Understanding Catholicism

What Do Catholics Believe?

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Mahoney, Kelli. "Understanding Catholicism." ThoughtCo, Nov. 29, 2015, thoughtco.com/understanding-catholicism-overview-712806. Mahoney, Kelli. (2015, November 29). Understanding Catholicism. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/understanding-catholicism-overview-712806 Mahoney, Kelli. "Understanding Catholicism." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/understanding-catholicism-overview-712806 (accessed September 23, 2017).
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Overview:

Catholics may seem different from other Christians, but they have many of the same underlying beliefs as Protestants. They believe in the Trinity, Christ’s divinity, the Word of God, and more. They differ in several areas, too, like the use of the Apocrypha (biblical writings where the authors are not known, so not included in the New or Old Testaments)  and the placing of spiritual authority on the Pope in Rome.

They also place an emphasis on interceding through saints, and they believe in Purgatory. Also, the doctrine surrounding the Eucharist differs, too.

Doctrine:

The sacred texts used by Catholicism are the Bible and the Apocrypha. They use several creeds and confessions, but mostly focus on the Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed. A Catholic's set of beliefs, or doctrine, is mainly dictated by the Bible, church, the Pope, bishops, and priests. They believe that spiritual authority comes from both Scripture and tradition.

Sacraments:

Catholics believe that there are seven sacraments - Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Confession, Marriage, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick. They also believe in transubstantiation, where the bread used in the Eucharist actually becomes the body of Christ when blessed by a priest.

Intercession:

Catholics use many people and beings to intercede including Mary, saints, and angels.

They believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, had no original sin and remained free of sin throughout her life. They also canonize and ask saints to intercede on their behalf. Often Catholics have statues and icons of saints on display. Saints are not uncommon to other denominations, but none use them in this way.

Finally, angels are considered to be non-corporeal, spiritual, and immortal beings with names and purposes.

Salvation:

Catholics believe salvation is received upon baptism, which is why baptism takes place soon after a baby is born rather than a person choosing baptism and salvation later in life. The Catholic Church as decreed that a person can lose their salvation through sin, because sin cuts people off from God. They believe that perseverance is the key to maintaining salvation.

Heaven and Hell:

Catholics believe Heaven is the ultimate fulfillment of our deepest desires. It is a state of absolute happiness. Yet one can only reach Heaven if they are in Christ. In the same vein, the Catholic Church believes that there is an eternal Hell, which is an eternal separation from God. However, they also believe in Purgatory, which is a place one goes if they are not purified correctly. They spend time in Purgatory until they become holy enough to enter Heaven. Many Catholics also believe that those on earth can pray and help them leave Purgatory.

Satan and Demons:

Satan is considered a pure spirit, filled with power and evil. Catholics also believe that demons are fallen angels incapable of repentance.

The Rosary:

One of the most recognizable symbols of Catholicism is the rosary, which is used to count prayers. Though the use of rosary beads to count prayers isn't necessarily unique to Catholicism. Hebrews used to have strings with 150 knots to represent the Psalms. Other religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and more also use beads to keep track of prayers. The prayers said on the rosary are known as “Our Father,” “Hail Mary,” and “Glory Be.” They also say the Apostles’ Creed and Fatima Prayer, and the prayers are usually done in a specific order.