THE VATICAN has released a new catechism to answer young people’s questions about life and the faith.

The new book “YouCat,” or the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church, is a “personal gift from the Holy Father” given to participants in the recent World Youth Day celebrations in Madrid.

YouCat has received both praise and criticism, but promises to be a valuable resource in forming young Catholics.

It retains the traditional question-and-answer format of the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church of 2005.

The 304-page book sheds light on 527 questions about the Bible, Catholicism, moral issues, and how to live the Christian life.

The book is a witness to unity in diversity as it was able to convene authors from different continents, the Pope said.

“We were able to form a single choir from many voices because we had the same score, the faith the Church has borne through the centuries from the apostles onward,” Pope Benedict XVI said in the foreword to the book.

YouCat, however, has been criticized for being ambiguous on certain moral issues such as homosexual acts and premarital sex. Critics have also scored the book for suggesting that the bible is riddled with errors.

The website youcatrecall.com said YouCat “insinuated that the Holy Scriptures contains errors,” contradicting pronouncements by the Council of Trent, Vatican Council I, and the encyclical letters of previous popes.

Question No. 15 asks: “How can Sacred Scripture be ‘truth’ if not everything in it is right?”

“The Bible is not meant to convey precise historical information or scientific findings to us. Moreover, the authors were children of their time. They shared the cultural ideas of the world around them and often were also dominated by its errors. Nevertheless, everything that man must know about God and the way of his salvation is found with infallible certainty in Sacred Scripture,” YouCat says.

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The answer reflects post-Vatican II thinking that the bible is inerrant only as far as salvation of man is concerned, as against traditional belief that the whole bible is inerrant. But youcatrecall.com pointed out that in the Vatican II document Dei Verbum, the Council Fathers “took pains to cite references to statements by the Council of Trent, Vatican Council I, and the encyclical letters of previous Popes, which emphatically upheld the absolute truth of the Scriptures on all subjects, including those not directly related to faith and morals.”

The website also said YouCat’s “treatments of Onanism and contraception are equally confusing.”

“In Question 409, it tells young Catholics that ‘The Church does not demonize masturbation, but she warns against trivializing it.’ Here again, vague terminology is apparent and many readers are bound to interpret the statement about not ‘demonizing’ certain sexual behaviors as meaning that they are not a serious sin. The bitter irony of this statement is that by NOT calling masturbation a grave sin, YOUCAT DOES trivialize it! YOUCAT’s treatment of this topic contrasts starkly with the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which lists masturbation, fornication, pornography, and homosexual acts as ‘grave sins against chastity.’”

“On page 229, accompanying YOUCAT’s discussion of contraception, a side note appropriately quotes Pope John Paul II as characterizing contraception as immoral. In Question 421, the authors also recommend Natural Family Planning (NFP). But in the next sentence, rather than stating that the Church rejects all means of contraception, the text adds that “the Church rejects all artificial means of contraception” (emphasis added). With this confusing phrase, the text could be read to mean that there are non-artificial (i.e., natural) means of contraception, and that NFP is a form of non-artificial contraception! Young people could mistakenly infer that contraception is acceptable, as long as it is ‘non-artificial’ contraception — and their whole attitude towards NFP will be distorted,” the website stated.

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Youth-Church relationship

YouCat is divided into four parts, with each chapter focusing on the relationship of the youth with the Church.

The first part deals with the relationship that man has with God. It also defines terms like “soul,” “angels,” “heaven,” “hell,” “purgatory,” “eternal life,” and “sin.”

In the second part of the book, the celebration of the Christian Mysteries, including the Sacred Liturgy, the seven sacraments, and other liturgical celebrations, are discussed.

Attaining God in life is the main focus of the third part, which underscores the importance of the dignity of the human person, the Church, and the Ten Commandments.

This part also gives definitions to terms like “conscience,” “virtue,” “eternal happiness,” “hope,” “charity,” “peace,” and “love.”

In answering the question on what the Church says about using condoms to fight AIDS, the book states that “apart from the fact that condoms provide no absolutely safe protection against infection, the Church rejects their use as a one-sided, mechanical method of fighting AIDS epidemics and advocates above all a new culture of human relationships and a change in social consciousness.”

This chapter also explains the Ten Commandments by giving concrete suggestions on how to follow them.

“A child respects and honors his parents by showing them love and gratitude,” the book said of the fourth commandment.

The last part of the book teaches the youth how to pray.

It gives meaning to the different prayer postures that correspond to a specific expression: standing expresses reverence, while sitting shows that a Christian ponders the Word in his heart and meditates on it. Kneeling recognizes a Christian’s dependence on God’s grace. Prostrating means adoration, and folding the hands is a gesture of petition.

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Catechism for all

Editor, columnist, and blogger Elizabeth Scalia praised the book as a “terrific resource.”

“It is a brilliantly put-together and engaging collection of the foundational questions about our faith, and those issues about faith, love, marriage, sexuality, freedom, sin, life and death that are relevant to our young, who seek clarity without condescension,” she said in her blog The Anchoress, parts of which were quoted by American publisher Ignatius Press.

“And the questions are surrounded in the margins by a treasury of instructive, enlightening, inspiring quotes — from scripture, saints, popes and even Protestants like Bonhoeffer and Lewis — that are themselves invitations to ponder, to discuss with others and from which to grow in wisdom, maturity and understanding.”

YouCat was published under the direction of Viennese Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, a Dominican, with the help of theologians and religious educators.

In the foreword, Pope Benedict XVI tells young people “to be more deeply rooted in the faith” than the generation of their parents, to be able to “engage the challenges and temptations of this time with strength and determination.”

“So I invite you: Study this Catechism! That is my heartfelt desire. This Catechism was not written to please you. It will not make life easy for you, because it demands of you a new life. It places before you the Gospel message as the ‘pearl of great value’ (Mt 13:46) for which you must give everything. So I beg you: Study this Catechism with passion and perseverance.” James Bryan J. Agustin

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