The catechism (pronounced 'CAT-er-kizm', IPA: /ˈkæt ə ˌɪzm/) is a form of instruction, nowadays usually printed, for the instruction of people in the Christian faith. These are designerd for the education of adults seeking baptism, or, more usually in western Christianity, for the use of those seeking confirmation. It is common practice to require candidates to learn the answers to the questions by rote. Different sects have different forms of catechism, reflecting their own doctrines and avoiding the aspects of other churches that they may term heretical. These include (the information here is largely drawn from Livingstone 2006):
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church, available at []];
- The Anglican catechism in the Book of Common Prayer, "That is to say, an Instruction to be Learned of Every Person, Before he be Brought to be Confirmed by the Bishop." It is in the form of questions and answers, to be learned by candidates for Confirmation. It may be seen at [].
- Martin Luther's Kleiner Katechismus (1529) is still the standard book of the Lutheran Churches.
- The Heidelberg Catechism (1563) occupies a similar position in the Calvinist communions, despite Calvin having himself composed two Genevan Catechisms: the Catechismus Genevensis Prior and the Catechismus Genevensis, published in French in 1542 and reissued with a Latin translation in 1545.
- The Westminster catechism (1647), still used by the Church of Scotland. It is available at [].
There is a verb 'to catechize', which means 'to ask the questions of the [printed] catechism' of such a candidate. This, like 'catechism' itself, can be transferred to be used of any systematic or searching questioning, originally of belief; it can now be used in such contexts as police interrogation or job interviews. A person undergoing religipous instruction - normally nowadays a candidate for confirmation - is called a catechumen: the person administering, or teaching, the catechism is a catechist. The adjective catachetical is largely reserved for theological discussion of catechisms, their writing etc.
- Etymological note: catechism is ultimately derived from Greek κατήχησις 'catchesis', the usual form in Middle English. κατήχησις, from κατά (kata-) 'thoroughly' and ἠχεῖν (echein) 'to sound', 'to ring', originally meant 'to resound', 'to din one's ears'; it then came to mean 'oral instruction', emphasizing the nature of rote-learning.