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.

I recounted the little-known story a few years ago on my blog, and subsequently in the magazine of Legatus, the non-profit Catholic leadership organization founded by Monaghan. I was with him that evening, and I repeated the story I’d heard directly from Cardinal Schoenborn:

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.

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.

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!

 

Read the rest of the story at Legatus magazine.

 

Photo by Kathy Schiffer:  Tom Monaghan talks with Cardinal Schoenborn in September 2003