The CCC arose in response to the confusion concerning the faith during the first 20 years of the post-conciliar period, from 1965 to 1985. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:
“In October 1985, twenty years after the close of the Second Vatican Council, the Holy Father convoked an extraordinary synod… Its task was to look not only to the past but also to the future: to pinpoint the situation of the Church; to recall the principal intention of the Council; to ask how to make this intention our own today and to render it fruitful for tomorrow. In this context there arose the idea of a catechism of the universal Church, analogous to the Roman Catechism of 1566.” The Content of the Catechism: At the offering of the CCC to the press on October 11, 1992, Cardinal Ratzinger as head of the SCDF posed the rhetorical question: “Is the catechism really a book of morals? The answer is: Yes it is, but it is something more. It deals with the human person, but in the conviction that the human question cannot be separated from the God question. One does not really speak rightly of man without speaking of God as well. However, we cannot really speak correctly about God if he himself does not tell us who he is.” With this, Cardinal Ratzinger unfolds before us the development that took place in Vatican II, namely that the ontological architecture of the human person is effectively in the image and likeness of the divine Persons. Hence, we immediately have the theological ground of the four parts of the CCC: (I)The Creed that tells us who God is, (II) the sacraments that tell us how man becomes empowered to act like God, (III) the morality of human acts that are “Life in Christ,” that is living as Ipse Christus, and (IV) Prayer that is the very act of divinization. The content of the CCC is not merely conceptual as a book of theology “but a book of the faith for the teaching of the faith.” But what is that content? Ratzinger wrote in 1993 that “The faith does not have permanence in and of itself. One can never simply presuppose it as something already concluded in itself. It must be continually re-lived. And as it is an act, an act that embraces every dimension of our existence, it must always be thought through anew and always borne witness to anew.” Dei Verbum#5 of Vatican II had taught that “‘The obedience of faith’ (Rom. 16, 26; cf. Rom. 1, 5; 2 Cor. 10, 5-6) is to be given to God who reveals, an obedience by which man commits his whole self freely to God, offering the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals….” We have here a development of the understanding and formulation of the faith in Vatican I. Vatican I stated that “we are bound by faith to give full obedience of intellect and will to God who reveals [can.1]…. (Faith) is a supernatural virtue by which we, with the aid and inspiration of the grace of God, believe that the things revealed by Him are true, …” Vatican II goes beyond Vatican I in the acceptance of revelation by the faculties of intellect and will as data that is true. Vatican II, rather, understands “an exchange of subjects” where the believer can state “I live; no not I; Christ lives in me” (Gal 2, 20). It understands revelation to be the very Person of Jesus Christ to Whom one must give oneself and Who must be received within oneself. This speaks of a living identity of faith and sanctity. Ratzinger went further in explaining in his habilitation thesis (1956) that Revelation (the very Person of Christ) does not take place until the believing subject receives Him and there is the “exchange of subjects.” John Paul II contrasted the twoVatican formulations of faith: “Thus while the old definition in my catechism spoke principally of the acceptance as truth ‘of all that God has revealed,’ the conciliar text, in speaking of surrender to God, emphasizes rather the personal character of faith. This does not mean that the cognitive aspect is concealed or displaced, but it is, so to speak organically integrated in the broad context of the subject responding to God by faith.” The act of faith, then, involves the giving of one’s entire self to the revealing Person of Jesus Christ, the perfect Revelation of the Father (“Philip, he who sees me, sees also the Father” Jn. 14, 9). In its clearest and most radical terms, Ratzinger asked the question: “What does the Church believe? This question includes the others: who believes and how should one believe” The Catechism has dealt with both fundamental questions: the question of ‘what’ to believe and of ‘who’ believes, as one question with an interior unity. In other words, the catechism illustrates the act of faith and the content of faith in their inseparability” [my emphasis]. He clarifies: “The faith is an orientation of our existence as a whole, in its completeness. It is a basic decision, one which has effects in every aspect of our existence and one which is realized only if it is supported by all the efforts of our existence. Faith is not solely an intellectual process, or solely one of will or emotions; it is all of these together. It is an act of the entire self, of the whole person in the unity of all the elements of that person gathered into one…. It is a highly personal act.” CCC #166 says: “Faith is a personal act – the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself. But faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life. The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others. Our love for Jesus and for our neighbor impels us to speak to others about our faith. Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith.”The Novelty of the CCC: There is a parallel and a large divergence between the Catechism of Trent and the CCC. Cardinals Ratzinger and Schönborn show great respect for the conclusions reached by Pedro Rodriguez and Raul Lanzetti in their investigation of the Roman Catechism, to wit: “the primacy in catechesis is to be given to God and to his works. Whatever man has to do will always be a response to God and to his works…God is first; grace is first.” But there is a divergence. The divergence is the epistemology of subject and object. Trent (as well as Vatican I) was concerned about objective truths such as “what are we to believe.” Vatican II’s epistemological slant appears in Cardinal Ratzinger’s formulation above: “Is the catechism really a book of morals? The answer is: Yes it is, but it is something more. It deals with the human person, but in the conviction that the human question cannot be separated from the God question.” And with that the Catechism enters into the epistemological level that the entire Second Vatican Council worked in. That is one cannot understand the human person without understanding what is a divine Person, and how the act of faith is the incorporation of the divine Person in the human person. Hence, the act of faith, as understood in Vatican II, demands an anthropology that is God-like, i.e., relational. Pedro Rodriguez is clear in his announcement that it is precisely because of this personalist understanding of faith and its act of incorporating Christ within the human person to the point of a personal exchange, that the anthropology is developed and enhanced from the received individualist anthropology. In a word, you need a different kind of man to be able to take in the transcendent Trinity as revealed by Jesus Christ. Like must be known by like. If the divine Persons are relations and self-gift to each other, then to know them, the believer must be capable of being relation and self-gift. The rest of the CCC follows on this objective turn to the subject. The remark of Pedro Rodriguez in footnote 10 (see below) is most important in this respect: “ ‘La razon mas alta de la dignidad humana consiste en la vocacion del hombre a la communion con Dios.’ Estas palabras de Gaudium et spes 19, citadas al principio de la seccion (n. 27), informan la antropologia fundamental que se va construir en ella y que va a orientar todo el discurso del Catechsimo” (my emphasis). Sacraments: The second part of CCC is on the sacraments as the incorporation of the human person into divine life. Man is made in the image of likeness of the divine Persons, but he must actually participate in them. This is the work of the sacraments, and the work of the sacrament is to give a specific action to the human person to be “another Christ.” This specific action is the liturgy. Ratzinger writes: “Since it is completely determined by Vatican II, the newness of the second part which deals with the Sacraments is immediately visible in its title: ‘The Celebration of the Christian Mystery.’ This means that the sacraments are envisaged entirely in terms of salvation history, based upon the Paschal mystery, in which we are included. This also means that the sacraments are understood entirely as liturgy, in terms of the concrete liturgical celebration. In this the Catechism has accomplished an important step beyond the traditional new-scholastic teaching on the sacraments. Already medieval theology to a large extent had separated the theological consideration of the sacraments from their liturgical realization and, prescinding from this, treated the categories of institution, sign, efficacy, minister, and recipient, such that only what referred to the sign kept a connection with the liturgical celebration. Certainly, the sign was not considered so much in the living categories of matter and form. Increasingly, liturgy and theology were ever more separated from one another; dogmatics did not interpret the liturgy, rather its abstract theological content, so that the liturgy appeared almost to be a collection of ceremonies, which clothed the essential – the matter and the form – and for this reason could also be replaceable.” The great work of the Council is the recovery of the universal call to holiness through the action of Christ, principally in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which is the one transcendent action of the Person of Christ as Subject instantiated as Flesh and Blood here and now. All the other sacraments are liturgy emanating from that one sacrament/sacrifice and pointing to the action of self. Consider Matrimony that developed from being considered an objective institution with a hierarchy of ends to a communion of subjects that fulfill the call to sanctity by the gift of self, and in so doing embrace, enhance and transcend the previous objective development. Concerning Holy Mass, it is most instructive to see the energetic teaching of our Father on the privileged locus of the Mass lived out in the street (read: the sanctification of work).Morality:In his 1992 press conference, Cardinal Ratzinger started with the rhetorical question “Is the catechism really a book of morals?” To which, as we saw, the answer is both Yes and No. Yes because it speaks about human actions as good or bad. But No in the sense that moral quality would be derived from conformity with the natural law thought that had prevailed in the pre-conciliar manuals. I would offer that the moral criterion before the Council was the created nature of man as object, while the moral criterion of the Council and post-council is the ontological tendency of the subject or person. Both criteria are objective as ontological and realist, but the difference - which is a deeper ontology and a heightened realism - is the epistemological lens that one is looking through. The consequences are considerable. Case in point would be the contraceptive question. Msgr. Cormac Burke, former member of the Roman Rota wrote that “for long in Catholic teaching a hierarchical presentation was made of the ends of marriage, with procreation being the principal end. Vatican II, which twice emphasizes that marriage is of its nature ordered to procreation, does not use the term "primary" end. In two major documents of the post-conciliar magisterium a clear and integrated view of the ends of marriage has been articulated. The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” declares that these ends are twofold: ‘the good spouses themselves, and the transmission of life,’ which is identical to what was already stated in the 1983 ‘Code of Canon Law’.... Rather than any hierarchy between them, it is