I have received a message from a reader; she laudably realises her Catholicism has been polluted by V II rubbish, and asks me for suggestions to create a good and sound Catholic foundation.
I would personally tackle the matter in two phases: the foundation itself and those texts particularly devoted to the distortions and trouble of the V II theology reaching its implosion in these decades under our very eyes. This would give a very solid knowledge of where we are as opposed to where we should be. Of course, from there the journey can go pretty much everywhere, as by God’s grace we now have an immensely vast choice of traditional books on the Internet.
Firstly, though, a recommendation:the one to buy good Catholic apps if one has a smartphone or a tablet. I go as far as to say that the Catholic apps available are, in fact, reason enough to buy one of those devices if one hasn’t done so already. Similarly, the purchase of a tablet and the download of a Kindle app will allow one to save the money for the Kindle device if one does not read for many hours on end.
For the first phase, I suggest the following:
1. Throw away your JP II catechism. No, I really mean throw it away. Whilst generally orthodox, it has questionable phrasing and suggestive, covertly accommodating theology on several issues (see baptism and salvation). The Abbé de Nantes found it heretical in twelve points.
Let me repeat it: throw it away. You can thank me later. For the sake of clarity, the compendium appeared in 2005 (Ratzinger’s) is fine, and the Abbé de Nantes himself recognised none of the twelve heretical points of the “Schoenborn” catechism were therein contained.
2. Catholic apps (like Ipieta, a must!) or electronic books or, in case, print allow one to easily access the following:
A. Penny Catechism.
This is the ideal text to start from scratch in redoing one’s thinking. You can buy it on the Internet for a pittance, probably on apps too. He who masters the Penny Catechism is way in front of 90% of V II priests, and can already teach Francis the basics. Already the Penny Catechism shames our inglorious Bishop of Rome page by page. You compare it and Francis’ uninterrupted, obscene waffle and understand they are on two different planets already.
B. Baltimore Catechisms
There are three of them in growing order of difficulty, plus a fourth which is the third with commentary. The first three are on Ipieta, which also has a number of other old catechisms and even the Compendium. The purchase of Ipieta is, again, invaluable. A wealth of Catholic wisdom of all sorts always with you! Don’t delay, buy today! I doubt I will read in a lifetime the hundreds of text therein contained. Seriously, Ipieta is not a weapon, but an entire arsenal of Catholicism.
If one has already digested the Penny Catechism, I suggest to go directly to Baltimore III. There is no real need for a commentary (which a I found very good, though) as the Baltimore Catechisms are of exemplary clarity but still accessible for everyone.
When one has these two well assimilated, he is already equipped to properly interpret every antic of Francis and see the magnitude of this man’s – and of many V II priests’ – confusion.
C. Other catechisms.
Again, IPieta has a nice choice. The catechism of St. Pius the X is wonderful but as far as I know there are no official English translations. I found the Italian text online, and it’s as good as you expect. But in general I would say there’s no need to have many catechisms: pick a sound one, and absorb its content well.
At this point, I would proceed with some texts aiming at a specific comparison between “old” and “new”: the 2000 years of tradition and the 50 years (and counting) of drunken madness.
I mention here only some fundamental works, which will be reading enough:
1. Iota unum
The printed edition is expensive but I found it well worth the expense. SSPX Asia have a free electronic version on their site. You may check if it is available as electronic book. My copy is invaluable, and to me one of those “desert island books”.
2. “The Catechism of the Crisis in the Church””
This is not a catechism, but a SSPX publication, available on kindle. In general, absolutely everything one can read from the SSPX is wonderful and above suspicion, albeit I do allow myself – like many others among their supporters – to attend the V II mass. There were long discussions about this, so please refrain from starting a new one. Back to the matter at hand, this book is an excellent comparison between timeless truth and convenient accommodation or outright lie. Obligatory reading, if you ask me, for the aspiring Traditionalist.
3. One Hundred Years of Modernism
This is another SSPX book, also available on Kindle. It explains – giving a sound philosophical introduction – how the cancer of Modernism found its way in the organism of the Church. Not easy subject matter – it will help a lot if you have studied philosophy at school or university – but explained with exemplary clarity. If you are not trained in philosophy, this will require some work, but the reward will be rich.
