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The Shrine => The Bookstore => Topic started by: Daniel on June 26, 2020, 07:05:43 AM

Title: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Daniel 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.)
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Sempronius 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
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Daniel 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.
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Michael Wilson 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.
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Bernadette 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.
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Daniel 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.
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Pon de Replay 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.
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Sempronius 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.


Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Daniel 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.
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: aquinas138 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.
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: abc123 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.
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Pon de Replay 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.”
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Sempronius 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.
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Daniel 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).
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Pon de Replay 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.
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Daniel on June 28, 2020, 11:03:05 AM
I don't know anything about Pyrrhonism, but I don't think experience-based knowledge is necessarily incompatible with assenting to the creed. Our assent, in fact, needs to be based in experience. It's impossible for man, through only his intellect, to reason his way to knowledge of the Incarnation or the Crucifixion.

However, the goal can't just be "look around you and follow whichever religion seems to do the best job at giving you peace of mind". Because I agree, this just seems like a rehash of Pascal's wager. It might work as a starting point, but it can't end there. What needs to happen is that God needs to step in at some point, supply the certainty, and lead us into truth. He first needs to show Himself to us, and then make us His friends, and then show us His Church. Otherwise we're just playing a guessing game whereby it is impossible to ever come to know God, His will, or His teachings.
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Pon de Replay on June 28, 2020, 11:49:32 AM
I don't know anything about Pyrrhonism, but I don't think experience-based knowledge is necessarily incompatible with assenting to the creed. Our assent, in fact, needs to be based in experience. It's impossible for man, through only his intellect, to reason his way to knowledge of the Incarnation or the Crucifixion.

I take your point.  But the experiential distinction between Zen and Christianity is that Zen is non-affirming.  It says that its contents cannot be grasped.  They cannot be dogmatized or formulated as a creed.  Where Christianity is experiential, the experience is an experience of gnosis: the acquisition of knowledge, even if it comes by some other avenue than natural reason.  The content of the knowledge contains a claim of a singular historical miracle.  Either a person's Pyrronhic skepticism will be overcome and obliterated by the mystical experience of faith by grace, or else it will remain, and the person's mind then contains the knowledge of something to which they must properly apply their skepticism.  In which case they would go into an epistemological tailspin.  It's like the limerick by Alan Watts:

There was a young man who said, "though
it seems that I know that I know,
what I would like to see
is the I that knows me
when I know that I know that I know."

In either case, Pyrronhism can be no approach to Christianity, even as a starting point.  At least, I don't think it can.
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Geremia on June 28, 2020, 04:56:22 PM
St. Robert Bellarmine's catechism (https://isidore.co/calibre#panel=book_details&book_id=4401) was among the first in the modern, question-answer format; the 1649 Douay catechism is also old (https://isidore.co/calibre#panel=book_details&book_id=4515).
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Lynne on June 28, 2020, 05:50:39 PM
The Didache was written in the first century and was used to teach the Gentiles...

Quote
The Didache is probably the oldest patristic document. Its full title originally was, "The Lord's Instruction to the Gentiles Through the Twelve Apostles."

https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/didache-12503 (https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/didache-12503)
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Philip G. on June 29, 2020, 12:27:59 AM
Daniel - Have you read the old testament?
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Bernadette on July 02, 2020, 04:20:25 PM
So did you find a Catechism?
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Daniel on July 03, 2020, 09:15:04 AM
I'm going to use this audio series: https://www.olmcfssp.org/index.php/olmc/post/audio_catechism , in addition to The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism (could only find No. 2, but it's probably good enough. Just ordered it yesterday... it should arrive early next week).

Not sure any of this is going to help much though. I already have a general understanding of what the Catholic Church teaches. My problem is not an ignorance of the doctrines, but an inability to accept these doctrines with any real certainty (especially the doctrine concerning magisterial infallibility, which appears to me to be a "new" doctrine).
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Xavier on July 03, 2020, 10:23:17 AM
Daniel, is the below helpful for you? https://www.scripturecatholic.com/catholic-faith/

"What Church? Scripture reveals this Church to be the one Jesus Christ built upon the rock of Saint Peter (Matt. 16:18). By giving Peter the keys of authority (Matt. 16:19), Jesus appointed Peter as the chief steward over His earthly kingdom (cf. Isaiah. 22:19-22). Jesus also charged Peter to be the source of strength for the rest of the apostles (Luke 22:32) and the earthly shepherd of Jesus’ flock (John 21:15-17). Jesus further gave Peter, and the apostles and elders in union with him, the power to bind and loose in heaven what they bound and loosed on earth. (Matt. 16:19; 18:18). This teaching authority did not die with Peter and the apostles, but was transferred to future bishops through the laying on of hands (e.g., Acts 1:20; 6:6; 13:3; 8:18; 9:17; 1 Tim. 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim. 1:6).

