Catholic catechism changes are disconcerting. Did you know that there was once a beautiful picture in the original 1963 Catholic Book Publishing Company New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism (NSJBC) for Catholic First Communion (NSJFCC)?
Have you seen it? I think you'll love it. Most people today have not seen the full picture. Why? It's been removed!
This page shows Catholic catechism changes that you'll want to know when comparing catechisms.
If you're like most catechists, you'll love this picture. I do.
Children love this picture and study it with interest.
It's a beautiful Mysterium Fidei picture (Mystery of Faith). It symbolizes knowing, loving, and serving God all in one image. But guess what?
It's gone now!
This article has over 10,000 words with more than twenty pictures, so I have to split it into three web pages. This is the first page.
When you're teaching the faith, it's important both to teach the correct words (knowing) and to show the charity (loving) that your children will treasure for a lifetime of serving God.
You want the best words and the best images to help your children know, love, and serve God in this world so they can be happy with Him in Heaven.
To put it briefly, a good priest said in a sermon something to the effect that, "Children must be taught that they can be saints, that they must be saints. They must be encouraged to want to love Jesus, to become saints."
For the most part, this booklet has wonderful words and images, wonderful resources for teaching children. Do look closer if you have children actually reading the book. I'll explain using pictures throughout this article.
As with teaching any catechism, charity comes first. Father said more, "The catechism teacher has the wonderful and serious obligation of nurturing and inflaming the fire of charity in the soul. It is God who gives the increase, but His direct tool will be the teacher."
And further, "When teaching children, the catechist must inflame their hearts – must make them want to love Jesus by stories and anecdotes, by kind and encouraging personal example and most importantly, by their own life of love and union with Jesus."
Of course, loving God requires a certain amount of knowing Him first. You'll find wonderful pictures and sweet thoughts in this booklet; yet if you're hoping to teach the right words first, there are a few things you'll want to know about this booklet. I have gathered a whole list of considerations at the end of this three part article, this list is a helpful catechism resource.
May God bless you and guide all our priests, religious, catechists, and parents; and may God grant them an increase in supernatural charity. May He grant us many saints.
I've been meaning to write this page for several years because family and friends are astonished when they see the differences in these successive booklets. They want to share this information with photos and Facebook posts. Both friends and visitors frequently ask for the page numbers and other details, so I'm putting it all together in one place to save time for all of us.
As with most good teachers and parents, time is short in our family and money is scarce. If you're thinking about using the NSJ series, you'll be glad to see the evidence yourself. The information is important to know and then be able to share it, so I've spent scores of hours putting this all together for you and your friends. It's frustrating to buy books that you have to edit or censor. "Wite-Out" anyone?
During the mid 1990s I hadn't known that there had been changes in the New Saint Joseph Catechism throughout the years since 1963, and neither had most of my friends. I have collected four versions of this booklet.
It's a strong possibility that your copy of this catechism does not have this beautiful picture, so I'm glad that I've got a photo to show you. I have many requests from friends and visitors to see pictures of the changes. I have friends who wanted to take photos to prove to their family and friends that there have been changes, so I have posted photos below for them and for you.
How did I find the changes in the catechism? Simple comparison.
Originally, these books had been assigned to our older children for First Communion preparation during the 1990s. At that time we noticed that the altar diagram had listed items that were not on the altar shown. No problem. I simply drew them in their places so the children could see them. Years later we inherited two older NSJFCC editions that had been used by family and friends in early 1963 and the 1970s, and lately we bought one that had been published in 2012.
This article offers a glance at the fact of continuing Catholic catechism changes in the NSJ booklet originally published in 1963, with 1970s and 1990s editions, and yet another that is now marked with the copyright date in 2012. I know of at least four versions.
As a starter, here's a quick comparison of four different booklets with more explanations and many photos further down this page. The first photo shows three pictures in booklets from the 1960s, the 1970s, and the 1990s. The second photo shows a confusing rearrangement between the 1963 and the 2012 editions.
I had found changes on page 54. For this photo I stacked these three booklets together so you can see that on page 54 the editors of the New Saint Joseph Baltimore First Communion Catechism had removed the Crucifix, tabernacle, and some candles from the altar diagram in spite of leaving them listed in the text.
Children notice immediately when the picture does not match the text.
