Catholicism is a word that talks about the Catholic religion, a form of Christianity. Actually (2012) there are more than 1.1 billion catholics and more than 17% of world population practices Catholicism .
The word "Catholicism" talks about many things, including its religious beliefs (called "theologies" and "doctrines"), and its form of religious worship (called liturgies). The word also talks about Catholic religious beliefs about ethics (things that are right and wrong). It also talks about the ways that members of the Catholic religion live and practice their religion.
Many people use the word "Catholicism" to talk about religious beliefs of the Catholic Church, whose leader is called the "Bishop of Rome" and often called the "Pope". The Catholic Church is based Vatican City, a small independent country in the city of Rome, Italy.. Sometimes the word also refers to beliefs of other Christian churches, including the Eastern Orthodox Churches, who have many beliefs similar to the Catholic Church, but do not believe the Bishop of Rome is their leader.
The word "Catholicism" is often used tell the difference between the beliefs of Catholic Christians and the beliefs of others called Protestant Christians. Catholic and Orthodox churches use church leaders, called bishops, to determine beliefs. Protestants, however, often use each member's own understanding of the Bible to determine beliefs. Protestants use guidelines from the 16th-century Protestant Reformation to understand the Bible.
Where the word "Catholic" came from [change]
The oldest document that uses the name "Catholic Church" is a letter written by a man named Ignatius. Ignatius lived in the ancient city of Antioch. In the year 107, Ignatius wrote a letter addressed to the Christian community in the ancient city of Smyrna. In this letter, Ignatius encouraged the Christian Community to be loyal to their leader, the Bishop. Ignatius wrote:
Older documents may have used the term "Catholic Church", however no copies of these letters exist today.[source?]
Groups who call themselves "Catholic" [change]
Many different denominations (groups) of Christians call themselves "catholic". Often these groups have special beliefs about their leaders, called bishops. They believe Jesus of Nazareth (whom Christians believe is the Son of God) appointed the first bishops, who appointed future bishops, who eventually appointed each community's current bishops. This appointing of leaders is called "Apostolic Succession".
The groups that use the term "Catholic" to talk about themselves are the:
- Catholic Church, which is also called the Roman Catholic Church.
- Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox
- Old Catholic, Anglican, and some Lutheran and other groups
- Others who believe in "Apostolic Succession", but do not often call themselves "catholic".
- Communities that believe lost their "Apostolic Succession", but asked a different community to "ordain" new leaders for them. ("Ordain" is a word that describes the ceremony used to make a bishop or new religious leader.)
Not all communities believe that other communities use the term "catholic" properly. Also, not all communities believe that the other communities have apostolic succession either. For example, the Catholic Church believes that the Eastern Orthodox have apostolic succession. However, the Catholic Church doesn't believe that that the Anglicans or Lutherans have apostolic succession.
Eastern Orthodox have similar beliefs about Anglicans and Lutherans. However, not all Eastern Orthodox believe that the Catholic Church has apostolic succession. Different members of the Eastern Orthodox churches have different opinions.
How it was started [change]
Catholicism was started by Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish man whom Christians believe was the Son of God, a Christian belief known as the Trinity. Christians believe Jesus to be a descendant of King David, a Jewish king from a long time ago. Jesus was executed (killed) by the Romans in the year 33 AD. Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead, and spoke to his followers, called Apostles. Christians also believe that Jesus rose into Heaven, and then sent the Holy Spirit to guide his followers at an event known as Pentecost.
One of his followers, the apostle named Saint Peter, was appointed leader by Jesus and later became recognized as the first Pope, or Bishop of Rome, soon after that - he was captured and died in Rome. Catholics believe Saint Peter was given the "keys of the kingdom of heaven", meaning that Jesus made him and the apostles in charge of forgiving sins. Today, the pope is Pope Francis, who is the leader of the Catholic Church. The word pope comes from the Latin word for "father".
In 325, the First Council of Nicaea agreed on how to organize the church. The council agreed the Church had five patriarchs (patriarch was the highest type of church leader). The five leaders were the archbishops of Rome (the Pope), Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, and Jerusalem. The Patriarch of Rome, was honored as "first among equals."
Quarrels within the church [change]
In time, several Churches split off from the Catholic Church because of differing opinions of Church Law (Catechisism). These caused breaks in the Church called schisms. Most schisms happen because people have different beliefs about what is true, but politics is often a big reason for these fights too.
In 451, a church division happened when all the church leaders meeting at the Church Council in the city of Chalcedon excommunicated (cut off) three leaders, because they would not accept the view that Jesus had two natures (fully divine and fully human). These three were the bishops of Egypt, Syria, and Armenian. Of course, these three bishops did not accept being excommunicated either, so the churches under them are still known today as Oriental Orthodox Churches.
In 1054, the Church split in two - the church in Western Europe which followed the Pope became known as the Roman Catholic Church, and the churches in the rest of the world which did not think that the Pope should lead all Christians became known as the Orthodox Church - "orthodox" means "correct belief", as they believe that they have kept the teachings of the early church which the Roman Catholics have not.
