Instructions for Use
The Youth Catechism, which is written in Language suitable for young people, deals with the entire Catholic faith as it was presented in the Catechsim of the Catholic Church (CCC of 1997), without aiming, however at the completeness provided in that volume. The work is structured in Question-and-Answer format, and numbers after each answer refer the reader to the more extensive and in-depth treatments of the CCC. A commentary following the answer is meant to give the young person additional help in understanding the questions that are discussed and their significance in his life. Furthermore, the Youth Catechism offers in the margin a continuous series of supplementary elements, such as pictures, summary definitions, citations from Sacred Scripture, quotations from saints, and reliable teachers of the faith but also from non-religious authors. At the conclusion of the book, there is an index of subjects and persons to facilitate finding specific topics.
So it would seem that there are four types of supplementary texts used in the YouCat; 1. summary definitions, 2. citations from Scripture, 3. quotations from saints and reliable teachers of faith, and 4. non-religious authors. Which of the above four categories does the arch-heretic Martin Luther fall into? He is quoted at least three times. (pages 93 and 200 right under Saint Jerome whom he admittedly hated, for instance he once said in referring to the great Saint Jerome, "I know no doctor whom I hate so much, although I once loved him so ardently. Surely there's more learning in Aesop, than in all of Jerome" (LW 54, 72) Obviously the quotes of Luther used in the YouCat are not summary definitions, he did not write any of the books of Sacred Scripture, he is certainly not a saint, he is not a reliable teacher of the faith, nor is he a non-religious author. Martin Luther once said of the pope, "I believe the pope is the masked and incarnate devil because he is the Antichrist. As Christ is God incarnate, so the Antichrist is the devil incarnate." Of course that quote is not in the YouCat. Anyone care to answer how Luther has made his way into the new youth catechism, and which category above he falls into? Can you explain how using the arch-heretic's quotes helps our youth to understand the Catholic faith any better? For example, on page 201 the topic covered is the Sabbath. On the side margin Luther is quoted, "That is the difference between animals and man: the latter has a Sunday outfit, too." OK, great one!
Secondly, many of the quotes used seem to trivialize the faith. For example, on page 139 the topics covered are priests and the forgiveness of sin. Next to that text there are quotes in the sidebar which supplement the text. One of them is a quote by the British actor Peter Sellers which reads, "The closest thing to a father confessor is probably a bartender." OK, anyone care to explain that one? Is that the punchline? How does that quote help to catechize our youth? I asked a teenage kid from my parish who Peter Sellers was and he looked at me and said, "who?"
Thirdly, there are almost as many non-Catholics quoted as there are Catholics. For example, Brother Roger Schutz, the founder of Taize is quoted several times (pg 57,190), Ludwig Fuerbach, the atheist philosopher is quoted (pg 57) who is best known for his attack on Christianity titled, 'The Essence of Christianity'. We have the liberal humanist philosopher Erich Fromm quoted on page 108, Soren Kierkegaard is quoted on many pages including 150,168, 192, Dietrich Bonhoeffer on 158, Friedrich Von Bodelschwingh on page173, Lu Buwei, the ancient Chinese philosopher/emperor who committed suicide after committing scandalous acts is quoted on page 204, Friederich Nietzche on page 252, and the list goes on and on. I am not kidding you. These people are all used to supplement the Catholic faith in the new YouCat. I really am stunned by this publication. Am I over reacting?
It is also worthy to mention that a majority of the quotes used are from Germans, which are not even known to most Americans. The catechism is supposed to teach and promote the Catholic faith. It is not supposed to be a compilation of famous quotations from German authors, poets and philosophers or famous British actors. I am sure if I dug deep enough I could find a decent quote by Michael Jackson, or Mick Jagger, but should we use their quotes in the catechism? I have talked to several Catholics about this YouCat and they are scandalized by it, and most tell me they would never give it to their kids to use. Not only are the quotes that are used to supplement the main text in bad taste, but the text itself is quite ambiguous in many places. I will not cover that in this post, perhaps at a later date. Any thoughts?