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xvi • United States Catholic Catechism for Adults

The invention of the printing press made it possible to adapt the

“speak and echo” method of catechesis into a question-and-answer

approach that could be fixed in print. The Church adopted this approach.

It is especially evident in the influential catechisms of St. Peter Canisius

(1521-1597) and St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621).



, 1566

A third development in catechisms occurred when the bishops at the

Council of Trent in 1563 undertook the production of a printed cate­

chism that would be a comprehensive, systematic presentation of

Catholic teachings. St. Pius V completed this work and published it as


Roman Catechism

in 1566. It sought to present Catholic truths from

the viewpoint of their inherent coherence and value for instructing the

faithful. It became the enduring sourcebook for local catechisms up to

its last edition in 1978.

Until the second half of the twentieth century, for millions of

Catholics in the United States the word


meant the



, which originated at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore

in 1884 when the bishops of the United States decided to publish a

national catechism. It contained 421 questions and answers in thirty-

seven chapters. The

Baltimore Catechism

gave unity to the teaching and

understanding of the faith for millions of immigrant Catholics who pop-

ulated American cities, towns, and farms. Its impact was felt right up to

the dawn of the Second Vatican Council in 1962.

At that time, Blessed John XXIII articulated a vision for the Fathers

of the Second Vatican Council that charged them to guard and present

more effectively the deposit of Christian doctrine in order to make it

more accessible to the Christian faithful and all people of goodwill in

the contemporary world.