The Dutch Catechism and the Rise of the “Light Catholic”

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By Peter O’Dwyer

“A New Catechism: The Catholic Faith for Adults,” also known as the Dutch Catechism, is probably one of the most destructive documents of the 20th century. And there is a good chance that you have already crossed paths.

The Dutch Catechism, published in 1966, is the brainchild of a Dominican priest named Edward Schillebeeckx. Schillebeeckx was a radical, whose writings were studied by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on three occasions.

The Dutch Catechism was an attempt to compile all Church teachings into one volume. Unfortunately, it lacked vast amounts of fundamental Catholic truths while presenting itself as a comprehensive resource.

A Vatican commission reviewed the work and found major shortcomings, and compiled a list of doctrines that were to be included in the Dutch Catechism:

  • We have all inherited original sin
  • Human souls are created directly by God
  • Angels Really Exist
  • Jesus was conceived virginally
  • Notre-Dame was conceived immaculate
  • Our blessed Lord is in fact Savior through His satisfaction to the Father on our behalf
  • The Sacrifice on the Cross is perpetuated in the Sacrifice of the Mass
  • Jesus is truly, truly and substantially present in the Blessed Sacrament
  • There is an essential difference between the priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood

Instead of being woven into their place in the Catechism, these doctrines were simply added as an appendix at the end of the book.

The Dutch Catechism was a mega-hit, selling millions of copies in multiple languages. It has become the basis of many religious manuals around the world, infecting catechesis everywhere.

The influence of the Dutch catechism was almost absolute for 30 years. Until the 1990s it was the only true compendium of its size for Catholic teaching until the rise of the more faithful Catechism of the Catholic Church. Despite a growth in strong catechetical programs (such as the Marian Catechists), the teachings of the Dutch catechism remain central to much of the religious education provided in parishes around the world.

With few exceptions, if you have been catechized in the past 50 years, you have likely encountered the corrupt teachings of the Dutch Catechism.

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