Despite being a worldwide best-seller, the Catechism of the Catholic Church can be a little intimidating to the average reader, with its 900-plus pages and copious footnotes. I know from experience. Several years ago, when I was first asked to put the Catechism into “plain English” in what would become “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism,” I wondered if I had the stamina to get through it and understand it in such a way that I could “translate.” But something wonderful happened on my way through Church doctrine: I discovered the poetry and beauty of a book that weaves all of Catholic teaching into one magnificent tapestry of faith and morals.
It’s no wonder that even now, as the Catechism marks its 20th anniversary, it continues to sell in record numbers, inspire spinoff publications, turn up in various digital formats, and more. From teens devouring the new “YouCat” version of the Catechism, to adults going through RCIA, to lifelong Catholics looking to strengthen their already deep faith, the Catechism has proved to be the answer to a prayer, or, at the very least, the answer to the many, many questions Catholics and others have about the Church and its teachings.
If you’ve never read the Catechism from cover to cover — and even if you have — there are will be things inside its pages that will surprise and even amuse you. Just about every topic you can imagine, and probably quite a few you can’t, fit into the Catholic picture. Don’t believe me? Take the quiz below and see if anything stumps you. This is not your grandmother’s Catechism, and it was never meant to be.
The answer key at the end of this section will provide you with the correct Catechism paragraph numbers for many questions you may want to explore further.
Have fun and, remember, no cheating. But you already knew that.
Multiple Choice questions
1. Divine economy refers to:
A. Parish finances
B. Common work of the Trinity
D. Living in solidarity with the poor
2. The “four pillars” of the Catechism are:
A. Creed, Sacraments, Commandments, Prayer
B. Eucharist, Commandments, Scripture, Church history
C. Church history, Creed, Sacraments, Commandments
D. Sacraments, Commandments, Prayer, Scripture
3. Respecting and caring for animals is taught as part of which commandment:
A. Fifth — You shall not kill.
B. Seventh — You shall not steal.
C. Ninth — You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.
D. None. It’s not included in the Catechism.
4. The fourth “pillar” of the Catechism focuses at length on this prayer:
A. Apostles’ Creed
B. Our Father
D. Jesus Prayer
5. The first official universal Catechism was published in:
A. The first century
6. Some credit this person with producing the first Catechism text:
A. John Calvin
B. St. Augustine
C. Martin Luther
D. Pope Pius VIII
7. In which language was the current Catechism first published:
8. One draft of the Catechism submitted to the bishops of the world resulted in this many suggested changes:
9. The English translation of the Catechism was held up for more than a year when some U.S. bishops objected to the use of which word:
10. The second edition of the English version of the Catechism was changed to reflect stronger language on this topic in light of Evangelium Vitae:
B. Death penalty
D. Stem cell research
11. “Parousia” refers to:
A. Jesus’ second coming
B. The gift of tongues
C. An element of the occult
D. One of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
12. Final purification will take place in:
D. On earth before death
13. The “source and summit” of Christian life is:
B. Union with God
D. Holy Orders
14. Church teaching on a “heavenly liturgy” comes from:
A. Gospel of John
B. Book of Isaiah
D. Acts of the Apostles
15. What is considered the “feast of feasts”:
B. Good Friday
16. The Sacraments of Initiation are:
A. Baptism, Reconciliation, Eucharist
B. Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist
C. Baptism, Eucharist, Marriage
D. Eucharist, Marriage, Holy Orders
17. Chrism refers to:
A. Incense used during funeral Masses
B. Perfumed oil used during baptism, confirmation and holy orders
C. Wax used to make the Easter candle
D. Blessed oil used for anointing of the sick
18. It took this many years to complete the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
19. “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit” is spoken during which sacrament:
D. Anointing of the Sick
20. Who is the “physician of our souls and bodies”?
A. The Holy Spirit
C. God the Father
D. None of the above
21. Pope Benedict XVI said this in reference to which version of the Catechism: “This Catechism was not written to please you. It will not make life easy for you, because it demands of you a new life.”
