Catechism of the Catholic Church

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For criticism see Criticism of Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, or CCC, is an official exposition of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, first published in French in 1992 with the authorization of Pope John Paul II.[1] To correspond exactly with the official text in Latin,[2] which appeared in 1997, five years later, the French text was then amended at a few points.[3] It has been translated into many other languages, including English, and became an instant best-seller in each.


The word "catechism" has been defined as "a summary of principles, often in question-and-answer format"[4]. Although handbooks of religious instruction have been written since the time of the Church Fathers, the term "catechism" was first applied to them in the sixteenth century, beginning with Martin Luther�s 1529 publications. Mostly, they are meant for use in class or other formal instruction.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, for which the usual abbreviation is CCC, is instead rather a source on which to base such catechisms and other expositions of Catholic doctrine. It was given, as stated in the Apostolic Constitution Fidei depositum,[5] with which its publication was ordered, "that it may be a sure and authentic reference text for teaching catholic doctrine and particularly for preparing local catechisms."

CCC is arranged in four principal parts:

  • The Profession of Faith (the Creed)
  • The Celebration of the Christian Mystery (the Sacred Liturgy, especially the sacraments)
  • Life in Christ (including the Ten Commandments)
  • Christian Prayer (including the Lord�s Prayer)


The contents are richly footnoted with references to sources of the teaching. At the back of the book (starting on page 611 in the Veritas 1994 edition) is a classified index of citations, arranged as follows:

  • Sacred Scripture: every book of the (Catholic) Bible is cited, except 1 Maccabees, Obadiah, Nahum, Habakkuk and Haggai; the most cited book is John
  • Professions of faith
  • Ecumenical Councils: all are cited except the first 3 Lateran councils and the 1st Council of Lyons; the most cited is the 2nd Vatican Council
  • Particular councils and synods: that is local councils as opposed to ecumenical
  • Pontifical documents: that is those issued by Popes in their official capacity; writings of Popes in their personal capacity are listed under Ecclesiastical writers below; only 21 of the more than 260 Popes are cited; the most cited is John Paul II
  • Ecclesiastical documents
  • Canon law
  • Liturgy: including some Eastern ones
  • Ecclesiastical writers: after some anonymous documents are listed alphabetically 68 writers, including 24 of the 33 Doctors of the Church; 9 female authors are included; the most cited writer is Augustine


CCC is clearly the best source today for knowledge of the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, both in general and on particular questions that were not raised in previous official compilations, such as the Catechism of Pope Pius V or of the Council of Trent,[6] or that of Pope Pius X[7]. It is an authoritative source, declared by Pope John Paul II to be "a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion."[8]

CCC is also, in the quotations it gives, a handy reference source for Church Fathers and other Church writings, as well as for Scripture.

The interest in Church teachings that CCC has stirred even in circles beyond the Catholic faithful has been noted by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger[9]:

It clearly show[s] that the problem of what we must do as human beings, of how we should live our lives so that we and the world may become just, is the essential problem of our day, and basically of all ages. After the fall of ideologies, the problem of man — the moral problem — is presented to today's context in a totally new way: What should we do? How does life become just? What can give us and the whole world a future which is worth living? Since the catechism treats these questions, it is a book which interests many people, far beyond purely theological or ecclesial circles.[10]

External links

Sites that carry the full English text

Sites that carry comments on the CCC


  • 1 Msgr. Michael J. Wrenn & Kenneth D. Whitehead, Flawed Expectations: The Reception of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Ignatius Press, 1996, ISBN 0898705916, p. 208.
  • 2 Romano Amerio, Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the XXth Century, 1996, Sarto House, ISBN 0963903217, �130.
  • 3 Amerio, op. cit., �132.