I dag er det akkurat 25 år siden pave Johannes Paul II promulgerte Den katolske kirkes katekisme, etter at bispekonferansen i 1985 hadde bedt om at en slik katekisme skulle bli utarbeidet. Det var daværende kardinal Ratzinger som som var ansvarlig for utarbeidelsen av denne store katekismen, og kardinal Schönborn ble valgt som sekretær for arbeidet. Siden Ratzinger i alle år har vært min favoritt som teolog, biskop og pave, betydde dette at jeg i mange år også satte Schönborn svært høyt – men de siste ca 10 år har jeg gradvis tenkt litt mindre positivt om ham og hans teologi.
Kathpress: Cardinal, 25 years ago the Catechism of the Catholic Church was promulgated. You were involved as editor-in-chief from the very beginning. What were the initial considerations?
The starting point was the presuppositions provided by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as President of the Commission, which John Paul II had set up. For a thorough reflection on the questions of catechesis, he chose the classical model of the four pillars of catechesis – the four pillars of the catechumenate, which had been the basis of the catechumenate for baptismal candidates since early Christian times: What do we believe (the Credo), how do we celebrate (Sacraments), how do we live (the Commandments) and how do we pray (the Our Father). The whole building should be built around these four pillars.
The second prerequisite and prescription from the side of the Commission under the leadership of Cardinal Ratzinger was that it should be an organic, synthetic, comprehensive account of Catholic Faith and life, that is, the doctrine of Faith and morals. And it should really be what the Church teaches, not what this or that theologian says, even if they are so famous or so sacred. It should be conceived that the reader, when he takes this book into his hand, can say: Here I learn what the Catholic Church teaches.
Kathpress: How can the Commission’s work be specifically conceived? What was your role as editorial secretary?
The work began with seven bishops, who divided the work among themselves, two for each of the parts, the Our Father was only reached then later. This first phase led to a first overall design, which was evaluated in a manageable round of 40 experts in catechesis. Very soon it became clear that it needed an authority that unifies the whole. At the time, Cardinal Ratzinger invited me to become the secretary of this «drafting committee» in 1987 to unify the work, to avoid repetitions, to achieve stylistic unity etc. Thus, I began my work in Autumn 1987 which above all was in the first phase to review, to process and draw conclusions from the 40 experts on the first draft and propose proposals from the Commission.
Bit by bit, it turned out that all previous drafts were really only initial drafts. A whole new editing had to be tackled – throughout on the basis of the first drafts, but in a second attempt. On this second attempt, more theological experts worked. I had the task of co-ordinating this work, also working actively on the editing, and working on it step by step and submitting to the Commission of the Twelve Bishops and Cardinals under the leadership of Cardinal Ratzinger.
And so the second large-scale draft emerged, which was then sent out into a worldwide consultation. With some naivete, on each side of the draft «sub-secreto» was printed. If you send a draft to 3,000 bishops around the world with a request for feedback, it is certain that this will not be kept secret.
Kathpress: What were the biggest obstacles to the «World Catechism Project»?
Of course, there were violent discussions from early on, even before the first sketches existed. The main argument of the opponents of this project was: It is impossible to create a book of Faith for the entire world – a Catechism for the whole world church – today, in the face of the pluralism of cultures, theologies and narratives. This was the most massive counter-argument against the project.
I think Cardinal Ratzinger took this challenge very seriously. It was ultimately a question of a fundamental theological opinion: Can Faith today be formulated as one Faith in a common form? If Paul says, «One Faith, one baptism, one God, one Lord,» can this be translated into a common book of Faith in the entire Catholic Church? The Commission set itself this challenge when sending the second draft to all bishops worldwide for consultation. This second consultation resulted in 25,000 requests for change. We then looked at and evaluated all these requests for change in a larger team.
Kathpress: What were the criteria for evaluating input from around the world?
Firstly, does this correspond to the doctrine of the Church, or is it a theological opinion, perhaps also respectable theological doctrine? Here is an example: In the «first draft», the Chapter on «descendit ad inferos» – «descended into Hell» in the interpretation of the Creed – was very much due to Hans Urs von Balthasar. Hans Urs von Balthasar has written a lot about this subject, he was an eminent theologian, a credible witness of Faith, and a master of theology. Yet it had to be said that this is an exciting theological theory, but it is not the formulated teaching of the Church. For this reason, this chapter has been thoroughly revised and oriented on what is available in the formulated teaching of the Church.
So, of course, many changes have been made. Often, these changes were real enrichments, references to missing or better formulations. Sometimes there were also detailed wishes, which are not part of a large but limited book of Faith. This evaluation was carried out by the editorial committee, and the third phase was really a final editorial, in which the entire work was once again given an editing throughout. It was necessary to bring the work stylistically into a unity, to bring it linguistically to a commonality.
Kathpress: The first edition of the Catechism appeared in French. How did that happen?
It very much helped us at that time that all members of the Editorial Committee of the French were powerful. It was then decided that French is the editorial language – for the practical reasons that it was the lingua franca of the editorial committee, even if Americans, English, Italians and Spaniards were represented. We could all agree in French. This, of course, made the work much easier – that it was written in a modern language, a language familiar to the Church. This has been so successful that I have received a high French award – not for myself, but for the editorial committee – because of the high quality of the French language. Jacques Delors said at the time: «If only the Treaty of Maastricht had been written in as good a French as the Catechism of the Catholic Church.» – A sentence which naturally pleased us.
This led to the final phase of the editorial. This was in February 1992, as I remember well, on the Feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius on 14 February that the definitive project was unanimously endorsed by the Commission and thus handed over to the Pope. He then had the last word, of course, and promulgated the entire text after his examination on 11 October 1992. That is why the 25th anniversary is now. …..
Det eneste området i verden der denne katekismen ikke er blitt godt mottatt, er i Tyskland og Østerrike, sier kardinal Schönborn (underlig og skuffende, det syns han også):
Kathpress: What is your assessment after 25 years, especially regarding the reception in German-speaking countries, but also worldwide? Has the project succeeded and the Pope’s intention achieved?
It has succeeded. It has happened. Today, the catechism is THE reference work worldwide, for the teaching office of the Church and also for catechesis. To be sure, I must add with a certain sorrow: in the German-speaking world the Catechism has not yet really reached deeply. It has always bothered me, even from my work as an editorial secretary, that in German-speaking theology and catechesis the catechism has often been treated as something handed down from above, thank God not everywhere. With irony and with this old prejudice really of the past: «Catechism is pre-conciliar».
The idea itself of the catechism is by no means a pre-Conciliar idea. We are in Luther’s year. Luther’s great, breakthrough success was decisively the «Small Catechism» and also the «Great Catechism». This was Luther’s ingenious understanding: to summarize the Faith in brief statements, and then to present it in a larger catechism for those who are to convey the Faith in a more elaborate way. Why in the German-speaking world the catechism is no longer received, for me belongs to the «Mysteria» – the secrets which I cannot explain, but which I regret.
På katolsk.no har man i alle år kunnet lese en nettutgave av Den katolske kirke katekisme – SE HER.