(redirected from Cathechism)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.


(kăt`əkĭzəm) [Gr.,=oral instruction], originally oral instruction in religion, later written instruction. Catechisms are usually written in the form of questions and answers. Almost as old as Christianity, they were used especially for the instruction of converts and children. Catechisms were popular in the later Middle Ages and assumed even greater significance in the Reformation through Martin Luther's emphasis on the religious education of children. His Small Catechism (1529) is still the standard book of the Lutheran church. The greatest Calvinist catechism was the Heidelberg Catechism (1563). It was revised at Dort (1619) and was used in Dutch and German Reformed churches; other catechisms are the Longer and Shorter Catechisms of 1647 and 1648, drawn up to supplement the Westminster Confession; they are used in Presbyterian churches. The catechism for the Anglican Communion is included in the Book of Common Prayer.

A catechism long in use in the Roman Catholic church was that prepared by the Jesuit Peter Canisius, which appeared in 1555. The catechism of the Council of Trent, a document of high authority issued in 1566, was essentially a manual of instruction for use by the clergy in combating the Protestant Reformation; nonetheless it remained influential for over four centuries. The best-known Catholic catechism in England for many years was the Penny Catechism, adopted by the bishops of England and Wales; that in the United States was the Baltimore Catechism. The first new universal catechism of the Catholic church since that of the Council of Trent was released in French in 1992 and in English in 1994. The book forgoes the traditional question-and-answer format, instead providing a compendium of Roman Catholic teaching and belief. A summary of the catechism that employs a question-and-answer formate was released in 2005.



(1) A handbook containing the basic principles of Christian doctrine. During the first centuries of Christianity, the catechism was the oral instruction of those about to be baptized as Christians. Beginning with the 16th century the catechism became a book, a manual of instruction, which popularly set forth (usually in the form of questions and answers) the teachings of the Christian church. The Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant churches each have their own catechism.

(2) In the figurative sense, a catechism is a work written in theform of questions and answers.


instruction by a series of questions and answers, esp a book containing such instruction on the religious doctrine of a Christian Church
References in periodicals archive ?
The new Cathechism of the Catholic Church and the General Directory for Catechesis will provide major assistance, but only if coupled with an investment in the improved Preparation of teachers and catechists.
The cathechism as a funnel through which religion is poured into heads and hearts is no longer adequate, Holland suggests.
Last November the OSV board voted to provide the office for the Cathechism with the grant over a five-year period to fund its work.
The new Cathechism of the Catholic Church discusses the sacraments largely in the old terms of material signs that actually confer the grace they signify.
Growing up in a very religious community in Northern Ireland, I rebelled against it all when I was younger and didn't really understand why I was being made to learn my cathechisms, was being tested on stories from the Bible and had to go to church every Sunday.
The team of elders and missionaries, dutifully following earlier Catholic and Episcopalian cathechisms, began by employing this name (Hixchebba'nihauthau) in our various preliminary texts, until a young mother protested against teaching her children "to call God a white man"