Book Of A Lifetime: A Catechism Of Christian Doctrine

I still know the Catechism by heart, having learned it at the age of five. The fundamentals of Christian doctrine were instilled into our impressionable young minds, to be repeated until they were as familiar as the alphabet. Its 370 injunctions are now branded into my very bones, like letters through a stick of rock.

Katechesis, meaning instruction by word of mouth, especially through questions and answers, goes back to the beginnings of Christianity; some have even compared it with the Socratic Method. Socrates, however, who championed discussion, exploration and speculation, would turn in his grave at such blatant thought-control.

Speculation has no place in the Catechism, which lays down absolute truths. However baffling the concepts – the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, three Persons in one God – they must be accepted without question. Doubts were interpreted as sinfulness, and sin was a constant scourge, since "our natural inclinations are prone to evil from our very childhood, and, if not corrected by self-denial, will... carry us to Hell". (Injunction 344)

The Catechism is very hot on Hell. Mortal sin kills the soul and cuts one off from God; even venial sin is perilous, weakening our defences against more execrable transgression. Our opportunities for sin of any nature were, in truth, extremely limited, cloistered within a convent boarding-school and supervised 24/7. "Immodest" plays, songs, books and pictures might all be forbidden by the Catechism, but our only songs were hymns; our only pictures of Popes and Saints; our only books the 'Lives of the Martyrs' and 'The Imitation of Christ'. Yet that didn't stop us obsessing about sin. Beyond the convent, lay a tangle of temptations, some way beyond our comprehension. The Ninth Commandment forbade "all wilful pleasure in the irregular motions of the flesh" (Injunction 224). "Irregular motions" clearly meant constipation - an ailment I suffered due to the stodgy diet. But how could anyone take "wilful pleasure" in it, when the remedy was a dose of castor oil?

However, the Catechism gave us children an extensive vocabulary and honed our spelling skills, familiar as we were with words like longanimity, benignity, calumny, infallibility. The whole drama of salvation and damnation nurtured our imaginations, expanding our horizons. And who can argue with the Catechism's admonition to comfort the sorrowful, feed the hungry and harbour the harbourless, or its ever apt reminder to forgive those who trespass against us?

Nonetheless, I still condemn my 'Book of a Lifetime' as an abusive system of indoctrination, denying basic freedom of thought. Focusing on the world to come, it lambasts the pleasures of this world as sordid and profane. No wonder Catholic guilt is legendary.

Wendy Perriam's new novel is 'Broken Places' (Robert Hale)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests