Catechism Analysis: Paragraph 25Read Now
25 To conclude this Prologue, it is fitting to recall this pastoral principle stated by the Roman Catechism:
The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love.19
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” I could not think of a better quote from Winston Churchill to open today’s entry, for Paragraph 26 is the end of “the prologue;” next week our Thursday Catechism analysis will take us to the opening of the Creed, “I believe in one God.”
Today’s quote is footnoted from the Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566). To be honest, I had totally forgotten this post-Reformation Catechism until I started our reflections on the present day Catechism, and I have been constantly surprised at the literary strength of this sixteenth century document. The Roman Catechism was written in the heat of a polemical time, its purpose being to guide parish priests in catechetics at a time when multiple Protestant critiques of Catholicism were made frequently and aggressively. Para. 25 borrows from the best of its predecessor as today’s Catechism takes its first step into the actual doctrinal exposition of the Church.
Para. 25’s citation is a thoughtful and really quite inspiring text on the context of doctrine, which is love. The Catechism will teach much about the relationship between man and God and man with other men, but in both cases that relationship is always defined as love. This is a recasting of Jesus’ words, to love God with all your might and your neighbor as yourself. The Roman citation understand the Church’s role as presenting an agenda of belief, hope, and action in such a way as to be perfectly transparent in its sole agenda, love.
The word “doctrine” often gets a bad rap. Today’s dictionaries describe the term as a common set of beliefs held by a group. One dictionary cited as examples “Catholic Doctrines” and “The Monroe Doctrine,” a juxtapositioning that seemed to shed less light than intended. If you follow the lists of secondary meanings, you eventually get down to something like “a subject taught” which is the basic meaning of its Latin root docere. But there is no getting around it that “doctrine” has a troubling or unfavorable ring to it.
I suspect this has something to do with the “modern age” and particularly the Enlightenment. Clearly the modern era, dating from Rene Descartes as many historians do, had no reticence about writing, speaking, and teaching. In pedagogical style, however, what made Descartes and later thinkers different from those who had gone before was the basis of their information. Descartes was a mathematician as well as a philosopher, and he laid the groundwork for future thinking by his timeless maxim (or doctrine, if you will) that “I think, therefore I am.” Truth, then, originates from the thoughtful man based upon solid observation and the compilation of data, the discipline of which was exploding in 1600 and beyond. (Descartes’ lifespan overlapped with Galileo’s, for example.)
The heritage of Cartesian thought had significant influence upon the ways religion was viewed. I happened to come across an interesting quote from Charles Babbage (1791-1871), the scientist credited with creating the mechanical principle of the first computer: “the true value of the Christian religion rested, not on speculative theology, but on "those doctrines of kindness and benevolence which that religion claims and enforces, not merely in favour of man himself but of every creature susceptible of pain or of happiness." Babbage reduces Christianity to ethics; humans observe that decency in their interactions with themselves or nature lead to optimum outcomes. Ethics was and remains a legitimate science.
But the modern era has not been kind to matters of faith. Catholicism has always defined the object of faith as “things unseen,” dating back to St. Paul. Science and modern philosophy do not “hate” Christianity. Babbage speaks for countless millions even today who see organized Christianity as a highly valuable component of quality of life. But as to matters such as Creation or the infinite love of Christ for sinners, the post-Cartesian world has no point of contact precisely because there is no way to talk about data that is unseen. In fairness, there are a good number of modern age thinkers who recognize religious experience as a phenomenon beyond scientific validation. One of the classic writings on the connection between the two spheres is William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience (1902).
But on the whole the term “doctrine” has become suspect because there is nothing visible or measurable to uphold it in the eyes of an outsider. What further damages the term is misuse of doctrine by those who hold religious tenets. Much of the world has been outraged by the public beheadings and other atrocities carried out by extremists in the name of doctrines. Sadly, there were many an intellectual who thought the same about excessive disciplinary defenses of Catholic belief over the last millennium, the Inquisition being but one example.
Para. 25 does its best to present to the world the true intent of doctrine, and it is intriguing to see even in the 1500’s a recognition of official Church teaching in the context of hope (a reference to trust in Church proclamation) and action (St. James’ famous condemnation of faith without good works.) Today’s Catechism, in its preamble, pledges to present the Faith in a way that love, the essence of God, will always be evident. It is on this, as much as anything, that the mission of the Catechism will be judged successful.
