I reached out awhile ago and asked what misconceptions people heard about the Catholic faith, also known as Catholicism.
One question kept popping up: Is Catholicism separate from Christianity?
Short answer: No.
Catholicism is the oldest form of Christianity. Just like Protestantism and Eastern Orthodox, Catholicism is a Christian religion. Catholicism dates back to the time of Jesus; the first century Christians were Catholic.
This is a HUGE topic and it's why I created Faith Over Coffee; to inform the uninformed about the Catholic faith. It is time to stop saying Catholics aren't Christians. Start asking, "Are you Catholic or Protestant?" or even, "Are you Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, etc?"
Catholics believe in one God and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
The basic beliefs are:
- The Bible is the inspired, error-free, and revealed word of God.
- Baptism is necessary for salvation.
- God's 10 Commandments provide a moral compass - an ethical standard to live by.
- The Trinity - One God in 3 persons.
Catholics believe that all people are good, but sin is a spiritual disease that wounded humankind initially and can kill humankind spiritually if left unchecked. So what can remedy sin? Divine Grace.
The best source of grace comes from the sacraments. Sacraments are rites that Catholics believe have been created by Jesus and entrusted to Him and His Church. Catholics believe:
+ Catholicism involves a daily commitment to embrace the will of God.
+ Catholicism means cooperation with God on the part of the believer. God offers
His divine grace (unconditional love) and the Catholic must accept it and cooperate with it.
+ Free will is sacred. Doing evil hurts the Catholic as well as others because Catholics are part of a spiritual family called the Church.
+ The Church is a mother who feeds spiritually, shares doctrine, heals and comforts, and disciplines when needed. Catholicism considers the Church as important to salvation as the sacraments because both were established by Christ.
People often think of Catholicism as a list of do's and dont's when in reality, the Catholic Church educates its members to use their voice of reason and apply laws of ethics and a natural moral law in situations.
Catholics follow the authority of the bishop of Rome, also known as the pope. Catholics can be either Latin (Western) or Eastern Catholic; both are in union with the pope, but they each have their own customs and traditions.
Why "Roman Catholic"?
The first pope, Saint Peter, began his ministry in Jerusalem and eventually ended up in Rome where he became its first bishop. He was later crucified and buried on Vatican Hill. In the 4th century, the Roman Emperor donated the imperial land and its buildings back to the pope that were seized from Christians during the Christian persecutions. This is why the Church is often referred to as the Roman Catholic Church; it's important for the Church to have its home in the place where Saint Peter spent his final years.
Catholic Churches may differ liturgically, but they're still Catholic.
The Latin (Western) Church follows the ancient traditions of the Christian community in Rome since the time of St. Peter and St. Paul. Most parishes (church communities) in the United States, Canada, Central America and South America celebrate this type of Mass (highest form of worship).
The Eastern Catholic Church, which includes the Byzantine Rite, celebrates their Mass like the Greek or Russian Orthodox Churches.
"Church" vs "church"
The word "church," can signify a building where sacred worship takes place. People who use that building (the body or assembly of believers) are also known as the "church."
When the body is united under one tradition, it's called the "liturgical church." The different liturgical churches include the Eastern Catholic Church, the Latin or Roman Catholic Church, the Ruthenian Church or the Melkite Church.
The "universal church," meaning the entire Catholic Church around the world, is theologically considered the Mystical Body of Christ. The Church sees herself as the living, unifying, sanctifying, governing presence of Jesus Christ. The Church is a living entity. As St. Paul says in his epistle (1 Corinthians 12:12-31), its members are like parts in a body. The Church has many members (parts), but it is one whole body.
The word "Church," with a capital "C," refers to the Catholic Church.
So, "Church" refers to the Catholic Church and "church" refers to the body of believers or a building.
This only scratches the surface when it comes to the Catholic Church.
If you are not Catholic, I know this all seems a bit much and un-biblical. I promise you, EVERYTHING in the Catholic Church is biblical. It is just going to take more than one blog post to cover everything.
I am not trying to convert anyone to the faith, but rather inform people about the Truth.
*If you don't want to wait and would like to learn more, make sure you are getting answers from reputable Catholic websites and books. One easy to read book I recommend is "Catholicism for Dummies," written by Rev. John Trigilio and Rev. Kenneth Brighenti.