By virtue of this divinely-appointed authority, the Catholic Church determined the canon of Scripture (what books belong in the Bible) at the end of the fourth century. We therefore believe in the Scriptures on the authority of the Catholic Church. After all, nothing in Scripture tells us what Scriptures are inspired, what books belong in the Bible, or that Scripture is the final authority on questions concerning the Christian faith. Instead, the Bible says that the Church, not the Scriptures, is the pinnacle and foundation of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15) and the final arbiter on questions of the Christian faith (Matt. 18:17). It is through the teaching authority and Apostolic Tradition (2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6; 1 Cor. 11:2) of this Church, who is guided by the Holy Spirit (John 14:16,26; 16:13), that we know of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, and the manifold wisdom of God. (cf. Ephesians 3:10).

You can also take a look at this if you're interested: https://www.scripturecatholic.com/the-biblical-church/ But it may be easier and wiser just to trust that the Church is guided by God, and teaches us the way to salvation.

"Mark 3:16; John 1:42 – Jesus renames Simon “Kepha” in Aramaic which literally means “rock.” This was an extraordinary thing for Jesus to do, because “rock” was not even a name in Jesus’ time. Jesus did this, not to give Simon a strange name, but to identify his new status among the apostles. When God changes a person’s name, He changes their status.

Gen. 17:5; 32:28; 2 Kings 23:34; Acts 9:4; 13:9 – for example, in these verses, we see that God changes the following people’s names and, as a result, they become special agents of God: Abram to Abraham; Jacob to Israel, Eliakim to Jehoiakim, Saul to Paul .....

(later on)

"“Peter, who is called ‘the rock on which the church should be built,’ who also obtained ‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven…’” Tertullian, On the Prescription Against the Heretics, 22 (c. A.D. 200).

“And Peter, on whom the Church of Christ is built, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail…” Origen, Commentary on John, 5:3 (A.D. 232).

“By this Spirit Peter spake that blessed word, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ By this Spirit the rock of the Church was established.” Hippolytus, Discourse on the Holy Theophany, 9 (ante A.D. 235).

“’…thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church’ … It is on him that he builds the Church, and to him that he entrusts the sheep to feed. And although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single Chair, thus establishing by his own authority the source and hallmark of the (Church’s) oneness…If a man does not fast to this oneness of Peter, does he still imagine that he still holds the faith. If he deserts the Chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, has he still confidence that he is in the Church?” Cyprian, De Unitate Ecclesiae (Primacy text), 4 (A.D. 251)." https://www.scripturecatholic.com/the-biblical-church/#I_Peter_is_the_Rock_on_which_the_Church_is_Built-2
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Kent on July 03, 2020, 12:34:08 PM
I'm going to use this audio series: https://www.olmcfssp.org/index.php/olmc/post/audio_catechism , in addition to The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism (could only find No. 2, but it's probably good enough. Just ordered it yesterday... it should arrive early next week).

Not sure any of this is going to help much though. I already have a general understanding of what the Catholic Church teaches. My problem is not an ignorance of the doctrines, but an inability to accept these doctrines with any real certainty (especially the doctrine concerning magisterial infallibility, which appears to me to be a "new" doctrine).

The catechism format is relatively new (in a two thousand year period) for two primary reasons: first, the technological limitations of a world without printing presses and second, the fact that until the reformation there was really only one kind of Christian someone could be if they lived in the west, which meant that there was no real competing religious threat to the homogeneity of Catholic belief expressed through sermons, letters, and the other means of ordinary magisterium at the time.  Protestantism obviously threw a wrench into that, and the early catechisms were advocated for, designed, and sponsored by people like Ss. Peter Canisius, Charles Borromeo, Pope St. Pius V, Robert Bellarmine, et al. (read: the counter-reformers) in large part as a way for laity to have, on hand, material that helped distinguish between Protestant and Catholic belief.  So when you said (earlier in the thread) that you were 'afraid' to find out that there are not catechisms prior to Trent, understand that there is a very natural explanation for this that doesn't confirm your scruples and suspicions.

I don't know why you would opt for the St. Joseph's catechism given everything else you've said (it's a fine catechism, to be sure, but it's about as summative as catechisms go).  If you want something more expositional, you really need the Roman Catechism, i.e., the catechism of the Council of Trent.  It explains doctrines in more detail than any other catechism you will find, and it makes connections between scripture, the fathers, and the teachings of Trent.  If reconcilability is the issue, you might get a copy of Trent's catechism and read it alongside Trent itself (such as can be found in Denzinger).  That would make for a highly instructive experience, since both the council and the catechism do much more than merely state what Catholics believe.  They explain why and justify those beliefs in considerable detail.
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Daniel on July 03, 2020, 04:34:52 PM
The catechism format is relatively new (in a two thousand year period) for two primary reasons: first, the technological limitations of a world without printing presses and second, the fact that until the reformation there was really only one kind of Christian someone could be if they lived in the west, which meant that there was no real competing religious threat to the homogeneity of Catholic belief expressed through sermons, letters, and the other means of ordinary magisterium at the time.  Protestantism obviously threw a wrench into that, and the early catechisms were advocated for, designed, and sponsored by people like Ss. Peter Canisius, Charles Borromeo, Pope St. Pius V, Robert Bellarmine, et al. (read: the counter-reformers) in large part as a way for laity to have, on hand, material that helped distinguish between Protestant and Catholic belief.  So when you said (earlier in the thread) that you were 'afraid' to find out that there are not catechisms prior to Trent, understand that there is a very natural explanation for this that doesn't confirm your scruples and suspicions.

