If ever there is a controversial topic amongst Christians then it is the Catholic Church and what it does and what it does not believe and practice. This is not a post to convert or persuade you of anything. I am simply presenting you with some of the facts that I have uncovered myself, so the main aim is simply to inform you of what the official Catholic standpoints are on various questions commonly asked by Protestants.
Please also remember that sometimes what the official belief is of a religion/denomination is different from what individuals actually practice when in the privacy of their homes. It is so with all denominations, not just Catholics.
I grew up Protestant, then married into a Catholic family 11 years ago. I never converted to Catholicism, but I was curious to know what they believed. I was not yet born again at the time of marriage and we got married in my Protestant church (after compulsory lessons on marriage in the Catholic Church) so I knew very little about spiritual things.
Since then I have learnt so much about the Spiritual realm, especially from the Pentecostal/Charismatic churches and through studying the Bible myself.
These are some of the questions I had and I know many other non-Catholics have. So I went in search of the official answers and so here they are.
So let’s dive in.
What do Catholics actually believe regarding the body of Christ church as a whole?
The Catholic Church believes that they are the only church founded by Jesus himself 2000 years ago. They believe that all other churches were founded by other humans afterwards as a result of disagreements with the teachings of the original Catholic Church. All the official beliefs of the Catholic Church is documented in the Catechism of the Catholic church.
Why is Mary so extra special to Catholics? What’s the deal about Mary?
Catholics believe that they do not worship Mary, but that they worship God alone. Instead, they believe in venerating Mary. It means that they honour Mary with great reverence and devotion because she is the mother of God. Mary is the perfect model of obedience and total submission to the will of God. Catholics venerate Mary, because of her relationship to Christ.
Why do Catholics pray to Mary and the Saints?
Although 1 Tim 2:5 states that: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” Yet, in the Old Testament, we see that Moses, Abraham and Job interceded on behalf of others. That can be considered as mediating between God and man. On earth, we also regularly ask others to pray for us. Again this is considered mediating according to Catholics. So in light of this, the Catholic church believes that there is only one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ, but that as members of the body of Christ, Jesus allows us to share in His mediation.
Why do Catholics use statues?
According to the Catholic Church, they use statues as a “reminder” of Jesus or Mary etc. in the same way as someone would use a photograph of a loved one as a reminder of that person. It is a means to honour and preserve their memory of Jesus, Mary and the Saints.
Deuteronomy 5:9 God says concerning idols, “You shall not bow down to them.” Since Catholics bow or kneel in front of statues of Jesus and the saints, anti-Catholics confuse the veneration of a sacred statue with the sin of idolatry.
Though bowing can be seen as worship, not all bowing is worship according to Catholics. In Japan, for example, people show respect by bowing in greeting (the equivalent of the Western handshake).
Similarly, a person can kneel before a queen or a king without worshipping him as a god. Similarly, Catholics who may kneel in front of a statue while praying isn’t worshipping the statue or even praying to it, any more than the Protestant who kneels with a Bible in his hands when praying is worshipping the Bible or praying to it. (From Catholic.com)
Why is the Catholic Bible different to other Bibles?
The Catholic Bible has all the books that were originally in the Bible. There are seven more books in the Old Testament in the Catholic Bible compared to the Protestant Bible. These seven books were removed only in the 1500’s by Martin Luther and the Reformers. All the reasons for the removal are not clear to me yet, it is cause for deeper study and research.
Why can’t non-Catholics receive communion in the Catholic Church?
Catholics believe that the bread and wine actually becomes the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ (Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist), not just a symbol of it during communion as Protestants do. They believe that they cannot celebrate this unifying sacrament while there is disagreement with other Christians about the Eucharist itself. So that is the reason why non-Catholics are not allowed to take communion in the Catholic Church.
Why do Catholics confess their sins to the Priest?
In James 5:16 God commands us to confess our sins to one another. In John 20:21-23, Jesus said to the gathered disciples on the night of His resurrection, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” The Father sent Jesus with the authority on earth to forgive sins.
So Jesus sends out His disciples as the Father has sent Him with the authority on earth to forgive sins. John 20:22-23 says this, “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’”
So this is the Catholic standpoint: The Bible tells us to confess our sins to one another and it also tells us that God gave men the authority on earth to forgive sins. Jesus sends out His disciples with the authority on earth to forgive sins.
When Catholics confess their sins to a priest, they are following the plan laid down by Jesus Christ. He forgives sins through the priest. They believe that it is God’s power, but He exercises that power through the ministry of the priest.
What do Catholics believe about Salvation, faith and works?
The Catholic Church does not teach that people are saved by their works as is commonly believed. Instead, they believe that a combination of both faith and work is required(Gal 5:6). Having said that they also believe that we are saved by God’s grace. This is a very complex issue, with much more “meat” than meets the eye. I will definitely write a more in-depth post regarding this at a later stage.
Why can’t Priests get married?
Priests take vows of celibacy when they become priests, so therefore marriage would not be possible for them. Secondly, it is believed that Priests serve in the place of Christ so therefore their ministry configures them to Christ. By not marrying, remaining celibate and devoting themselves to the service of the church, they more closely model Christ and consecrate themselves to Christ.
Having said this, do you know that some priests are married? Yes, men who are already married and want to become priests can do so, but only under certain circumstances as laid out by the church.
(Some suggested further reading on the topic – click for more info)
This certainly is a very hot topic. I reiterate again, I am not trying to persuade or convert anyone. This post is just to shed some small crack of light onto this interesting topic. What are your thoughts?