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Are there any of you out there who remember when the first computer stores in your local malls were called “Babbage’s?”
Catechism Analysis: Paragraph 24Read Now
24 By design, this Catechism does not set out to provide the adaptation of doctrinal presentations and catechetical methods required by the differences of culture, age, spiritual maturity, and social and ecclesial condition among all those to whom it is addressed. Such indispensable adaptations are the responsibility of particular catechisms and, even more, of those who instruct the faithful:
Whoever teaches must become “all things to all men” (1 Cor 9:22), to win everyone to Christ.... Above all, teachers must not imagine that a single kind of soul has been entrusted to them, and that consequently it is lawful to teach and form equally all the faithful in true piety with one and the same method! Let them realize that some are in Christ as newborn babes, others as adolescents, and still others as adults in full command of their powers.... Those who are called to the ministry of preaching must suit their words to the maturity and understanding of their hearers, as they hand on the teaching of the mysteries of faith and the rules of moral conduct.18
This is an intriguing juxta positioning of two different instructions separated by about five centuries. The first paragraph is a new composition for the modern day catechism, and it does give evidence of historical reflection on the Church’s more recent experiences with catechetics, notably in mission territories and in probably even what we would call modern states. Para. 24a acknowledges the varieties of influences that come into play in the presentation of the Church’s Tradition. Those cited here include culture, age, spiritual maturity, and social and ecclesial conditions of the learners.
I have to think that the hand of Vatican II is evident here. In the first instance, there is a rather intriguing mention of “ecclesial conditions.” Unfortunately para. 24a has no footnote; it would be interesting to see if “ecclesial conditions” has a direct antecedent to one or more particular Council documents in the minds of the editors. I am assuming that this wording can trace a pedigree to the Council’s thinking on the very word “ecclesial.” If you recall the debate on Religious Liberty in 1964, a vocal opposition led an energetic effort against the use of the word “church” in any context except the Roman Catholic Church. The post-Council Church has recognized a brotherhood of faith, baptism, and grace in all churches who worship a Trinitarian God, and a respect of religious expression for all those who worship in goodwill.
I have my own history of catechetics in sensitive ecclesial settings. In 1970 and 1971 I was assigned to the Franciscan parish in Anderson, South Carolina, a city with two white parishes and our own African-American community. My assignment was coordination of bible study weeks for our kids. Our friary was in the heart of the black community, and the kids always knocked at the back door looking for the young friars to join them in school yard basketball. At other times they would bring their non-Catholic friends around just to look in our windows. This was never really a problem except when the neighboring friars would join us in the late afternoon for “pastoral meetings” and supper. At my first “pastoral meeting” one of the old veterans reminded me to keep the bottles of “holy water” out of sight of the kids. Of course in Baptist country we could never put the bottles out in the trash…and there were always a few. My job was to drive them surreptitiously to a dump over the Georgia line.
It was an intriguing setting because despite our Catholic identity, the culture was evangelical Baptist for black and white. Even in the benign setting of Bible school, we had at least a dim understanding that black Catholic youngsters lived and went to school with their peers from other churches. Just a cursory reading of the Civil Rights Movement in the South gives a good picture of the power of the Black Baptist Churches; I think we instinctively tried to conduct a teaching ministry that would not isolate Catholic children from the support of their larger ecclesial/cultural setting. My pastor/supervisor there in those years treaded a very fine line between proselytizing and cooperating; the fruits of this strategy bore fruit when the KKK became locally active in my second summer due to the integration of the schools in Anderson, and the white Franciscan pastor joined the coalition of black ministers working with the FBI. In the midst of this tension, there was an explosion in the middle of the night in our friary. We had our neighbor friars staying overnight, and we rushed to the bedroom where the catastrophe had taken place. My pastor stopped at the door, and yelled, “Marty, are you alive?” To which a muffled voice replied, “I think I need to think about this for a minute.” We went in, and discovered that the screws to his cot had never been bolted; when Marty hit the mattress the bed folded up and tipped over with him flailing away inside. It was James Thurber’s The Night The Bed Fell in spades and certainly scared off any Klansmen on the property.
Whether our Anderson adventures were precisely what the editors of the Catechism had in mind is hard to say, though the final line of para. 24a seems to bless the efforts of those on the front lines who are urged to make the “indispensable adaptations” to the catechetical ministry.
