The Catechism is a formidable reference for the unity of the ecclesial community in a world that is highly diverse in the diversity of peoples, languages and cultures and in which very rapid changes are taking place.
Newsroom (25/10/2022 9:25 PM, Gaudium Press) — Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, the director of the Holy See Press Office from 2006 to 2016, has written an article for the influential Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica on the 30th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “On 11 October 1992… John Paul II signed the Apostolic Constitution Fidei depositum, with which he presented… the new Catechism of the Catholic Church”. So begins the article with which Jesuit Federico Lombardi in the latest issue of “La Civiltà Cattolica” (issue 4135, 1/15 October), recalls the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of the document. After a historical reconstruction in two passages entitled “a courageous undertaking” and “an unexpected success,” the author dwells on the actuality “at the time of Pope Francis: continuity, novelty, questions” and finally offers “some concluding reflections.” Below are excerpts from the last two paragraphs.
Of course, St John Paul II and Benedict XVI have continually referred to the Catechism of the Catholic Church in their teaching, having played a decisive part in its realization. But Pope Francis continued with their line, well aware of the importance and usefulness of that document. This can already be seen in the words of his encyclical Lumen Fidei, the true link with Benedict’s pontificate, which define the Catechism as “a fundamental instrument for that unitary act with which the Church communicates the entire content of the faith, ‘all that it is, all that it believes’.” Even in the spontaneous declarations that often struck in the early days of his pontificate, Francis referred to the Catechism and the Church’s social doctrine to affirm, in his practical and direct language, that “he was a son of the Church.”
Moreover, those who have followed Pope Francis’ Wednesday catecheses have continually found… quotations or references to the Catechism. For example, in the catecheses on the Eucharist and the sacraments, or on prayer, but also topics of social ethics, such as the universal destination of goods. And the same happens in many other texts and messages, even on sensitive issues, such as treatment and so on.
This does not detract from the fact that the Catechism should not be considered an intangible text, rigidly definitive and unimprovable… The questions that can be asked most often concern Part Three, on Christian life and social morality, given the changing historical situations and the dynamic relationship of faith with reality.
The concrete and specific example of a formulation of the Catechism that has already changed over these 30 years concerns the death penalty... Another subject where new formulations cannot be ruled out is that concerning responsibility towards the environment… Of a different nature and far more complex are various requests for a revision of the Catechism’s text on sexual morality, which has been presented not infrequently in recent times, particularly in the context of the reflections aroused in this area by the events of sexual abuse in society and the Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is an extraordinary text. It has succeeded in expressing, beyond all expectations, in an organic synthesis – balanced and harmonious and pedagogically effective – the Catholic Christian doctrine as it appears at the time of the Second Vatican Council, supported by Scripture, by the Tradition of the Church, expressed by the Councils, the popes, the great ecclesiastical authors, and the saints.
It has been and is a formidable reference for the unity of the ecclesial community in a world that is highly diverse in the diversity of peoples, languages and cultures and in which very rapid changes are taking place.
Over the past thirty years, it has been and continues to be today, a solid and reliable reference for Christian teaching and formation. Even its critics recognize its nature as a reference text.
But the Catechism is not to be considered rigid, fixed, definitive, or intangible. An expression of the history of the Christian faith, it must remain so, and therefore dynamic and alive. Just as from the beginning, it was not meant to be an obstacle, but a point of support for inculturation, so too today, it must remain a point of reference, a base, a precious tool for the Church’s journey through history.
- Raju Hasmukh with files from La Civiltà Cattolica