A. Catechism of the Catholic Church
C. Catholic Catechism for Adults
D. Baltimore Catechism
22. Which title below is NOT an actual version of the Catechism:
A. Catechism of the Catholic Church for Dummies
B. The Seeker’s Catechism
C. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism
D. The Essential Catholic Catechism
23. The “Decalogue” refers to:
A. Cardinal and theological virtues
B. Ten Commandments
C. Writings of the Church Fathers
D. Breakdown of the Our Father
24. Ecclesiastical Law refers to laws found in:
A. Old Testament
B. New Testament
C. Code of Canon Law
D. Code of Conduct
25. Believing in superstitions like horoscopes, tarot cards and clairvoyants goes against this commandment:
D. None. The Church lifted bans on such practices with Vatican II.
26. When the Catechism refers to a “privileged community,” it means:
A. Parish family
B. Individual Catholic families
D. Wealthy sector of secular society
27. Which of the following will you find in the Catechism index:
D. All of the above
28. As of 2008, the Catechism had sold more than this many copies worldwide:
B. 3 million
C. 10 million
29. The Catechism includes a section on the following type of prayer:
C. Vocal prayer
D. All of the above
30. “Marana tha” means:
A. Why have you forsaken me?
B. Come, O Lord.
C. It is finished.
D. He is risen.
1. T / F Meditation is a Catholic form of prayer.
2. T / F Deacons may baptize babies, bless marriages, anoint the sick and preside over funerals.
3. T / F Catholics must believe in the literal interpretation of creation from the Book of Genesis.
4. T / F Chastity is expected of all people, even married couples.
5. T / F Satan is pure spirit.
6. T / F The current Catechism of the Catholic Church replaced the Baltimore Catechism, which was also a universal catechism.
7. T / F In the Our Father, the line “deliver us from evil” refers to the general idea of evil in the world.
8. T / F The Catechism of the Catholic Church topped the New York Times best-seller list soon after being released.
9. T / F “Disparity of cult” is included in the section on divination and magic.
10. T / F The Church considers organ donation a noble act.
11. T / F Purgatory is based in Scripture.
12. T / F A Catholic couple confers the sacrament of marriage upon each other.
13. T / F A non-Catholic who has been baptized in another Christian faith and wants to convert to Catholicism must be baptized again.
14. T / F “YouCat” is a version of the Catechism targeted to young people.
15. T / F The Church does not allow cremation instead of burial.
16. T / F “Fecundity” refers to the afterlife.
17. T / F The Catechism includes a section on social communication media.
18. T / F Sacred art is discussed in the section on the Eighth Commandment, Thou shall not bear false witness.
19. T / F The Catechism index alone is more than 100 pages long.
20. T / F A priest forgives your sins in confession.
21. T / F The “domestic church” refers to the Church in the United States.
22. T / F Conversion is reserved to RCIA candidates and catechumen.
23. T / F The Our Father is a summary of the Gospel.
24. T / F The 12 cardinals and bishops appointed to the commission that prepared the current Catechism was chaired by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
25. T / F The Catechism is a like a Catholic rule book.
26. T / F More than 250 pages are devoted to the Profession of Faith.
27. T / F The “Communion of Saints” refers only to those souls who reside in heaven.
28. T / F A blessing is a “sacramental.”
29. T / F Keeping holy the Sabbath means making time for leisure, rest, and family activities, as well as attending Mass.
30. T / F The Catechism says that prayer is a “battle.”
1. B (No. 258)
3. B (No. 2416)
5. B (Catechism of the Council of Trent)
6. C (Luther’s little catechism was published in 1529.)
9. B (Those bishops lost their fight; the Church opted to keep the generic male-centered language.)
11. A (No. 1001)
12. B (No. 1030)
13. C (No. 1324)
14. C (No. 1137)
15. C (No. 1168)
16. B (No. 1212)
19. B (No. 1300)
20. B (No. 1421)
25. A (No. 2116)
26. B (No. 2206)
1. True (No. 2705)
2. False (No. 1570)
3. False (Although the Catechism of the Catholic Church doesn’t address evolution specifically, Catholics may believe that evolution is true as long as they also believe that God is the divine author of all creation and that everything evolved from it. Nothing random about it. No. 295)
4. True (No. 2337)
5. True (No. 395)
6. False (The Baltimore Catechism was not universal; it was a “minor” catechism.)
7. False. (Evil refers specifically to Satan, the “Evil One.” 2851)
8. False (Although the Catechism of the Catholic Church was an immediate best-seller, it did not top the New York Times or any other official best-seller list because the sales figures from the 15 individual publishing houses that produced it were counted separately instead of as one total.)
9. False (No. 1633)
10. True (No. 2296)
11. True (No. 1031)
12. True (No. 1623)
13. False (No. 1271)
15. False (No. 2301)
16. False (No. 2221)
17. True (No. 2493)
18. True (No. 2500)
19. True (In addition, the Index of Citations adds another 50-plus pages)
20. False (Only God forgives sins. Nos. 1441-1442)
21. False (The home is the domestic church. Nos. 1665, 2204)
22. False (All Catholics are called to a conversion of heart. No. 2608)
23. True (No. 2761)
25. False. (The Catechism is a “statement of the Church’s faith and of Catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Church’s Magesterium,” Pope John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum.)
27. False. (The Communion of Saints refers to those in heaven, as well as those in purgatory and those still on earth. No. 962)
28. True (No. 1671)
29. True (Nos. 2180-2188)
30. True (No. 2725)
Mary DeTurris Poust is the author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism” (Alpha, $14.95), available in English and Spanish.