A catechism (; from grc|κατηχέω, "to teach orally") is a summary or exposition of doctrine
and serves as a learning introduction to the Sacraments
traditionally used in catechesis
, or Christian
religious teaching of children and adult converts. Catechisms are doctrinal manuals – often in the form of questions followed by answers to be memorised – a format that has been used
in non-religious or secular
contexts as well. According to Norman DeWitt, the early Christians appropriated this practice from the Epicureans
, a school whose founder Epicurus
had instructed to keep summaries of the teachings for easy learning. The term ''catechumen
'' refers to the designated recipient of the catechetical work or instruction. In the Catholic Church
, catechumens are those who are preparing to receive the Sacrament
. Traditionally, they would be placed separately during Holy Mass
from those who had been baptized
, and would be dismissed from the liturgical assembly before the Profession of Faith (Creed) and General Intercessions
(Prayers of the Faithful).
Catechisms are characteristic of Western Christianity
but are also present in Eastern Orthodox Christianity
. In 1973, ''The Common Catechism
'', the first joint catechism of Catholics and Protestants, was published by theologians of the major Western Christian traditions, as a result of extensive ecumenical
Before the Protestant Reformation
, Christian catechesis
took the form of instruction in and memorization of the Apostles' Creed
, Lord's Prayer
, and basic knowledge of the sacraments
. The word "catechism" for a manual for this instruction appeared in the Late Middle Ages
. The use of a question and answer format was popularized by Martin Luther
in his 1529 Small Catechism
. He wanted the catechumen to understand what he was learning, so the Decalogue, Lord's Prayer, and Apostles' Creed were broken up into small sections, with the question "What does this mean" following each portion. The format calls upon two parties to participate, a master and a student (traditionally termed a "scholar"), or a parent and a child. The Westminster Shorter Catechism
(1647) is an example:
Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. To glorify God and enjoy Him forever!
Q. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him?
A. The word of God which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.
The catechism's question-and-answer format, with a view toward the instruction of children, was a form adopted by the various Protestant confessions almost from the beginning of the Reformation
Among the first projects of the Reformation was the production of catechisms self-consciously modelled after the older traditions of Cyril of Jerusalem
. These catechisms showed special admiration for Chrysostom
's view of the family as a "little church", and placed strong responsibility on every father to teach his children, in order to prevent them from coming to baptism or the Lord's table ignorant of the doctrine under which they are expected to live as Christians.
Luther's Large Catechism
(1529) typifies the emphasis which the churches of the Augsburg Confession
placed on the importance of knowledge and understanding of the articles of the Christian faith. Primarily intended as instruction to teachers, especially to parents, the catechism consists of a series of exhortations on the importance of each topic of the catechism. It is meant for those who have the capacity to understand, and is meant to be memorized and then repeatedly reviewed so that the Small Catechism could be taught with understanding. For example, the author stipulates in the preface:
Luther's Small Catechism
, in contrast, is written to accommodate the understanding of a child or an uneducated person. It begins:
Calvin's 1545 preface to the Genevan catechism begins with an acknowledgement that the several traditions and cultures which were joined in the Reformed movement would produce their own form of instruction in each place. While Calvin argues that no effort should be expended on preventing this, he adds:
The scandal of diverse instruction is that it produces diverse baptisms and diverse communions, and diverse faith. However, forms may vary without introducing substantial differences, according to the Reformed view of doctrine.
produced a catechism while at Geneva
(1541), which underwent two major revisions (1545 and 1560). Calvin's aim in writing the catechism of 1545 was to set a basic pattern of doctrine, meant to be imitated by other catechists, which would not affirm local distinctions or dwell on controversial issues, but would serve as a pattern for what was expected to be taught by Christian fathers and other teachers of children in the church. The catechism is organized on the topics of faith
After Protestantism entered into the Palatinate, in 1546 the controversy between Lutherans and Calvinists broke out, and especially while the region was under the elector Otto Heinrich
(1556–1559), this conflict in Saxony
, particularly in Heidelberg
, became increasingly bitter and turned violent.
