The Catechism of the Council of Trent

The Catechism of the Council of Trent

Publisher: Baronius Press
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Format: Hardcover
Pages: 608
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The Council of Trent was initially called to counter the Protestant Revolt by unambiguously affirming the distinctive truths of the Catholic faith. To disseminate these truths, the Council of Trent commanded a Catechism to be written. Composed under the supervision of St. Charles Borromeo and promulgated by St. Pope St. Pius V, its value as an authoritative exposition of the Catholic faith has only increased through the centuries.

While the catechism was originally intended for priests to use alongside the Sacred Scriptures in defending the faith, its straightforward and logical explanation of Catholic doctrinal and moral teachings has made it a useful reference and guide for the laity more than 400 years after it was first published. Today, it continues to enlighten souls who seek to discern between true and false teachings.

This edition is the definitive translation of the Catechism of the Council of Trent from the original Latin. The catechism covers four main area: the Articles of Faith, the Seven Sacraments, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer. However, in addition to this there are also appendices on the Immaculate Conception, Papal Infallibility, Christian Marriage and on Frequent and Daily Communion.

Transcript of Video (Slightly abridged and paraphrased for brevity and clarity)

Vincent: We have a very special book today: The Catechism of the Council of Trent.

Charles: But wasn’t that outmoded? Wasn’t that replaced?

Vincent: No. (Both laugh heartily)

Charles: Good answer!

Vincent: It’s hardcover, very beautifully done, published by Baronius Press. I highly recommend this press by the way. Very hardcore trad. You know you’re hardcore trad when you publish ten different versions of the Douay Rheims Bible. I’m not joking. Check them out.

But anyhow, I wanted to get The Catechism of the Council of Trent for probably over a year. But it hasn’t been readily available until now. But I just received it and delved a little bit into it. There are some differences that really jump out at you compared to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I’ll show you one of the differences. The headline: Baptism made obligatory after Christ’s Resurrection. It doesn’t really beat around the bush. There is very sharp, precise, clear, language that communicates the fullness of the Catholic faith. Do you have anything to say, Charles?

Charles: There’s another difference between the Catechism of the Council of Trent and the Catechism of the Catholic Church and that is the manner of its authority. Because most of the Catechism of the Council of Trent are really just quotations of the conciliar definitions. But the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a compendium of varying quotations, coming from different levels of solemnity. Some of them aren’t quotes at all. They’re just there with no attribution. There’s a similar work called the Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church which has an interesting caveat in its own foreword which is that the documents quoted have different levels of solemnity, and that has to be taken into account when evaluating. Well it doesn’t say that in the Catechism of the Catholic Church but what is true of one is true of the other. Few of them have the same level of solemnity as the Council of Trent.

Now why do I mention this? Because you mentioned baptism. The sad truth of the matter is that the Catechism of the Council of Trent is flatly contradicted by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Don’t take my word for it; read them side by side. Now what are we to make of this? Well, the Catechism of the Council of Trent simply quotes the council in this area. The Catechism of the Catholic Church doesn’t quote anybody. It just says what it says. And a catechism by itself has no real solemnity at all. So, the Catechism of the Council of Trent. where it repeats Trent, is infallible, because it is repeating infallible teaching. That’s an important distinction to bear in mind. It’s like Humanae Vitae, the encyclical by Paul VI condemning birth control. Well people say an encyclical isn’t infallible. Very true. But you can repeat infallible teaching in it, if you see the distinction.

So, if the Catechism of the Council of Trent is just another catechism, versus the Catechism of the Catholic Church on this or any other point where they disagree with each other, you’d just have to shrug and say “who knows”. But you don’t have to do that here because you are basically pitting an unsubstantiated, unattributed expression in a catechism against a quotation from an ecumenical council of the Catholic Church. It doesn’t get more infallible than that, when it is explicitly dogmatizing.

So if you demand of me “Do you follow the Catechism of the Catholic Church on this point or the Catechism of Trent?” I’d have to say the Catechism of the Council of Trent. Now, don’t think though that that means the Catechism of the Catholic Church is without value. That’s not the case. It has a good deal of value. There are lots of useful things quoted in it from sources we normally don’t get, the Eastern Church and so on and so forth. It also addresses things that the Catechism of the Council of Trent does not, and very often in a more or less authoritative manner. But, inevitably when the two disagree, the CCC’s side is not authoritative at all.

In practical terms, I would make myself familiar with the Catechism of the Council of Trent first, and then go on to use the Catechism of the Catholic Church, using that of Trent as a corrective. In other words, where the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not contradict that of Trent or deals with areas that Trent does not, it’s great. Again, I don’t say throw it out, but I do say, learn Trent first. The Trent catechism has the basic stuff that every Catholic absolutely needs.

Vincent: One of the things that really jumped out at me in delving in the Catechism of the Council of Trent is it doesn’t simply spell things out clearly and sharply, but it actually makes recommendations of what the faithful should do. For example, it doesn’t just say that baptism is essential and important, and leave you to do the math on how to approach baptism in terms of the execution of it. It actually makes recommendations for the faithful. “Baptism of infants should not be delayed” Stop messing around! Pretend like baptizing your child is the most important thing you can possibly do for your child. Pretend! (laughs)

Charles: Yeah, and pretend that feeding him is also important. And imagine that changing him is a good thing too.

Vincent: So I like that it spells it out for you that you should be treating it in this manner. So I’ve just received this, but I can immediately tell that this is one of the most important tools that you can have as a Catholic.

Charles: Absolutely! Absolutely!

Vincent: So if you don’t have your faith wrapped up in a nice little tidy package, and there’s some stuff hanging out, and you need to look up some stuff, grab this book. I really do think the way it’s outlined, that you are going to find what you are looking for.

Charles: And as I say, you needn’t throw out the CCC, but read this first. This is foundational.

Editorial Reviews

"The Roman Catechism has for more than four centuries been the single most authoritative one-volume, carefully organized, easily readable, and clearly expressed synthesis of Roman Catholicism."  – Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

"That golden book known as the Catechism of the Council of Trent, or Roman Catechism … Noted both for the abundance and accuracy of its teaching and for elegance of style, this catechism is a precious summary of the whole of theology, dogmatic and moral."  – Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Depuis Le Jour.

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