Roman Catholic theology

As the pimary branch of Catholic Christianity, the theology of the Roman Catholic Church largely resembles that of the other rites and branches. Roman Catholics believe in the authority of Scripture and Sacred Tradition, as interpreted by Magisterium. The Church teaches that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ, keeping of Ten commandments and receiving sacraments. There are a number of teachings which differentiate the Roman Catholic Church from other Christian churches. Most notably, Roman Catholics believe in existence of Purgatory, Sacrament of Penance (Catholic Church), Pope as the "Vicar of Christ on Earth", papal infallibility, Immaculate Conception of Mary and many others.

Church belief is encapsulated in the Nicene Creed and detailed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Formal Catholic worship is ordered by means of the liturgy, which is regulated by church authority. The celebration of the Eucharist, one of seven church sacraments, is considered the center of Catholic worship. However there are numerous additional forms of personal prayer and devotion including the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, and Eucharistic adoration. The church community consists of the ordained priesthood and deaconate, those like monks and nuns living a consecrated life under rule, and the laity.

The Catholic Church is a trinitarian Christian church whose beliefs are detailed in the "Catechism of the Catholic Church".Marthaler, "Introducing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Traditional Themes and Contemporary Issues" (1994), preface] [] These are Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony. They are vehicles through which God's grace is said to flow into all those who receive them with the proper disposition.Kreeft, "Catholic Christianity" (2001), p. 298] The Church encourages individuals to engage in adequate preparation before receiving certain sacraments.Mongoven, "The Prophetic Spirit of Catechesis: How We Share the Fire in Our Hearts" (2000), p. 68]

The beliefs of other Christian denominations differ from those of Catholics in varying degrees. Eastern Orthodox belief differs mainly with regard to papal infallibility, the filioque clause and the immaculate conception of Mary, but is otherwise quite similar. [Langan, "The Catholic Tradition" (1998), p. 118] [ Parry, "The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity" (1999), p. 292] Protestant churches vary in their beliefs, but they generally differ from Catholics regarding the authority of the pope and church tradition, as well as the role of Mary and the saints, the role of the priesthood, and issues pertaining to grace, good works and salvation.McManners, "Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity" (2002), pp. 254–60] The five solas were one attempt to express these differences.

God the Father, original sin and Baptism

The central statement of Catholic faith, the Nicene Creed, begins, "We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen." Thus, Catholics believe that God is not a part of nature, but that he created nature and all that exists. He is viewed as a loving and caring God who is active both in the world and in people's lives.Barry, "One Faith, One Lord" (2001), p. 7] He desires his creatures to love him and to love one another. [] The "Catechism" states that "the account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms ... a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man" resulting in "a deprivation of original holiness and justice ..." that makes each person "subject to ignorance, suffering, and the dominion of death: and inclined to sin ..." People can be cleansed from this original sin and all personal sins through Baptism.Kreeft, "Catholic Christianity" (2001), p. 308] This sacramental act of cleansing admits one as a full member of the natural and supernatural Church and is only conferred once in a person's lifetime.


Christians classify certain behaviors and acts to be "Sinful". Which means that these certain acts are a violation of conscience or divine law. Roman Catholics make a distinction between two types of sin. [ [ CCC 1854] ] Mortal sin is a "grave violation of God's law" that "turns man away from God", [ [ CCC 1855] ] and if it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it can cause exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell. [ [ CCC 1861] ]

In contrast, venial sin (meaning "forgivable" sin) "does not set us in direct opposition to the will and friendship of God" [ CCC 1863] ] and, although still "constituting a moral disorder", [ [ CCC 1875] ] does not deprive the sinner of friendship with God, and consequently the eternal happiness of heaven.

According to Roman Catholicism, pardon of sins and purification can occur during life - for example, in the Sacrament of Baptism [ [ CCC 1263] ] and the Sacrament of Penance. [ [ CCC 1468] ] However, if this purification is not achieved in life, venial sins can still be purified after death. [ [ CCC 1030] ] The specific name given to this purification of sin after death is "purgatory". [ [ CCC 1031] ]

Jesus Christ

The focus of a Christian's life is a firm belief in Jesus as the Son of God and the "Messiah" or "Christ". The title "Messiah" comes from the Hebrew word מָשִׁיחַ ("māšiáħ") meaning "anointed one". The Greek translation , , , , , , ] he ascended to heaven, is "seated at the right hand of the Father" [] and will return again [, , , and ] [Two denominations in which a resurrection of Jesus is not a doctrine are the Quakers and the Unitarians.] Thus, for Catholics, the term "Church" refers not merely to a building or even to the organizational hierarchy but first and foremost to the people of God who abide in Jesus and form the different parts of his spiritual body.Norman, "The Roman Catholic Church an Illustrated History" (2007), p. 12] []

Some groups do not distinguish a particular judgment from the general judgment at the end of time, teaching instead that souls remain in stasis until this time.Spitz, Lewis, "The Protestant Reformation". Concordia Publishing House (2003) ISBN 0570033209.] These groups, and others that do not believe in the intercession of saints, generally do not employ the word "saint" to describe those in heaven.

