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Catholic Review of: Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

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This item received 5 stars overall. (12/31/2011)

Orthodoxy: Completely orthodox.
Reading Level: Intermediate

 Dorian SpeedBy Dorian Speed (TX) - See all my reviews

Evaluator Comments

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church was published in 2005 to serve as a concise reference to the Catechism, one which presents the essentials of the faith with "brevity, clarity, and comprehensiveness," as mentioned by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in the foreword. This slim volume of 598 questions and answers could serve equally as an introduction to Catholicism for someone inquiring into the Faith or as a quick-reference for catechists and others with a solid knowledge of the Catechism.
The most striking aspect of the Compendium is the use of classics of Christian artwork throughout. Each image, whether it be of a painting, icon, mosaic, or interior of a church, serves as an introduction to the section that follows, and comes with a detailed explanation of the symbolism within the image. 
Each chapter consists of questions and answers, each of which summarizes several articles from the Catechism. As such, this is not the place to turn for a comprehensive explanation of a point of doctrine, but the answers are definitive, clear, and helpful. For example, sections 1645-1648 of the Catechism are summarized in question 347 of the Compendium, with an explanation of why adultery, "the deliberate refusal of one's procreative potential," and divorce are offenses against "the equal dignity of man and woman and the unity and exclusivity of married love." For topics such as this that give rise to a host of other questions, the Compendium does not go into further detail but does point the reader to the appropriate sections in the Catechism.
The responses are framed in such a way as to encourage deeper investigation of the sources of Catholic teaching. Question 210 - "What is purgatory?" - is answered as follows: "Purgatory is the state of those who die in God's friendship, assured of their eternal salvation, but who still have need of purification to enter into the happiness of heaven." A reader unfamiliar with this particular teaching would find this answer thought-provoking and gain a clearer understanding of this often-misunderstood aspect of our faith.
The Compendium concludes with a list of traditional Catholic prayers, most provided in both English and Latin, and a list of the Formulas of Catholic Doctrine (Three Theological Virtues, Four Last Things, etc.). 
Designed to provide a basic, accurate overview of the contents of the Catechism, this text would provide a good quick-reference supplement for use in RCIA or in classroom catechesis.
You can purchase this book here.

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