Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church Catholic Truth Society 2010 £9.95 ISBN 978-1-86082 -728-0 300pp
Evangelical Christianity seems to start from ‘Jesus is Lord’ and build doctrine up from there. Catholic Christianity, whilst not in direct conflict, seems to be going the other way, distilling down the 2,865 articles of the 1994 Catechism to 598 in the 2005 Compendium and now to 527 in YOUCAT, the official catechism for World Youth Day. The book has a good look with flexible feel, papal foreword, margin pictures and illustrations, summary definitions of key terms, Bible quotes and sayings from Saints as well as contemporary teachers like the late Prior Roger of Taizé.
As an Evangelical Catholic in Anglican tradition I valued this simplified presentation of the creed, sacraments, commandments and prayers which like the Compendium has the advantage of question and answer form under the four traditional headings: what we believe, how we celebrate the Christian mysteries, how we are to have life in Christ and how we should pray. The questions in the Youth Catechism are direct and tough – on premarital sexual relationships, homosexual practice or women as priests – with straight answers hard hitting on those issues, but also on human trafficking, sexual abuse, anti-Semitism, child soldiers, social injustice, pornography, prudishness,, self-mutilation, tax dodges, vandalism and the glorification of violence. There is much vital and constructive thought and counsel set out on doctrine, worship, ethics and prayer and a good index to make for further accessibility.
YOUCAT has 96 pages on the commandments, 88 on the creed, 60 on the sacraments and 31 on prayer which reads different in its prioritisation from the ‘belonging leads to believing then to behaving’ thesis, but it is a catechism after all. As such it distils centuries of theological and moral reasoning down into 300 pages making space for inspirational quotations on the page margins. It is an accessible book that will serve those teaching Christianity in churches and schools across the world in its main lines.
The Revd Dr John Twisleton Rector of St Giles, Horsted Keynes, West Sussex 26th September 2012