For the average layperson, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is where I’d start. It is the authentic teaching of the Church, for the Church in its modern context. I’d also keep a good quality Bible next to it while I read it.
Some of the material I’ve seen recommended on this thread, such as the writings of St. Augustine, are wonderful, but not all of what he teaches is “canonical”. For example, he believed in double predestination, which the Church repudiated definitively at the Council of Trent.
Similarly, the Vatican II documents must be read with discernment, and in the context of the Church’s teachings. Reading them out of context has led to a lot of errors in both directions.
The Early Church Fathers are a timeless treasure, but again, must be read against their historical background to avoid falling into error.
The Catechism is the best “framework” from which to begin exploring these other priceless resources, as it provides a clear “anchor point”. Next would come the New Testament, particularly the Gospels, Acts and Epistles. (Revelation / Apocalypse should be read only after one is well grounded in the rest, and after a careful study of the Old Testament, to avoid falling into various theological errors, especially the dispensationalist heresy and hyper-Preterism.)
Of course, for specific issues, there are also specific encyclical resources that are of value, provided they are read against the above background:
Biblical scholarship: Providentissimus Deus (Pope Leo XIII), Divino Afflante Spiritu (Pope Pius XII) and Dei Verbum (Vatican Council II)
Science and religion / faith and reason: Humani Generis (Pope Pius XII), Fides et Ratio (Pope John Paul II)
Marital and sexual ethics: Humanae Vitae (Pope Paul VI)
Modernism and liberalism: Pascendi Dominci Gregis (Pope St. Pius X)
Internet resources, though easy to access, are still a bit iffy to an old-timer like me, who prefers reading stuff in print. (By Internet resources, I mean online sites with apologetic essays, blogs, private speculations, “traditional” sites, and so on. The Vatican website, or sites which host the Early Church Fathers such as New Advent, are equivalent to print resources in my book.)
Those five are excellent. My only change would be to place the Catechism first, not to “demote” the others but rather because the Catechism will help to properly understand the others and how everything fits together into a seamless whole.
Any list not including the Old as well as the New Testament is incomplete. The new cannot be understood removed from the old. Remove all the references to the OT from the CCC, it becomes clear that the OT is vital to authentic Catholic teaching.
I like your answer Julia, but I agree with JRKH about order.
My top 3 are in this order:
1- Catechism of the Catholic Church
2- Catholic Bible
3- Recent encyclicals and other church documents (recent because they refer to modern situations in terms of social norms, political situations, etc.)
I usually recommend that for specific questions, that the person also consults their pastor or another local priest who knows them and can give counselling if necessary.
For devotions or faith development (as opposed to specific Church teachings), I would recommend the writings of the Doctors of the Church and other Saints. Not everything they say is consistent with approved Church teachings, but the vast majority is (notable examples are Aquinas and the Immaculate Conceptioon and Augustine and Predestination).
I agree that Fr Barron’s material is very good. I recommend that if you can afford it, to buy the series in order to support his work and the people (camera men, etc.) who work with him.
The CCC puts everything in its proper contxt. I also agree to keep a bible alongside it as the catechism refers to it. All the papal encyclicals are very important. Jesus Christ instituted the church for our instruction, support and sacraments to aid us in keeping our faith nourished. Relying on any one mortal man as a resource is what started all the heretical belief systems that have led many astray.
And you can spend a lifetime, literally, absorbing the catechism. Same with Scripture.
It is necessary to bounce your spirituality off of others, to have a study group, pastor, pastoral associate to discuss things with.
When thinking about Catholic teaching, it is good to listen to people whose approach you may not share. I’m NOT talking about indulging heresy or something. At our parish we have some LIMEX grads who I thought are way too touchy-feely. However they broadened my understanding of what ministry is and spirituality quite a bit. They are very good at on-the-ground ministry, mixing it up with people, evangelinzing, bringin people to RCIA etc…
3 Magisterial documents of various types
4 Catholic writings like popes and saints
5 discussed with other Caholics in person and on CAF
In addition, I would recommend a good Catholic Study Bible and access to the writings of the Church Fathers.
I certainly would not wish to discourage anyone from reading Sacred Scripture as was recommended by the OP. However, we always have to be wary of private interpretation, particularly if we are talking about someone new to the Faith. That being said, I would start someone new, or who is not well versed in the Faith, with the Catechism.
The Baltimore Catechism, or its equivalent in other languages. Perhaps I’d supplement it with Fr. Hardon’s Catechism. I’ve read the CCC and don’t think its a sure guide for laymen (to much room for those of us without a theology degree to misinterpret it).
I think having the holy scriptures nearby would deepen a catechism study, as we could let the catechism teachings guide our reading of the Bible.
I think with as much debate as the top minds in the Church can still have about the documents of the Second Vatican Council, those of us at the bottom had best leave it alone until they publish a version with exegesis in the footnotes.
Topmost in everyone’s list, even if we don’t recognize it, is the Holy Spirit.
Second-most in everyone’s list, again even if we don’t recognize it, are the conscience-forming words of encouragement and admonishment our mothers told us when we were young.
Since the question is framed, “Best source for authentic Catholic teaching?” My answer would echo the majority above: i.e., the Catechism with a respectable translation of the Bible handy, e.g. the RSV. That combo serves as two solid pillars that interpret and shed light on earth other. It also shows forth understanding (on the Church’s part) and demonstrates both harmony and continuity through time.
I agree with this completely. What is often lost in the discussion is that the Universal Catechism (CCC) was not written for the laity, nor was it written in English. It was written for the Bishops and in Latin for the purpose of developing other region specific or country specific Catechisms for the laity. That of course, does not mean that the laity cannot or should not read it, but it does strongly imply that there is a good deal of formation which should take place first.
The style of writing used with the CCC, and unfortunately with other Church documents in recent decades, is very open to interpretation and it can easily be bent by those with an agenda to say something which is contrary to how Church doctrine has traditionally been taught. Or, it can be misinterpreted less nefariously by someone simply not knowing better and making an honest mistake.
I like the Baltimore Catechism, which you recommended, but obviously that does not include Vatican II, which is certainly important for people to understand, hence my recommendation of Fr. Hardon’s Catechism, which you seem to like as well. Other people have suggested studying multiple Catechisms side by side, such as the Trent Catechism along side the CCC, or the Baltimore along side of Fr. Hardon’s. I think this is a great idea and would dramatically increase the understanding of the CCC.
Agreed. It clearly states that the CCC is for the Bishops and to be used as a norm for the development of other Catechisms. However, it is obvious that many are using it as a text which, considering the manner in which it is written, can create problems of misinterpretation, as has been noted by others above.
One of the major issues with Doctors and Fathers of the Church is that they wrote before many doctrines were defined. So, some may advance heretical ideas and speculations, even though they were not heretics, since the Church had not spoken on those issues.
Therefore their writings must be read in concert with up to date magisterial teaching.