When Frederick III, Elector Palatine
came into power in 1559 he put his authority behind the Calvinistic view on the Lord's Supper, which denied the local presence of the body of Jesus Christ in the elements of the sacrament. He turned Sapienz College
into a school of divinity, and in 1562 he placed over it a pupil and friend of Luther's colleague, Philipp Melanchthon
, named Zacharias Ursinus
. In an attempt to resolve the religious disputes in his domain, Frederick called upon Ursinus and his colleague Caspar Olevianus
(preacher to Frederick's court) to produce a catechism. The two collaborators referred to existing catechetical literature, and especially relied on the catechisms of Calvin and of John Lasco
. To prepare the catechism, they adopted the method of sketching drafts independently, and then bringing together the work to combine their efforts. "The final preparation was the work of both theologians, with the constant co-operation of Frederick III. Ursinus has always been regarded as the principal author, as he was afterwards the chief defender and interpreter of the Catechism; still, it would appear that the nervous German style, the division into three parts (as distinguished from the five parts in the Catechism of Calvin and the previous draft of Ursinus), and the genial warmth and unction of the whole work, are chiefly due to Olevianus." (Schaff, in. Am. Presb. Rev. July 1863, p. 379). The structure of the Heidelberg Catechism
is spelled out in the second question; and the three-part structure seen there is based on the belief that the single work of salvation brings forward the three persons of the Trinity
in turn, to make God fully and intimately known by his work of salvation, referring to the Apostles' Creed
as an epitome of Christian faith. Assurance of salvation is the unifying theme throughout this catechism: assurance obtained by the work of Christ, applied through the sacraments, and resulting in grateful obedience to the commandments and persistence in prayer.
The Heidelberg Catechism is the most widely used of the Catechisms of the Reformed churches
Together with the Westminster Confession of Faith
(1647), the Westminster Assembly
also produced two catechisms, a Larger
and a Shorter
, which were intended for use in Christian families and in churches. These documents have served as the doctrinal standards, subordinate to the Bible, for Presbyterians and other Reformed churches around the world. The Shorter Catechism shows the Assembly's reliance upon the previous work of Calvin, Lasco, and the theologians of Heidelberg. It comprises two main sections summarizing what the Scriptures principally teach: the doctrine of God, and the duty required of men. Questions and answers cover the usual elements: faith
, the Ten Commandments
, the sacrament
s, and prayer
Other Reformed catechisms
composed the ''Basel Catechism'' in 1526, Leo Juda (1534) followed by Bullinger
(1555) published catechisms in Zurich. The French Reformed used Calvin's Genevan catechism, as well as works published by Louis Cappel
(1619), and Charles Drelincourt
English Calvinistic Baptists typically adopted Reformed catechisms, modifying them to reflect their own convictions concerning the nature of the church and the sacrament of baptism. In 1680, the Baptist minister Hercules Collins
published his own revision of the Heidelberg Catechism
. Later, the General Assembly of 1677 adopted a catechism
that was largely based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. However, this catechism was not published until 1689, after the passing of the Act of Toleration 1689
While the Pentecostal movement has no one official catechism or confession, nevertheless Pentecostal authors have produced catechetical works. William Seymour, founder of the Azusa Street revival, included a catechism in the Doctrines and Disciplines of the Azusa Street Apostolic Faith Mission. Assemblies of God minister Warren D. Combs produced a catechism in the 1960s. In 2016 Henry Volk the host of the Theology in Perspective podcast authored a resource entitled, A Pentecostal Catechism.
The Anglican Book of Common Prayer
includes a catechism. In older editions it is a brief manual for the instruction of those preparing to be brought before the bishop
: the baptised first professes his baptism, and then rehearses the principal elements of the faith into which he has been baptised: the Apostles' Creed
, Ten Commandments
, the Lord's Prayer
, and the sacrament
Catechist: What is your Name?
Answer: N. or M.
Catechist: Who gave you this Name?
Answer: My Godfathers and Godmothers
in my Baptism; wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.
The "N. or M." stands for the Latin, "nomen vel nomina", meaning "name or names". It is an accident of typography that "nomina" came to be represented by "m".
The US-based Episcopal Church's
1979 prayer book has a considerably longer catechism intended as "an outline of instruction" and "a brief summary of the Church's teaching".
''The Catechism of the Methodist Episcopal Church'' is an official catechism for that denomination, now known as the United Methodist Church
. ''A Catechism on the Christian Religion: The Doctrines of Christianity with Special Emphasis on Wesleyan Concepts'' by Mel-Thomas and Helen Rothwell is another popular catechism used to explicate Wesleyan-Arminian theology
. More recent publications are ''A Catechism Prepared Especially for the Members of the Evangelical Wesleyan Church'' (printed in the United States), ''A Larger Catechism: For Members of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church'' (printed in the United States), and ''A Catechism for the Use of the People Called Methodists'' (printed in Great Britain).
Socinian and other sectarian catechisms
Besides the manuals of instruction that were published by the Protestants for use in their families and churches, there were other works produced by sectarian groups intended as a compact refutation of orthodoxy.
For example, Socinians
in Poland published the ''Racovian Catechism
'' in 1605, using the question and answer format of a catechism for the orderly presentation of their arguments against the Trinity and the doctrine of Hell
, as these were understood by the Reformed churches from which they were forced to separate.
s have also produced catechisms of their own, to explain and defend their distinctives.
The ''Catechism of the Catholic Church
'' (see below) is the catechism that is in most widespread use among Catholics today. It is the official catechism of the Church.
For Catholics, all the canonical books of the Bible
(including the Deuterocanonical books
), the tradition of the Church
and the interpretation of these by the Magisterium
(which may be outlined in a catechism, a compendium or a declaration) constitute the complete and best resource for fully attaining to God's revelation to mankind. Catholics believe that sacred scripture and sacred tradition preserved and interpreted by the Magisterium are both necessary for attaining to the fullest understanding of all of God's revelation.
The term ''catechist'' is most frequently used in Catholicism
, often to describe a ''lay catechist'' or layperson with catechetical training who engages in such teaching and evangelization. This can be in both parish church and mission
The ''Roman Catechism
'' (also called, the Catechism of the Council of Trent
or the Catechism of Pius V
) was first published in 1566 under the authority of the Council of Trent
. It was not intended for common use by the laity, but as a general use reference book for priest
s and bishop
(The online version is at http://www.cin.org/users/james/ebooks/master/trent/tindex.htm)
Catechism of Saint Pius X
The ''Catechism of Saint Pius X
'' is a short catechism with questions and answers regarding the essentials of Catholic faith and doctrine
. It was issued by Pope Pius X
at the beginning of the 20th century in Italian
, with the intention that all Catholics could easily understand their faith.
(An online version is at http://www.cin.org/users/james/ebooks/master/pius/pindex.htm)
Various editions of the ''Baltimore Catechism
'' were the de facto standard Catholic school text in America from 1885 to the late 1960s. It was often taught by rote. The most common edition has a series of questions with their answers, which are followed by explanations in more depth. These are often accompanied by biblical quotes. There is a test at the end of every chapter.
(An online version is at http://www.cin.org/users/james/ebooks/master/baltimore/bindex.htm)
Catechism of Christian Doctrine (or "Penny Catechism")
A question and answer format catechism that was the standard catechetical text in Great Britain
in the earlier part of the 20th century. Popularly called the ''Penny Catechism'', as the original version only cost one penny. Various editions of the ''Penny Catechism'' were issued through the century and changes were made to the text. An online version was archived aproecclesia.com
Dutch Catechism (''A New Catechism: Catholic Faith for Adults'')
The hotly debated ''Dutch Catechism
'', ''De nieuwe katechismus'' (English translation: ''A New Catechism''), of 1966 was the first comprehensive post-Vatican II
Catholic catechism. It was commissioned and authorised by the Catholic hierarchy of the Netherlands
, and in its foreword declares as its intention: "to make the message of Jesus Christ sound as new as it is." The catechism, a bestseller, contained a number of problematic formulations. These were reviewed by a commission of cardinals, who detailed several significant shortcomings in the new catechism's presentation of Catholic doctrine. They were able, nonetheless, to "leave untouched by far the greatest part of the New Catechism," while offering their support for "the laudable purpose of the authors of the Catechism, namely, to present the eternal good tidings of Christ in a way adapted to the understanding and the thinking of the present day man."