Para. 24b is a direct quote from the Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent, published in 1566. This earlier catechism has significant influence upon today’s text, starting with the outline and organization. The 1556 text was written specifically for parish priests, who were the main catechists of the time. What struck me here is an enlightened view of what we would refer to as “human development.” Para. 24b contains rather strong language against those whose catechetical style assumes “one size fits all.” Moreover, the tenor of 24b is highly personal in its nature: the text calls for the priest or catechist to assess the spiritual and intellectual development of each student in the manner of instruction. Thus, the references to newborn babes, adolescents, and adults capable of full decision making.
This wisdom of five centuries ago has much to commend itself today. For a variety of reasons (which would make an intriguing doctoral dissertation) religious education and formation has regressed from Trent’s day to the Henry Ford assembly line model of standardized texts and (worse) sacramental initiation timetables that owe their underlying concept to publishing houses and the convenience of parish management. The personalism of paragraph 24 in its entirety should raise philosophical questions about catechetics. Indeed, this text calls out for greater reading and discussion. I only regret that the editors had not been more specific in bridging para. 24 to the broader corpus of Church theology and practice.
Catechism Analysis: Paragraph 23Read Now
23 The Catechism emphasizes the exposition of doctrine. It seeks to help deepen understanding of faith. In this way it is oriented toward the maturing of that faith, its putting down roots in personal life and its shining forth in personal conduct.17
I did not post yesterday (Wednesday) as Margaret and I switched date day to Wednesday and we set out on what would become a 9-mile walk through lingering summer heat along the newly restored Lake Apopka and its recently updated hikers trail. The restoration has created a magnificent bird sanctuary; as we were the only hikers out, the hawks were not happy to see us and let us know about it verbally. I believe we saw about a dozen wild gators; I used my phone camera and set up to shoot seven at one sighting, but of course six dove underwater by the time I got the seventh. At any rate we got home in the afternoon and I had only enough strength to drive up to McDonald’s for our date day ice cream cone.
I’m still a little stiff and sore this morning, so I hoped that today’s entry from the Catechism would require a minimum of agonizing analysis. Paragraph 23, as it turns out, is a very pivotal instruction for anyone undertaking the study of Catholic belief, for it raises the issue of “doctrine.” I seem to remember that back in the 1950’s I learned something about “collective nouns,” words in the singular that contain multiple objects. Doctrine is one such word, and I might add that it is a frequently misunderstood word at that. In the current Synod of Bishops there are evidently a number of bishops laboring mightily to defend what they understand to be a frontal assault on doctrines involving the nature of marriage, so the meaning(s) of the term remain a central discussion point in catechetical ministry and the Church in general.
The Catechism is identified in para. 23 as the exposition of Church doctrine. In the 1980’s there probably was a need for some kind of official educational consolidation of the essentials of the Catholic Tradition of belief. I never saw a catechism in a classroom that expressly expounded heresy, but as I have written in earlier posts, there was a heavy emphasis upon “experience” over content that was admittedly disturbing, as it contributed in many cases to an egocentric approach to Scripture and Church Tradition that ultimately was doomed to fail. As a pastor it was always distressing to see people foam at the mouths at any suggestion that the Adam and Eve narrative is a profoundly philosophical/religious metaphor on evil in the human situation and not a narrative of wild serpents and juicy apples.
The Catechism is an attempt to bring order out of chaos, and while its genesis may have been inspired by catechetical difficulties, the text here sets out a broader agenda as an exposition or compendium of Catholic doctrine. I think that para. 23 would have been improved and made more accurate with the following riders: (1) “doctrine” as understood in this time and juncture in the unfolding of the Mystery of Salvation, and (2) “doctrine” as held by the sensus fidelium or universal belief of the Church.
Pope John Paul II, during his pontificate, held a fond wish that the Roman and Eastern Orthodox Churches would be united. It struck me that the Orthodox Church places great emphasis upon the first seven ecumenical councils, or Christological Councils (Nicaea 325 AD through Second Nicaea 787 AD) as embodying all of the essential doctrines necessary for salvation whereas the Roman West has continued with councils of doctrinal determination on through 1870 when Vatican I formally defined the doctrine of papal infallibility. (Vatican II made no new infallible or doctrinal statements, being pastoral and directive in its nature.) I have often wondered if Pope John Paul’s pastoral affection and hope for unity with the East played a role in his doctrinal emphases; the Catechism has a pronounced devotion to the early Church fathers as primary sources, which seems to share the Eastern belief that the doctrinal formulations of the early centuries stand as unchanging, immutable pillars of identity and represent unchanging formulations for all time.
