After the renewal of the liturgy and the new codification
of the Canon Law ...this Catechism will bring a very
important contribution to the work of the revival of all
ecclesial life, willed and put into application by the Second
Vatican Council. (Pope John Paul II on page 1
of the New Catechism.)
The reading and
study of the new Catechism
of the Catholic Church are baffling for a classic or Thomistic
spirit. One rarely finds here simple definitions and clear distinctions.
This Catechism resembles a mystical poem, a symphony where all is
harmonized, the classic and the modern, elements of the old Catechism
and the teachings of the Conciliar Church, in order to chant with
enthusiasm the splendor of God and of man.
Among the happy reminders, one can note: the fact of
creation, the existence of the Angels, the reality of Adam and Eve, original sin
as well as personal sin, Hell and Purgatory, the ten commandments, the
impossibility of women’s ordinations and the marriage of divorcees, the criminal
character of abortion and of euthanasia, the possibility of the death penalty,
But along side of that, one finds
silences, things forgotten, contradictions and a certain number of "recurring
themes" foreign to the Catholic Church, and which we are going to analyze here.
From this mixture results an impression of confusion which steers the spirit off
course. In brief, a reading capable of "seducing even the elect themselves."
However, before giving ourselves over to the analysis of certain themes of this
symphony, we begin by giving certain authentic interpretations of the Catechism.
The "authentic interpretations"
declared by Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II ordered the
publication of the Catechism
of the Catholic Church by means of the apostolic constitution, Fidei
Depositum, of October 11, 1992. One reads there the following:
the renewal of the liturgy and the new codification of the Canon Law of the
Latin Church and the canons of the oriental Catholics, this Catechism
will bring a very important contribution to the work of the revival of all
ecclesial life, willed and put into application by the Second Vatican Council.
(p.1) For myself, who had the grace of participating there and of actively
collaborating in its unfolding, Vatican II has always been, and particularly so
during these years of my pontificate, the constant point of reference of all my
pastoral action, in a conscious effort of translating its directives by a
concrete and faithful application, to the level of each Church and of all the
Church. One must without ceasing return to this source (p.1).
We are then advised
that this Catechism is a putting into application of Vatican II.
One must take count of the explanations of doctrine
that the Holy Spirit has suggested to the Church in the course of the
centuries. (p.2) It will include then things new and old. (Ibid)
What is old is
above all, "The traditional order already followed by the Catechism of
St. Pius V," (Ibid) whereas "the content is often
expressed in a new fashion." (Ibid) In other words, "a
new wine in old wineskins," contrary to the counsel of Our Lord (Mt.9:17).
The ecumenical aim of the Catechism is also clearly explained by the
wishes to provide a support to ecumenical efforts animated by the holy desire
for the unity of all Christians" (p.3).
The pope declares also that this Catechism is the fruit of
a broad collaboration and "reflects thus the collegial nature of the
episcopate." Finally, as for its doctrinal value, the pope presents it
as "an authorized and worthwhile instrument in the service of ecclesial
communion and as a sure norm for the teaching of the Faith." (p.2) But
it "is not destined to replace the local Catechisms composed by the
ecclesiastical authorities, the diocesan bishops and the episcopal conference,
above all when they have received the approbation of the Apostolic See."
(p.3) One cannot use it then to demand the suppression of bad Catechisms, even
if they have not received the approbation of Rome.
The pope presented the Catechism on the morning of
December 7, 1992. On this occasion, he insisted on the value and the
significance of the Catechism. It is, he says, "an event of great
richness and of an incomparable importance." "The
publication of the text should be placed, without any doubt, among the major
events in the recent history of the Church."
The pope confirms that this Catechism wishes to conform itself "to the teachings of Vatican Council
In this authorized text, the
Church presents to her children, with a renewed self-awareness thanks to the
light of the Spirit, the mystery of Christ where the splendor of the Father is
This Catechism constitutes above all a
"veracious" gift, to know a
gift which presents the Truth revealed by God in Christ and which He confided to
His Church. The Catechism expresses this truth in the light of the Second
Vatican Council, such as it is believed, celebrated, lived, and prayed by the
Before, we were asked to accept the council
in the light of Tradition. Today, the method is reversed. One finds the same
expression again in the Catechism at paragraph 11. We point out also at this
occasion that for the pope, the truth is first of all believed and lived before
being expressed. This is a typically modernist method, since modernism thinks
that the Faith comes from the subconscious and from the interior experience of
each person. But that is contrary to the thought of St. Paul, for whom the
Faith is ex auditu (Rom.10:17), that is to say, from preaching.
