The Catechism of the Catholic Church (or CCC) is an official exposition of the teachings of the Catholic Church. A provisional, "reference text" was issued by Pope John Paul II on October 11, 1992 — "the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council" — with his apostolic constitution, Fidei depositum. The new Catechism was first published in 1994 — in French — and was then translated into many other languages.
On August 15, 1997 — the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary — Pope John Paul II promulgated the Latin typical edition, with his apostolic letter, Laetamur Magnopere. The Latin text, which became the official text of reference (editio typica), amended the contents of the provisional French text at a few points. As a result, the original translations into other languages (from the French) had to be amended and re-published as "second editions" (including English).
The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church was published in 2005, and the first edition in English in 2006. It is a more concise and dialogic version of the CCC. The text is available in twelve languages on the Vatican website, which also gives the text of the Catechism itself in eight languages.
A catechism has been defined as "a summary of principles, often in question-and-answer format" . Although handbooks of religious instruction have been written since the time of the Church Fathers, the term "catechism" was first applied to them in the sixteenth century, beginning with Martin Luther's 1529 publications. Mostly, they are meant for use in class or other formal instruction.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, for which the usual English-language abbreviation is CCC, is instead a source on which to base such catechisms and other expositions of Catholic doctrine. It was given, as stated in the Apostolic Constitution Fidei depositum,  with which its publication was ordered, "that it may be a sure and authentic reference text for teaching catholic doctrine and particularly for preparing local catechisms." The CCC is in fact not in question and answer format. What corresponds to most people's idea of a catechism is instead the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
CCC is arranged in four principal parts:
- The Profession of Faith (the Apostle's Creed)
- The Celebration of the Christian Mystery (the Sacred Liturgy, especially the sacraments)
- Life in Christ (including the The Ten Commandments in Roman Catholic theology)
- Christian Prayer (including The Lord's Prayer)
The contents are abundantly footnoted with references to sources of the teaching, in particular the Scriptures, the Church Fathers, and the Ecumenical Councils  and other authoritative Catholic statements, principally those issued by recent Popes.
The section on Scripture in the CCC (nos. 101-141) recovers the Patristic tradition of "spiritual exegesis" as further developed through the scholastic doctrine of the "four senses." This return to spiritual exegesis is based on the Second Vatican Council's 1965 "Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation", which taught that Scripture should be "read and interpreted in light of the same Spirit by whom it was written" (Dei Verbum 12). The CCC amplifies Dei Verbum by specifying that the necessary spiritual interpretation should be sought through the four senses of Scripture (nos. 111, 113, 115-119), which encompass the literal sense and the three spiritual senses (allegorical, moral, and anagogical).
The literal sense (no. 116) pertains to the meaning of the words themselves, including any figurative meanings. The spiritual senses (no. 117) pertain to the significance of the things (persons, places, objects or events) denoted by the words. Of the three spiritual senses, the allegorical sense is foundational. It relates persons, events, and institutions of earlier covenants to those of later covenants, and especially to the New Covenant. Building on the allegorical sense, the moral sense instructs in regard to action, and the anagogical sense points to man's final destiny. The teaching of the CCC on Scripture has encouraged the recent pursuit of covenantal theology, an approach that employs the four senses to structure salvation history via the biblical covenants.
Points of controversy
Some traditionalist Catholics argue that statements made in CCC conflict with past Catholic teachings on many topics, and that it teaches Gnosticism, promotes the theory of evolution, favours indifferentism (the belief that religions are equal), false ecumenism (cooperation with non-Catholic Christians), secular collaboration and compromise, homosexuality and internationalism. They maintain that, though theological opinion was not intended to be a part of CCC, it in fact "does not distinguish between matters of faith and theological opinion."
One such writer, quoting Pope Paul VI to the effect that the Catholic Church has made a conscious attempt to adopt "a more humble and fraternal attitude ... that of a search for the truth", claims that CCC displays a shift away from presenting dogma as fact and toward presenting the Catholic faith itself as a search for truth. Referring also to the statement in the Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum that "the contents are often presented in a new way in order to respond to the questions of our age", he claims that the "new catechesis ... attempts to produce existential reactions rather than intellectual conviction."
