

S. writes as an historian with minimum interpretation of the data. Although he does not seem to argue an explicit thesis, he leaves the reader with some definite impressions. S. assembles enough evidence to demonstrate that "universal catechism" is an equivocal term. Even Trent was tentative about the kind of catechism that was necessary to deal with issues raised by the Reformation. Some conciliar fathers wanted a catechism that could be used by children and uneducated adults. Some wanted a homilary (sermon outlines) that could be used to instruct the faithful. A third group favored a book or books that would contain everything one should know about the administration and reception of the sacraments. In the end, a committee of four theologians adopted the "four pillars" of late medieval catechesis--Creed, Sacraments, Commandments, and Lord's Prayer--as the basic structure of the Catechismus ad parochos promulgated in 1566. It was intended as a ratio or, as we say today, a resource for use by pastors, preachers, and teachers to insure orthodox teaching. The debate at Vatican I centered on the schema super confectione et usu unius parvi catechismi pro universa ecclesia. It reaffirmed the use of the Tridentine catechism by the clergy, but shifted attention to a "small catechism" similar to Bellarmine's that children could readily commit to memory.

The preparatory commissions of Vatican II rejected proposals for a universal catechism. The decree on the pastoral office of bishops, Christus Dominus, encouraged national and regional catechisms and called for a General Catechetical Directory to establish broad norms and guidelines as to the nature, contents, methods, and organization of catechesis (art. 44). Nonetheless the issue of a catechism for the universal Church was brought up at almost every assembly of the Synod of Bishops from 1967 to 1985. One reason that it attracted little support was the lack of a consensus as to the contents and audience of such a catechism. Some bishops seemed to want a "super-catechism" that would make national and diocesan catechisms unnecessary. Other proposals called for a variety of works from a compendium of theology to an updated syllabus of errors, from a resource for bishops to a study text for children.

S. also conveys the impression that more was at stake than a catechism. The catechism is a symbol of the teaching office of the bishop. At Vatican I it was largely the ultramontanes who championed a universal catechism. Vatican II's tilt toward collegiality and episcopal conferences led it to encourage national and regional catechisms rather than an universal catechism, on the one hand, and diocesan catechisms, on the other. S. shows how the 1983 Code of Canon Law modified the position of Christus Dominus.

A third impression is linked to the above. S. describes events in Holland in the aftermath of the Dutch Catechism and the tensions in France that came to a head with the publication of Pierres vivantes, a catechetical program for youngsters. Underlying the negotiations of these national hierarchies with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was the authority of episcopal conferences. The flap over Pierres vivantes occurred shortly before the 1985 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops.

Finally, S. leaves the impression that even in recommending a catechism for the universal Church, the 1985 Synod and Pope John Paul II himself remained loyal to the spirit if not the letter of Vatican II. The original proposal made on the floor of the aula called for a "conciliar catechism" because "national catechisms will not fill the current need." The Synod refined the proposal, recommending "a catechism or compendium of all Catholic doctrine regarding both faith and morals" that might serve "as a point of reference for the catechisms or compendiums that are prepared in the various regions." In endorsing the recommendation of the Synod and in subsequent statements, including Fidei depositum that prefaces the Catechism of the Catholic Church, John Paul makes it clear that it is not a replacement for, but a source book to assist in, the composition of local catechisms.

S. takes the account of the universal catechism through December 1991. The actual publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church supports the general impressions he leaves with the reader.
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Author:Marthaler, Berard L.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Words:817
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