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).
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
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
, 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
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.