What is Roman Catholicism?
Brief History of Catholicism
In 1054 AD, the Roman Catholics split with the Orthodox Christians over questions of doctrine and absolute authority and behavior of the popes. The Roman Catholic Church based their beginnings on Matthew 16:18-19, but they clearly took it out of context. Based on that, The Roman Catholic church claims they are the ONLY authentic Christian church.
There are some interesting population facts about Catholics. As for the world, it is estimated that 1.3 billion Roman Catholics are in the world. In regards to the United States, it is estimated that there are 70 plus million Roman Catholics. That makes us about 22% of the population. South Carolina is no stranger to Roman Catholics. In South Carolina, it is estimated that there are
200,000 plus Roman Catholics in South Carolina. Of course, these numbers are growing more and more due to people moving from the north to the south. In Greenville, S.C., between the years of 2007 to 2016, there was a 25% increase in people ascribing to the Roman Catholic faith.
Catholic Belief About God
The Catholic beliefs about God are very similar to some of the beliefs that we as protestants hold dear. For example, Catholics believe there is One, true living God.
They believe that He is the Creator and Lord of heaven and earth. They also believe that He is Almighty, Eternal, and Immeasurable. Something interesting that they believe is that God is Incomprehensible, meaning a person cannot comprehend God or understand Him. Catholics also believe that He is Infinite in will, understanding and every perfection.
Another interesting belief that Catholics hold about God is that He is revealed through Scripture and Tradition. They strongly believe that tradition plays an important role. Tradition is the word of mouth teachings passed down from generation to generation.
Catholic Belief About Jesus
Catholics do have a very reverent view of Jesus. They, like many protestants, believe that Jesus is the 2ndPerson of the Trinity, fully human and fully God (CCC, no.464) Furthermore, they believe that Jesus is the Messiah of the Old Testament. They believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on a Roman cross, was buried and resurrected from the dead, ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. One of the most interesting belief’s about Jesus that Catholics hold is that they do not believe the finished work of Jesus on the cross accomplishes salvation. This belief would be a point of disagreement among protestants.
Catholic Belief About Salvation
Catholics do hold to a view of salvation. Catholics believe they are saved through the institution of the Catholic Church. In fact, in one of their own councils, they state that implicitly what they believe in this regard. The Church affirms that for believers, the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation (CCC 1129). These include the two sacraments of baptism and communion. In the Catholic belief of baptism or infant baptism, the baby is freed from original sin, given a share in God’s life and welcomed as a member of the Church.
The other sacrament held dear to Catholics is the Eucharist or Communion. Catholics believe this to the Body and Blood of Christ, who is truly present – body, blood, soul, and divinity- under the appearances of bread and wine. Therefore, Catholics believe by receiving the Eucharist they are literally receiving Christ, Himself.
- *Sacraments – The Catholic Church affirms that for believers, the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation (CCC 1129) (Abbreviation for CCC – Stands for Catechism of the Catholic Church)
- Baptism – the sacrament which the baby is freed from original sin, given a share in God’s life and welcomed as a member of the Church.
- Eucharist or Communion – the Body and Blood of Christ, who is truly present – body, blood, soul, and divinity- under the appearances of bread and wine. Catholics believe by receiving the Eucharist they are literally receiving Christ, Himself
- Reconciliation – Penance – the sinner confesses all sin to a priest. The priest gives the sinner things to do to make up for the sin(s) committed and offers forgiveness of sin.
- Confirmation – the sacrament that strengthens and continues baptism; in this sacrament the Holy Spirit is given.
- Holy Orders – confers sacred power for service as bishop, priest or deacon.
- Matrimony – gives spouses the grace to love one another with the love which Christ loved the Church (CCC 1661)
- Anointing of the Sick – given when a Catholic is in danger of death because of illness or old age. A priest applies blessed oil to the person (CCC 1530)
Catholic Belief About the Gospel
Roman Catholics do not believe in justification (declared righteous by God) by faith. They believe in justification by works.
The Council of Trent said:
- “Those who work well until the end and trust in God, eternal life is to be offered. It is given as a reward, promised by God Himself, to be faithfully given to their good works and merits.”
- “If anyone says a sinner is justified by faith alone, let him be anathema. “(anathema means cursed, condemned to hell)
- “If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ’s sake or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema.
They do not believe that Jesus’ finished work on the cross accomplishes salvation.
Catholic Beliefs About Sin
There are two types of sin – mortal and venial.
- Mortal Sin – willful transgression against God’s Law (10 Commandments). Can condemn someone to eternal hell.
- Venial Sin- a sin not as bad as a mortal sin. It lessens the grace of God within a person’s soul. Examples: pride, lust, gluttony, laziness.
Catholics believe in Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory.
Purgatory – a place of temporal punishment where the Catholic goes after he or she dies to be cleansed from sin before going to heaven. In purgatory, Catholics believe they are atoning (paying for) their own sins.
Catholic Beliefs About Mary
- Mary was immaculately conceived – did not have original sin. (CCC 490-492)
- Mary lived a perfectly sinless life. (CCC411, 4493)
- Mary is eternally a virgin
- Mary was assumed bodily into heaven where she was crowned Queen of Heaven.
- Mary’s intercession helps Catholics achieve eternal life.
- Catholics pray to Mary, have songs about Mary, and have statues of Mary.
Roman Catholic Beliefs versus Protestant Beliefs
Roman Catholics Protestants
Faith in the church in Christ alone
Salvation baptism/sacraments /works by God’s grace alone
Church the institution /leaders the believers
Authority Bible, Tradition, Pope Bible
Sunday Mass – a sacrifice of Jesus Service
Purgatory Place of temporal punishment Does not exist
Saints very holy people are all believers
Prayer to God, Mary, saints to God through Christ
Faith ritualistic / rules oriented personal relationship with Christ
When talking to a friend or family member who is Catholic, simply keep the conversation focused on Jesus. Keep asking some simple questions like the following:
Ask“ who pays for your sin”?
- Jesus alone (Protestants believe)
- Jesus + you (Catholics believe)
Ask “what do you base that on?”
**All man-made religions try to reach God on their own terms. Anyone that comes to God MUST come to God on His terms ALONE!
https://carm.org/roman-catholicism (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry)