A catechism is a summary or exposition of doctrine and serves as a learning introduction to the Sacraments traditionally used in Christian religious teaching of children and adult converts. Catechisms are doctrinal manuals - often in the form of questions followed by answers to be memorized - a format that has been used in non-religious or secular contexts as well.
Examples of Catholic catechisms have included:
- The Roman Catechism, first published in 1566 under the authority of the Council of Trent. It was not intended for common use by the laity, but as a general use reference book for priests and bishops.
- The Catechism of Christian Doctrine, Prepared and Enjoined by Order of the Third Council of Baltimore, or simply the Baltimore Catechism, was the official national catechism for children in the United States of America. The first such catechism written for Catholics in North America, it was the standard Catholic school text in the country from 1885 to the late 1960s. Its origins were traced back to the Council of Trent. In the late 1800s, the bishops of the United States gathered in Baltimore with the intention to publish an English version for use by American schoolchildren. The first Baltimore Catechism, published in 1891, contained 100 questions, and later editions pushed the number of questions up to well over one thousand. After Vatican II the old catechism fell out of favor, replaced in 1994 by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
- Becky May Tipover cites the catechism when faulting a fellow student for attending a YMCA Christmas party (Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies, 48).
- The Baltimore Catechism was being discussed during the spring session of Vatican III - until an elderly American bishop misheard the conversation and thought a nuclear cataclysm had occurred in Baltimore (Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies, 93).