25 Years of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Earlier this month, the Church marked a pair of historic and important landmarks: the 55th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and the 25th anniversary of the release of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Both of these landmarks are truly impressive, but in this post I want to briefly explore the incredible effect that the Catechism has had on the life of the Church.

The Catechism is largely a passion project of Pope St. John Paul II and then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who spent 24 years as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. In 1985, John Paul convoked an Extraordinary Synod to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council. During the Synod, Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston called for a new universal catechism. The following year, a commission was founded to begin work on this monumental task.


There were some who did not think this would come to fruition. There had not been a universal catechism produced since the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century. While there were many local and regional catechisms produced during the intervening centuries (including, memorably, the famous Baltimore Catechism here in the United States), this would be the first attempt at a catechism for the whole Church since that council.

The general editor of the Catechism was Bishop Christoph Schönborn, OP, who would later be named cardinal and Archbishop of Vienna. One of the most prominent and articulate theological minds of the last 30 years, Cardinal Schönborn proved an able editor who helped guide the Catechism through a relatively swift 6-year process to its publication.

I don’t think it can be easily overstated what an impact the Catechism has had on the Church all over the world. Frankly, it may be many years, or many decades, before we can adequately assess the effect it has had. The tenets of the faith have been articulated carefully, and beautifully, with incessant reference to Sacred Scripture, the Church fathers, official Church documents, and great theological minds. A summary in almost 3,000 paragraphs, it is truly a masterful work of art.


Here are a number of recent pieces celebrating this jubilee of the Catechism:

Matthew Bunson writing for the National Catholic Register: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/mbunson/the-catechism-turns-25

Luke Coppen writing for the UK’s Catholic Herald: http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2017/10/11/without-the-catechism-i-might-never-have-become-catholic/

Fr. William P. Saunders writing for the Arlington Catholic Herald: http://www.catholicherald.com/Faith/The_catechism_is_a_gift_to_the_church/

Junno Arocho Esteves writing for Crux: https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2017/10/18/silver-anniversary-making-catechism-shine-21st-century/

Carl E. Olson writing for Catholic World Report: http://www.catholicworldreport.com/2017/10/11/in-gratitude-for-the-gift-of-the-catechism-of-the-catholic-church/

George Weigel writing for First Things: https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2017/10/the-catechism-of-the-catholic-church-at-25