Prayer for the dead and Indulgences

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the fate of those in purgatory can be affected by the actions of the living. [ [ CCC 1032] ]

In the same context there is mention of the practice of indulgences. An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven. [ [ CCC 1471] ] Indulgences may be obtained for oneself, or on behalf of Christians who have died. [ [ CCC 1479] ]

Prayers for the dead and indulgences have been envisioned as decreasing the "duration" of time the dead would spend in purgatory. Traditionally, most indulgences were measured in term of days, "quarantines" (i.e. 40-day periods as for Lent), or years, meaning that they were equivalent to that length of canonical penance on the part of a living Christian. [ Indulgences in the Catholic Church | ] ] When the imposition of such canonical penances of a determinate duration fell into desuetude these expressions were sometimes popularly misinterpreted as reduction of that much time of a soul's stay in purgatory. (The concept of time, like that of space, is of doubtful applicability to souls in purgatory.) In Pope Paul VI's revision of the rules concerning indulgences, these expressions were dropped, and replaced by the expression "partial indulgence", indicating that the person who gained such an indulgence for a pious action is granted, "in addition to the remission of temporal punishment acquired by the action itself, an equal remission of punishment through the intervention of the Church" [ [ Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution on Indulgences,] norm 5]

Historically, the practice of granting indulgences, and the widespread [Section "Abuses" in [ Catholic Encyclopedia: Purgatory] ] associated abuses, which led to them being seen as increasingly bound up with money, with criticisms being directed against the "sale" of indulgences, were a source of controversy that was the immediate occasion of the Protestant Reformation in Germany and Switzerland. [ [ Catholic Encyclopedia: Reformation] ]


Christianity regards the Bible, a collection of canonical books in two parts (the Old Testament and the New Testament), as authoritative. It is believed by Christians to have been written by human authors under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and therefore for many it is held to be the inerrant Word of God [Catechism of the Catholic Church, [ "Inspiration and Truth of Sacred Scripture" (§105-108)] ] . [Second Helvetic Confession, [ "Of the Holy Scripture Being the True Word of God"] ] [Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, [ "online text"] ] Protestant Christians believe that the Bible contains all revealed truth necessary for salvation. This concept is known as Sola scriptura. [Keith Mathison "The Shape of Sola Scriptura" (2001)] The books that are considered canon in the Bible vary depending upon the denomination using or defining it. These variations are a reflection of the range of traditions and councils that have convened on the subject. The Bible always includes books of the Jewish scriptures, the Tanakh, and includes additional books and reorganizes them into two parts: the books of the Old Testament primarily sourced from the Tanakh (with some variations), and the 27 books of the New Testament containing books originally written primarily in Greek [ [ PC(USA) - Presbyterian 101 - What is The Bible? ] ] . The Roman Catholic and Orthodox canons include other books from the Septuagint Greek Jewish canon which Roman Catholics call Deuterocanonical.F.F. Bruce, "The Canon of Scripture"; Catechism of the Catholic Church, [, "The Canon of Scripture" § 120] ] Protestants consider these books apocryphal. Some versions of the Christian Bible have a separate Apocrypha section for the books not considered canonical by the publisher [Metzger, Bruce M. and Michael Coogan, editors. "Oxford Companion to the Bible". Pg. 39 Oxford University Press (1993). ISBN 0-19-504645-5.] .

Roman Catholic theology distinguishes two senses of scripture: the literal and the spiritual. [ Catechism of the Catholic Church, [, "The Holy Spirit, Interpreter of Scripture" § 115-118] ]

The "literal" sense of understanding scripture is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation. It has three subdivisions: the allegorical, moral, and anagogical (meaning mystical or spiritual) senses.

* The "allegorical" sense includes typology. An example would be the parting of the Red Sea being understood as a "type" (sign) of baptism. [] Papal infallibility is the belief that when a pope speaks as head of the Church defining a doctrine concerning faith and morals to be held by the whole Church he does so without error because of the promises made by Jesus in his act of consecration of Peter as the foundation of his church. [] Citation
last = Waterworth
first = J (translation)
title = The Twenty-Second Session The canons and decrees of the sacred and oecumenical Council of Trent
work =The Council of Trent
journal = Hanover Historical Texts Project
location = London
date = 1564-02-07
url =
accessdate = 2008-02-14
] Everything in this decree pertained to the priest celebrant and his action at the altar. The participation of the people was devotional rather than liturgical. The Mass text was in Latin as this was the universal language of the church. This was called the Tridentine Mass and endured universally up to Vatican II and the vernacular Mass known as the "Novus Ordo Missae".

