(Ignatius Press, 2011)
Reviewed by Colin Kerr
Despite some significant problems with various translations of the original German text – notably impacting the Italian, French and the English versions – this is a wonderful catechetical work, and deserves much more attention than, I think, it has so far received.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church was released in 1992. This was a moment as epochal as the release of the Catechism of the Council of Trent in 1556. No text, though, however great, is suited to all readers, and the CCC is, admittedly, technical; its language is much too complicated for young people. Rather than insist on a one-size-fits-all approach, the YOUCAT is an admirable attempt to make the teaching of the Church easier for young people to understand.
But the idea of translating the sophisticated teaching of the CCC into “the language of young people,” (p. 9) seems like such a sloppy, misconceived one, does it not? Is there such a thing as a “language of young people,” after all? And yet the English version seems to have succeeded, overall, in doing just that. There are some unusual choices (see para. 516, for example), but I am certain that to impute a heretical intent to its authors and translators for the inevitable accidents and errors that beset any text is nothing short of paranoia.
This catechism is half the size of its parent. It is more readable and has a lighter feel overall. It accentuates what it (usually correctly) estimates to be the concern of young people in the world today – things like how we are to view other religions (para.136), women (401), divorce (pp.269-70), peace (395, 397-9), etc. It is full of lovely and uplifting pictures, often humorous illustrations, and great quotes from important historical figures.
For better or worse, the Catholic Faith has a lot of historical baggage. Dealing with tradition is not a simple task for catechetics. Many denominations have believed it possible (and beneficial) to simply jettison Christian history. The YOUCAT has attempted to employ it as a resource to engage the youth. In time we will see how successful this attempt has been. Personally, I think it is a very fine and engaging book for anyone from about 10 to 30 years of age. The younger side of this set would get a lot out of it just thumbing through it randomly. It’ll hold their interest.