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Catholic Christianity: A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (Book Review).

Peter J. Kreeft, Catholic Christianity: A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 2001, 426 pages, $28.25 (Cdn)

Years ago a young man at my workplace was looking at a book called Carpentry Made Simple. He sighed a deep sigh I'll never forget and said, "I wish they'd write a book called "Life Made Simple!" Peter Kreeft has captured the spirit of simplicity and clarity in this catechism that gives a thorough outline of the life of faith. He has managed to avoid theological terms that might trip up the untutored reader yet rarely sacrifices precise meaning for banal simplicity. Kreeft discusses the reason for writing the book in his Preface. He sees a great need for more catechisms since so many people are ignorant of even the basics of their faith today.

He points out that the new universal Catechism of the Catholic Church was intended to serve "as a point of reference for the catechisms or compendia that are composed in the various countries" (CCC 11) He does not mean to offer something as a substitute for the Catechism, and admonishes, "Let no one read this book instead of that one". Rather it is designed for our particular time and place as an extension of the original. official version. Pro-lifers would approve the opening lines in the book. "We need faith because our world is full of death. And so are we. Each of us will die. So will each nation. Many individuals and nations will also kill.

"Our world has always been a world at war with itself, because it has always been at war with God... a culture that kills children before birth and kills children after birth ... What is the answer to this culture of death? Faith. The Catholic faith is the answer." The book is divided into three sections: Theology (What Catholics Believe), each chapter based on a part of the Creed, Morality (How Catholics Live), based on the Ten Commandments, and Sacraments and Prayer (How Catholics Worship).

Tim Staples, one of America's best known apologists, recommends this catechism over any other. Kreeft often refers to Protestant beliefs in contrast to Catholic faith and practice. He opens the section on divorce with a bracing stance; "The Church cannot allow divorce, as almost all Protestant churches do, because she does not have the authority to contradict Christ her Master." He then gives Scriptural back-up in the footnotes. He continues, anticipating typical modern objections, "It would not be "compassionate" for the Church to allow divorce. The Church forbids divorce precisely because she is compassionate, and knows that divorce brings grave harm ..." Kreeft writes extremely well and is a master of practical homespun analogies. In the section on the Holy Spirit he describes the difference that the Holy Spirit makes in our lives as one of' "solving the power shortage." God gave the Church "three power tools", he explains, "theology, morality, and liturgy; creed, code and cult; words, works and worship; d ogmas, laws, and prayers ... It takes the Holy Spirit to give them power."

There was one disappointment in the Theology section, the one on Original Sin . Here the analogy is perhaps too thin and colloquial to properly convey the essentials. Kreeft simply describes Original Sin as "Original Selfishness." Whatever the description, it should clearly include, which it doesn't in the first section, the distrust, disobedience, pride, disdain for God's command, and cooperation with evil. The dogma of Original Sin is under attack these days. Misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and disbelief abound. This doctrine underpins our faith and the sacraments; it needs careful treatment. Another unfortunate neglect is the lack of an index. The table of contents with the comprehensive topical chapter headings serves well. However, for some topics, for instance Original Sin, it is not easy to locate all the author has to say. The topic of Original Sin in the Theology section is further elaborated in the chapter on Baptism but a person needs to know how to locate them both. Overall, though, this cate chism is superb and contains a thousand treasures. It is a must for R.C.I.A. and any serious Catholic library.
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Author:Wilson, Ann
Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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