The pope also confirms the ecumenical intent of the Catechism:
defining the lines of Catholic doctrinal identity, the Catechism can constitute
an affectionate call for all those who not equally form part of the Catholic
community. May they understand that this instrument does not reduce, but
broadens the scope of a multiform unity, in offering a new impulse on the path
towards this fullness of communion which reflects and in a certain manner
anticipates the total unity of the heavenly city, "where truth reigns, where
charity is the law, and where the extension is eternity" (St. Augustine,
Epistle 138, 3). Men, both today and always, need Christ. Through many, and
sometimes incomprehensible paths, they seek him with insistence, invoke him
constantly and desire him ardently.
We find in
this last phrase an analogy with the new theology of Karl Rahner, for whom every
man is an anonymous Christian.5 The next day, December 8, 1992, the
pope "presided at the Holy Mass in the basilica of St. Mary
In the course of the homily, he returned to the question
of the Catechism. He insisted anew on the bond between the Catechism and the
With the Mother of God, we give thanks today for the gift of
the council... The community of believers gives thanks today for
the post-conciliar Catechism... It constitutes the ripest and the most
complete fruit of the conciliar teaching, which is presented in the rich
framework of all the ecclesial Tradition. The ripest fruit
of the conciliar teaching.
This expression renders the thought of
the pope so well that L’Osservatore Romano did not hesitate to make of it
the title of this sermon.
O Mary... thou who wast present on the day
of Pentecost as Mother of the Church, welcome this fruit which is the labor of
the entire Church. All together we place the New Catechism
of the Catholic Church, which is at the same time the gift of the Word revealed
to humanity and the fruit of the labor of bishops and theologians - between the
hands of she who...
The pope himself uses the expression of the "new"
Catechism. Let us point out in the passage this expression, "the fruit
of labor," which reminds us of the new Offertory, and also the allusion
to Pentecost. We continue to live, since the Council, a new revelation which the
bishops and the theologians must express for the service of the ecclesial
He was the president of the
commission and of the committee of redaction during six months in order to
develop this Catechism. He
is then well placed to speak to us of it. He made a presentation concerning it
in the press room which was published in L’Osservatore Romano (French
language edition) of December 15, 1992, on page 6. Let us briefly analyze this
text. First of all, he teaches us that the French edition was presented first on
November 16 in Paris. Then, between this date and December 7, the Italian and
Spanish versions were published.
The official text in Latin will be
published later; it will be able to take into account what the experience of the
translations 8 has made to appear or what it can still suggest.
It seems that the Roman Church, or at least its
"governing board" is not very sure of its faith; it has need of a
"trial run." What is the fundamental question treated by the Catechism?
After the fall of the
ideologies, the problem of man, the moral problem, poses itself today in a
totally new fashion to the order of the day.
As an accessory, they will speak also of God. The Catechism
speaks of the human being, but with the conviction that the question concerning
man cannot be separated from the question concerning God. One does not speak
correctly of man if one doesn’t speak also of God.
will come the response to this problem concerning man and "also"
The Catechism formulates
the response which comes from the great communitarian experience of the Church
throughout the centuries.
It’s always the same modernist
tactic: the profession of the Faith is the expression of the interior experience
of believers. And what will be the response to this question?
The fundamental knowledge
concerning man in the Catechism is thus formulated: man is
created in the image and likeness of God. Everything that is said on the just
conduct of man is founded upon this central perspective.
It is here
that, according to us, resides the fundamental ambiguity of the Catechism.
Indeed, this passage from Genesis can receive two different meanings. A classic
interpretation is to interpret "image" as the intellectual
nature of man, and "likeness" as sanctifying grace. Thus
understood, this phrase is only applicable to Adam. Indeed, all men after him
will be created in the image of God, but without the likeness to God. They must
await baptism in order to recover this resemblance. Still, one can be more
precise and say that the image is deformed by the aftermath of original sin. One
can also interpret the words "image" and "likeness"
as two synonyms. In this case, one can apply this phrase of Genesis to every man
to signify that every man receives from God a spiritual soul. But then one
abstracts from sanctifying grace. We will not be able to deduce then the true
dignity of man since this consists in participating in the Divine Nature. Man
does not truly possess dignity because he is a man (sinner), but because he has
become a son of God by grace. As Archbishop Lefebvre used to say, there is not a
dignity of man; there is only the dignity of the Christian. And this Christian
will possess all the more dignity the more he is a friend of God. Our Lord does
not have the same dignity as any other man, and the Most Holy Virgin shall have
a super eminent dignity, etc. In not making these elementary distinctions between
nature and grace, the cardinal, and the Catechism in its turn, are going
to draw from this phrase from Genesis many errors. Now the cardinal takes care
to warn us himself:
Everything which is said
concerning the just conduct of man is founded upon this central perspective
(namely, man is created in the image and likeness of God). Upon this are founded
human rights...Upon the likeness of God is founded also human dignity, which
remains intangible in each man precisely because he is a man.
