Why the Church needed the catechism after Vatican II


Catholic Herald, 28 October 2017

The approach of the Council could not be persuasive if it was not also complemented by definitive teaching

Many of the observances of the 25th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church noted that it was the most important magisterial act of the Church since the Second Vatican Council. That’s true, and it remains the towering achievement of the historic 35-year pontificate in two acts of Pope St John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Yet the Catechism was important not only for what it taught, but how it taught. It was the needed complement, or completion, of the magisterial gambit of Vatican II.

When Pope John XXIII summoned the Council, he proposed an innovation – a “pastoral council” that would not resolve any specific doctrinal points, but rather propose afresh the same deposit of the faith. He insisted that the doctrine of the faith would not change, but that it should presented in methods more adapted to new circumstances. Anathema sit was out; the “medicine of mercy” was in.

Looking back at distance of more than a half-century, the afflatus that moved St John XXIII is easy to see. A radically individualistic age, prizing a freedom of autonomy above all else, was not likely to be effectively evangelised by declarations given by authority. So John XXIII indicated a different path, a Council that would propose, not condemn, invite not exclude.

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