The following is a very simple and rudimentary guide to what Catholics actually believe. It is written by a Catholic, a trained catechist (teacher of the Catholic faith), and apologist defender of the Catholic faith). However, this work will be very unapologetic. It’s just going to be very simple, yes or no answers, with very brief explanations, designed exclusively to cut through the baloney and get to what’s real. This blog is for Evangelicals, Protestants of all types, and Catholics themselves, who may not be sure what the Church really teaches. If you’re reading this, I hope that you’ll share it with others, who want to know the truth, straight from the horse’s mouth….
Are Catholics Christian?
What does the word “Catholic” mean?
The word “Catholic” is Greek and it means “universal.” It is a way of expressing how many different people, churches and traditions come together into one Church and believe the same thing. It’s sort of like the first-century way of saying “nondenominational.”
Is Catholicism another Christian denomination?
No. Catholicism is Christianity, and Christianity is Catholicism. Protestants divide into denominations, not Catholics.
What makes a Christian Catholic?
A Catholic is a Christian who subscribes to the teachings of the Catholic Church and regularly participates in the sacraments of the same Church. When a Christian stops doing these things, he moves away from Catholicism. Some Catholics boast of rejecting certain Church teachings. These are sometimes called “Cafeteria Catholics,” but they’re really just dissidents who are moving toward outright Protestantism. In contrast, a Protestant is a Christian who subscribes to core Catholic teachings (Trinity, Incarnation, Bible, etc.), but rejects many of the Catholic Church’s other teachings (Pope, Hierarchy, Mary, Saints, Sacraments, Purgatory, etc.).
Are there different types of Catholics?
Yes. The Catholic Church is a unity of 24 different churches, each having their own rite and form of practice. The Roman Church, the largest of them all, has multiple rites, uses and forms within itself. There are many ways of being Catholic, but all Catholics are in union with the Pope and believe the same things.
Are all Catholics in regular status with Rome?
No. Some are in irregular status, but they are still Catholic, such as the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) for example.
Is everyone who calls themselves Catholic really Catholic?
No. Some are schismatics, which means they have left communion with the Pope, and some have gone off to create an entirely new version of Christianity, but these are rare and obscure groups.
Are Catholics also citizens of the Vatican city-state?
No. We Catholics are citizens of the countries in which we reside. Being Catholic does not give us duel citizenship with the Vatican city-state.
Are Catholic loyalties torn between their country and the Catholic Church?
No. We Catholics are citizens of the countries in which we reside. That means our civil loyalties are tied to our countries. We have no civil loyalties to the Vatican or to our local dioceses or parishes. We do, however, have religious loyalties to our Church, our dioceses and our parishes, just as any other Christian has religious loyalties to his denomination and church. But we are no more torn in civil loyalties than a Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, or any other Christian would be.
Do Catholics worship Mary?
Do Catholics worship the Pope?
Do Catholics worship the Saints?
Do Catholics worship statues?
Who do Catholics worship?
Catholics worship the One and Only God, who is the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit.) He is ONE God, in three divine Persons, and his name is YHWH or Yahweh. The second Person of this Trinity (the Son) came to earth and took on humanity. His name is Yeshua (meaning: “Yahweh Saves”). In English, we pronounce his name as “Jesus.” He is called the “Christ,” which means “Messiah” or “Anointed One.”
Do Catholics worship the Eucharist?
Yes. Because according to his own words, it is Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Holy Trinity.
Do Catholics believe the bread and wine (served during communion) literally become the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ?
Yes, when properly consecrated by a Catholic priest, Catholics really do believe that this bread and wine become the Eucharist, which is Greek for “Thanksgiving.” We believe it really is Jesus Christ, physically and bodily present, and therefore we worship this Eucharist as Jesus Christ in the flesh.
Do Catholics see this transubstantiation of the communion elements as symbolic or representative?
Do Catholics see this transubstantiation of the communion elements as literal?
What is meant by literal?
The bread becomes human flesh, and it is alive. The wine becomes human blood, and it is still very much alive.
Do Catholics believe they taste flesh and blood when they receive communion?