Let us cite some examples given by the
cardinal himself: "Every human being has an equal dignity."
This is false. One who is baptized does not have the same dignity as someone who
isn’t baptized; neither does a sinner have the same dignity as a saint.
The requirement of happiness constitutes part of
our nature. The moral of the Catechism has as its starting point what the
Creator has placed in the heart of each man - the necessity of happiness and of
love. Here it becomes visible what exactly "likeness" to God signifies: the
human being is like unto God from the fact that he can love and because he is
capable of truth. This is why moral behavior is, in the profoundest sense of the
word, a behavior measured by creation.
this is false and follows from this grave confusion between nature and grace.
Indeed, our true happiness is only found in the supernatural love of God. The
human being can only love God (as he should) by charity, and he is only capable
of (complete) truth by Faith. But all this does not constitute "part of
our nature." God has not "placed [it] in the heart of
each man." Our nature without grace is incapable of desiring
efficaciously true happiness. It cannot know to "require it."
If it would require it, this happiness would no longer be gratuitous.
The cardinal specifies that the behavior according to
nature of which the Catechism speaks, is a:
behavior beginning with what has
been placed in our being by the Creator. Consequently, the heart of every moral
[act] is love and, in following always this indication, one inevitably
encounters Christ, the love of God made man.
perhaps poetic, but it is also always false. Love, such as our nature is capable
of without grace, "beginning with what has been placed in our being by
the Creator," is incapable of making us encounter Christ. It is at most
a disposition; in order to encounter Christ, one needs above all else the help
of grace in order to produce in us the act of Faith. This silence concerning
grace, which equivocates here even to a negation, is obviously very grave.
Before even studying the Catechism we
can draw several teachings from this examination of these "authentic
interpretations." First of all, the importance of the new Catechism.
The pope himself insists upon the importance and the authority of this Catechism. This importance is confirmed by the success of the publisher.
Certainly there was a vast publicity which no other Catechism had ever known.
But this doesn’t suffice, without doubt, to explain the sale of more than
500,000 copies in several weeks. One must also take into account that the
faithful have been deprived of doctrinal teaching for the last thirty years.
There was the council; but despite its desire of being a pastoral council,
Vatican II is not in the reach of every Catholic, and the majority are not taken
up in the study of these numerous texts. As far as the catechisms and other
Living Stones [a modernist catechism in France], the least that one can say
concerning them is that their doctrinal content is weak, if not inconsistent.
The faithful have had to live according to the practices imposed upon them in
the name of obedience. Now the possibility has finally been given to them to
know the principles which have guided these reforms. One can understand their
desire to learn, for it is satisfying to a person to know why he acts.
Unfortunately the New Catechism will not cause the tenets of the Faith, which
they were living badly or with difficulty, to penetrate their souls: Rather, it
is to be feared that they will only adhere more completely to the "new
truths" which they have been in the habit of living for the past 30 years.
Moreover, as we have noticed, the pope insists also on the fact that this
Catechism is the logical consequence of the council, "the ripest and
most complete fruit of the conciliar teaching." This Catechism is very
important because it is going to permit the new conciliar and post-conciliar
ideas to be better diffused, notably in the matter of ecumenism. The pope
insists above all upon the authority of the Catechism and its importance in
applying Vatican Council II. Cardinal Ratzinger puts the accent more on its
content and indicates to us its fundamental error which is at the root of the
errors of ecumenism and religious liberty: a pseudo-supernatural naturalism.
Human nature is not only capable of grace, but it requires it for the happiness
of man; the redemption is universal; the world is full of grace. But let us not
look at the content in greater detail. We will distinguish four principal themes
in the Catechism: the dignity of man, his character of friend and Son of God,
the nature of the Church, and the principles of morality. For each of these, we
shall cite the Catechism, to clearly show the readers that it is not we who are
attributing to it our thoughts. However, we shall not cite everything, not
wanting to tax the patience of the readers nor risking that we be
condemned for having recopied integrally a Catechism protected by
I. The dignity of man
There are forty references to the word "dignity"
in the index, of which several indicate a fairly long passage. Let us cite first
what Cardinal Ratzinger quoted above as:
the fundamental knowledge
concerning man: To know the unity and the true dignity of all men: all are made
in the image and likeness of God (§
*This and all following references to the New Catechism are
indicated by the symbol § (meaning paragraph) and the paragraph number.
