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The great Cdl. Raymond Burke said in 2016, "Catholicism is in the throes of the worst crisis in its entire history."
He further noted, "decades of a thin and even false catechesis had created a situation in which many Catholics ... were left in confusion and error regarding the most fundamental tenets of the Catholic faith and of the moral law."
But despite the faithful being starved of the truth by their shepherds for so long, there are resources from which individuals and parents can learn the perennial teachings of the Church and pass them on to others.
The Baltimore Catechism is the original and classic "American" catechism based on St. Robert Bellarmine's 1614 Small Catechism. It was approved by U.S. bishops in 1885 at the Third Council of Baltimore and was the main catechism in common use until the late 1960s.
Its four volumes make it suitable for a broad range of students, from young children making their First Communion up to high school level students.
The New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism, first published in 1964, is a three-volume version of the traditional catechism with excellent explanatory illustrations, discussion, test questions and biblical notations. It's lauded as the most approachable edition of the Baltimore Catechism for home-schooled children.
A catechism based on the Baltimore — but more geared for older teenagers and adults — is My Catholic Faith. It's concise but very thorough in its explanations of the Faith. The information presented is broken down into Creed: what a Catholic must know and believe; Commandments: what a Catholic must do; and Sacraments: the means of grace.
The bedrock of each of these catechisms is the Roman Catechism, known also as the Catechism of the Council of Trent. It was first published in 1566 in response to the Protestant revolt. It was the first Church-wide catechism and was the primary catechism of the Catholic Church all the way until it was replaced by the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1992.
The Catholic Dictionary notes the Roman Catechism was "primarily written for the parish priests," but "was also intended to give a fixed and stable scheme of instruction to the faithful."
It was designed to be a manual for seminarians, priests and teachers of the Faith. Pope Leo XIII designated that all seminarians should have two books, the Roman Catechism and St. Thomas Aquinas' theological masterpiece, the Summa Theologica.
One of the best and thorough breakdowns of the Roman Catechism is the 1899 Catechism Explained: An Exhaustive Explanation of the Catholic Religion. It has recently been touted by modern theologian and exorcist Fr. Chad Ripperger as his go-to manual for the Faith. It provides exhaustive commentary regarding all aspects of the faith but in a very understandable manner.
Another resource incorporating the catechisms of the past are two books by faithful Jesuit theologian Fr. John Hardon. His Catholic Dictionary and The Catholic Catechism: A Contemporary Catechism of the Teachings of the Catholic Church include many modern papal and Church documents to further explain theological concepts. His dictionary is clear, concise and faithful. It has over 2,000 entries in the areas of faith, worship, morals, history, theology and spirituality.
While so many shepherds have been silent for decades, the Faith is still being passed on through faithful priests and bishops, laity and many of these good books.
Learn more by watching The Download—Catechism Question.