You can see the approximate dates of publication on the cards below the books. Note that the 1990s version has no tabernacle or Crucifix. By God's grace I also happened to have been in a book store last month and found more changes on this same picture on page 54 in the 2012 edition.
The new 2012 reprint has restored the tabernacle and Crucifix, yet did not restore all the candles from the original picture and has newly removed the Communion Rail.
What's more is that in the most recent NSJFCC, the 2012 edition, the tabernacle and Crucifix are restored. They had been removed from the 1970s and 90s publications. Cruets and a paten are also newly introduced to the picture.
Along with the Communion Rail being newly removed from this 2012 NSJFCC the descriptions are also changed. The wording for item number two, which had been for the Communion Rail, is replaced with a cruets description; and the words for number eight, which had been about the old Altar Cards, are replaced with the paten description.
So the Tabernacle and Crucifix are back on the altar, yet the Communion Rail and Altar Cards are gone in 2012. Hm.... These are very important things in a Catholic church.
Once we'd seen the changes that the current booklet had, we started using the older booklet with our younger children, hoping to dodge questionable material. We'd been going to the traditional Mass and the children were more familiar with the original pictures. It was fun to see the right pictures with the altar vessels in their right places. "Hey, look Mom was right." Actually, it is tragic that these editions had these changes.
We were further surprised to find that there was also trouble even with the earliest version. There is a doctrinal difficulty in two places, pages 33 and 49, where the booklet infers, or "makes it seem", that Jesus did not rise from the dead by His own omnipotent power as per the Catechism of the Council of Trent (CCT).
Saint Paul said that the Resurrection is the pivotal doctrine of our faith! It is important to teach it to children early so they see the proof of Jesus' Divinity and of His words. The Resurrection is the proof that the promise God made to Adam and Eve was fulfilled. Why is this doctrine worded so badly?
For the love of children and the salvation of souls, take time before you use it to look at what is in your children's catechism so as to spare your students any confusion.
If you must use this book, skip over the bad and focus on giving your children a deep love of Jesus and a love of receiving Him in Communion. We have a duty to do the best for our children that we can and this involves paying attention to what the book actually says.
So. Was the New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism (NSJFCC) a dependable book as it was originally written? Short answer? Not perfectly, unless there was some other version along the way that I do not own.
It has many wonderful elements, yet I think you'll be glad to see the long answer in my descriptions below. The rest of this article is a long story about a tiny book - meant for teachers, not students. You'll see:
If you've already seen enough, see our First Communion Catechism ideas here.
Please understand that I know that we can keep the Faith in spite of bad catechisms and their variations. I marvel how we truly can keep the faith in spite of bad training or bad books - if we pray, persevere, and discern; we can know, love, and serve God. Jesus Himself told us to "Watch and pray."
The danger is that some of us will lose the Faith over time, especially children.
Who has time to sort through every single book, every paragraph, every time? Time is short, sometimes we miss discrepancies, and we often forget what we'd known previously.
What's the answer?
It is love of Jesus that will help us navigate Catholic catechism changes. It's worth studying. If you have to use this booklet in your parish, at least you'll know what you can edit or skip. The Catholic Book Publishing Company has been editing and skipping info for years. :-)
I hope that this article helps warn you of some difficulties in the New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism, so you can supplement if you have to use it.
First, I want to say that the NSJ booklet can be a wonderful picture book for children to learn to love God. Most pictures are truly lovely and promote the honor and glory of God in a way that captivates children's hearts.
The hard part of finding a good catechism is this; if you find one statement that is wrong compared to another Catholic book, how do you know that you trust that there are no important Catholic catechism changes throughout the book? Most of us can't, or shouldn't. The best advice is to shut the book till you can settle the difference or find a morally competent answer. Check with your pastor what he would have you do.
The American Deharbe's catechisms are excellent, yet the American Diocese of Baltimore commissioned the Baltimore Catechism at the same time as the Deharbe's was produced. The Bishops of the day promoted the Baltimore throughout the USA.
1885 Roman Catholic Catechism – The Baltimore was written to explain the Catechism of the Council of Trent, the "Roman Catechism", which had not been widely published in English yet. For the most part it is excellent and has been used here ever since the 1880s. (The plural confession answers might need a bit of explanation to children and the matrimony questions vary from the Code of Canon Law 1917.)
