A Catechism of Christian Doctrine, Prepared and Enjoined by Order of the Third Council of Baltimore (or, simply, the Baltimore Catechism) was the de facto standard Catholic school text in the United States from 1885 to the late 1960s. It was the first such catechism written for Catholics in North America, replacing a translation of Bellarmine’s Small Catechism. In response to criticisms, various editions include annotations or other modifications. The Baltimore Catechism remained in use in nearly all Catholic schools until many moved away from catechism-based education, though it is still used up to this day in some.1
On the Church
Q. 484. How was the true religion preserved from Adam till the coming of Christ?2
A. The true religion was preserved from Adam till the coming of Christ by the patriarchs, prophets and other holy men whom God appointed and inspired to teach His Will and Revelations to the people, and to remind them of the promised Redeemer.
Q. 485. Who were the prophets, and what was their chief duty?
A. The prophets were men to whom God gave a knowledge of future events connected with religion, that they might foretell them to His people and thus give proof that the message came from God. Their chief duty was to foretell the time, place and circumstances of Our Savior’s coming into the world, that men might know when and where to look for Him, and might recognize Him when He came.
Q. 486. How could they be saved who lived before Christ became man?
A. They who lived before Christ became man could be saved by belief in the Redeemer to come and by keeping the Commandments of God.
Q. 487. Was the true religion universal before the coming of Christ?
A. The true religion was not universal before the coming of Christ. It was confined to one people — the descendants of Abraham. All other nations worshipped false gods.
Q. 488. Which are the means instituted by Our Lord to enable men at all times to share in the fruits of the Redemption?
A. The means instituted by Our Lord to enable men at all times to share in the fruits of His Redemption are the Church and the Sacraments.
Q. 489. What is the Church?
A. The Church is the congregation of all those who profess the faith of Christ, partake of the same Sacraments, and are governed by their lawful pastors under one visible Head.
Q. 490. How may the members of the Church on earth be divided?
A. The members of the Church on earth may be divided into those who teach and those who are taught. Those who teach, namely, the Pope, bishops and priests, are called the Teaching Church, or simply the Church. Those who are taught are called the Believing Church, or simply the faithful.
Q. 491. What is the duty of the Teaching Church?
A. The duty of the Teaching Church is to continue the work Our Lord began upon earth, namely, to teach revealed truth, to administer the Sacraments and to labor for the salvation of souls.
Q. 492. What is the duty of the faithful?
A. The duty of the faithful is to learn the revealed truths taught; to receive the Sacraments, and to aid in saving souls by their prayers, good works and alms.
Q. 493. What do you mean by “profess the faith of Christ”?
A. By “profess the faith of Christ” we mean, believe all the truths and practice the religion He has taught.
Q. 494. What do we mean by “lawful pastors”?
A. By “lawful pastors” we mean those in the Church who have been appointed by lawful authority and who have, therefore, a right to rule us. The lawful pastors in the Church are: Every priest in his own parish; every bishop in his own diocese, and the Pope in the whole Church.