Well, what were agreed upon in those early councils were the best formulations of the mysteries of salvation that the majority of bishops, successors to the Apostles, could agree to in common assembly. The Christological doctrines (that is, those related to the nature, identity, and effects of Jesus Christ) were the final stages of a lengthy discernment process that actually began with the Hebrew Scriptures; continued through the life and works of the historical Jesus; a divinely inspired multiple faceted series of interpretations put to paper by the evangelists; enhanced, elaborated and defended by three centuries of great Church minds; and critically important—expressive of the praying Church. Lex orandi, lex credendi: the law of prayer is the law of belief. It was devout Eastern Catholics who looked to Mary in prayer as the theotokos, the “God-giver,” or in our parlance, “Mother of God.” No logical theologian would have proposed from scratch a doctrine implying that Mary was the mother of the Trinity. In fact, the influential theologian who did point out the illogic of this term as an affront to God was Nestorius, and the Council of Ephesus in the 430’s condemned him and his followers. Ephesus is a splendid example of early Church’s appreciation of metaphor and its recognition that doctrinal statements did not develop with the precision of Euclidian geometry.
The very act of creation, as I told my class on Saturday, is illogical and gratuitous. A being totally fulfilled within himself has no need to create an appendage that will bring him a lot of grief when the spreadsheet is tallied. Any definition of “doctrine” must be prefaced its limitations: it is a metaphor for mysteries we cannot logically understand, it is a process of continued and developing understanding of its sources, and it is a sublimely personal experience in that nether land of faith and doubt through which every thoughtful adult passes. To have claimed to have “captured God’s mind” in propositions can be the ultimate blasphemy. Hopefully no catechism falls prey to that.
20 The use of small print in certain passages indicates observations of an historical or apologetic nature, or supplementary doctrinal explanations.
(PUBLISHER’S NOTE: This applies to print edition only.)
21 The quotations, also in small print, from patristic, liturgical, magisterial or hagiographical sources, are intended to enrich the doctrinal presentations. These texts have often been chosen with a view to direct catechetical use.
22 At the end of each thematic unit, a series of brief texts sum up the essentials of that unit’s teaching in condensed formulae. These IN BRIEF summaries may suggest to local catechists brief summary formulae that could be memorized.
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Paragraphs 20-22 are something of a “user’s guide” for the Catechism that do provide more clues on the composition and philosophy of the authors and editors of the work. Paragraph 20 points to use of smaller print support texts for the major points. Specifically mentioned are “observations of an historical or apologetic nature, or supplementary doctrinal explanation.” Here is a good example of what this looks like in the actual text, using Paragraph 1157 on music in the sacred liturgy:
1157 Song and music fulfill their function as signs in a manner all the more significant when they are “more closely connected... with the liturgical action,”22 according to three principal criteria: beauty expressive of prayer, the unanimous participation of the assembly at the designated moments, and the solemn character of the celebration. In this way they participate in the purpose of the liturgical words and actions: the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful.
"How I wept, deeply moved by your hymns, songs, and the voices that echoed through your Church! What emotion I experienced in them! Those sounds flowed into my ears, distilling the truth in my heart. A feeling of devotion surged within me, and tears streamed down my face—tears that did me good." (St. Augustine)
The smaller indented type comes from St. Augustine, whose love of music and his understanding of its place in worship have been well known since his years as Bishop of Hippo in North Africa in the fifth century. It is Augustine who is credited with the saying, “To sing is to pray twice.” The quote from Augustine adds both testimony and poetry to the basic teaching statement of para. 1157. The term “apologetic” in 1157 refers to the art of defense of the Church against heretics and enemies, a literary skill traced back practically to New Testament times. Some commentators believe that John’s Gospel was written in part to address those who denied the humanity or the divinity of Christ. The first of the great post-Apostolic apologists is generally regarded as St. Justin Martyr (d. 150 AD).