The best Baltimore Catechism book that I have seen for a First Communion Catechism for children is Jesus Comes (available at Amazon), from the Our Holy Faith series, Vol 2, re-published by Neumann Press and now owned by the new TAN Books.
It has the Baltimore Catechism questions for the Holy Eucharist, the sacraments, Ten Commandments, and Communion prayers.
It has extra questions for each Commandment that I call "The Tells and the Forbids". This commandment "tells me" and this commandment "forbids me", etc. They can be way too much for many first and second grade children to memorize; yet they are excellent for teaching children how to prepare for confession, and for older children to read and study.
It's also got beautifully modest pictures. Even Adam and Eve are decent. Saint Anne's Helper has downloads to go with this book.
1930-50s Catholic Catechism Improvements – By mid 1900s several different forces were at work:
1960s Catholic Catechism Revisions And Omissions - By the 1950s and 1960s modernism exploded into full view. As modernism came to a full rolling boil throughout the 1960s, Vatican II and the New Mass implemented the changes that had been slowly inserted into catechisms and into other "Catholic" books since the late 1880s.
See this explanation of the terrible power of subjective Catholic catechism questions by Fr. Stephen Delallo under section 3 and 4.
More photos in this article will also show these other points:
Weirdly: All four editions of the New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism (NSJFCC) have the same skips in the question numbers. The numbers also do not match the numeration from the 1941 Revised edition of the Baltimore Catechism No. 1, A Catechism of Christian Doctrine, nor do they match the 1964 New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism No. 1 numbering.
I do not yet understand the number system. If you've got it figured, let me know through our contact form. :-)
Some people think that there have been no changes in the Catholic Church either before or even after the 1960s – this is often called by intellectuals a "hermeneutic of continuity". Some "intellectuals" think that apparent changes can be "interpreted" to have been approved in past years.
Hm…. Seeing these changes, I started to suspect some "continuing hermeneutics" - a twist on today's hermeneutic of continuity. Since we wanted to ensure that we were not missing something important for our children, we tried to be careful with their books. Better to catch trouble when the children were young than struggle to repair later.
What is a hermeneutic? Wikipedia says it "is the theory and methodology of interpretation". It goes on to explain that the term originates with the Greek God Hermes and allows of misuse of words. The name Hermes is the root for the word hermeneutics.
That definition of hermeneutics matched Catholic catechism changes I was seeing in this booklet and in many other Catholic books.
Well, there's nothing like having sequential photos as proof of changes, so I have added quite a few images to this page from four different New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism booklets to share with you the changes made by Catholic Book Publishing Company, New York, between 1963 and 2012.
The New Saint Joseph series is a 1963 rewrite of the First Communion questions from the old Baltimore Catechism. The old inside front covers state:
The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine is often called CCD for short. Many of us might remember having gone to CCD class or having read the CCD Bible, or the Confraternity Bible. It's the same organization. Also, the original Baltimore No. 0 and No. 1 are each a collection of questions taken from the Baltimore Catechism No. 2 and are what the New Saint Joseph First Communion booklet replaces.
Through the 1990s several New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism editions have the same copyright date, 1963, with no note as to the catechism changes throughout the years. This is one change I saw in four editions of the NSJ.
This next photo compares the 1963 with the 2012 where the copyright paragraph is removed in the 2012 version. You can see the large white space three-fourths the way down the right hand page in the next photo.
The 1963 booklet is on the left and the 2012 is on the right. In the booklet on the right Catholic Book Publishing Company is now noted as a Corporation, hails from New Jersey, is printed in China, and finally marks the 2012 date for this new version.
Cardinal Spellman died long before he could give an Imprimatur to these 2012 Catholic catechism changes.
Beware the following points when you use the NSJFCC either as a catechist in school or church, or when teaching or tutoring homeschool.
In the second part of this article I'll show ten more pictures of the several NSJFCC versions; then in a third part I'll post photos that show how the Resurrection is treated even in the earliest version of the NSJFCC booklet.
In the third part of this article I will also show how later books in the series, the No. 1 and No. 2, treat the Resurrection in the same way.
See more about the 1885 Baltimore Catechism on these pages: