The craftsmanship of Jesuit catechisms in Peru and in China
Both José de Acosta and Matteo Ricci undertook the task of composing catechisms with the purpose of redirecting a previous doctrinal path by replacing catechetical texts they found no longer suitable in their missions. Of course, theirs were not one-sided decisions, and neither were Acosta and Ricci alone in these undertakings, as this chapter shows. In Peru, the doctrinal guidelines and texts preceding Acosta’s Doctrina
Christiana y Catecismo para Instrucción de Indios (1584-85) (DCC) had been provided by the First Lima council (1551-52) (FLC) and the Second Lima council (1567-68) (SLC). Both councils aimed to impose a single and authoritative catechism but, as we shall see, they failed in the attempt. The Trent decrees came into force for all the overseas possessions in October 1565, after which a Tridentine atmosphere was expected to inspire the composition of an authoritative catechism. As theologian of both the Jesuit mission and – unoﬃcially – the Viceroyalty of Peru, Acosta laid the foundations for a new doctrinal and theological ground, starting with his De Procuranda Indorum Salute, setting new principles and guidelines for the solution to a key and tricky problem: the salvation of the Indians. As we shall see below, to a great extent the DCC fed on Acosta’s De Procuranda. At that time in China, the Counter-Reformation and Rome were a long
way away. Unlike the Peru mission with its overwhelming presence of representatives of the royal jurisdiction, the Portuguese Padroado gave the Jesuits in China much more freedom to decide on doctrinal contents. Chapter Three focused on Ricci’s interpretation of Confucianism and how it was reﬂected in his TZSY. But the particular policies regarding which catechism should be in force or not also depended on internal decisions of the Society. Ruggieri’s TZSL, published in 1584, had been a ﬁrst attempt to present the Christian faith in a Chinese context. The ﬁrst part of this book showed how the TZSL stopped being regarded as acceptable, not because it was rejected by the Chinese, but by Visitor Valignano. And, with all his support, Ricci’s TZSY aimed to replace Ruggieri’s TZSL. As shown below, Valignano’s catechism, the Catechismus Christianae Fidei ( (1972), hereafter cited as Catechismus), was one of the sources that inspired Ricci’s TZSY.