Catechism of the Catholic Church
The current ''Catechism of the Catholic Church
'' is the first complete systematic synthesis of faith issued since the Council of Trent
in 1566. It contains articles on the classical topics of the official teaching of the Catholic Church on all matters of faith and morals. Since the official language of the Catholic Church is Latin, official teaching documents distributed in Latin are unlikely to change in perceived meaning over time. The Latin language version of the catechism, published 8 Sept 1997, is the ''editio typica
''—the normative and definitive text. The principal source materials for this work are the Sacred Scriptures, the Church Fathers, the liturgy, and the Magisterium
. This catechism is intended to serve "as a point of reference for the catechisms or compendia that are composed in the various countries." – Extraordinary Synod of Bishops 1985, Final Report II B a, 4.
'' is an Apostolic Constitution
which states that the catechism of the Catholic Church is for the laity in its address to all the people of God.
Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
It originated with a request of Pope John Paul II
in February 2003 and was issued by his successor Pope Benedict XVI
June 28, 2005. The English version was printed at Libreria Editrice Vaticana in 2006. Unlike the larger catechism, the Compendium is similar in format to the Baltimore Catechism with 598 questions and answers, providing an easier format with only the "essential" contents of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as the title suggests.
United States Catholic Catechism for Adults
The 1992 Vatican catechism had several aims, among them to be an "authentic reference text for teaching Catholic doctrine and particularly for preparing local catechisms". American bishops
responded with the 2006 United States Catholic Catechism for AdultsUSCCB
2006) – similar in format to a college textbook, targeting adults, contain seven elements that bring more depth to the material than the 'Compendium', providing more flexibility for diverse groups of people to study its contents. Each section or chapter contains the following: story or lesson of faith, foundation and application, sidebars, relationship to culture, discussion questions, doctrinal statements, and meditation and prayer. The lessons of faith stories are about individuals from the United States and allow the American reader to better relate to these individuals. This version of the catechism is available on audio CD-ROM as well.
''Enchiridion symbolorum, definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum''
The ''Enchiridion symbolorum, definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum
'' also known as Enchiridion or Denzinger, is a compendium
of all basic texts of Catholic dogma
since the apostles
. Commissioned by Pope Pius IX
, it has been in use since 1854, and has been updated periodically. It is a compendium of faith, like a catechism. By including all relevant teachings throughout history, it is at the same, more than a catechism. It is a search instrument for theologians, historians and anybody interested in Christian religion. The latest updates of the Enchiridion extend to the teachings of Pope John Paul II
The Archbishop of Baltimore
Cardinal James Gibbons
is quoted in earlier versions of the Enchiridion, that every theologian should have always two books at hand, the Holy Bible
and this ''Enchiridion''.
The Douay Catechism
The Rev Henry Tuberville, DD wrote this catechism in 1649 at the English College of Douay
. It is based on the Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent and was similarly written with the purpose of teaching Christian doctrine during the tumultuous English Reformation
. It is a testament to Rev. Tuberville and his colleagues at Douay that it remains one of the clearest and most direct compendiums of Catholic teaching in the English language.
