Draft new catechism circulated
by Viviane Hewitt in Rome THE Vatican despatched its draft of the Church's new Universal Catechism to 5ishops worldwide this week.
The Pope will promulgate the 392-page document with 4,126 regulatory proposals after May 31, by which date bishops are required to have .odged any requests for amendment.
A commission of seven eishops and a team of 40 onsultants, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, compiled and edited the new catechism in three languages — English, French and Spanish.
But commission sources said this week in Rome that John Paul II himself had suggested passages after each chapter under the title In Brief. These sections are later expected to be extracted for publication in a mini-catechism of reference.
The new catechism is described as a structured, concise presentation of "essential and fundamental elements of the Catholic doctrine in terms of faith and morality."
It will replace the Pius V 1566 catechism promulgated after the Council of Trent and this century's question and answer formula devised under Pius X.
In compiling the catechism draft, the commission said it had also examined Martin Luther's Catechism in Brief of 1500. The new document is aimed at re-aligning with Rome various national catechisms which the Vatican felt had veered too far from fundamental doctrine. They include catechisms in circulation in the United States, the Netherlands and in Italy itself.
The new catechism is divided into three parts — on the Creed, Faith Professed, on Liturgy, Faith Celebrated, and on moral values, Faith Lived. It deals with new questions such as drug abuse, "a real scourge of our time", kidnapping and terrorism, whose aim may be legitimate according to the Catechism but which "must be proscribed absolutely because of the means they utilise."
The document condemns the death penalty and reaffirms the existence of hell, purgatory and the devil. As regards other faiths, the Catholic Church "does not reject" what is true and holy but other religions also present limits, "of errors which can disfigure the image of God and man."
The catechism calls to order lobbies within the Church which increasingly question Rome's and the Pope's authority. The Pope, as Vicar of Christ and successor of Peter, exercises full, supreme and universal power over the whole Church, the catechism stresses.
The fruits of intense study requested by the Pope at the 1985 synod, the new catechism draft concedes that there exist situations where matrimonial cohabitation becomes practically impossible for various reasons.
In these cases the Church allows physical separation of couples and the end of cohabitation. But this does not mean that couples could feel free to contract new unions, the catechism adds. Those who do, however, and who conserve their faith, need "special pastoral attention."