The expressed mention of the term “apologetics” does indicate that one of the important intents of the Catechism is to defend the beliefs of the Church against outside attack. There has been a long running argument or debate within the Church ever since the Enlightenment as to whether the attacks on Catholicism (and organized religion in general in many cases) are simply new sheepskins clothing the same old wolves (i.e., heresies) or whether the modern era is asking new critical questions that require new formulations of belief and practice by the Church. One can see this scenario being played out in the present Synod of the Family. Certainly John XXIII—impacted as he was by the scourges of world wars, the Holocaust, and the nuclear cold war—saw his time as pope as a time demanding rethinking and strategizing, which was his purpose in convoking Vatican II in 1959. John Paul II, on the other hand, as well as Benedict XVI, believed in a consolidation of the longstanding formulations of Catholic bedrock beliefs as the best way to evangelize a troubled world, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
Way back in the beginning of this series we talked about the target audience of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The stated goals, it seems to me, were modest enough: to address catechists, teachers, and publishers in establishing priorities and organization in the traditio or handing on of the Faith. But in the two decades that have transpired since the publishing of the CCC, the book has taken on a life of its own as the succeeding generation has come to regard the work as the embodiment of Catholic life and faith—dare I put it another way, the official body of Church Tradition itself? If this is so, then whenever a searching individual wishes to approach the Church to explore its proposals for a life well-lived, he or she will be directed to the Catechism, a time-conditioned statement of belief that many would argue places a greater premium on the past than the Spirit’s work in the present. I have been able to find only one source in the Catechism from a Catholic thinker or theologian post-1600, Cardinal Newman of the nineteenth century. Interestingly, when Pope Francis addressed the Congress of the U.S. he cited at length two American Catholic thinkers of the twentieth century not included in the Catechism, Dorothy and Thomas Merton, an intriguing expansion of the public face of the Catholic Church.
Paragraphs 21 and 22 deal with methodology. Each is no doubt inspired by the discussion of catechetics at the 1985 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, though neither paragraph is foot noted. The formal summary of this Synod makes for interesting reading, particularly Section 2B, point four, which recommends the writing of a catechism and the reasons for doing so. The document expresses concern that catechetics and other Church ministries had become too “secularized,” or attempted too much accommodation with the secular world. However, there was another concern among some U.S. bishops in particular that religious education was “vague.” The traditional memorization of my pre-Vatican youth was replaced in the 1960’s by discussions and experiences of “community,” “love,” “reconciliation,” “celebration,” etc., terms that quite frankly were so broad as to be meaningless in terms of understanding the content of Church Tradition. My mother summed it up best: she and my father were paying big bucks in the 1970’s to put my brother through a religious order’s local high school. One day she said to me, “Your brother couldn’t name the members of the Holy Trinity if you spotted him the Father and the Son.” She had a point I was hearing from a lot of quarters as a young priest.
When the first drafts of the Catechism became general knowledge, there was a lot of push back from the religious education lobby, which was stronger then than it is today. Many of my friends in the field of religious education feared a return to the days of rote memorization (though I never recalled my catechism studies as anything but intriguing.) However, the editors of the 1993 Catechism were sensitive enough to recommend the concept of memorization in para. 22 as an aid to retention of critical aspects of the Faith without demanding it in a bald faced manner. Whether or not this recommendation has had significant impact in Catholic catechetics is hard to say, even harder to measure. All I can say is that in two decades no one has come up to me and quoted Augustine’s maxim that “singing is praying twice.”
19 The texts of Sacred Scripture are often not quoted word for word but are merely indicated by a reference (cf.). For a deeper understanding of such passages, the reader should refer to the Scriptural texts themselves. Such Biblical references are a valuable working-tool in catechesis.
Paragraph 19 describes the use of the Sacred Scripture in the text and presentation the work. A cursory review of the Catechism indicates that the Scriptures are cited frequently. The introduction to the work, signed by Pope John Paul II at the time of release, indicates that exegetes (Scripture scholars) served on the writing panel. There are a few points here worthy of closer attention regarding the use of the Bible in and with the Catechism.
