From ........... Associated Press

May 28, 1994

By DAVID BRIGGS .......... AP Religion Writer

Muslims can be saved.

Paying low wages and cheating on taxes are sins.

Artificial insemination is morally unacceptable.

This is not your old-style Roman Catholic catechism.

More than 400 years after its last catechism defended the faith against Protestant reformers, the Catholic Church on Friday released a new English-language catechism that seeks to restore doctrinal order and establish a religious ethic for the Third Millennium.

The Vatican won the first culture clash with the 59 million-member church in the United States. Debates over gender-neutral language delayed the English catechism more than 18 months, and church officials eventually overruled American translators to consistently use "man" or "men" instead of "men and women" or "the human race" to refer to humanity.

Nevertheless, the 688-page Catechism of the Catholic Church doesn't represent a return to the catechisms of old that most U.S. Catholics are familiar with.

Gone are the Council of Trent's anathemas hurled at non-Catholics, replaced by declarations that God's covenant with Jews is irrevocable and that Muslims are included in God's plan of salvation. In addition to upholding the authority of the hierarchy and bans on sex outside marriage, the new catechism catalogs a list of modern sins such as tax fraud and the payment of low wages and declares the arms race to be "one of the greatest curses on the human race."

"It's not an attempt to push back the clock," said Dennis Doyle, associate professor of religious studies at the University of Dayton. "But it's kind of trying to make the hands of the clock not move around so quickly. "

Even before it reaches book stores June 22, the catechism has reached best seller status. More than 250,000 copies are on back order at 16 U.S. publishers; the first printing is 566,000 copies and publishers already are discussing second printing.

The catechism will be the point of reference for teaching materials for generations to come, from adult texts to preschool coloring books. "Really, there's no reason why there shouldn't be a copy in every serious Catholic home," said the Rev. Richard Neuhaus, director of the Institute on Religion and Public Life in New York. "It's an event of monumental historic importance."

A small delegation of cardinals, including Archbishop Bernard Law of Boston, presented the English language catechism to Pope John Paul II on Friday morning in the hospital room where the pontiff is recovering from hip surgery.

“We are all well aware of the importance of this publication, which responds to a deeply felt need on the part of millions of English speaking faithful who desire to read and meditate upon the text of the catechism," the pope said in a message to the group.

The first catechism was the New Testament's four Gospels.

The last major catechism was produced after the Council of Trent in 1566, a time of fierce doctrinal conflict between Protestant reformers and Catholic leaders. Americans are most familiar with the Baltimore Catechism of 1885, a book of simple statements of faith designed for a new country overwhelmed by Catholic immigrants. The question-and-answer format remains familiar to many Catholic baby boomers today; it was the favored catechism until the Second Vatican Council ended in the mid-1960s.

The new catechism incorporates many of the revolutionary changes in the church since Vatican II, and even delves into the latest questions of medical ethics.

Discontinuing burdensome medical procedures on dying individuals is legitimate, the catechism declares, but an act intended to cause death even to eliminate suffering is considered murder. Artificial insemination is called morally unacceptable, and prenatal diagnosis gravely opposed to moral law when it is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion.

But scholars and many U.S. prelates say the real significance of the catechism, taken along with the papal encyclical "The Splendor of Truth" released last fall, is its unapologetic effort to uphold church teaching in an age in which individual values and beliefs often supersede doctrine.

Cardinal John O'Connor of New York said the new catechism "will help us get our bearings," while Cardinal James Hickey of Washington, D.C., called it a "sure guide" to church teaching at a time of widespread confusion.

"I grew up on the Baltimore Catechism. Doctrine was presented to me very clearly," Doyle said. "After the Second Vatican Council, the teachers didn't know what to tell me. We basically had pop psychology courses for religion. The doctrine dropped out." With the new catechism, Doyle said, "the message is: The church has a teaching. You'd better pay attention to it."

The message will be welcomed by many Catholics.

"It expresses my faith. I'd die for what's in that book," said the Rev. Joseph Fessio of Ignatius Press in San Francisco, one of the book's publishers.

But some say drawing a line in the sanctuary over the limits of dissent may disturb the many Catholics who openly disagree with church teachings on birth control, divorce and the ordination of women.

Beginning with the decision to exclude women from references to mankind, the new catechism will represent to some Catholics one powerful group's attempt to standardize faith, said Sister Mary Boys, a professor of theology and religious education at Boston College.

"This is now a text that has to be interpreted, like all texts. The Bible has to be interpreted, so all the more this text," she said. "This isn't the last word here."

EXCERPTS FROM THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

"The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims."

“With respect for children who have died without Baptism, the liturgy of the Church invites us to trust in God's mercy and to pray for their salvation."

“A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience.”

“Love of neighbor is inseparable from love for God.”

“Intentional euthanasia, whatever its forms or motives, is murder.”

“The arms race is one of the greatest curses on the human race and the harm it inflicts upon the poor is more than can be endured.”

"A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice.”

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