Author Topic: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?  (Read 1846 times)

Offline Daniel

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Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
« on: June 26, 2020, 07:05:43 AM »
I spoke with my spiritual director and he told me that my top spiritual priority right now is to find out what the Church teach teaches. That way I will be able to repent of any heresies that I may or may not have fallen into, and be forgiven.

He said that to do this, I should systematically go through the Catechism and make sure I understand it all. He suggested I use the Baltimore Catechism #3, but he also said the Catechism of Trent would work, or any good catechism really.


What I personally would like to do is to use the oldest/earliest catechisms available, and perhaps compare them with the stuff in the newer catechisms (Baltimore and Trent), in order ultimately to determine whether the Catholic Church is in fact the true Church. I want to see that teachings such as magisterial infallibility, papal supremacy, etc., do in fact date back to the very beginning. I want to see that the most ancient Christians believed in the filoque and in the immaculate conception, and in all the other stuff that the Catholic Church has later declared as dogmatic. (Magisterial infallibility would be the big one, since it holds everything else together.)

Ideally, I'm looking for any catechisms from the first or second century. Not sure if any exist though. I could start with Scripture I guess, but Scripture isn't all that concise (not to mention it's so obscure that many who read it fall into heresy). There is also the Didache which contains some data, but it's more practical than catechetical, and it's quite limited in scope. I'm looking for something more along the lines of an actual catechism. St. Augustine's Enchiridion comes close, but that's not going to work for my purposes, as I suspect that St. Augustine and his teachers are part of the problem. (I want something that hasn't been tainted by Neoplatonistic thought.)
« Last Edit: June 26, 2020, 03:20:28 PM by Daniel »
 

Offline Sempronius

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Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2020, 09:44:43 AM »
Use the one from Trent. But I suspect your spiritual director will have many more ”dubias” from you, so I wish him the best
 

Offline Daniel

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Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2020, 12:30:26 PM »
The one from Trent doesn't help much, because I more or less already know what it says. (Well I could always learn more, but that's beside the point.)


My problem isn't that I'm ignorant of what the Catholic Church teaches. I'm not ignorant in that regard. What I'm ignorant of is whether or not the Catholic Church is the Church. You can't just start with a Catholic catechism and expect to learn, through it, what the Church teaches. That's begging the question. In order to learn what the Church teaches, you first need to know that what you're reading actually comes from the Church. Only then can you begin to learn what the Church teaches.
 

Offline Michael Wilson

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Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2020, 02:17:59 PM »
I think you will find two works which might meet your criteria:
Rev. W. Wilmers, S.J. "Handbook of the Christian Religion" Starts with the basics: "Religion implies man's union with God"; "Religion is a strict obligation incumbent on man"; "Religion may be natural or supernatural" Then it goes through the stages of revelation; from the primitive, the Mosaic and finally the Christian revelation; Finally the institution of the Church; constitution; marks; etc. etc.
A second book you might find useful is by E. Sylvester Berry STD. "The Church of Christ; An Apologetic and Dogmatic Treatise".
Fr. Berry launches right into the founding of "The Church" by Christ; then by degrees he develops the characteristics and marks which identify the true Church; finally he launches into the proofs for the Catholic Church being the one true Church.
Either one or both are excellent.
"The World Must Conform to Our Lord and not He to it." Rev. Dennis Fahey CSSP

"My brothers, all of you, if you are condemned to see the triumph of evil, never applaud it. Never say to evil: you are good; to decadence: you are progess; to death: you are life. Sanctify yourselves in the times wherein God has placed you; bewail the evils and the disorders which God tolerates; oppose them with the energy of your works and your efforts, your life uncontaminated by error, free from being led astray, in such a way that having lived here below, united with the Spirit of the Lord, you will be admitted to be made but one with Him forever and ever: But he who is joined to the Lord is one in spirit." Cardinal Pie of Potiers
 

Offline Bernadette

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Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2020, 02:31:06 PM »
Quote
What I personally would like to do is to use the oldest catechisms available, and perhaps compare them with the stuff in the newer catechisms (Baltimore and Trent), in order ultimately to determine whether the Catholic Church is in fact the true Church.

This doesn’t sound like what your director told you to do. I would start by actually going through the Catechism (can’t go wrong with #3- I have the one with the Mass guide and study helps). And while you’re at it, make frequent acts of Faith.
"Make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is come to life again; he was lost, and is found."
 
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Offline Daniel

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Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2020, 03:20:01 PM »
This doesn’t sound like what your director told you to do. I would start by actually going through the Catechism (can’t go wrong with #3- I have the one with the Mass guide and study helps). And while you’re at it, make frequent acts of Faith.

It may or may not be what he told me to do. I might not have been clear when I explained the situation to him. But in either case, he said that the goal is that I need to address the doubts. Reading a catechism which I find to be dubious isn't going to help. In fact, it makes things worse. What I need is to be able to see for myself that the current teachings are the same teachings that have been taught from the Church's beginning. I need to see that nothing has been added over the years. That will clear the doubts, since it will then be clear to me what it is that the Church teaches.


