Monday, February 13, 2012

Book Review: Catechism of the Catholic Church

I started this as spiritual reading months ago thanks to a recommendation from the Happy Catholic. The early part made me want to read the bible more, for as St. Jerome says, "He who is ignorant of Scriptures is ignorant of Christ."

Now that I have finally finished it. It is not the best book to read straight through. It is well organized but a little dry. Not completely dry, though. Many quotes from saints' writings (including biographies like Augustine's Confession and St. Teresa's Story of a Soul) are used to illustrate or illuminate what's presented. Such quotes gave me a reassuring sense of history and humanity. The sheer number of sources is impressive as is the historical breadth of them. No century of the past 20 seems neglected or overemphasized. The unity of faith throughout the ages is awe inspiring.

That being said, as a comprehensive presentation of the doctrines and life of the Catholic Church, it is necessary to be brief and to the point. The Catechism is a great resource thanks to the thorough indexing and cross referencing. If you have a question or are interested in a specific topic, it is easy to find the information you want. The book is written with paragraph numbers, so citations refer to those numbers rather than page numbers.

To give you a taste, here's the section entitled "Wounds to Unity" (paragraphs 817-819) about the splintering of Christian churches:
817 In fact, "in this one and only Church of God from its very beginnings there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly censures as damnable. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church - for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame."269 The ruptures that wound the unity of Christ's Body - here we must distinguish heresy, apostasy, and schism270 - do not occur without human sin:

Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers.271

818 "However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers .... All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church."272

819 "Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth"273 are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: "the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements."274 Christ's Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him,275 and are in themselves calls to "Catholic unity."

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