I don't know why you would opt for the St. Joseph's catechism given everything else you've said (it's a fine catechism, to be sure, but it's about as summative as catechisms go).  If you want something more expositional, you really need the Roman Catechism, i.e., the catechism of the Council of Trent.  It explains doctrines in more detail than any other catechism you will find, and it makes connections between scripture, the fathers, and the teachings of Trent.  If reconcilability is the issue, you might get a copy of Trent's catechism and read it alongside Trent itself (such as can be found in Denzinger).  That would make for a highly instructive experience, since both the council and the catechism do much more than merely state what Catholics believe.  They explain why and justify those beliefs in considerable detail.

The reason I chose the St. Joseph version is because it's the one suggested by Fr. Jackson (for that particular audio series). I personally have never seen it before so I have no idea how it differs from the standard Baltimore Catechism, but I figured that having the same version would just make more sense.

As for why I'm using that particular audio series, I don't have much reason other than the fact that it looks pretty complete. I'm not familiar with Fr. Jackson, but if he's FSSP then he's probably what I'd expect. I've seen other audio catechism lessons out there (I used to use a series by Fr. Doran, former-SSPX), but they're generally fragmented, covering just bits and pieces, not the whole catechism. Fr. Jackson's is the first "complete" one that I've come across.

My concern wasn't exactly the newness, but the continuity. As you say, the Trent catechism is designed to distinguish Catholicism from Protestantism. But what if both are wrong? At that time (and now) the Catholic Church was saying something quite different from the Orthodox churches. So my bigger question is, who was it that split off from whom? Catholics say the Orthodox are schismatic. They say that the Catholic Church is the Church, and that the Orthodox churches are outside the Church. But maybe this is completely wrong. Maybe it's the other way around. Maybe the Catholic Church split off from the Church (I suspect at some point as early as the time of St. Augustine), and maybe one or more of the Orthodox churches (who never placed much stock in St. Augustine's theology) kept the deposit of faith intact. So I wanted an early catechism (or catechism-like document), in order to confirm that all of the Catholic teachings were there from the very beginning. Especially magisterial infallibility. Like, do there exist any first- or second-century documents making explicit and unequivocal reference to a belief in an infallible magisterium? I'm really not interested in arguments. Arguments are often misleading. What I want is to see that the Church has always believed in magisterial infallibility and/or in all these seemingly-novel doctrines that, for at least a thousand years, have been coming out of the magisterium.

However, if there is a theory of "development of doctrine", I suppose I'll need to look more deeply into that, to see how it works exactly before I reject it. Nevertheless, it would be nice if there was an explicit unequivocal first- or second-century reference to a belief in the "development of doctrine". Just by reading St. Paul and the Apocalypse, such a theory sounds pretty absurd. God says to keep to what has been passed down to us, and to reject all the new stuff which people have made up. There doesn't seem to be any notion of a growing body of knowledge, or any notion that the deposit of faith was incomplete. The implication is that the Apostles received from Jesus everything that the Church would ever need to know, and that the Church's job is to safeguard it and pass it on intact to subsequent generations. Not add to it through theology and philosophy.


Xavier - I've heard the arguments before, but arguments are only arguments. The Orthodox and the Protestants have arguments too. No man by his own power can sort out the truth from the error. The only way you can know for sure is if God shows you. But God, or maybe an evil spirit, seems to be showing me that maybe the Catholic Church is wrong.
Title: Re: Request: Anyone know of the oldest catechisms available?
Post by: Kent on July 04, 2020, 10:10:15 AM
Daniel, recall the parable of the mustard seed and then think about whether doctrinal development makes any sense. Or, think about the fact that at one point in your life you were bald, about ten inches tall, unable to speak, and certainly unaware of and incapable of interacting with anything that existed outside of your mother's womb. And yet here you are, substantially the same as you were then. Think about how much sense it makes to claim that Daniel on Suscipe Domine is the same person that existed in your mother's womb. Yet, it's true.

To be sure, this isn't to say that every claimed instance of 'doctrinal development is legitimate, just as it isn't right to say that a woman getting testosterone treatments is a legitimate case of human development. But that needn't cause issues for you at this point since it seems your problem is with the idea per se, not any particular example or instantiation of it.