Para. 19 states immediately that Scripture texts are often not quoted word for word, but indicated by Biblical citation. Thus the reader will find such references listed as Matthew 10:32 or Romans 10:9, to use just two examples, in the text or footnotes, but the context and contents of the citation must be obtained by recourse to another text, in this case the Bible. The use of Scripture in official literature or even simple blogs creates substantial logistical problems; the bigger the text, the bigger the problem. The first obvious solution would be to just include the text, and many first time readers or users of the Catechism may wonder why this wasn't done in the first place. Unfortunately, this is a little more complicated than it looks. The first issue is simply size: my hard-cover edition runs to 803 pages without the full Biblical citations. I am not privy to the problems of book publishers as a rule, but there is a certain critical mass where a printed product morphs from a standard book to an extended research volume, like my Jerome Biblical Commentary which weighs, according to Amazon, 3.4 pounds. In fairness, there are other citations included in their entirety such as full paragraphs from Cardinal Newman, for example. The editors must have reasoned that the average Catholic is more likely to have a bible on his book shelf than Newman's An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent. I thought so.
Then there is a legal problem, namely the copyright involved in using a particular translation. This is a bigger issue than simply the Catechism; all theology/religious education texts have to deal with legalities. The costs of researching and translating a Bible accurately are astronomical: if you told me a quarter-billion for a very accurate rendering, I would not fall over in shock. The New American Bible 1970, familiar to most Catholics, took 27 years to produce. I was living with both the general editor and one of the canonical translators in 1970 when the NAB was unveiled; one of them appeared on the Today Show. The translator/interpreter of one of the Wisdom Books had devoted years to his project. He told me, only partly in jest, that if someone produced a better translation, he would curse the man's family to the 500th generation. Biblical scholars have those great apocalyptic gifts!
So you get the picture that the owners of biblical translations do not look kindly toward pirating. In case you were wondering, the Bible texts spelled out in the English version of the Catechism come from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (1989), which is approved for pastoral and study use by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The irony here is that the USCCB actually owns the rights to the New American Bible, but for whatever reason the NAB was not selected, possibly because it was a predominantly "American" project. And, given the size of the English-speaking world and the market for the English language Catechism, the negotiation of rights was no trivial matter. I might mention here that on my blog site and in my courses I do recommend a number of bible commentaries, but one of my considerations is in fact whether the actual text is included or not. Father Francis Moloney's treatment of Mark's Gospel, which I cite on many a Tuesdays, does not in fact contain the actual text of Mark; it is necessary to use a Bible alongside. However, the excellence of the commentary outweighs, in my mind, the inconvenience. In truth the omission of the Biblical text cuts production costs considerably. Other Biblical commentators actually undertake their own translations for their books from the major manuscripts presently available in museums and collections, but this too is expensive and time consuming.
Another question involving the Catechism's use of Scripture is an issue I have briefly touched on before, that is, the practice of cherry-picking, or as scholars say today, "proof-texting." For centuries the Catholic method of "doing theology" was propositional: a premise was put forward, arguments raised, and then the premise was defended by statements in its defense. This method of Catholic theology dates back to early medieval times in the West, but it is actually a heritage from Socrates and Aristotle long before Christ. For this reason logic and rhetoric were main staples in a medieval university's curriculum. The "premises" were doctrinal and judicial statements held by the Church, fortified over time by the expansion of defenses. Scripture study as a discipline was put at the service of the Church Body. The study of Scripture as a fully independent discipline, with attention to literary forms, linguistics, intent of authors, understanding of inspiration, archaeology, liturgical use, writings of the Fathers, secular historical sources and the like, in the scale we have today, is a post-Enlightenment development that did not penetrate Catholicism till the twentieth century, with Pius XII's blessing in 1943.
The renewal of Scripture study is no doubt one of the driving forces of Vatican II and certainly permeates its documents. My concern about the Catechism is its appearance of deploying the older scholastic approach to Scripture as "proof-texting." Taken as a whole, the text does not appear "Biblically driven" in its organization and priorities. In the ever present tension of Scripture and Tradition in the life of the Church, I have the impression that the Catechism as a whole is Tradition-driven at the expense of Scripture. In Roman Catholic self-understanding, Scripture and Tradition are both necessities; it was, after all, the “tradition” of usage that led the Church to determine the precise corpus of New Testament books in the first centuries of Christianity. As we look at the developments in Vatican II in other posts, it will become evident that the Council Fathers wrestled with a terminology to describe the relationship of the Church body over time with the reality of revealed Scriptures.
My educational concern is that the layout of the Catechism does not do full justice to Scripture’s importance. One need not go to the extremes of Luther to understand that it is Scripture which stokes the engine, not propositions, important as they may be. This is the cost of the Catechism’s dependence on its Roman predecessor of the sixteenth century, and it is unfortunate.