August 5, 2011


Youcat is vital for our teens

First it was the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1992.

Next came the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, adapted specifically for American adults, published in 2006. At least one of these books should be in the home of every Catholic family.

Now we have the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church, destined to be known as Youcat.

As we reported in an article in the July 29 issue of The Criterion, this new catechism, specifically for young people, will be launched in connection with World Youth Day, which is being celebrated in Madrid, Spain, on Aug. 16-21. A copy of YouCat will be included in each World Youth Day 2011 pilgrim’s backpack.

YouCat was edited by Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the Archbishop of Vienna. He was the chief editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, collaborating closely with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI. Cardinal Schoenborn was also close to Pope John Paul II. He conducted one of that pope’s Lenten retreats.

Pope Benedict thinks so highly of this catechism that he wrote the foreword for it.

But can an 84-year-old pope and a 66-year-old cardinal really write a book that will appeal to modern young people?

Cardinal Schoenborn obviously was concerned about that, so he enlisted the help of young Catholics. The result is a well-written, contemporary expression of the Catholic faith written for high-school age people and young adults.

Teenagers and young adults will also appreciate the appealing graphics in this catechism. They will find questions and answers, highly readable commentary, Bible citations and thought-provoking quotations from saints and others in the margins.

Cardinal Schoenborn first presented Youcat to Pope Benedict at the Vatican this past April. Then it was translated into many languages. There was a brief controversy when the Italian translation seemed to endorse contraception, but it has been corrected. The English translation clearly teaches that contraception is morally wrong.

When the cardinal presented YouCat to the pope, he noted, “The young generation lives much more clearly and consciously in a multicultural and multi-religious society. The ability to give information about one’s own faith has become markedly more urgent than it was in my generation, for instance.”

He added, “In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which simply tries to restate Catholic teaching about the faith, the reader will find many things that are disagreeable and not so easy to accept. You will find some things that are strange, totally opposed to the current mentality. But I think that learning now to deal with what is disagreeable is one of the most important tasks of such a book and the work connected with it.”

In his foreword, Pope Benedict observes that the success of World Youth Day clearly shows that young people “want to believe, are seeking God, love Christ, and want fellowship on their journey.” That is why he thought that the catechism should be translated into the language of young people, he said.

However, he continued, “Many people say to me: The youth of today are not interested in this.” His answer: “I disagree, and I am certain that I am right. The youth of today are not as superficial as some think. They want to know what life is all about. A detective story is exciting because it draws us into the destiny of other men, a destiny that could be ours. This book is exciting because it speaks of our own destiny, and so deeply engages every one of us.”

The book explains what Catholics believe and why (doctrine), how Catholics celebrate the mysteries of the faith (sacraments), how Catholics are to live (moral life) and how they should pray (spirituality).

The English-language translation is being published in this country by Ignatius Press (, which publishes most of Pope Benedict’s books. Parents should consider buying a copy of the book for their teens.

We would like to see all Catholic teens in the archdiocese read this book. We believe it is that important for the future of the Church. It would be an excellent project for each of our Catholic high schools to raise enough money to purchase a copy for each student.

And perhaps at least some of our parishes could seek donors willing to subsidize the purchase of the books for teens who are not in Catholic schools.

—John F. Fink

Local site Links: