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Voices Online Edition
Winter 1997-Spring 1998
Volume XIII, No. 1-2

Implementing the Catechism of the Catholic Church
Vatican issues General Cathechetical Directory, changes in English translation

On August 11, 1997 Pope John Paul II approved a new General Catechetical Directory, developed by the Congregation for Clergy.

The new Directory is a revision of the 1971 version issued by the Congregation for Clergy in accord with a mandate of the Second Vatican Council, and approved by Pope Paul VI.

The Directory is being revised in light of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and intended to aid in the composition of local and national catechisms based on the universal catechism. It was published in English as General Directory for Catechesis in January 1998.


Problems addressed in revision
At a September 1997 press conference at the Vatican, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, called the document "the operator's manual on how to bring the Catechism to the people". The cardinal also gave an overview of the Directory at the International Catechetical Congress in October 1997. He reviewed the reasons for the revision, pointing out positive developments in catechetics in the last 30 years, but also said that:

He cites Number 30 of the new Directory, which details several problems which need to be addressed. These include a too exclusive reliance on Revelation, without a sufficient integration of the Church's reflection on this in Tradition and the Magisterium. The Directory also notes that there has been an emphasis on the humanity of Jesus with insufficient reference to His divinity, too little connection with the liturgy, and lack of "requisite theological discernment" with regard to the pedagogical dimension.

In addition:

Organization of the Directory
The Directory is divided into five parts, which are subdivided into chapters. Part 1 seeks to clarify the nature of catechesis and to place it in the context of evangelization. Part 2 consists of two chapters: the first gives norms for presenting the Gospel message in catechesis; the second presents the CCC as a reference for the preparation of local catechisms. This chapter explains the distinct, but complementary roles of the Catechism and the Directory. It notes that the Catechism is a document of the Magisterium that "summarizes normatively the totality of the Catholic faith", while the Directory "carries that authority normally vested by the Holy See in instruments of orientation by approving them and confirming them. It is an official aid for ... catechetical activity." [120]

Pedagogical principles
Part 3 sets out the principles of pedagogy, considered primarily from a theological point of view, but also considering the human sciences such as psychology. A section on methodology includes consideration on the content-method relationship, deductive vs. inductive method, the role of human experience, and the role of the catechist. It also includes a section on memorization. While realizing this can become too mechanical if not properly integrated with other types of learning, the Directory insists that memory has been "a constitutive aspect of the pedagogy of the faith since the beginning of Christianity." It particularly recommends that the formulae of the faith be memorized.

Part 4, called "Those to be Catechized", discusses the adaptations needed for various age groups from infancy to old age, special situations such as the handicapped and various religious and cultural contexts.

Part 5, called "Catechesis in the Particular Church", deals with the particular roles of bishops, priests, religious and laity in the work of catechesis. It includes a section on the formation of catechists, consideration of the part played by the family, the parish and the school, and the organization of catechetical programs. There is also a detailed Thematic Index.

Available from USCC
The General Directory for Catechesis can be ordered from the United States Catholic Conference Publishing Services at 800-235-8722. It is Publication No. 5-225, and the price is $19.95 plus shipping and handling. Click here for more information.

Changes in Catechism translation
Last fall a Latin edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church was issued in Rome. The original Catechism was written in French, and translated from French into other languages including English. It was always intended, however, that the definitive version be in Latin.

When this edition, called an editio typica ("typical edition" to which all translations must conform), was completed last fall it differed in some respects from the original French version.

Some modifications of the other translations were therefore necessary, and lists of the changes to be made in the various language editions were issued by the Vatican.

The English version of these changes is now available as a 24-page booklet called Catechism of the Catholic Church: Modifications from the Editio Typica. The booklet, USCC Publication No. 5-166, can be ordered e from the USCC or it may be available at your local Catholic book store. There is also a Spanish edition; USCC Publication No. 5-167. For more information click here.

USCCB telephone number: 1-800-235-8722

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