WASHINGTON (March 21, 2006) — With more than 40,000 pre-publication sales, and the number steadily climbing, the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church appears well on the way to becoming a major publishing success.
The Compendium is a 200-page synthesis of the 1992 Catechism. Available March 31, it is being published in the United States (in English and Spanish) exclusively by USCCB Publishing, the publishing office of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
A publishing rule of thumb is that pre-publication sales amount to one-third of the first year sales, according to Patrick Markey, Associate Director for Marketing, Sales, and Inventory. At that pace, the Compendium is expected to sell between 120,000 and 200,000 copies in its first year, he said.
By comparison, the second edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the USCCB trade paper and cloth version, sold 180,000 in its first year and has consistently sold over 75,000 copies per year since then. The Doubleday mass market edition has had even greater sales.
Pope Benedict XVI promulgated the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church last year. In doing so he noted that the project was initiated by Pope John Paul II in response to an urgent need expressed by catechetical experts throughout the world.
"The Compendium, which I now present to the Universal Church, is a faithful and sure synthesis of the Catechism of the Catholic Church," Pope Benedict said. "It contains, in concise form, all the essential and fundamental elements of the Church's faith…which allows believers and non-believers alike to behold the entire panorama of the Catholic faith."
The Pope expressed the hope that the Compendium "may awaken in the Church of the third millennium renewed zeal for evangelization and education in the faith, which ought to characterize every community in the Church and every Christian believer, regardless of age or nationality."
The Compendium consists of 598 questions and answers, echoing to some degree the format of the "Baltimore Catechism" which was a standard text in many Catholic parishes and schools from 1885 to the 1960s.
Like the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Compendium is structured in four parts. The text contains some direct quotes from the Catechism used in a sidebar fashion; the questions and answers themselves are original text. Pope Benedict XVI expressed the hope that abbreviating the text and reducing it to the essential "might favor the assimilation and possible memorization of the contents."
In addition to the questions and answers, the Compendium also includes two appendices. The first is a lengthy list of Common Prayers, from the Sign of the Cross to the Rosary to the Act of Contrition, in English or Spanish side-by-side with the Latin version of the prayers. The second appendix contains "Formulas of Catholic Doctrine" including the Ten Commandments, Beatitudes, theological and cardinal virtues, and spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
Fourteen color images taken from masterpieces of Christian art scattered throughout provide an additional source for reflection and catechesis for each part or section.
"Those who have seen various non-English versions already available have spoken highly of the format, the treasury of prayers, and the beautiful artwork," Mr. Markey said. "What is even more important is a book's durability," he continued. "Many Catholics have longed for something that helps them to know or explain their faith in a quick and certain way. While not exhaustive, and certainly not to take the place of formation, prayer, and a lived faith, the Compendium gives the faithful an authoritative guide as they wade through competing ideas."
The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church may be ordered by visiting the site www.usccbpublishing.org or calling USCCB Publishing at 800-235-8722. The Compendium is available in English and Spanish and in paperback (publication number: English—5-720; Spanish—5-920; list price of $14.95) and hardcover (publication number: English—5-725-; Spanish—5-921; list price of $24.95).