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FAQ: Just how consistent are the old catechisms?


Answer: Especially in our present epoch of flux and impermanence, the continuity of doctrine discoverable in traditional Catholic catechisms is almost incredible. Although style and structure show the kind of variation expected among works composed by authors separated by thousands of miles and hundreds of years, their essential teaching on faith and morals is strikingly consistent.

By way of example, here are some excerpts regarding prayer to the Saints; a practice maintained in the Catholic Church from the time of Christ, but widely rejected among sectarians since the 16th century.


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Aquinas | Catechetical Instructions of St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1260)
This brings confidence to one who prays… because of the intercession of all the Saints among whom God dwells; for from this arises faith to ask through their merits for what we desire: "Turn to some of the Saints" (Job 5:1), and, "Pray one for another, that you may be saved” (Jas 5:16).
Canisius | A Sum of Christian Doctrine (1555)
Not without great cause, according to our small power, do we exhibit great honor unto them... make suite unto them, not that they may give anything as of themselves, but that they may pray with us to God, the Giver of all goodness, and that they may be favorable and effectual intercessors, even in the behalf of them that have deserved no good at all. …And in that we do in this manner with the Church honor and call upon the saints, it is so far off from obscuring the glory of Christ our Lord and Savior that it doth more set forth and advance the same.
Pope Pius V | Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566) honour the Saints who have slept in the Lord, to invoke them, and to venerate their sacred relics and ashes, far from diminishing, tends considerably to increase the glory of God, in proportion as man's hope is thus animated and fortified, and he himself encouraged to imitate the Saints. …True, there is but one Mediator, Christ the Lord, who alone has reconciled us to the heavenly Father through His blood, and who, having obtained eternal redemption, and having entered once into the holies, ceases not to intercede for us. But it by no means follows that it is therefore unlawful to have recourse to the intercession of the Saints. 
Vaux | A Catechisme, or Christian Doctrine (1567)
By this honor called Dulia we worship and honor the Angels and Saints in heaven. But we do not honor and worship Saints as putting more confidence and trust in them than in God, nor with such honor as is due to God. For we honor them as the friends of God, being his Children and heirs by grace, and our Advocates and Intercessors with God the Giver of all honor. In earth we reverence their Relics and Images, but the honor is referred to the Saints themselves. Also with this honor of Dulia we honor our Parents, Superiors, and all reverend persons.
Bellarmine | A Christian Doctrine (1598)
…we honor and invoke the saints as friends of God who can be an assistance to us by their prayers and merits; still, we do not hold them as Gods, nor do we adore them as Gods. It is also not against this commandment that we genuflect in their presence, because that worship is not proper to God alone, but even to creatures, especially if it is offered to loftier ones, such as to the Supreme Pontiff and to kings. In fact, it is in common use in many places for religious to genuflect in the presence of their superiors; for this reason, it is no wonder if we show such worship to the saints reigning with Christ in Heaven, such as we show to certain men abiding here on earth.
Doulye | A Brief Instruction (1604)
Yes that we do, [pray] to all the Saints, to the Angels of heaven, and especially every one to his Angel guardian, and above all (next under God) to our Blessed Lady… we pray unto the Saints because we may the more easily and speedily come unto Him, and be the better accepted of Him, [so] there is no doubt of dishonoring God, while we pray unto them whom He himself hath glorified, and would they should be of all creatures honored; even as it is no diminishing, but rather increasing of any Prince’s majesty, to have many honorable servants and subjects, and to make remonstrance that he doth esteem them.
Turberville | An Abridgement of Christian Doctrine (1649)
Q. How prove you that we pray to Saints? A. Out of Genesis 48:16, where Jacob taught his children to do it, saying, “and let my name be invocated upon them, the names also of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac.” Q. How prove you that they pray for us? A. Out of Revelation  5:8, “The twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one harps, and vials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints.” Q. Is it no dishonor to God, for us to pray to saints to pray for us? A. No, it is not; nor yet to beg it of men, for St. Paul did it: We hope (saith he) that God will deliver us, you also helping in prayer for us” (2 Cor. 1:11).
Donlevy |  The Catechism or Christian Doctrine (1742)
Q. How do we pray to the Saints? A. As to the servants and friends of God, who can obtain grace and mercy for us from God,  through the superabundant merits of Jesus Christ…   Q. Is not this praying to Saints contrary to  the honor we owe to God, and likewise to the  great confidence which we are obliged to have in  our Savior Jesus Christ? A. By no means; for if the invocation of Saints were dishonorable to God or to our Savior, as those who are astray would fain make the ignorant people believe, the apostle Saint Paul had not desired the faithful to pray for himself and for one another (cf. Rom 15:30; Eph 6:18-19; 1 Tim 2:1; Heb 13:18).
Burke | A Catechism Moral and Controversial (1752)
Q. How does the Church teach us to pray to Saints? A. She teaches us to pray to them in the same spirit of charity, and according to the same order of fraternal society which moves us to ask the prayers of our brethren living upon earth. And as the intercession made to the faithful living with us does not prejudice the quality of Mediator, which the Scripture gives to Christ, so neither does the intercession of the Saints prejudice it… there is a vast difference between them; for we pray to God either to give us good things, or to deliver us from evil; but because the Saints are more acceptable to him than we are, we beg of them to undertake our cause…
Perry | A Full Course of Instructions for the Use of Catechists (1847)
We are taught, both in the Old and New Testaments, that the Saints and Angels in heaven pray for us who are on earth. But may we ask them to pray for us? Yes, we may... After all these proofs from Scripture, that the Angels and Saints in heaven pray for us, and that we may ask them to do so, one must feel surprised that this doctrine has ever been doubted. For, is it not most strange, that Protestants should deny a doctrine for which there is such Scriptural evidence?
Gaume | Catechism of Perseverance (1849)
…it is lawful to pay reverence to angels, for they are the ministers of God and are our friends; to the saints, for they are our protectors, and their bodies were the living temples of the Holy Ghost; to the cross and to images, for they recall to mind our Lord  and his saints; and the reverence we pay them is  referred to the objects they represent... [yet] the honor we pay to angels and saints is not the same as we pay to God; we adore God, but we do not adore the angels and saints; we pray to God to hear our prayer, and to the angels and saints to intercede for us.
O'Brien | An Advanced Catechism of Catholic Faith and Practice (1902)
The First Commandment does not forbid the honoring of the saints, but rather approves of it; because by honoring the saints, who are the  chosen friends of God, we honor God Himself. …It is lawful and useful to pray to the saints because the angels bear our prayers to God's throne, and the saints offer their prayers to God for us. 
Deharbe | Deharbe's Large Catechism (1921)
The Catholic Church teaches that it is right and good for the soul to honor the Saints and pray to them… We pray to the Saints, that by their intercession they may obtain for us favors from God… The intercession of the Saints can benefit us very much, for 1) if the prayers of the just on earth are so powerful with God, how much more the prayers of the Saints in Heaven; 2) We know that God has granted many graces and worked many wonders through the intercession of the Saints… because Jesus Christ will hear their prayers more readily than ours. 
Malloy | A Catechism for Inquirers (1927)
May we pray to the Blessed Virgin and the Saints? We may pray to the Blessed Virgin and the Saints to ask them, in tum, to pray for us. "The four and twenty Ancients fell down before the Lamb, having... golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of Saints. And the smoke of the incense of the prayers of the Saints ascended up before God from the hand of the Angel" (Rev 5:8; 8:4). Note that we do not expect the Blessed Virgin or the Saints to do anything for us by their own power; we merely ask their prayers and intercession with God.
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