Baltimore Catechism

Baltimore Catechism

A Catechism of Christian Doctrine, Prepared and Enjoined by Order of the Third Council of Baltimore (or, simply, the Baltimore Catechism) was the "de facto" standard Catholic school text in the United States from 1885 to the late 1960s.It was the first such catechism written for Catholics in North America, replacing a translation of Bellarmine's "Small Catechism".In response to criticisms, various editions include annotations or other modifications.The Baltimore Catechism remained in use in nearly all Catholic schools until many moved away from catechism-based education, though it is still used up to this day in some.

History

In the nineteenth century, repeated efforts had been made in the United States towards an arrangement by which a uniform textbook of Christian Doctrine might be used by all Catholics. As early as 1829, the bishops assembled in the First Provincial Council of Baltimore, Maryland decreed: "A catechism shall be written which is better adapted to the circumstances of this Province; it shall give the Christian Doctrine as explained in Cardinal Bellarmine's Catechism (1597), and when approved by the Holy See, it shall be published for the common use of Catholics" (Decr. xxxiii). The clause recommending Bellarmine's Catechism as a model was added at the special request of the Congregation of Propaganda. It may be mentioned here that Bellarmine's "Small Catechism," Italian text with English translation, was published at Boston, in 1853.

The wish of the bishops was not carried out, and the First and Second Plenary Councils of Baltimore (1852 and 1866) repeated the decree of 1829. In the Third Plenary Council (1884) many bishops were in favor of a "revised" edition of a 1775 catechism by Irish Archbishop Butler, but finally the matter was given into the hands of a committee of six bishops. At last, in 1885, was issued "A Catechism of Christian Doctrine, Prepared and Enjoined by Order of the Third Council of Baltimore." Although the council had desired a catechism "perfect in every respect" (Acta et Decr., p. 219), theologians and teachers criticized several points (Nilles, "Commentaria", II, 265, 188). Soon various editions came forth with additions of word-meanings, explanatory notes, some even with different Arrangements, so that soon there was a considerable diversity in the books that go by the name of Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism became the standard text for Catholic education in the United States. Since the 1960s, many Catholic churches and schools have moved away from catechism-based education, but a modernized edition is available under the title of the "New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism" (ISBN 0-89942-242-X).

External links

*gutenberg|no=14551|name=Baltimore Catechism No. 1. An abridged edition for younger students.
*gutenberg|no=14552|name=Baltimore Catechism No. 2. The main edition.
*gutenberg|no=14553|name=Baltimore Catechism No. 3. An expanded edition for older students.
*gutenberg|no=14554|name=Baltimore Catechism No. 4. An annotated edition for teachers.


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