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.”