In the nineteenth century, repeated efforts had been made in the United States towards an arrangement by which a uniform textbook of Christian Doctrine might be used by all Catholics. As early as 1829, the bishops assembled in the First Provincial Council of Baltimore, Maryland decreed: "A catechism shall be written which is better adapted to the circumstances of this Province; it shall give the Christian Doctrine as explained in Cardinal Bellarmine's Catechism (1597), and when approved by the Holy See, it shall be published for the common use of Catholics" (Decr. xxxiii). The clause recommending Bellarmine's Catechism as a model was added at the special request of the Congregation of Propaganda. It may be mentioned here that Bellarmine's "Small Catechism," Italian text with English translation, was published at Boston, in 1853.
The wish of the bishops was not carried out, and the First and Second Plenary Councils of Baltimore (1852 and 1866) repeated the decree of 1829. In the Third Plenary Council (1884) many bishops were in favor of a "revised" edition of a 1775 catechism by Irish Archbishop Butler, but finally the matter was given into the hands of a committee of six bishops. At last, in 1885, was issued "A Catechism of Christian Doctrine, Prepared and Enjoined by Order of the Third Council of Baltimore." Although the council had desired a catechism "perfect in every respect" (Acta et Decr., p. 219), theologians and teachers criticized several points (Nilles, "Commentaria", II, 265, 188). Soon various editions came forth with additions of word-meanings, explanatory notes, some even with different Arrangements, so that soon there was a considerable diversity in the books that go by the name of Baltimore Catechism. The Baltimore Catechism became the standard text for Catholic education in the United States. Since the 1960s, many Catholic churches and schools have moved away from catechism-based education, but a modernized edition is available under the title of the New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism (ISBN 0-89942-242-X).
A handbook rooted in Baltimore: Catholic educators convene in city where legendary catechism took shape in 1884.
Apr 12, 2007; Byline: Liz F. Kay and Jacques Kelly Apr. 12--All these decades later, Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore can recite from...