Catechism for Filipino Catholics
The Catechism for Filipino Catholics (CFC) is a contextualised and inculturated Roman Catholic
catechism for Filipino
s prepared by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines
and approved by the Holy See
. The draft was produced by the Conference's "Episcopal Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education," and is an update of the late 16th century ''Doctrina Christiana en Lengua Espanola Y Tagala
'', which was a Hispano
version of the earlier Hispano-Chinese ''Doctrina'' that was the first book printed in the Philippines
using moveable type
The ''Doctrina Cristiana'' was written in Tagalog (both in a hispanised Latin script
and the then-common indigenous Baybayin
script), as well as Spanish
. Amongst the contents of the ''Doctrina'' are the Spanish alphabet and phonics
, archaic Tagalog translations of basic prayers shown in both languages
and scripts, and a brief catechism in a question-and-answer format.
Christ – Our Pascha (Eastern Catholic)
In 2012, this catechism was published by the Synod of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church
, one of the 23 Eastern Catholic churches
. It is used by some of the other Eastern Catholic churches as well, as it provides a more Eastern perspective on the universal doctrines and practices of the Catholic Church, as well as delving into Eastern Christian
practices and beliefs typically not emphasized in Western Catholicism
. An English translation appeared in 2016.
A Catechism or Christian Doctrine
, B.D., a Catholic martyr, first published his catechism, also called The Catechism of Laurence Vaux
or Vaux's Catechism, in Louvain
in 1567. Six further editions in rapid succession, emanating from Antwerp
, testified to its widespread popularity and effectiveness. The 1583 Liège issue was reprinted with biographical introduction for the Chetham Society by Thomas Graves Law
in 1885. This edition contains also Vaux's paper "The Use and Meaning of Ceremonies," and a few further pages of instruction added by the Liège publisher. The catechism is practically formed on the same lines as its successor of today, explaining in sequence the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer and Hail Mary (excluding the second half beginning at "Holy Mary…"), the Ten Commandments (at considerable length), the Sacraments and the offices of Christian justice. The treatise on the ceremonies discusses the use of holy water, candles, incense, vestments and so forth.
According to the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, Laurence Vaux's Catechism was the first Reformation era Catholic Catechism in English when it was published in 1567. Reprints followed in 1574, 1583, 1599 and 1605.
The Catechetical Instructions of St. Thomas Aquinas
The catechetical instructions of Saint Thomas Aquinas
were used generally throughout the 13th and 14th centuries as manuals and textbooks for priests and teachers of religion. "The Explanations of St. Thomas," wrote Spirago, "are remarkable for their conciseness and their simplicity of language; they are especially noteworthy because the main parts of the catechetical course of instruction are brought into connection with one another so that they appear as one harmonious whole." The influence of these works is especially prominent in the "Roman Catechism" which the Council of Trent ordered written for parish priests and for all teachers of religion. Many of the explanatory passages in both works are almost identical.
''Ignorantia Sacerdotum'' are the first words
and the better-known title of ''De Informatione Simplicium'', a catechetical
manual drafted by Archbishop Pecham
's provincial Council of Lambeth
in 1281. It called for the memorisation of the Apostles' Creed, the Ten Commandments
, and the two-fold injunction to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart... and thy neighbour as thyself."
It also emphasised the Seven Virtues
, the Seven Deadly Sins
, the Seven Sacraments
, and the Seven Works of Mercy
A 1357 translation into English
is often called the Lay-Folk's Catechism
Catechisms represent an obvious, practical method of passing on instruction, and as such examples can be found in many traditions. For example, Asiatic schools of esoteric learning also used a catechetical style of instruction, as this Zodiac catechism shows:
Q. "Where is the animal, O Lanoo? and where the Man?
A. Fused into one, O Master of my Life. The two are one. But both have disappeared and naught remains but the deep fire of my desire.
there is the "ČĪDAG ANDARZ Ī PŌRYŌTKĒŠĀN" also known as "Pand-nāmag ī Zardušt" (Book of the counsels of Zoroaster), which is a post-Sasanian compendium of apothegms intended to instruct every Zoroastrian male, upon his attaining the age of fifteen years, in fundamental religious and ethical principles, as well as in the daily duties incumbent upon him. In Robert Charles Zaehner
's words, it "sums up succinctly the whole of Zoroastrian doctrine: it is what every boy and girl of fifteen must know before he or she is invested with the sacred girdle ."
does not have a formal catechism. While there have been several attempts to formulate Jewish principles of faith
, and some of these have achieved wide acceptance, none can be described as being in the form of a catechism. The most widely recited formulation, Yigdal
, is in the form of a hymn
based on Maimonides
' 13 Articles of Faith
's book ''Jaiva Dharma'' is an example of Gaudiya Vaishnava
catechism. It follows the usual question-answer format.
