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Legatus Magazine

Cover Story
Kathy Schiffer | author
Dec 03, 2012
Filed under Columns

Tom Monaghan and the Catechism

Kathy Schiffer writes that Tom Monaghan helped make the Catholic Catechism a reality . . .

Kathy Schiffer

Before we begin,” said Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, “I want to thank Tom Monaghan for funding the Catechism.”

It was September 2003, and the group gathered at the archbishop’s palace in Vienna gasped. Despite occasional snippets in the press, Tom has always been modest about his personal philanthropy, and even his office staff had never heard this story.

On this 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I join Cardinal Schönborn in extending my thanks to Tom for this singularly important gift to the Church — and I offer you an inside look at the

I was working as conference director for Legatus and leading the group’s annual pilgrimage to Rome. Each year there is a side trip to another European destination. This time we had planned a pilgrimage to Vienna. Our itinerary included tours of palaces and galleries, and a Danube River cruise ending in a heurigen — a traditional Viennese celebration of the harvest, replete with the new unfermented wine.

On this late September afternoon, though, we were at the archbishop’s palace on the north side of St. Stephen’s Square. There we attended Mass in the archbishop’s private chapel, followed by an address from Cardinal Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, ending with a reception and dinner. It was an evening to cherish.

We sat on narrow chairs in a small room near the chapel, waiting for the cardinal to complete his tasks in the sacristy and address our group. Finally he arrived. A popular figure, he received a standing ovation from our group of American business leaders.

Tom Monaghan speaks with Cardinal
Christoph Schönborn in September 2003

And as we took our seats, he began as I wrote above: “Before we begin, I want to thank Tom Monaghan for funding the Catechism.” He explained that in the mid-1980s, Pope John Paul II had indicated an interest in developing a catechism for the worldwide Church. A commission of 12 bishops and cardinals had been put in charge of the project. But for several years, it had not moved forward.At the end of each fiscal year, various Vatican departments looked at their budgets but could not find room for such a large project.

That was, he explained, when Tom stepped in and offered the necessary sponsorship for the research, travel, staff and equipment necessary to complete the project. Without Tom, Cardinal Schönborn explained, the Catechism might never have been published.

John Paul II approved the text on June 25, 1992, and promulgated it Oct. 11, the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, with his apostolic constitution Fidei Depositum. It was published in French in 1992 and was then translated into many other languages. In the U.S., the English translation was published in 1994.

In Fidei Depositum, the Holy Father declared that the Catechism is “a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith,” and stressed that it “is not intended to replace the local catechisms duly approved by the ecclesiastical authorities, the diocesan bishops and the episcopal conferences.”

Thomas S. Monaghan — who grew up in an orphanage, founded Domino’s Pizza, bought and sold the Detroit Tigers baseball franchise, then took what he called a “rich man’s vow of poverty” — has done much to advance the Catholic faith in the modern world. He founded Legatus, provided the seed funding for the Ave Maria Radio network, and he established a Catholic university and law school, which are now graduating men and women well qualified to effect change in the culture.

He supported Catholic elementary, high school and preschools in the Ann Arbor area; he helped to institute the Thomas More Law Center; and he provided constant support for many pro-life initiatives, nationally and locally.

But this one project — the Catechism of the Catholic Church — has implications which reach beyond our era, offering guidance and unpacking difficult theological issues for the common reader far into the future. For his part in bringing this to fruition, and for all he’s done, we are grateful to Tom Monaghan. May God continue to bless him!

Kathy Schiffer served as Legatus’ conference director from 2001-2005. She is Ave Maria Radio’s director of publicity and special events. She blogs at


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