| Home >> Lost Sermons

Can A Catholic Obstinately Claim That
The CCC Contains Serious Doctrinal Errors?

Paul Albert Steck. Orphelia drowning.
Cut off from the Magisterium's oxygen, Faith dies.
(Paul Albert Steck. Orphelia drowning. [Source])

1) Introduction

What is the doctrinal value of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)? Can the CCC contain dogmatic and moral errors? Can these errors be serious (i.e. essential) or not (i.e. accidental)? Can a Catholic obstinately claim that the CCC contains serious doctrinal errors, without being automatically excommunicated? Can a good Catholic criticise the CCC, and if so, how should he do it?

Before starting, I want to repeat once again my standard disclaimer: if ever there should be a disagreement between the Pope and me concerning this article, the Pope is right! Notice also that my theological opinions are put in writing, available to whoever wants them, and that they are permanently offered to any eventual criticism that my Bishop could express about them.

2) Is the CCC a document of the Magisterium?

We've seen elsewhere what was the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and why the Magisterium could infallibly teach all the dogmas and all the moral truths that a Catholic must believe. The first question is therefore: Is the CCC a document of the Magisterium? As explained in the article just referred to:

[What the Magisterium thinks, and what it wills] "becomes clear from the nature of the documents, the insistence with which a teaching is repeated, and the very way in which it is expressed."
[Donum veritatis, #24]

Let's examine these three aspects for the Catechism of the Catholic Church: nature, insistance and the manner.

2.1) Nature of the CCC. As its name says, the CCC is a catechism. The purpose of such a document is not to present a theological opinion during a debate between academics, or to congratulate such and such a Cardinal during the little party thrown for his retirement, or to condemn such a book written by some heretic. The aim of a catechism is:

"presenting an organic synthesis of the essential and fundamental contents of Catholic doctrine, as regards both Faith and morals"
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), #11]

2.2) The insistence in proposing a doctrine by this CCC. Most French-Canadians of a certain age are familiar with the "Little Catechism", but few know that there are two kinds of catechisms: the local catechisms, and the universal catechisms. In the history of the Catholic Church, there have been dozens, if not hundreds, of local catechisms (valid only for one or several dioceses). But there have only been two universal catechisms, valid for the whole Church: the Roman Catechism (or "Catechism of the Council of Trent"), and the CCC. Only two universal catechisms in two thousand years of history of the Church! That is a good clue that the CCC is important!

2.3) The very way in which the CCC expresses these teachings. The Pope speaks very firmly and clearly when he speaks about the doctrinal value of the CCC:

[...] I today order [the publication of the CCC] by virtue of my Apostolic Authority [...]. I declare it to be [...] a sure norm for teaching the Faith. [...] The approval and publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church represents a service which the Successor of Peter wishes to offer to the Holy Catholic Church [...]: the service, that is, of supporting and confirming the Faith of all the Lord Jesus' disciples (cf. Lk 22:32) [...].
[Fidei depositum, 4th part, my empasis]

Personally, when I re-read the preceding paragraph, I find that it's either an ex cathedra declaration, or something very close to it. All the signs appear to be there: the Pope is speaking as the Pope, as the successor of Peter, as he who has been ordered by Jesus to confirm the Faith of the other Apostles, etc.

3) Are the two editions of the CCC the proof that the CCC contains errors?

Some persons attack the CCC, claiming that the fact there have been two editions "proves" that the first edition contained errors. And they add, if the CCC did contain errors between the first and the second edition, why not errors between the second and the third, etc.?

Let's be daring and do something the "anti-CCC" crowd doesn't like to do: let's go read what the Catholic Church tells us about this objection! I'll summarize a few passages of "Laetamur magnopere", an Apostolic Letter dated August 15 1997, by the Blessed John Paul II.

The CCC was promulgated October 11, 1992, in French (yes! the official version of the catechism for the whole Church scattered all over planet Earth was in French only!). Of course, this needed to be translated into Latin, the official language of the Church. This work, as well as the task of collecting the suggestions for improvement, was entrusted to an interdicasterial Commission, chaired by some guy called Josef Ratzinger (hum, that name rings a bell!).

The original French version (the "first edition") was not abrogated by the publication of the Latin version (the "second edition"):

[...] the Catechism was approved and promulgated by me in the aforementioned [Apostolic Constitution, which today retains all its validity and timeliness, and finds its definitive achievement in this Latin typical edition.
[Laetamur magnopere, my emphasis]

The changes are not essential, but accidental. They are clarifications in the formulation:

For these reasons too, the Commission seriously considered the suggestions offered, carefully examined them at various levels and submitted its conclusions for my approval. These conclusions, insofar as they allow for a better expression of the Catechism's contents regarding the deposit of the Catholic faith, or enable certain truths of this faith to be formulated in a way more suited to the requirements of contemporary catechetical instruction, have been approved by me and thus have been incorporated into this Latin typical edition. Therefore it faithfully repeats the doctrinal content which I officially presented to the Church and to the world in December 1992.
[Laetamur magnopere, my emphasis]

(Lists of all the modifications between the French and the Latin versions can be found on the Internet, here, for example.)

4) Conclusion: So, you don't agree?

What should you do if you disagree with Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II concerning the CCC? You can always cry and roll around on the floor!

Seriously, you don't have a choice. If you want to be in the one and only Church of Christ, you must accept the CCC.

That being said, don't panic if you have objections against the CCC. I'm willing to bet that with a bit of honest study, prayer, and maybe some fraternal help, your own objections against the CCC will start to drown, and conversely, your Catholic Faith will start to breath much better!

| Home >> Lost Sermons