This book is a classic collection of documents relating to Catholic beliefs, morals, and practices from 100 AD until the present (including many writings of Pope John Paul II). The contents are mostly documents from Church Councils, creeds, Papal decrees, and various other sources of Catholic thought. The sections are: Symbols and Professions of Faith, Revelation and Faith, Tradition and Scripture, The Triune God, Humankind and the World, Original Justice and the Fall, Jesus Christ, Mary, The Church, The Church and Churches, The Church and World Religions, The Church and Missions, Christian Worship, the Sacraments, Baptism/Confirmation, the Eucharist, Reconciliation/Anointing, Order, Matrimony, the Life of Grace, Principles of Christian Life, The Social Doctrine of the Church, Sexual Order and Respect for Life, and Christian Fulfillment.
The documents are translated into modern English from the original languages, and occasionally have notes, which are always helpful. The introductions to each document provide a nice historical background, and often, a helpful summary of each document. Otherwise, the documents (which are arranged chronologically) are allowed to speak for themselves. I was impressed with the wisdom contained within. They speak for the biblical and historical faith in a clear way, effectively working within each culture, without capitulating to the culture. The social teaching documents are especially interesting in this way, and show a great balance between standing up for what the Church considers right, without forgetting that mercy is always freely available from Christ. I was particularly glad to see many documents relating to potential reunion of East and West, as well as dialogue between the Catholic Church and Protestant churches.
Now I need to explain why I only gave it four stars. The reason is the quality of the book itself. My first copy had dog-eared pages and the binding was strange and uneven, even though it came sealed in plastic from the factory. I sent that copy back thinking it was a defective book. My second copy, sealed as well, also had similar issues. One page was pretty creased, although I could make out the words affected by the creases. A few other pages look like they came out of the presses a little crooked. It is obviously a publishing issue, perhaps only with a certain print-run, but nonetheless a little annoying. However, the price is right and I can overlook this issue seeing how amazing the material inside is. Anybody who is Catholic or wants to know more about the Catholic Church should consider getting this book. While some of the information may seem a little theologically advanced at times, it is well worth diving into.