We have already explained the
error of this new theory. Man, marked by original sin, is born without the grace
of God. Therefore, he does not have his true dignity, that of being a son of
God. This he receives at Baptism. This fundamental error concerning the dignity
of man brings along with it others, for example, saying that the dignity of man
cannot be lost. A criminal does not lose his dignity, since this consists in
having a spiritual soul; taking this to its limit, the damned in hell (if there
are any) will still have their dignity.
Man and woman have a dignity which cannot be lost, which comes to them
immediately from God their Creator. Man and woman are, with the
same dignity, in the image of God. In their "being man" and "being woman" they
reflect the wisdom and the goodness of the Creator (§ 369).
Another false consequence: all
men have the same dignity. A saint will not be any more worthy than a sinner;
the Blessed Virgin will not be more worthy than any other woman.
Amongst all the faithful of
Christ, by the fact of their regeneration in Christ, there exists, insofar as
dignity and activity, a true equality, in virtue of which all co-operate in the
building up of the Body of Christ, each according to his condition and proper
function (§ 872).
Although this paragraph founds the
dignity of the Christian upon its true foundation, "the regeneration in
Christ," it is just the same erroneous since it draws from this a false
conclusion, which is that all Christians are equal. This is contrary to the
Scriptures, which warns us that there are all sorts of gifts of grace and that
the members of the Church are complementary, but unequal (the foot is not the
eye, says St. Paul).
Man and woman are created, that
is to say, they are willed by God, in a perfect equality in as much as they are
human persons on one hand, and on the other hand, in their respective being of
man and woman. "Being man" and "being woman" is a reality both good and willed
by God (§ 369).
As to this equality between man
and woman, it exists in the order of grace (in Christ there is neither male or
female, St. Paul tells us), but not in the order of nature where there is a
natural hierarchy between man and woman. Another erroneous consequence: all men
will have an equal dignity, and all discrimination will be unjust.
Equality between men lies essentially
with their personal dignity and the rights which flow from it:
every form of
discrimination touching the fundamental rights of the person, whether it be
founded on sex, race, color of skin, social condition, language, or religion,
must be gotten beyond, as contrary to the design of God
There also exists wicked inequalities which strike millions
of men and women. These are in open contradiction with the Gospel:
The equal dignity of persons
requires that one reaches conditions of life more just and more human. The
economic and excessive social inequalities between the members or peoples of the
one human family create a scandal. They place an obstacle to social justice, to
equity, to the dignity of the human person, as well as social and international
peace. (§ 1938).
liberty. We have seen that the Catechism makes the dignity of man consist in the
fact of having been made in the image and likeness of God. For St. Augustine,
St. Thomas, and all of Tradition, man is in the image of God because his soul
is a spiritual substance endowed with intelligence and will, and thus he
resembles the Holy Trinity. But for the New Catechism, that which
characterizes the image of God before all else is liberty:
In virtue of his soul and
his spiritual powers of intelligence and will, man is endowed with liberty,
"the privileged sign of the Divine image." Are we
convinced that "we know not what to ask so as to pray as we ought?" Let us ask God for "suitable goods." Our Father knows well what we need
before we ask Him, but He awaits our prayer because the dignity of
His children is in their liberty. Now one must pray with one’s spirit of liberty
in order to be able to know in truth his desire.
(§ 2736) God has created man as reasonable in conferring upon him the
dignity of a person endowed with the initiative and the mastery of his acts. "God
has left man to his own counsel" (Sirach 15:14) so that he can
seek by himself his Creator, and in adhering freely to him, reach full and
blessed perfection: "Man is reasonable, and by that very fact, like unto
God; he was created free, to be master of his acts"(§ 1730).
We remark in passing that the citation from St. Irenaeus expresses
rather that the resemblance of man with God consists in his reason, liberty
being only a consequence. This doesn’t keep the authors of the Catechism
from choosing this citation in order to affirm that the dignity of man consists
in his liberty.
Since the dignity of man consists
in his liberty, man will evidently have an inalienable right to liberty:
Liberty is exercised in the relationships between
human beings. Each human person, created in the image of God has the natural
right to be recognized as a free and responsible person. All owe to each person
this duty of respect. The right to exercise one’s liberty is an inseparable
exigency from the dignity of the human person, notably in moral and religious
matters. This right must be recognized by civil law and protected
within the limits of the common good and public order
Thus, liberty must be favored
under all its forms and every inequality or constraint is an offense against the
dignity of man:
Man has the right to act
according to his conscience and freely in order to take personal
responsibility for his moral decisions. "Man must not be constrained to act
against his conscience. What’s more, he must not be impeded from acting
according to his conscience, above all in religious matters" 23 (§ 1782).