In the Pali Canon
of Theravada Buddhism
a small bit of catechism appears as the fourth section of the Khuddakapatha
, as well as the forty-third and forty-fourth suttas of the Majjhima Nikaya
. Henry Steel Olcott introduced his own form of Buddhist catechism
, appropriated from Christianity, to Ceylon
when setting up his Buddhist education system during the late 19th century Buddhist revival on the island.
catechism may have originated from the practice of writing outlines of Epicurean doctrines for easy memorization. Epicurus' Letter to Herodotus
is known as the "Little Epitome" which young students are instructed to memorize, and in antiquity they would move on to more advanced teachings with the "Large Epitome". The 40 Principal Doctrines
also serve the role of a catechism. The philosopher Philodemus of Gadara
instructed his students to keep an outline of the doctrines on wealth and economics, so that there are additional doctrines that advanced students may focus on.
teaches children and new Muslim
s the matters of faith, worship, and ethics in the form of a concise manual. They are popular in Turkish
as ' (from the Arabic
''Ilm ul-Hal'', Situation Science). It is also advised for every Muslim to have a basic knowledge of such matters of religion. The first chapter is the book of cleanliness
and first to be taught are subjects such as: which are clean, what is clean and what is not clean, what people need to be cleansed from, how they should clean, and which water should they use to clean.
In the past, catechisms were written to rehearse the basic knowledge of a non-religious subject. Examples include numerous political catechisms published from the 18th to the 20th century in Europe as well as in North and South America. See also the ''Catechism of the History of Newfoundland'' (c1856), the ''Coal Catechism'' (1898), and ''A Catechism of the Steam Engine'' (1856).
"Elementary catechism on the Constitution of the United States" Arthur J. Stansbnr (1828), "Catechism of the Constitution of the United States" Lewis Cruger (1863) and "A Catechism of the Constitution of the United States of America" John V. Overall. Friedrich Engels
' 1847 work ''Principles of Communism
'' was written as a catechism: Engels subsequently decided that the format was not suited to the addition of historical material which he felt was necessary, and he and Karl Marx
restructured the material and used it as the nucleus of ''The Communist Manifesto
Some literary works have also taken the form of a catechism. The 17th episode of James Joyce
's novel ''Ulysses
'', known as "Ithaca", is written in the form of a catechism, as is Ted Hughes
' poem ''Examination at the Womb Door'', from the collection ''Crow
In Henry IV, Part 1
: Act V, Scene I, Line 141 Falstaff
refers to his monologue as a catechism, explaining his view of the virtue of honor.
* ''Spiritual Milk for Boston Babes
* Haemig, Mary Jane (2014)''Catechisms''EGO - European History Online
MainzInstitute of European History
retrieved: March 17, 2021pdf
* Luther, Martin; Lenker, John Nicholas''Luther's two catechisms explained by himself, in six classic writings''
Minneapolis, Minn., The Luther Press, 1908 – Google Books
* Palmer, Roland F.; McCausland, John G. ''The Catechist's Handbook; and, The Church's Guide: Teaching the Canadian nglican
Church Catechism to Children and to Older Persons'' (Bracebridge, Ont.: Society of Saint John the Evangelist, 1962).
Catechism of the Catholic Church
from the official website of the Vatican
reprint of the 1583 edition, published by The Chetham Society in 1885
From Christian Classics Ethereal Library
From Christian Classics Ethereal Library
From Christian Classics Ethereal Library
by John BourneCatechismClass
an interactive tool developed to provide the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Baltimore Catechism, and other Catholic catechisms in an integrated formatSeries of essays explaining Catechism of the Catholic Church
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