The Role of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a teaching tool by which other teaching methods can be derived. It is a concise explanation of Catholic beliefs compiled from many documents written by bishops over the centuries. The Catechism is not considered a sacred text like the Bible.

The foundations of the Catechism are the Scriptures and the lived Tradition of the Church. Catholic doctrine is written in many documents that have spanned the 2000 years of the Church. The Catechism itself references many papal encyclicals, church council documents, and the Scriptures as reference points for teachings. The catechism helps to consolidate all of this teaching into a handy reference.

A Brief History of Catechisms

The word catechism has it roots in the Greek word katechizo meaning to teach by word of mouth. Prior to the invention of the printing press the primary method of communication was oral. An early church catechist would speak a teaching of the Church and instruct the listener to repeat it until it was learned by heart.

The first Catholic catechism was written after the Council of Trent which took place in 1546 and was published in 1566 and called the Roman Catechism. A new catechism was not created until 1994 called The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Other bishops in various parts of the world may have produced a catechism, such as the Baltimore Catechism of 1885, but there was not a universal catechism produced between the years 1566 and 1994.

The Purpose of the Catechism

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is intended primarily to the bishops of the world and the people who assist them in teaching the Catholic religion. Its purpose is our spiritual renewal through a clear, systematic, and comprehensive presentation of the essentials of the Christian faith.

The Catechism was designed to be both a book from which individuals can learn about Catholicism and also a source book from which teaching materials could be created. It was created with the idea that local bishops would adapt it for their particular culture (i.e. local catechisms) and also that textbooks and other resources for teaching could build upon it.

Is there only one Catechism?

There is only one main Catechism of the Catholic Church, but it has been adapted in many different ways. There are adaptations which seek to simplify the Catechism to make it easier to read by different audiences such as youth and even adults. YOUCAT is an effort to bring the depth of the Catechism to a teenage audience. The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults is a more condensed and reader friendly version of the Catechism for adults.

Do Catholics believe the Catechism is like the Bible?

Some people mistakenly elevate the Catechism to a sacred status, one on par with the Bible as though the Catholic Church has multiple sacred and inspired books like the Mormons claim. Unlike the Book of Mormon for the Church of Latter Day Saints, Catholics do not believe that the Catechism is sacred writing nor that it is another testament of Jesus Christ. The Catechism is not a holy book. It is useful for unpacking the Bible and understanding the truths of the Bible and the life of Jesus Christ and God’s will for our lives.

The Vatican website makes the Catechism of the Catholic Church available to read for free. You can also download the Catechism for your Kindle.


  1. cheryl brewer says

    I fell in love with a Catholic man and I am go to the united Methodist Church in Hudson and we want to get married July 16 2016 what do I need to do. I was wondering do I need to turn Catholic and if so I want to.

    • Mr. Lopez says

      Dear Miss Brewer,

      It is most excellent that you believe in God and his Son Jesus Christ. Profession of faith is the first steps in the faith: to believe in the Son and the one whom sent Him. However, believing alone is not enough (for even the demons believe… does believing alone save them?). Therefore there is more to learn, to make your faith more perfect and whole, and I would encourage you to investigate.

      The main point I wish to set upon for consideration in your marriage to a Catholic Christian is that “a house divided cannot stand”. By its very nature, marriage brings about Children, The unhappy result about a mixed marriage as is being proposed is that the Children arrive at abandoning faith altogether or arrive at being very confused by the disharmony of the parent’s faith and their disunion in it. I have personally witnessed this happening too many times.

      Indeed, love is a very lovely thing, yet difficult at the same time. Because marriage is to bring together two as one union; which becomes very complicated when two do not agree on very fundamental values; that include a common religious outlook.

      It is for good reason then that when choosing a spouse, that one make a careful and considered decision, and to be sure that they share the same faith. For it is written that we are to “Bear not the yoke with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14), and God forbids mixed-faith unions because unbelievers will turn the believer away from God (Deuteronomy 7:3-4).

      In this regard, either your proposed husband will lose his Catholic Christianity, or you will lose your non-catholic position, or worse, you will both lose faith altogether (not being able to agree on anything). So it is therefore urged to settle the matter of faith on a solid basis before entering into this union of marriage. This really is no small matter to take lightly.

      Naturally, I do encourage you to learn more about Catholic Christianity, and it’s historical/biblical unbroken lineage from the time of Christ until present day.

      Kindly in Christ,

      Mr. Lopez.

    • Ann says

      Congratulations on your engagement! You should contact the Catholic Church your fiance attends, or the one where you plan to live once married and let them know you’re interested in leaning more about the Catholic Church. You will most likely need to go through the RCIA, Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, which takes about 9 months depending on the church. Then you would be received into the Catholic Church at Easter. Becoming Catholic isn’t a short process but it is very much worth the wait!

    • Frank says

      Firstly congratulations and good luck on your marriage adjusting to it can be tough at times but I am sure you will be fine. You mentioned that you want to become Catholic well that makes it easier plus and not to sound crass but there are other benefits such as I imagine there would be more Catholic Churches to visit the Catholic Schools and Universities are second to none just not as expensive so there are those real conveniences PLUS you just became apart of a huge family gaining over a billion brothers and sisters.
      Welcome to the family… 😉

  2. Ronald says

    This article was very informative, is this believed by all catholics, for it seems like it is not though?
    If we could have some email discussions, that would be great!
    Ronald Van de Bruinhorst

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