No. Part of the miracle of this transubstantiation, is that the appearance (or accidents) of bread and wine remain. Appearance (or accidents) means the sight, sound, feel, smell and taste of bread and wine, down to the molecular level.
How long does the Eucharist remain human flesh and blood?
Once consumed, the Eucharist is digested and absorbed into the body. Traditionally, it is understood this process takes no more than 20 minutes. When it it not consumed, the Eucharist remains so long as it holds together under the appearance (accidents) of bread and wine. When the Eucharist is not consumed, and it’s locked away in a tabernacle, this could last a long time.
When the “bread” portion of the Eucharist is placed in a monstrance for viewing, do Catholics really worship this?
Yes. Absolutely. Because it is the living body (as well as blood, soul and divinity) of Jesus Christ.
Do Catholics believe all communion services, in all Christian churches, produce the Eucharist?
No. In order to confect the Eucharist, one must have the authority of a validly ordained Catholic priest. Protestant ministers don’t have this. Therefore, they do not confect the Eucharist. When they bless bread and wine, it really does remain bread and wine. Holy Communion really is just symbolic when Protestants engage in it, and most of them will tell you that.
What if a Catholic says that the Eucharist is merely symbolic?
Such a Catholic is really a Protestant at heart, because this is not what the Catholic Church teaches, and to say otherwise is to “protest” and thus become a “Protestant” at heart.
What if a Catholic says the real presence is merely spiritual and therefore not literal?
The same as above applies. The Catholic is a Protestant, because he/she denies the plain and clear teaching of the Church. The word “spiritual” does not mean symbolic. Angels are spiritual, does that mean they’re symbolic? God is Spirit. Does that mean he’s symbolic? Spiritual does not mean symbolic. It means real, but it is a higher reality than our own. The spiritual things of God, angels and demons, are in every way more real than we are in this physical world. Their reality transcends our own.
Do Catholics really believe they are eating human flesh and drinking human blood during Holy Communion?
Yes. It is the literal body and blood, along with soul and divinity, of Jesus Christ.
Are Catholics cannibals when they receive communion?
No. This is where the terms substance and accident become important. Substance means essence, or what something really is. Accident mean the appearance down to the molecular level. Because the accident (appearance down the the molecular level) of bread and wine remain, Catholics are not guilty of cannibalism. In cannibalism, the person, or part of a person, is killed and eaten. In Holy Communion, Jesus Christ is not killed, no part of him is dead, and what is eaten is living, and cannot be fully consumed. The human body does not transform the body of Christ into nutrients, but rather the body of Christ transforms the communicant when it is eaten. It’s the opposite of eating actually. Rather, it is miraculous transformation. In cannibalism, one only consumes a body, not a person. The person and the soul of the victim has departed. In the Eucharist, we consume the entire person of Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity. One cannot separate Christ’s body from his soul and divine Person.
What if a Catholic doesn’t believe in the transubstantiation?
The word transubstantiation means the “substance” of the communion elements (bread and wine) transforms into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. The accidents (appearance) of bread and wine remain, but the substance (what it really is) has changed. If a Catholic does not believe in this transubstantiation, then he is not really a Catholic. He is perhaps a closet-Protestant, sometimes known as a “Cafeteria Catholic.”
Do Catholics believe Jesus Christ is re-killed on the altar during the mass?
No. Christ could only die once. He did so 2,000 years ago on the cross. His living body and blood is transubstantiated and presented once more on the altar during the mass. He is not “re-killed.” That’s not even possible.
Do Catholics ever pray to God?
Yes. Constantly. And every mass is a prayer to God. Catholics also have many forms of prayer and devotion. Some formal, some not-so-formal.
Do Catholics pray to the Mary and the Saints?
Yes, because prayer (in itself) is not worship, and death has no power over those in Christ.
Do Catholics pray to the angels?
Yes, because prayer (in itself) is not worship.
Do Catholics pray for those who have died?
Yes, because we can, and we do so as an act of love for souls on their journey to heaven. The practice is heavily supported in the Bible.
You can learn the answers to more questions like this in my book “Catholicism for Protestants.”