Cardinal Ratzinger Says Catechism Is a Manual for Happiness

Opens Conference That Marks 10th Anniversary of Its Publication

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 8, 2002 ( The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a guide to the discovery of real happiness, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said when he opened a conference celebrating the 10th anniversary of its publication.

The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith opened the international symposium, which has gathered top theologians in the Synod Hall. Doctrine of the Faith, along with the Congregation for the Clergy, organized the conference, which runs until Friday.

The Catechism, published by John Paul II on Oct. 11, 1992, was edited by a team coordinated by Cardinal Ratzinger. One of the most important documents of this pontificate, it is a compendium of the Catholic faith in modern language.

“It is not a theology book,” Cardinal Ratzinger observed.

Addressing the topic “Present Doctrinal Importance of the Catechism of the Catholic Church 10 Years After Its Publication,” the cardinal reminded his listeners that “the primordial impulse of man, which no one can deny, and which in the ultimate sense no one can oppose, is the desire for happiness, for a fulfilled, complete life.”

Explaining the third part of the Catechism, dedicated to Christian morality, the cardinal said that it “is the doctrine of the fulfilled life, the illustration, so to speak, of the rules to attain happiness.”

“The book relates this innate tendency in man with the beatitudes of Jesus, which free the concept of happiness of all banalities, give it its real depth, and, in this way, allow one to see the connection between the absolute good, the good in person — God — and happiness.”

“Christian moral theology is never a simple ethics of law; it also surpasses the realm of an ethics of virtues,” he added. “It is dialogic ethics, because moral action develops from this encounter with God.”

“Therefore, it is never one’s own action, autarkic and autonomous, pure human realization, but the response to the gift of the love” of God, Cardinal Ratzinger explained.

The writing of the Catechism’s section on Christian morality was the most complicated, the cardinal said, not only because of “the difficult problems in the realm of political ethics, social ethics, bioethics, in a continuous process of evolution,” but also because “the debate on marriage and the family, on the ethics of sexuality [is] in full development.”

“Whoever looks for a new theological system or new surprising hypotheses in the Catechism will be disappointed,” he said. “This type of current issue is not the concern of the Catechism.

“Appealing to sacred Scripture and to the global richness of Tradition in its multiple forms, and inspired by the Second Vatican Council, [the Catechism] offers an organic view of the totality of the Catholic faith, which is beautiful precisely because of its totality, a beauty that highlights the splendor of truth.”

“The present importance of the Catechism is the importance of truth expressed and thought out once again,” the cardinal stressed. “This importance will remain despite the criticisms it may receive.”

Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, opened the congress with a brief greeting.

The symposium’s sessions may be followed live until Friday (with pictures and audio) on the Web page of the Congregation for the Clergy (

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