I think you will find two works which might meet your criteria:
Rev. W. Wilmers, S.J. "Handbook of the Christian Religion" Starts with the basics: "Religion implies man's union with God"; "Religion is a strict obligation incumbent on man"; "Religion may be natural or supernatural" Then it goes through the stages of revelation; from the primitive, the Mosaic and finally the Christian revelation; Finally the institution of the Church; constitution; marks; etc. etc.
A second book you might find useful is by E. Sylvester Berry STD. "The Church of Christ; An Apologetic and Dogmatic Treatise".
Fr. Berry launches right into the founding of "The Church" by Christ; then by degrees he develops the characteristics and marks which identify the true Church; finally he launches into the proofs for the Catholic Church being the one true Church.
Either one or both are excellent.

Sounds interesting I guess, but not what I'm looking for.
 
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Offline Pon de Replay

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Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2020, 04:10:36 PM »
What I need is to be able to see for myself that the current teachings are the same teachings that have been taught from the Church's beginning. I need to see that nothing has been added over the years. That will clear the doubts, since it will then be clear to me what it is that the Church teaches.

You're on a wild goose chase if you're questing for a comprehensive early catechism.  No such thing exists.  If you want to resolve the question of continuity in doctrine, there is a way to do that where you will have no shortage of resources.  Simply examine the Catholic and Orthodox arguments for papal supremacy and papal infallibility—especially the Catholic arguments and citations.  If the Church has always and explicitly taught these things, then it will be evident from the Church Fathers, the councils, &c. 

I think you will find that the Catholic appeal is to implicit teaching and "development of doctrine," in which case the apparent paucity of a thing in the early Church is considered no refutation of the Roman Catholic Church, wherein the truth flowers over epochs, and the faithful are drawn ever closer to a "fullness of understanding."  What was once primitive, is later refined.  If you cannot accept this, then you are essentially Protestant, Orthodox, or some other sect.  Papal supremacy/infallibility is the surest means to determine this, first because it is a de fide doctrine, and second because so many arguments have been made for and against it with appeals to antiquity.
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Offline Sempronius

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Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2020, 04:51:49 PM »
What I need is to be able to see for myself that the current teachings are the same teachings that have been taught from the Church's beginning. I need to see that nothing has been added over the years. That will clear the doubts, since it will then be clear to me what it is that the Church teaches.

You're on a wild goose chase if you're questing for a comprehensive early catechism.  No such thing exists.  If you want to resolve the question of continuity in doctrine, there is a way to do that where you will have no shortage of resources.  Simply examine the Catholic and Orthodox arguments for papal supremacy and papal infallibility—especially the Catholic arguments and citations.  If the Church has always and explicitly taught these things, then it will be evident from the Church Fathers, the councils, &c. 

I think you will find that the Catholic appeal is to implicit teaching and "development of doctrine," in which case the apparent paucity of a thing in the early Church is considered no refutation of the Roman Catholic Church, wherein the truth flowers over epochs, and the faithful are drawn ever closer to a "fullness of understanding."  What was once primitive, is later refined.  If you cannot accept this, then you are essentially Protestant, Orthodox, or some other sect.  Papal supremacy/infallibility is the surest means to determine this, first because it is a de fide doctrine, and second because so many arguments have been made for and against it with appeals to antiquity.


John Henry Newman wrote ”development of doctrine”. It is suited to our modern taste.

Or you could go with the pyrrhonistic philosophy. That says that nothing in life can be absolutely determined by our natural reasoning. And the only safe harbour we have is faith in Christ and letting us be guided by the Catholic Church.

Michel Montaigne is the go to guy for pyrrhonism.


 

Offline Daniel

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Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2020, 06:55:06 PM »
I think you will find that the Catholic appeal is to implicit teaching and "development of doctrine," in which case the apparent paucity of a thing in the early Church is considered no refutation of the Roman Catholic Church, wherein the truth flowers over epochs, and the faithful are drawn ever closer to a "fullness of understanding."  What was once primitive, is later refined.  If you cannot accept this, then you are essentially Protestant, Orthodox, or some other sect.  Papal supremacy/infallibility is the surest means to determine this, first because it is a de fide doctrine, and second because so many arguments have been made for and against it with appeals to antiquity.

I was afraid of that, but it looks like you're right.
 

Offline aquinas138

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Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2020, 11:38:20 PM »
If I may, Daniel, you will not read your way out of your doubts. There is no book that will satisfy your criteria, which are essentially circular. You want a catechism written by the True Church to help you know which church is the True Church, but you reject a Catholic catechism basically because it claims to be the True Church, which you are uncertain you accept.

You need to pray, you need to attend services, and you need to get your head out of the books, which are basically tormenting you at this point. I have had many of the same doubts, as have some others here and many others on other forums. People of good will come to different answers—that's just the way it is in a fallen world.

Lord, have mercy.
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Offline abc123

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Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2020, 06:30:28 AM »


What I personally would like to do is to use the oldest/earliest catechisms available, and perhaps compare them with the stuff in the newer catechisms (Baltimore and Trent), in order ultimately to determine whether the Catholic Church is in fact the true Church. I want to see that teachings such as magisterial infallibility, papal supremacy, etc., do in fact date back to the very beginning. I want to see that the most ancient Christians believed in the filoque and in the immaculate conception, and in all the other stuff that the Catholic Church has later declared as dogmatic. (Magisterial infallibility would be the big one, since it holds everything else together.)

