The Dutch Catechism of 1966, the first post-Vatican II comprehensive Catholic catechism, reflects the Magisterium of the Dutch bishops. It was commissioned and authorized by the Catholic hierarchy of the Netherlands. It mirrors various views within the Magisterium of the Church, but ultimately fails to accurately, faithfully, and properly communicate the doctrine of the Catholic Church.


The Second Vatican Council intended to renew the Church and present the Gospel truth in modern language. The Bishops of the Netherlands issued the Dutch Catechism, intended “to make the message of Jesus Christ sound as new as it is” [1] The Dutch Catechism is also intended to carry an ecumenical message: Denominational differences, which shall not be blurred or ignored in this book, need not to be barriers. We hope that they may lead to discussions, where the human existence we share will receive further elucidation. [2]

The catechism has five parts and one supplement, Part One reviews the mystery of existence, Part Two explains the way of Christ by first discussing other religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, Humanism and Marxism, and, the Spirit of God in the World. A special section describes the way of Israel, in terms of God’s works, the Word of God, and Holy Scripture. Christ, the Son of Man, is the center of the third part, and his ways, the way of Christ is subject of the fourth part. The final part focuses on the end of man, and his fulfillment in meeting God.


Since 1967, it was translated into numerous languages and sold millions of copies in different editions. Time Magazine reported already in 1967: "The Dutch catechism has become one of the year's religious bestsellers. Herder & Herder, publisher of the American edition, reports that its first printing of 75,000 copies was sold out in three weeks. Although the National Conference of Catholic Bishops this month decided that the catechism should not be used in parochial schools, some Catholic colleges have ordered it for their religion courses. What was written for the Dutch is apparently destined to instruct the world. In The Netherlands, where the catechism has sold more than 400,000 copies so far, its publishers report that ten new translations will go to press in 1968." [3]


But in some circles, the teachings of the Dutch bishops, “a lively, undogmatic compendium of doctrine that reflects the most recent radical insights of theologians and scripture scholars”, [3] were controversial.


“Bishop Robert F. Joyce of Burlington, Vt., withdrew his imprimatur (permission to publish) from the American edition, and Holland's Bernard Jan Cardinal Alfrink complained that the book was going to press with an unauthorized use of his original imprimatur. Finally, Los Angeles'... James Francis Cardinal Mclntyre banned it from the church-run bookstore in his archdiocese. The stores operated by Boston's Daughters of St. Paul also refused to display it” [3]


Although, the Dutch catechism became a best seller, basic questions were raised in the Vatican, however, regarding the accuracy of some statements in the text. At the request of Pope Paul VI, a high ranking commission of both liberal and conservative Cardinals convened to issue different interpretations on several points. Charles Journet, Joseph Frings, Joseph-Charles Lefèbvre, Ermenegildo Florit, Michael Browne, and Lorenz Jäger under the coordination of the respected moral theologian Pietro Palazzini. The conflicts extended to Holy Mass, as a continuation of the sacrifice of the cross, the infallibility of the Church, the nature of the Eucharist, original sin, and various other points of moral and dogmatic theology were debated as well.

The Dutch bishops, in a direct challenge to the Vatican, chose not to change their text but to add the fifty page report as an appendix to the authorized edition of the Catechism. In the following years, sold copies of the Dutch Catechism increased world-wide, in part, because the Dutch Catechism was the only comprehensive book of its kind within the Church.

Birth control

Birth control was a minor issue in the Dutch Catechism until the issuance of Humanae Vitae (HV) by Pope Paul VI some three years later. The Bishops of the Netherlands asked couples with questions to consult with doctors and priests, but ultimately to rely on their conscience. [4] After HV, this position of the Dutch Magisterium was hotly debated in the Church:

  • Are all methods of regulation birth of equal value to the Christian conscience? The council gave no answer to this question [5]

The Dutch Magisterium refused to alter this and other texts, despite requests from Pope Paul VI. John Paul II convened a special synod in 1979, to deal with problems the Church faced in the Netherlands on a number of issues. [6] Yet the bishops did not make changes in the authorized edition of their Catechism.


The Cardinals did conclude their report on the Dutch Catechism with a positive note: Through the preceding comments are not negligible, either in number or seriousness, they nonetheless leave by far the greatest part of the New Catechism untouched. So too, they support the praiseworthy intention of the authors. [7]

The document of the Magisterium if the Dutch bishops was unique in its scope until 1992, when the Vatican published its own comprehensive Catechism, a scholarly work, which, however, was primarily addressed to religious and scholars. It invited national bishop conferences to issue their own Catechisms for the faithful. "This catechism is given to them that it may be a sure and authentic reference text for teaching catholic doctrine and particularly for preparing local catechisms". [8] Thus, the issuance of local catechisms, such as the Dutch Catechism, was confirmed, although Dutch views on particular theological issues remain controversial within the Church.

Main Quotes

  • The heart of the book is the message of Easter. If the news of Jesus’ resurrection were removed, not one page of the book would have any value. [9]
  • Until very recently, the bible was regarded too much as a scientific manual and not enough as a story written to throw God’s light on the existing world. [10]
  • Openness to the (ecumenical) movement comes through prayer, through constant reform and renewal, through studying the sources of faith and each others traditions, through readiness to abandon our well loved forms, through honest and patient dialogue, …and this openness brings with it the tranquility and joy, which is of the good Spirit. [11]
  • As everyone can ascertain nowadays , there are several methods of regulating births. The Second Vatican Council did not speak of any of these concrete methods… This is a different standpoint than that taken under Pius XI some thirty years which was also maintained by his successor. . we can sense here a clear development in the Church, a development, which is also going on outside the Church. [12]


  • It is a great book and it deserves a great audience. No audience less than the people of God. (Long Island Catholic)[13]
  • It really makes good news sound like good news (The Boston Pilot)[13]
  • This may be the best written compendium of the Catholic faith since the Summa[13]
  • It is destined to instruct the World TIME


  • A New Catechism, Authorized Edition of the Dutch Catechism with Supplement, Crossroad, New York,1988


  1. A New Catechism, Authorized Edition of the Dutch Catechism with Supplement, Crossroad, New York,1988 Foreword, V
  2. A New Catechism, Foreword, VI
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 TIME, Friday, Dec. 01, 1967
  4. A New Catechism,403
  5. New Catechism 403
  6. George Weigel, Witness to Hope, The Biography of Pope John Paul, N.Y. 2005, p.369.
  7. A New Catechism, 574
  9. A New Catechism, Foreword, VIII
  10. A New Catechism, 10
  11. A New Catechism, 231
  12. A New Catechism, 402
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Quoted on the cover page

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