Editor’s note: By now, many have begun to hear about Tradivox, an international catechism restoration project under Bishop Athanasius Schneider. This is a timely and promising work, and we encourage our readers to share and support it. Below, the acting president of the organization, Aaron Seng, fields a number of questions for 1P5 readers.
Tell us briefly: what is Tradivox?
Tradivox is an effort to recover the catechetical tradition of the Church. Our team comprises an international group of motivated scholars, translators, copyists, editors, and designers. Several years have been spent in quiet archival research and textual restoration of scores of official Catholic catechisms from the last millennium, and we are now republishing these in a unique, multi-volume format, while indexing the entire corpus to deploy digitally. We are currently funded by a base of wonderful private donors and are happy to see a growing number of Catholic parishes and groups wanting to sustain this work and see the Faith preserved and passed on in its integrity, by means of traditional catechesis.
This sounds like a massive undertaking. How did it get started? What was the vision?
Tradivox started small: a private manuscript collection and longtime passion for catechesis led me to begin approaching a few researchers and theologians over the past several years to build a catechism database — a kind of monastic scriptorium for the 21st century. The initial vision was simply compilation and republication. As the work progressed, however, the idea grew: why not give the catechetical tradition of the Church a chance to “speak for itself,” today? In the face of repeated statistics demonstrating the collapse of Catholic belief and morality in our time, Tradivox incorporated last year in order to pursue that mission.
How did Bishop Athanasius Schneider become involved?
We first learned of Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s solicitude for Catholic catechesis a few years ago, and we approached him in 2019 to request his blessing for our work. He was very encouraging and has been our strongest supporter to date.
Does Bishop Schneider see Tradivox as meeting a need in the Church today?
Yes. In his formal endorsement, His Excellency points out that we are enduring “an enormous doctrinal confusion, which reigns in the life of the Church in the past six decades, and which reaches its peak in our days.” He adds: “The project of a Catechism restoration on behalf of Tradivox will surely be of great benefit not only to many confused and disoriented Catholic faithful, but also to all people who are sincerely seeking the ultimate and authentic truth about God and man, which one can find only in the Catholic and Apostolic Faith, and which is the only religion and Faith willed by God and to which God calls all men.”
He suggests that even non-Catholics will find something of value here.
Indeed. One of the strongest motives of credibility for the divine institution of the Church is the historical demonstration of her unbroken doctrinal continuity. This is one of the most common reasons converts give for entering the Catholic Church. Taken in chorus, the old catechisms can show this doctrinal continuity simply and rapidly — a wonderful help for anyone “sincerely seeking the ultimate and authentic truth about God and man,” as His Excellency says.
What has been the response to Tradivox thus far?
We have only recently begun sharing the project with the general public, but already the response has been spontaneous, enthusiastic, and nearly overwhelming. In the past two weeks alone we’ve had over 100,000 hits, hundreds of added members, and messages pouring in from several countries. Every day, we hear things like: “How can I help?,” “Keep going!,” and “Are you publishing in [insert language] yet?” This is very encouraging in these challenging times. I’ve begun saying Tradivox seems to have struck a nerve in the Body of Christ.
You mention our “challenging times” — do you see this project as controversial?
Certainly not. What could be controversial about a bunch of old catechisms? It’s simply Catholic faith and morality, as held and taught through the ages. In my view, this is one of the greatest strengths of our project: the content is entirely unoriginal.
Tell us more about the content. Why catechisms? Specifically, why old catechisms?
The old catechisms are fixed. They are simply there, like the great cathedrals — enduring monuments to Catholic faith and praxis. They have withstood the test of time and are beyond the reach of continual updates to suit contemporary interests. Although not an infallible document per se, an authentically Catholic catechism is intended to articulate an unbroken doctrinal continuity. The official issuance of catechisms has therefore long been regarded as a classic example of the ordinary Magisterium of the Church. Thus, the old catechisms are a tremendous historical and theological point of reference, as well as an excellent resource for students and a helpful toolbox for catechists of any position — clergy, parents, schoolteachers, etc.
How old is the earliest catechism you have, and what about the most recent?
The earliest content we’re currently working with is a repackaging of Aquinas’s Opuscula, originally dating from circa 1260. I should note that we are targeting only English works for republication at this time, although there are hundreds more in French, German, Spanish, and Italian. The most recent manuscript dates from the 1950s.
Then you’re not including the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church?
Correct. We are restoring only those texts that predate international copyright restrictions, which typically lands us in the 1940s and ’50s.
Which catechism is the best?
We get asked this constantly, and the answer really depends on how you measure. A few certainly stand out. The Roman Catechism remains the most authoritative. There are the priceless historical works of Saints Canisius and Bellarmine. The excellent little catechism of Pope St. Pius X must be mentioned, and the extensively reprinted Baltimore Catechism comes to mind for many Americans. These would be a few of the more significant texts in the genre.
Are these your own personal favorites?
Actually, no. My personal favorites are some of the more obscure texts, mostly for devotional reasons. I’ve grown to deeply love the Catholic martyrs and confessors from the early years of the Anglican schism, so there are several catechisms “baptized in blood” from that period that are dear to me — Vaux, Turberville, Doulye, and White, to name a few. The later, more compendious works of Bp. George Hay and Fr. Michael Müller are some other favorites.
The catechisms must all have fascinating histories.
Yes, there are so many stories. We try to give some of that backdrop in the preface of each volume, hoping to assist readers in experiencing a greater spiritual kinship with our Catholic forebears. I recall one man sharing with us that after reading Volume 1 of our Index, he not only learned things about the Faith that he had never heard (after years of Catholic schooling), but was also deeply moved by reading with awareness that these texts were very much written “by martyrs, for martyrs.”
What can people do to support your work?
Help us spread the word, and consider a stretch investment. We are working to secure project funding for completion by 2025 and partnering with parishes and apostolates along the way to make it happen. Can you, your parish, a group, or someone you know sponsor one or more of these volumes? Can you put us in touch with a wealthy benefactor or a relevant grant or foundation? Please help us complete this short-term project that promises long-term benefit for the universal Church. Thank you!
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