A reader responds to my post about the Baltimore Catechism by wondering why I would want to dumb down Church teaching:
I am over 71 years of age and have only a high school education. I remember the Baltimore Catechism but believe the new comprehensive catechism is far more informative. Why lower the bar? Better to encourage the reading than telling folks they are not smart enough to read and understand the new catechism. If they really want to know their faith and what the church teaches they need to make the time to learn and to read the new catechism. It can be done in bits and pieces.
Some of these points are fair. The new catechism is far more informative than the old Baltimore Catechism, and encouraging Catholics to read the comprehensive catechism would be great. (For what it’s worth, I gave a speech almost two years ago in which I explicitly endorsed the reading of the new catechism).
But my point was not that Church teaching should be simplified for adults. It was that the old Baltimore Catechism provided a strong foundation for children and young people of all economic backgrounds. Being poor, working class, or upper class did not matter. If you were Catholic, you got a solid catechetical foundation regardless of economic circumstance. In the words of the new catechism itself,
“Catechesis is an education in the faith of children, young people and adults which includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine imparted, generally speaking, in an organic and systematic way, with a view to initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life.”
Can those without four-year college degrees dip into the new catechism and learn the faith in its fullness and nuance? Of course they can. St. Therese of Lisieux did not go to college, and she is a Doctor of the Church. But can middle- and working class Catholics be expected to read the new catechism? In this day and age, I don’t think it’s realistic. This is not the 19th century, an epoch in which people waited on the docks for the latest installment of Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop to arrive by ship.
Being Catholic means not only following the Church’s teachings and rituals but also being catholic. Catholics are taught to appeal to everyone, including those who are content to learn the basics of the faith and apply them with the advanced skill of The Little Flower.