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YOUCAT and DOCAT: Catholic teaching for teens and young adults

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Sep 21, 2016

After Pope St. John Paul II promulgated the preliminary French version of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church in the 1992 and the final Latin edition in 1997, the Church mandated that all catechetical materials should be consistent with this new and comprehensive official text. The desire for such a catechism grew out of the famous Synod of Bishops in 1985, at which Pope John Paul succeeded in motivating the bishops to recover the legacy of the Second Vatican Council, which had been distorted for twenty years by widespread dissent. The new catechism was developed under the guidance of Christoph Schönborn, who later became Archbishop of Vienna, and was named a Cardinal in 1998.

Both the 1985 Synod and the publication of the catechism in the 1990s were watershed moments in Catholic renewal. A few years later, following the International Catechetical Conference held in 2002, the Pope directed that a briefer and more accessible version of the Catechism should also be developed. This resulted in the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 2005, which consisted of 598 questions and answers, giving it the highly useful form common to many earlier catechisms.

Two appendices to the Compendium offered a collection of standard Catholic prayers in both the vernacular and Latin, and “formulas of Catholic doctrine”—such things as the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, and so on. The Compendium was supervised by a committee of cardinals led by the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI.

When Cardinal Schönborn presented the new Compendium in Vienna in 2005, however, it quickly became clear that many people regarded both the Catechism and the Compendium as too densely technical and theological for use by young people. Out of this experience came a sort of grassroots movement, under the patronage of Schönborn, to prepare a simplified youth catechism. This led to the well-known YOUCAT, which was initially distributed to 700,000 young people at World Youth Day 2011, in Madrid.

The effort to produce this “youth catechism” also led to the establishment of the YOUCAT Foundation, which is in effect a subsidiary of the International Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need. Some publishers, such as Ignatius Press have also made complementary resources available, such as a study guide, a prayer book, and Confirmation preparation materials.

And now, a catechism of Catholic social teaching

Meanwhile, also at the request of Pope St. John Paul II, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace published a major survey of Catholic social teaching in 2004, entitled the Compendium of the Social Docttrine of the Church (available in our document library). This social Compendium includes a massive topical index ranging from “abortion” to “youth”, which makes it easy to look up what the Church has had to say about any topic.

After the success of YOUCAT, the YOUCAT Foundation decided to go on to develop a new Q&A presentation of these Catholic social teachings, aimed at its youthful audience. Entitled DOCAT and appropriately subtitled “What to do?”, this new book was completed earlier this year. The rollout also included a downloadable DOCAT app which was made available in time for World Youth Day in Krakow.

Since DOCAT is the newest offering in this important series, I will suggest its basic contents by listing the headings under which its 328 questions are organized:

  1. God’s Master Plan: Love
  2. Together We Are Strong: The Church’s Social Mission
  3. Unique and Infinitely Valuable: The Human Person
  4. The Common Good, Personhood, Solidarity, Subsidiarity: The Principles of the Church’s Social teaching
  5. The Foundation of Society: The Family
  6. Occupation and Vocation: Human Work
  7. Welfare and Justice for All: Economic Life
  8. Power and Morality: The Political Community
  9. One World, One Humanity: The International Community
  10. Safeguarding Creation: The Environment
  11. Living in Freedom from Violence: Peace
  12. Personal and Societal Commitment: Love in Action

In all sections, the primary presentation of questions and answers is surrounded by appropriate quotations in the margins, and supplemented by excerpts from the most important social encyclicals and apostolic exhortations. DOCAT also includes an index of names, a Scripture index, an index of subjects, a guide to abbreviations, and—because the book is enlivened with photographs—a picture index.

The massive project of developing all of these materials and having them published in more than a score of languages has not been without occasional glitches. For example, some published translations of YOUCAT included errors on hot-button issues such as euthanasia and contraception, which were later traced to the original German text. These errors never made it into the English edition, and are being corrected elsewhere. But overall, YOUCAT and DOCAT are remarkable achievements. They were developed partly through repeated meetings, discussions and debates among young people. This extensive coordination resulted in sprightly expositions of Catholic teaching which are at once attractive, engaging, concise, easy to use, and faithful.

The focus groups used in the development of these books consisted of men and women between the ages of 15 and 25. The excellent results of the project make these resources well worth adding to the Catholic instructional materials available in any family or organization which includes teenagers and young adults.

Note: Ignatius Press has served as the publisher of YOUCAT resources in the United States. As of this writing, DOCAT is available on Amazon only through third party resellers, so purchasers may do better following the link in this paragraph to deal directly with Ignatius.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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