Telling Catholics What They Believe

The first worldwide catechism in four centuries boosts papal conservatism

WHAT LASTING MARK HAS POPE JOHN PAUL II MADE? The Pontiff is renowned, among other things, for his vigorous effort to stem dissent and clarify what Catholicism stands for. Thus the newly issued Universal Catechism "will be the signature that the Pope leaves behind him," says a ranking Vatican official. The 676-page summary of essential beliefs on doctrine and morals applies to all the world's 850 million Catholics. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the Vatican's uncompromising doctrinal monitor, led the six-year project. His staff went through nine drafts and fielded 24,000 proposals from bishops. The French edition, released last week, is already a...

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