4. Life of Christ
This is in my eyes the most glorious of Fulton Sheen’s books. A joy to read and re-read. Archbishop Sheen packs his book with so many sound and easy to understand explanations of Catholic teaching that this book can be considered a kind of subsidiary catechism in itself. I have the paper version, I think it is also on Kindle now. This book is also a formidable weapon to address the remarks of sceptics and infidels.
5. “Life Everlasting” & any Garrigou-Lagrange Book.
Well, any of them at a more advanced level. I have read four: “Reality”, “Predestination”, “Providence” and “Life Everlasting”.
The first three are more complicated, and the first two of them require either a philosophical foundation or the willingness to plow through it page by page. The fourth is a very good integration to a Catechism in matters of salvation and damnation, and it is written in a much more accessible way than the other three books.
The list could go on, but I think the sources mentioned provide already a more than solid ground, and if properly absorbed would put one well in the front row of the Army of Christ, at least as far as weaponry is concerned.
Two things to conclude:
1. Buy Ipieta.
2. Always pay attention to catechesis texts, even if before Vatican II. I once bought on Kindle a book from a chap called Karl Adam without knowing who he was, merely browsing Kindle for pre-V II theologians. Utter rubbish, I tell you. Again, I could immediately see it was rubbish because once you have the fundamentals down well, you will be able to smell the smoke from pretty far away.
So, that was that then, and again for a first plunge in sound Catholicism it is more than enough. It must be clear that infinite other choices are thinkable, this is just one possible path among very many.
The most beautiful effect of being grounded solidly in Truth (wretched sinners as we all are, of course) is that no antics of this or that stupid bishop, drunken Cardinal or diva Pope will ever confuse you again.
I have stated in the past, and repeat here, that Truth is as hard, and as beautiful, as a diamond. Once you have mastered the use of the diamond (and you need not be an expert theologian for that; nowadays most of them seem to lose their faith anyway; just be prayerful and sincerely desirous to know the a Truth and submit to it, and to live it as well as you can) you will be able to cut through every Modernist or Zeno-Modernist rubbish in no time.
And buy IPieta.
Reading here and there, I sometimes have the impression that there is some misconception about what a catechism is.
Particularly the younger generations (those grown up in the doctrinal vacuum of the Paul VI – JP II era) must be under the impression that the one issued under Pope John Paul II is the Catechism, either believing that there was no catechism before it or that this catechism made everything that came before it superfluous.
I would like to point out to a couple of concepts and give the reader some background and reading hints.
1) A catechism is not infallible. Every catechism is nothing more than an attempt at explaining Catholic teaching in a way easily digestible for the non theologically trained laity. Similarly, no catechism is mandatory. There is an official catechism, but every catechism approved by ecclesiastical authority (particularly if in tempi non sospetti, as we say in Italy) can be used with profit.
2) Catechisms are broadly of three types: for small children (that is: coming from the time when people still cared to convey Christianity to children); for boys and girls approaching the age of confirmation or preparing to it and, lastly, for adults and confirmed youth. In some cases, entire sets of catechisms were released at the same time (the Catechisms of St. Pius X and the Baltimore Catechisms are probably the best known examples).
3) As a result, some catechisms can be of better quality than others, and some better suited to the intended readership. Always for this reason, catechisms can be criticised if someone believes that they contain doctrinal errors. As a catechism is never ex cathedra, it is never expression of papal infallibility.
4) Typically, a catechism was written in question/answer format, a remnant of a time when important things had to learned by heart (and as a result, remained impressed in the faithful’s memory) and the question/answer method made it easier both to learn the subject matter and to control the level of preparation of the pupil. I don’t need to comment about the consequences of abandoning this method.
5) There are many catechisms and every good catechism can be used by you with profit. With the recovery of Catholic tradition and the advent of the internet, the access to catechisms is nowadays certainly better than at any other time in the history of Christianity. Therefore you can easily pick a catechism that suits you and start working seriously on it. Catechisms are also more and more available as applications for smartphones, which means that you can have your favourite catechism always with you and read from it on the train, in a queue, etc.
Following, I will give some information about the catechisms I know myself. I am grateful for every indication of further catechisms available in English.