Rather than turning to a catechism might I suggest you turn to the very word of God itself: the Scriptures?

Read St. Paul's clear Gospel presentation primarily in Romans, Ephesians and Galatians. If you want to see what the earliest Christians believed you won't get any earlier than that.

After reading and re-reading ask yourself those same questions that you ask above. Or perhaps whether those questions have any  essential bearing on the Gospel itself.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2020, 06:39:53 AM by abc123 »
 
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Offline Pon de Replay

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Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2020, 09:32:41 PM »
Or you could go with the pyrrhonistic philosophy. That says that nothing in life can be absolutely determined by our natural reasoning. And the only safe harbour we have is faith in Christ and letting us be guided by the Catholic Church.

I think Pyrronism would teach the first thing and refute the second.  Even with a supernatural faith, so long as there is intellectual content, one would still need a knowledge that the faith is true.  In some sense, knowledge itself is the greatest temptation: the desire for gnosis, to know that ye shall know the truth.  But perfect knowledge is the elusive goodie, the eternal mirage, the rabbit perpetually just out of reach of the greyhounds.

An aphorism of a philosopher: “Where there is the tree of knowledge, there is always Paradise: so say the most ancient and most modern serpents.”
Is man merely a mistake of God's? Or God merely a mistake of man's?
 

Offline Sempronius

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Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2020, 12:56:09 AM »
Or you could go with the pyrrhonistic philosophy. That says that nothing in life can be absolutely determined by our natural reasoning. And the only safe harbour we have is faith in Christ and letting us be guided by the Catholic Church.

I think Pyrronism would teach the first thing and refute the second.  Even with a supernatural faith, so long as there is intellectual content, one would still need a knowledge that the faith is true.  In some sense, knowledge itself is the greatest temptation: the desire for gnosis, to know that ye shall know the truth.  But perfect knowledge is the elusive goodie, the eternal mirage, the rabbit perpetually just out of reach of the greyhounds.

An aphorism of a philosopher: “Where there is the tree of knowledge, there is always Paradise: so say the most ancient and most modern serpents.”

It doesnt require knowledge. One could follow appearances and customs. Jesus claims to be the way to eternal life, a philospher could say, after reading His life and deeds, ”okay, that seems legit, I’ll follow along”.

Its the academic sceptic that refuses to consent to anything.

But the pyrrhonist wil follow what seems good in order to achieve his evenness of mind.
 

Offline Daniel

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Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2020, 08:28:50 AM »
Or you could go with the pyrrhonistic philosophy. That says that nothing in life can be absolutely determined by our natural reasoning. And the only safe harbour we have is faith in Christ and letting us be guided by the Catholic Church.

I think Pyrronism would teach the first thing and refute the second.  Even with a supernatural faith, so long as there is intellectual content, one would still need a knowledge that the faith is true.  In some sense, knowledge itself is the greatest temptation: the desire for gnosis, to know that ye shall know the truth.  But perfect knowledge is the elusive goodie, the eternal mirage, the rabbit perpetually just out of reach of the greyhounds.

An aphorism of a philosopher: “Where there is the tree of knowledge, there is always Paradise: so say the most ancient and most modern serpents.”

It doesnt require knowledge. One could follow appearances and customs. Jesus claims to be the way to eternal life, a philospher could say, after reading His life and deeds, ”okay, that seems legit, I’ll follow along”.

Its the academic sceptic that refuses to consent to anything.

But the pyrrhonist wil follow what seems good in order to achieve his evenness of mind.

This much I agree with (sort of... at least on some level...), but why Catholicism specifically? Why not one of the other apostolic churches? Because if I was an outsider, going only with "appearances and customs", what I see in the Catholic Church is a church that doesn't appear all that holy. (Lots of visible corruption in the middle ages all the way up through the present day.) Catholicism also appears to depart from the Church's teachings. Like the teachings are pointing in one direction, and Catholicism has been gradually moving off course (and has been doing this for well over a thousand years).
« Last Edit: June 28, 2020, 08:34:04 AM by Daniel »
 

Offline Pon de Replay

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Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
« Reply #14 on: June 28, 2020, 08:55:01 AM »
It doesnt require knowledge. One could follow appearances and customs. Jesus claims to be the way to eternal life, a philospher could say, after reading His life and deeds, ”okay, that seems legit, I’ll follow along”.

Its the academic sceptic that refuses to consent to anything.

But the pyrrhonist wil follow what seems good in order to achieve his evenness of mind.

This seems like Pascal's wager, positively re-formulated.  Instead being motivated by a fear of hell in the afterlife, the person is inspired to have peace of mind in this life.  The problem is that in neither case would the person be a sincere believer.  I could see how Pyrrhonism might coincide with something like Zen Buddhism, where the content is purely experiential and ineffable, but not quite with something like Catholicism, where the content is an intellectual assent to doctrines and a creed.
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