LIBERA ME, Domine, Iesu Christe, ab omnibus iniquitatis meis et universis malis,
fac me tuis semper inhærere mandatis et a te numquam separari permittas. Amen.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Penny Catechism

I’ve commented before on what seems to me to be a great lacuna in the catechetical activity of the Catholic Church, at least in England & Wales, over the last forty years or so : and I know that I’ve suggested that it might be, at least partly, the fault of laissez-faire attitudes which in turn probably found their origin in the same attitude to the liturgy following Vatican II.

However, the more I have thought about it, the more I realize that there is probably another aspect of the matter which had a marked effect : the Catechism itself.

Prior to Vatican II, the usual form of catechism used in England & Wales was The Penny Catechism; which provided more or less everything you needed to know about the Catholic Faith in a simple catechetical format which even children of First Communion age could at least come to grips with, even if they didn’t fully understand all of it.

And then . . ? Along came The Catechism of the Catholic Church; and whilst I accept that it is much more comprehensive, and replete with scriptural authority for what it says, it simply isn’t something that most people can remember with any ease . . . certainly no child can hope to learn it by heart : and I believe that this change may well have had a dramatic effect on the standards of catechetical development ever since.

The Penny Catechism is still readily available in the UK, published by TAN Books in America, but widely distributed over here; and I wouldn’t want to be without my copy.

If you remember it with affection, go and get a copy and give it to someone whom you think will benefit from it; and if you never read it, go and buy yourself a copy and enjoy it . . . and if you agree with me that it’s a good thing, and you’re on facebook, then please join The Penny Catechism Group !

As two Commentors have already quite rightly said, the Penny Catechism no longer costs a penny. However, the S. Paul Bookshops (next to Westminster Cathedral amongst other places) have it for £2.25 a copy, which makes it just about the cheapest catechetical work available : and I have seen it even cheaper than that in one or two Repositories.


  1. I bet it costa a pretty penny now!!

  2. Unfortunately the Penny Catechism no longer costs a penny...

  3. I remember when I was receiving instruction in the mid '80s first hearing mention of 'The Penny Catechism'. Sadly some of the catechists were rather scathing in their remarks but I also remember one of them proudly producing his own battered copy and recommending it to the group of enquirers.

    I did later search out a copy for myself and find it very useful. I only wish I had learnt it by rote as a child like many 'cradle Catholics' of my generation would have done.

    Now I have the Baltimore Catechism and others on my iPhone - very useful as a quick reference tool!

  4. The CTS edition, "A Catechism of Christian Doctrine", is £1.95 and as far as I am aware, has never been out of print. I think it cost about 6d (sixpence in old money) back in the 1960s

  5. Surely the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the contemporary equivalent of the "penny catechism"....Question and answer format, and able to be memorised.