their mutual interdependence and inseparability which are now emphasized” Commenting on this, Burke remarked: “I consider the new emphasis here to be a ‘development’ from the teaching of Pius XI and Pius XII.” And I repeat, the consequences are considerable. If one does not understand the moral criterion of sexual morality to be the subject/person as self-gift, then all of the post-conciliar logic of the Magisterium is not understood. IVF, cloning, nuclear transfer, pre-natal adoption, etc. are all violations of the personalist/subjective anthropology of finding self by sincere gift of self enunciated in Gaudium et spes #24. And what is this moral criterion that is not objectified nature but person? Cardinal Ratzinger proclaimed in the key-note address to the bishops’ workshop in 1991: “There is an inner ontological tendency within man, who is created in the likeness of God, toward the divine. From its origin, man’s being resonates with some things and clashes with others. This anamnesis of the origin, which results from the god-like constitution of our being, is not a conceptually articulated knowing, a store of retrievable contents. It is, so to speak, an inner sense, a capacity to recall, sot that the one whom it addresses, if he is not turned in on himself, hears its echo from within. He sees: that’s it! That is what my nature points to and seeks.” Elsewhere, he wrote that “Christianity, in working out its concrete moral norms, largely resorted to contemporary models of ethical thought for guidance. It leaned chiefly on the Stoic ethic. The recourse to classical antiquity and especially to Stoic philosophy resulted in the emergence of two chief principles in Christian teaching on marriage. (1) … “generative in the double sense that marriage was entirely subordinated to the genus humanum, the human race as such, and was thus subordinated to human procreation in the social sense.” This “relegates marriage to the biological level, seeing it chiefly as a means to the end of procreation. Thus the concept of the end supplies the basic norm for judging marital ethics.” (2) “naturalistic because the Stoics saw in nature the directive activity of the Logos; the natural order revealed an all-pervasive divine meaning. Accordingly, the Stoics considered the overriding moral norm to be nature; a thing was right if it was ‘according to nature’ (kata physin). Cardinal Ratzinger then goes on to explain that “With this as a background, we can begin to see the great significance of the fact that the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World eliminated both these categories. Neither the concept of the ‘prime end of procreation’ nor the concept of marital behavior ‘according to nature’ has any place in the Constitution. This elimination of ancient categories was the result of struggle and effort and clearly marked a radical turn toward new modes of moral teaching, and a turning away from forms that have up to now characterized moral theological tradition. The procreative view is here supplanted by a personalistic view, which of course must not overlook the essentially social meaning of marriage.” So clear and firm is this point of the communion of subjectivities that the canonical understanding of matrimony passed from being a natural institution (raised to the dignity of a sacrament) with primary and secondary ends, to being a “covenant” directed to the “good of the spouses” in a communion of persons in the 1983 Code of Canon Law. In fine, only God is good, and one becomes good by freely consenting to the “ontological tendency” of the human person to respond to the divine call to make the gift. "Christian moral theology is never simply an ethics of the law, it surpasses even the realm of an ethics of virtue: it is a dialogical ethics, because the moral human action develops out of the person's encounter with God, therefore it is never an activity in itself, self-sufficient and autonomous, pure human achievement, but a response to the gift of love and thus a being drawn into the dynamic of love - of God Himself - who first of all truly frees the person and brings him to his true high dignity." Prayer: “The fourth part, which deals with prayer [principally as the Our Father], in some way summarizes the parts that preceded it: Prayer is applied faith. It is inseparably united with the sacramental world. Sacraments predispose one to personal prayer, and in turn they alone give personal prayer a solid orientation in that they insert it into the church’s common prayer and , therefore, into Christ’s dialogue with the Father. However, prayer and morality are also inseparable: it is only through conversion to God that the ways of true human fulfillment are opened…. Prayer is an expression of hope…. Thus in the four parts of the catechism we see the mutual integration of faith, hope and charity. From the very moment we believe, were allowed to hope. Because we believe and hope, we are capable of loving.” The Theological Vision of the CCC:The overriding truth of the CCC is the consciousness of the Person of Christ who becomes the experience of Revelation when He is received within the believing subject. It is within this consciousness of Christ that all the “truths” of the Catechism hold together. Cardinal Schönborn wrote (quoting Cardinal Ratzinger) that “The ‘hierarchy of truth’… is a principle of organic structure.’ It should not be confused with the degrees of certainty; it simply means that the different truths of faith are ‘organized’ around a center. It is right, therefore, to require that a catechism correspond to this principle…” He points to three criteria for the organization of the whole work: (a) the mystery of the Blessed Trinity as the center of the hierarchy of truth; (b) the Christocentric approach; (c) the fourfold plan of the Catechism, intrinsically expressing a principle of organic structure. The truth of the CCC in its totality and in its several parts consists in the embeddedness of all truths with each other depending on the authority of Christ as Word of the Father, and not on the subjective certainty of theological propositions.