Charity always goes through
respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience:
In speaking against the brethren
or in wounding their conscience ...it is against Christ that you sin. That
which is good is to abstain ...from all that makes thy brother to stumble or to
fall or to weaken (§ 1789).
If one looks at the citations of St. Paul in their
context, one sees that he tries to avoid acts which are indifferent in
themselves so as not to scandalize someone who might misinterpret them and make
of them an occasion of sin. It is not a question of respecting his conscience in
the modern sense employed by the Catechism, that is to say, not impeding his
sinning. This solicitation of a scriptural text is quite characteristic and
proves that the modern theory of the liberty of conscience has no foundation in
Thus, the role of the Church in
the political realm, which hitherto consisted in making it respect the law of
God and recalling to the heads of state their duty to help in the salvation of
souls, now consists only in recalling this doctrine of the rights of man founded
upon the dignity/liberty of the human person:
Social justice can only be obtained by respecting
the transcendent dignity of man. The person represents the ultimate end of
society, which is ordered to him: "The defense and promotion of human
dignity has been confided to us by the Creator. In all the circumstances of
history, men and women are rigorously responsible and debtors to it."
(§ 1929). Respect for human dignity implies those rights which flow
from his dignity as creature. These rights are anterior to society and impose
themselves on it. They constitute the moral legitimacy of all authority. By
heckling them or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a
society undermines its own moral legitimacy. Without such
a respect, an authority can only support itself by force in order to obtain
the obedience of its subjects. It comes back to the Church to recall these
rights to the memory of men of good will, and to distinguish them from abusive
or false claims (§ 2246).
It appertains to the mission of
the Church to "bring
a moral judgement, even in those matters which touch the political domain, when
the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of souls requires
it, in using all the means, and those only, which are conformed to the Gospel
and are in harmony with the good of all, according to the diversity of times and
of situations" (§ 2246).
Let us note that in this last
paragraph, the defense of the rights of man comes before preoccupation for the
salvation of souls. Another way to say the same thing: the Church is charged to
defend the transcendence of the human person, this transcendence consisting
precisely in its dignity / liberty:
The Church, because of its mission and its
competence, is not confused in any manner with the political community, and is
at the same time the sign and the safeguard of the transcendent character of
the human person. "The Church respects and promotes political liberty and
the responsibility of the citizens" 29 (§ 2245).
Among the rights of man that the
Church must defend, there is evidently the right to religious liberty, founded
as the others upon the dignity/liberty of man.
"In religious matters, let
none be forced to act against his conscience, nor to be hindered from so acting,
within just limits, following his conscience in private as in public, alone or
associated with others." This right is founded upon the nature itself
of the human person of which its dignity makes it to adhere freely to divine
truth which transcends the temporal order. This is why it "persists even in
those who do not satisfy their obligation to search for the truth and to adhere
to it" If, because of the particular circumstances in
which peoples find themselves, a special civil recognition is accorded in the
juridical order of the city to a given religious society, it is necessary that
at the same time, for all the citizens and all the religious communities, the
right to liberty in religious matters be recognized and respected (§ 1930). The right to religious
liberty is neither the moral permission to adhere to error, nor
a supposed right to error, but a natural right of the human person
to civil liberty, that is to say, to immunity from exterior constraint, within
just limits, in religious matters on the part of the political power. This
natural right must be recognized in the juridical order of society in such a
manner that it constitutes a civil right (§ 2108).
Behold the citation of Pius XII
which the note makes mention of:
That which does not correspond to
the truth or the moral law has not any right, objectively, to existence, nor to
propagation, nor to action.
Pius XII does not condemn only "a supposed right to
error," as the Catechism says, but also a right to propagate it and the
action of error and of evil. Now to recognize a "natural right to
immunity from constraint" for a false religion, isn’t this precisely to
recognize for them a right of action and of propagation?
to religious liberty cannot be of itself either unlimited, or
limited only by a "public order" conceived in a positivist or
naturalist manner. The "just limits" which are
inherent must be determined for each social situation by political prudence,
according to the exigencies of the common good, and ratified by the civil
authority according to "juridical rules conformed to the objective moral order"
One senses in this last paragraph and in the references to
Pius VI and Pius IX an attempt to justify the conciliar doctrine on religious
liberty in the face of the accusations of traditionalists. To make this new
doctrine in conformity with the traditional doctrine, the "just
limits" would have to be respect for the moral law in a pagan country and
respect for the Christian law in a Christian country. But this is contrary to
the conciliar teaching such as it is interpreted by Rome itself.