This is, if you ask me, the worst catechism of them all. I mention it first so that you are not tempted to waste money by buying a paper copy of it. This catechism is written for a more mature audience (priests themselves, and well-instructed laity). It is not truly fit for summarily instructed Catholics (that is: most of them). Furthermore, it is burdened by an obsessive need to justify almost every concept with V II documents, which besides being grating in itself gives the not properly instructed Catholic (that is: most of them) the impression that Catholic doctrine is obsolete if not confirmed by the Council; furthermore, it makes the printed work bulky and unpractical to carry. This catechism is also notable for the huge effort of political correctness and attempt at making people digest uncomfortable concepts (say: doctrine of war, or capital punishment) by formulating them in the most clouded way as possible. This is clearly wrong as Truth must be given straight, not diluted according to the readers’ dalai-lama-cum-ghandi prejudices.
This catechism is also notorious for having been heavily attacked by a noted theologian of the XX century, simply known as the Abbé de Nantes, who accused it of being heretical on a dozen of counts. Whilst the Abbe de Nantes was a man not noted for mincing words and prone to extreme criticism, on this occasion he must have found attentive ears in the Vatican, as you will read below.
If you need to improve your Catholic instruction – let alone if you need to begin with it – the best thing that you can do with this catechism is to stay away from it.
This is a serious catechism. It is commonly called the catechism of Benedict XVI because published during his pontificate and probably with his massive intervention. The date of publication is so near to Pope Benedict’s accession that it is widely thought that this catechism was ready and – so to speak – waiting for the end of JP II’s pontificate to be published. This beautiful catechism is notable for the following elements:
1) It recovers the traditional question/answer form.
2) It is easy to read and to carry and it does what a catechism is supposed to do: provide a short but effective and orthodox instruction for everyone.
3) It reacts to the criticisms of the Abbe’ de Nantes – to the full, widely published satisfaction of the latter – on all accounts.
This practical, beautiful, unimpeachable work should find a place on the shelves of every Catholic.
This catechism, now available online, is a masterpiece of Catholic writing. The extreme elegance and beauty of the language is the more astonishing, because still very clear and easy to understand even for a foreigner. This work is kept short and to the point, and its question and answer system is extremely effective. This is a diamond of a catechism. You compare this and JP II’s work and can’t avoid thinking that the ability to write properly is not what it used to be.
This is another little pearl of a catechism. It was issued In Pennsylvania but being very little and cheap to buy probably owes its name to the penny it cost to purchase it. It has accompanied the formation of countless young Catholics. Its English is not as elegant as the Douay’s, but this is a highly effective instrument to learn the basics quickly and seriously. The 370 answers/questions were meant to be memorised and digested one a day for around a year. This little book will easily bring every Catholic to a level of orthodoxy and knowledge of Catholic doctrine far surpassing that of most Catholic politicians, and of the totality of “liberal” Catholic bishops. At the same time, such catechisms give one the entire measure of the massacre of basic Catholic instruction coldly perpetrated and ruthlessly executed after V II.
This is also a product of the US clergy of the XIX century. Three catechisms of increased levels of difficulty were issued, plus a fourth one that is the No.3 with an added commentary. As you can expect, the quality of the work is very high and the availability of different versions allows one to pick the catechism most suitable to his needs. We can note from this catechism that a seven-to-eight-years-old child was fitter in his Catholic instruction than the vast majority of nowadays’ cafeteria catholics and – possibly – than a good number of regular churchgoers. Go figure.
This is the unofficial translation in English, made a couple of decades ago to encourage the diffusion of one of the catechisms of St. Pius X. The great Pope and Saint was responsible for the creation of three such catechisms (again: for little children, for more advanced young men and women and for adults), though their adoption never became mandatory and they only found regional application. I found years ago (and lost in a hard disk casualty) the Italian version some years ago and once again, the clarity of the Italian therein used greatly impressed me. The English translation seems rather good too, though it is important to remember that this is not an official version.
These are the choices I would recommend. Again, I don’t think it wise to waste money on the V-II ridden, politically correct, bulky and unsuitable for beginners JP II’s product.
I hope this helps. Best wishes of progress in Catholic instruction to you.