Protestantism schism [change]
The next big schism was the Protestant Reformation, which protested against the central authority of the Church in Rome and against what it thought were wrong ways of doing and believing things about God in the Catholic Church. It started in Germany, where Martin Luther sent his demands for change to the Church. Because of politics in Europe, many nations supported Luther. The Lutheran Church was started. Later the Calvinist or Presbyterian Church started.
One of the most famous people in this period is King Henry VIII of England, who started the Anglican church because he wanted to divorce his first wife where the Pope did not grant him permission. First his Church, the Church of England, was like the Catholic Church, but with the king as leader instead of the pope. Later, under his son, Edward VI, and his daughter, Elizabeth I, the Anglican Church became more reformed or Protestant, but Anglicans still believe they are reformed Catholics, as well as Protestants.
In the Reformation, other Churches also split off from the Catholic Church and became Protestant. Even inside Protestant churches, disagreements over beliefs resulted in more splits. This is why there are so many Protestant churches. Some of these Protestant or Reformed churches are: Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, Calvinist, Methodist, Baptist, to name just a few. Later on, some people split again to make new kinds of churches which most Protestants do not believe are Christian at all, like Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Unitarian Universalist, and many others.
If a child refuses to obey his/her father, the father punishes his child; in church-talk this is called excommunication. In the Roman Catholic Church, if believers disobey the pope, they can also be punished or excommunicated. There is only one way of belief for Catholics who want to be with the pope. This is why Roman Catholics believe there is only one Catholic Church.
Religious Beliefs [change]
What is the same as other Christians [change]
- The Ten Commandments
- The belief that God knows everything.
- The belief that Jesus Christ died, rose again, and one day "will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead."
- The importance of worshipping God.
What is different from other Eastern Orthodox Christians [change]
- They are different from followers of the Eastern Orthodox Church in that they have a different approach to the Trinity. Christians believe that God has three aspects: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Eastern Orthodox Churches believe these are three different persons (hypostases) of one divine essence (ousia); Roman Catholics believe God is of one substance in three persons (consubstantiation).
- the Filioque clause (Nicene creed)
What is different from mainstream Protestants [change]
- Catholics believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist (this is called Transubstantiation).
- Roman Catholics believe God can forgive sins through the sacrament of reconciliation (penance) done by a priest, while most Protestants do not believe the priest is needed
- Roman Catholics believe it is important to live by Scripture and Tradition, which the teaching of the Church's Magisterium (the bishops in communion with the Pope) come from, while most Protestants believe in Sola Scriptura (the Bible alone)
- Roman Catholics believe that papal authority and the Bible are infallible, while most Protestants believe in an infallible Bible but not an infallible Pope. Papal infallibility has been declared twice in the history of the Catholic Church. Once to state that Mary was conceived without sin and another to state that Mary was assumed into heaven body and soul.
- The Bible Roman Catholics use often include a few texts that are usually not used by Protestants. The best known are called the Deuterocanonical books.
- Roman Catholics venerate saints, especially the Virgin Mary (Mother of God). "Venerating saints" means that Roman Catholics give special honor to saints (people in heaven) because they believe that saints can pray for them directly to God. Many Protestants do not believe this because they regard "venerating saints" as "worshiping saints". Because they believe that only God should be worshipped, they do not venerate. Many Protestants also simply do not believe that any veneration is necessary.
- The interpretation of Mary as the "Mother of God" differs
- Catholicism in contemporary world
- McBrien, Richard P. (1994). Catholicism. HarperCollins. pp. 3–19. ISBN 9780060654054.
- For McBrien, the "broad term" refers exclusively and specifically to that "Communion of Catholic Churches" in communion with the Bishop of Rome. Richard McBrien, The Church: The Evolution of Catholicism (New York: HarperOne, 2008), 6, 281-82, and 356. In its Letter on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stressed that the idea of the universal church as a communion of churches must not be presented as meaning that "every particular Church is a subject complete in itself, and that the universal church is the result of a reciprocal recognition on the part of the particular Churches". It insisted that "the universal Church cannot be conceived as the sum of the particular Churches, or as a federation of particular Churches".
- McBrien, Catholicism, 19-20.
- The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3), article Catholic, p. 308
- "Chapter VIII.—Let nothing be done without the bishop". Christian Classics Ethereal Library. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.v.vii.viii.html. Retrieved 21 November 2008.
- Angle, Paul T. (2007). The Mysterious Origins of Christianity. Wheatmark, Inc.. ISBN 9781587368219.
- Richard McBrien, Catholicism (Minneapolis, MN: Winston Press, 1981), 680.
- "Milton V. Anastos, ''Aspects of the Mind of Byzantium (Political Theory, Theology, and Ecclesiastical Relations with the See of Rome)'', Ashgate Publications, Variorum Collected Studies Series, 2001. ISBN 0-86078-840-7". Myriobiblos.gr. http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/english/milton1_21.html. Retrieved 2011-06-30.
- "Nicene Creed". Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. http://www.wels.net/cgi-bin/site.pl?2617&collectionID=711&contentID=4334&shortcutID=2077#nicene. Retrieved 21 November 2008.
- "Texts of the Three Chief Symbols are taken from the Book of Concord, Tappert edition". The International Lutheran Fellowship. http://www.ilflutheran.org/page11.html. Retrieved 21 November 2008.