New Youth Catechism Is a Hit

Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles says YouCat, meant primarily for World Youth Day pilgrims, is already making an impact.

SAN FRANCISCO — Catholic youth have a new tool they can use to help explain their faith. A group of European bishops released YouCat — short for “Youth Catechism” — a local catechism published primarily for youth. Unlike previous catechisms, this one has a unique delivery system and a television program based around it.

Whereas previous catechisms have had to rely on bookstores to move them, YouCat will benefit from World Youth Day in Madrid. Organizers will include a copy of YouCat in each backpack received by the WYD pilgrims.

At this point, more than 440,000 young people are preregistered to attend the Aug. 16-21 event.

“YouCat combines sound catechesis and faith formation, based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, with a youthful, dynamic and graphically appealing presentation,” Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez wrote in a letter to his brother bishops about the catechism. “I hope that this book and related resources will become tools to assist you and your pastoral collaborators in promoting the New Evangelization and a deepened catechesis among young people.”

It takes as its model the Catechism of Trent from 1566. Especially designed for young people, YouCat seeks to make the faith accessible by offering a contemporary explanation of the faith through questions and answers, along with illustrations and images, quotations from Scripture, the saints, and great teachers of the Church.

“What distinguishes YouCat is its being based directly on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, its international scope, its dynamic contemporary use of graphics and adapted language, and its direct support by so many in the hierarchy of the Church, not least of all Pope Benedict,” said Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press.

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, described the catechism as “near and dear” to Pope Benedict XVI’s heart. In fact, Pope Benedict wrote a foreword to it.

In it, Pope Benedict asks youth to “study the catechism with passion and perseverance.”

“Sacrifice your time for it! Study it in the silence of your room; read it with friends; form study groups and networks; exchange ideas on the Internet,” the Pope wrote. “You need divine help, so your faith does not dry up like a drop of dew in the sun, so you do not succumb to the temptations of consumerism, so your love is not drowned in pornography, so you do not betray the weak, the victims of abuse and violence.”

The creation of YouCat was overseen by Cardinal Schönborn, who served as the editor of the 1992 universal Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Schönborn said in a presentation on April 13 that the idea for YouCat came to him following a 2006 presentation on the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“It must be possible, after all, in a globalized world to give expression to the faith, too, in a common language,” said Cardinal Schönborn. “YouCat is one such attempt.”

YouCat was given the imprimatur by the bishops of Austria in March 2010 and received support from the Austrian, German and Swiss bishops’ conferences.

Ignatius Press is the primary English-language publisher of YouCat. The San Francisco publisher is collaborating with the Catholic Truth Society in the United Kingdom, the Paulines in Africa, Freedom Publishing in Australia, and Asian Trading Corp. in Asia to create editions in a total of 13 different languages.


Earlier this year, YouCat garnered some controversy. In April, Catholic News Agency reported that Question 420 of the Italian edition stated that a Christian couple could have recourse to contraceptive methods. Publishers suggested that it was a problem with the Italian translation and was never a part of the English translation.

“The English translation does not, of course, endorse contraception, but clearly affirms the Church’s teaching that contraception is evil,” said Brumley. “It is my understanding that the Italian text is being fixed.”

At that time, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that he had not yet seen the text of YouCat. A Vatican source who spoke with Catholic News Agency (CNA) anonymously speculated that the problem was not with the Italian, but the original German text, a fact that was later confirmed by CNA.

Getting It to Youth

Prior to YouCat’s distribution at World Youth Day, the catechism is being used at all of Franciscan University of Steubenville’s summer conferences, reaching some 40,000 youth and adults. Retreat leaders receive a copy of the catechism and are being trained in using it with conference pilgrims.

“Many youth ministers are starting to incorporate YouCat into their Sunday night teachings,” said Rob Montepare, outreach coordinator for the Catholic publicity firm Maximus.

Brumley envisions it being used in youth ministry, parish catechetical ministry, young adult and college ministry and for family-life ministries.

“I can see ‘on fire’ Catholic young people using it to evangelize others, including some adults,” said Brumley.

In addition to WYD and Franciscan University summer conferences, the catechism is also being used as the basis for a Catholic game show for youth by Boston’s CatholicTV. The Jeopardy-style television show has already been taped and is set to air this fall.

There have been a fair number of catechetical series aimed at youth, so why is there a need to create a new catechism?

“Something like YouCat takes the universal and unchanging truths of the Church and delivers it to an always-changing audience,” said Ron Bolster, director of the Office of Catechetics at Franciscan University. “Today’s audience is very different from yesterday’s, and the audience in the U.S. is different from the audience in Africa, Europe or China.

“YouCat is certainly adapted to the modern age, meeting the needs of the current culture with the questions that many young people have.”

Register senior writer Tim Drake writes from St. Joseph, Minnesota.