Some, desiring a simpler text instead of so diffuse and "ponderous" a book, object to what they consider to be an absence in CCC of the clarity they see in 13th century work of St. Thomas Aquinas and in the 1885 Baltimore Catechism (a book that was meant as a class textbook in question-and-answer form, unlike CCC, which is intended as a source for use in composing such textbooks).
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Pope John Paul II declared it authoritative, to be "a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion."  It is also a handy quotation reference work which provides an entry point to Scripture, as well as to other Church writings.
The interest in Church teachings that CCC has stirred even in circles outside the Catholic Church was noted by Pope Benedict XVI prior to his becoming Pope:
It clearly show[s] that the problem of what we must do as human beings, of how we should live our lives so that we and the world may become just, is the essential problem of our day, and basically of all ages. After the fall of ideologies, the problem of man — the moral problem — is presented to today's context in a totally new way: What should we do? How does life become just? What can give us and the whole world a future which is worth living? Since the catechism treats these questions, it is a book which interests many people, far beyond purely theological or ecclesial circles.
- From the Copyright Information, pg. iv.
- "FIDEI DEPOSITUM". Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 1992-10-11. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_jp-ii_apc_19921011_fidei-depositum_en.html. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
- Copyright 1994, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Citta del Vaticano.
- In the United States, the English translation was published by the U.S. bishops in 1994 (copyright 1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.—Libreria Editrice Vaticana), with a note that it was "subject to revision according to the Latin typical edition (editio typica) when it is published." (From the Copyright Information, pg. ii.)
- The Latin-text copyright is 1994, 1997, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Citta del Vaticano.
- "LATIN EDITION OF CATECHISM PROMULGATED". L'Osservatore Romano. 1997-09-17. http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2LAETM.HTM. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
- "MODIFICATIONS from the Edito Typica". Amministrazione Del Patrimonio Della Sede Apostolica. http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/updates.htm. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
- In the U.S., the bishops then published a new English translation, from the official Latin text. (English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Modifications from the Editio Typica, copyright 1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.—Libreria Editrice Vaticana.) The U.S. bishops added a "Glossary and Index Analyticus" (copyright 2000, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.) and published the new translation, with glossary and index, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, "revised in accordance with the official Latin text promulgated by Pope John Paul II". (From the title page.)
- "The Semi-Catholic Catechism of the Catholic Church". angelusonline.org. 2007-02-23. http://www.angelusonline.org/Article657-thread-order1-threshold0.phtml. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
- Levada, Archbishop William J. (1994-02-07). "The New Catechism: An Overview". United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Office for the Catechism. http://www.usccb.org/catechism/resource/lev94art.htm#structure. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
- Wrenn, Michael J.; Whitehead, Kenneth D. (1996). Flawed Expectations: The Reception of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Ignatius Press. p. 208. ISBN 0-89870-591-6.
- Amerio, Romano (1996). Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the XXth Century. Sarto House. ISBN 0-9639032-1-7.
- "The Catechism of the Catholic Church in Context". United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Office for the Catechism. 1992-12-09. http://www.usccb.org/catechism/resource/rat92art.htm#intro. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church – English translation (U.S.A., 2nd edition) (English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Modifications from the Editio Typica, copyright 1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc. — Libreria Editrice Vaticana) (Glossary and Index Analyticus, copyright 2000, U.S. Catholic Conference, Inc.). ISBN 1-57455-110-8
- Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church – English translation (USCCB, 2006). ISBN 1-57455-720-3
- United States Catholic Catechism for Adults – English "... resource for preparation of catechumens in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and for ongoing catechesis of adults" (USCCB, 2006). ISBN 1-57455-450-6
Sites that carry the full CCC text
- Vatican; Latin editio typica; English, French and Italian texts revised in accordance with the Latin editio typica; German and Spanish unrevised texts (based on the provisional French text)
- Fulltext Search Latin editio typica; English text revised in accordance with the Latin editio typica
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; English – Second edition (revised in accordance with the Latin editio typica)
- St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, Miss., USA; English – Second edition (revised in accordance with the Latin editio typica), with full text search and list of changes between the First and Second editions
Sites that carry comments on the CCC
- US Catholic Bishops Conference: Office for the Catechism
- Catechism of the Catholic Church Simplified - A condensation of the text, not the text itself
Text of the Compendium of the CCC
- Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in English, French, German, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Lithuanian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish
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