“A Catechism of Christian Doctrine, Prepared and Enjoined by Order of the Third Council of Baltimore, or simply the Baltimore Catechism, is the official national catechism for children in the United States of America. The first such catechism written for Catholics in North America, it was the standard Catholic school text in the country from 1885 to the late 1960s.”
“In response to a personal copyright taken out by Bishop John Lancaster Spalding, various editions include annotations or other modifications. While the approved text had to remain the same in the catechisms, by adding maps, glossaries or definitions publishers could copyright and sell their own version of the catechism. The Baltimore Catechism remained in use in nearly all Catholic schools until many moved away from catechism-based education, though it is still used in some.” [Essentially Verbatim: Wikipedia, Baltimore Catechism, as of 23 December 2016]
The Baltimore Catechism remained in use in nearly all Catholic schools until the 1960’s (post Second Vatican Council) when many schools and diocese quietly started moving away from catechism-based education – as evidenced by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s (USCCB’s) most recent Conformity Listing of Catechetical Texts and Series.
The USCCB’s January 9, 2017, Conformity Listing of Catechetical Texts and Series is essentially an online five page digital list of “texts and series [that] have been found to be in conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church by the Subcommittee on the Catechism, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.”
The USCCB’s 2017 Conformity Listing of Catechetical Texts and Series essentially offers the modernist catechist with a cafeteria style menu of texts to choose from.
The USCCB’s 2017 Conformity Listing of Catechetical Texts and Series is arranged by target audience: Pre-School Series, Elementary Series (School and Parish), High School Texts, High School Doctrinal Framework Texts, High School Series, Sacramental Preparation Materials, Materials in Other Languages, Supplemental Materials, and Materials for RCIA.
It should be pointed out that the USCCB’s five page Conformity Listing of Catechetical Texts and Series, with one exception (A Catholic Catechism in English and Polish), does not list or otherwise include a complete or actual Catholic catechism (e.g., Catechism of the Catholic Church, Baltimore Catechism, etc.).
This requires disambiguation because the USCCB’s Conformity Listing of Catechetical Texts and Series includes:
1. The Apostolate’s Family Catechism
2. Understanding the Catechism: Creed
3. Understanding the Catechism: Liturgy and Sacraments
4. Understanding the Catechism: Morality
5. Understanding the Catechism: Prayer
6. Little Catechism on the Eucharist
The book titles are misleading. The book titles infer they are a Catholic catechism – when in fact they are a textbook.
It should also be pointed out that the USCCB’s five page Conformity Listing of Catechetical Texts and Series does not list or otherwise include any concise Catechism’s that focus on relevant issues. For example:
1. A Catechism of Modernism by The Reverend J. B. Lemius, O.M.I.,
2. Catechism on The Real Presence by Father John A. Hardon, S.J.,
3. Catechism on the Splendor of Truth by Father John A. Hardon, S.J.
4. Catechism on the Gospel of Life by Father John A. Hardon, S.J.
5. Catechism on Humana Vitae by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan
6. Catechism on Homosexuality, Includes texts of Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics and On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, by Father John A. Hardon, S.J.
7. Catechism on the Lay Apostolate by Father John A. Hardon, S.J.
8. Catholic Catechism on Consecrated Life by Father John A. Hardon, S.J.
9. Catholic Catechism on the Angels by Father John A. Hardon, S.J.
10. Catechism on Redemptoris Custos, On the Person and Mission of Saint Joseph in the Life of Christ and of the Church, by Father Charles M. Mangan
11. Catechism on the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus Concerning the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan
12. The Catechism on Chapter Eight of Lumen Gentium by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan
Individually, these last twelve catechisms include the imprimatur of either Bishop Emeritus René H. Gracida (Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas), Cardinal Raymond L. Burke (Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin), Bishop Emeritus Thomas G. Doran (Diocese of Rockford, Illinois), Bishop Paul J. Swain (Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota), Bishop Robert F. Vasa (Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Baker, Oregon), Archbishop Robert J. Carlson (Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota), or Bishop Emeritus Fabian W. Bruskewitz (Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska). By virtue of their imprimatur, it cannot be argued that any of these catechisms do not conform to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This begs the question of why they are not on the “Conformity Listing of Catechetical Texts and Series.”
This also begs the question of when, if ever, students learn there is an actual Baltimore Catechism or Catechism of the Catholic Church – in print or online. This also begs the question of whether the USCCB needs approval of their Conformity Listing of Catechetical Texts and Series pursuant to Apostolos Suos. Finally, it begs the question of whether the USCCB’s “conformity” is consistent with the rigors of Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur.
For the moment the issue is not whether the USCCB’s listed Catechetical Texts and Series are faithful to the magisterium. For the moment the issue is whether the listed Catechetical Texts and Series adequately replace traditional catechesis. The issue becomes mixing and matching the right texts and series to cover the range of doctrine in traditional catechisms – and the qualifications of the people at the local level that do the mixing and matching.
Arguably, the move away from catechism-based education has resulted in marginally catechized modernist cafeteria Catholics – who arguably may not have been taught the full spectrum of Catholic doctrine found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Arguably, the move away from catechism-based education has also resulted in marginally catechized modernist Catholics teaching catechism in our grammar, middle, and high schools; and in our colleges, and universities; and in our Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) and Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) programs.
Arguably, it is these marginally catechized Catholics that have given rise to modernist cafeteria Catholics that believe abortion is a woman’s choice, that homosexuals have the right to marry, that divorced and remarried Catholics may receive communion, etc.
We need to address the issue of marginally catechized Catholics. The question is how. It will be a daunting challenge to reintroduce traditional catechesis given the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s support for the movement away from catechism-based education.
It can even be argued that the movement away from catechism-based education is one of several reasons that the flame of righteousness that once roared from our pulpits has been reduced to a flicker….
An interim solution is for all Catholics to read Baltimore Catechism Four from cover to cover. Why? Baltimore Catechism Four is also known as An Explanation of the Baltimore Catechism. It was written as a reference work and teachers manual for the original Baltimore Catechism. Its purpose is to provide easy reference, questions bear the same numbers as Baltimore Catechisms One and Two. Its purpose is to explain the questions in greater detail.
Baltimore Catechism One is a simple edition intended for first through fourth graders. Baltimore Catechism Two is recommended for those in grades six through nine – or for Confirmation classes. [Essentially Verbatim: Baltimore Catechism Four, outside back cover]
Baltimore Catechisms One and Two comprise the essential teachings of our traditional Roman Catholic faith.
Reading Baltimore Catechism Four from cover to cover will reinforce the faith of traditionally catechized Roman Catholics. More importantly, Baltimore Catechism Four will provide marginally catechized Roman Catholics with an essential foundation for further catechesis.
The long term solution – Continuing Catholic Education – boils down to traditional catechesis and the catechisms of choice. More about that later…