Catholic mass is separated into two parts. The first part is called Liturgy of the Word; readings from the Old and New Testament are read prior to the Gospel reading and priest's homily. The second part is called Liturgy of the Eucharist where the actual sacrament of the Eucharist is celebrated.Catholics regard the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Christian life, and believe that the bread and wine brought to the altar are changed through the power of the Holy Spirit into the true Body and the true Blood of Christ. This is called transubstantiation. The Holy Mass is a re-presentation of Christ's sacrifice on Calvary.

There are seven sacraments of the church, of which the most important is the Eucharist. According to the Catechism, these sacraments were instituted by Christ and entrusted to the church. They are vehicles through which God's grace flows into the person who receives them with the proper disposition. In order to obtain the proper disposition, individuals are encouraged to attend classes before being permitted by pastors to receive certain sacraments. [cite book | title = The Prophetic Spirit of Catechesis: How We Share the Fire in Our Hearts | author = Anne Marie Mongoven | pages = p.68 | isbn = 0809139227 ] Participation in the sacraments, offered to them through the church, is how Catholics obtain forgiveness of sins and formally ask for the Holy Spirit. These sacraments are: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, Holy Matrimony

Beginning with Advent, the time of preparation for both the celebration of Jesus' birth and his second coming at the end of time, the liturgical year follows events in the life of Jesus. Christmas follows Advent beginning on December 25, Christmas Eve, and ends on the feast of the baptism of Jesus on January 13.

Lent is a time purification and penance that consists of the 40 days in each calendar year, excluding Sundays, that begin with Ash Wednesday and end with Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday.

The Easter (or Paschal) Triduum ("tri" as in "trip", "du" as "dew", "um" as in "hum") consists of three liturgies that are each practiced once per year in any Roman Catholic parish or community. The Holy Thursday evening Mass of the Lord's Supper is the first of these liturgies. The Easter Triduum continues with the liturgy of Good Friday, the only day of the year on which mass is not celebrated. The Easter Triduum culminates with the celebration of Jesus' resurrection, the most solemn observance of which is the Easter Vigil. The specific liturgy of the Easter Vigil is a mass celebrated only during the Saturday evening preceding Easter Sunday and contains ritual elements not performed at any other point in the liturgical year. Masses celebrated on Easter Sunday also celebrate the Resurrection but are closer in structure to other masses than is the Easter Vigil. These days recall Jesus' last supper with his disciples, his passion, death on the cross, his burial, and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. The season of Easter follows the Triduum and climaxes on Pentecost, recalling the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus' disciples in the upper room.

The rest of the liturgical year is called Ordinary Time.

One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic

Section 8 of the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, "Lumen Gentium" stated that "the one Church of Christ which in the Nicene Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic" subsists "in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him." (The term "successor of Peter" refers in to the Bishop of Rome, the Pope; see Petrine theory).

Protestants have rejected the pope's statement that Jesus established ‘only one church’ (Catholic Church.) [ [ MSNBC] ]

They also rejected the remark by the pope that only the Catholic Church could be called church [] . The pope said that Protestant denominations are not even churches “in the proper sense.” [ [ Vatican says Protestants not churches in ‘proper sense’] ] Protestants argued that pope is wrong, and that they were churches as well [] .

Although the Catholic Church establishes, believes and teaches that it is the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, it also believes that the Holy Spirit can work through and make use of other churches to bring people to salvation. In its Constitution, the church acknowledges that the Holy Spirit is active in the Christian churches and communities separated from itself and is called by the Holy Spirit to work for unity amongst all Christians. [cite web| title=Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Chapter 2 paragraph 15|url=|publisher=Libreria Editrice Vaticana|year=1964]

Ordained ministry: Bishops, priests, and deacons

Men become bishops, priests or deacons through the sacrament of Holy Orders. Candidates to the priesthood must have college degree in addition to another four to five years of seminary formation. This formation includes not only academic classes but also human, spiritual and pastoral education. The Catholic Church only ordains men, as the Twelve Apostles were all male. [cite web | last =Paragraph number 1577 | title =Catechism of the Catholic Church | publisher = Libreria Editrice Vaticana| date = 1994| url =| accessdate = 2008-02-08] The Church teaches that women have a different yet equally important role in church ministry, prayer and life.cite book |last= Benedict XVI|first= Pope|editor= |others= |title=Jesus of Nazareth|origdate= |origyear=2007 |accessdate= |accessyear=2008 |year= |month= |publisher= Doubleday |isbn=978-0-385-52341-7 |pages= 180-181 |quote= The difference between the discipleship of the Twelve and the discipleship of the women is obvious; the tasks assigned to each group are quite different. Yet Luke makes clear—and the other Gospels also show this in all sorts of ways—that "many" women belonged to the more intimate community of believers and that their faith—filled following of Jesus was an essential element of that community, as would be vividly illustrated at the foot of the Cross and the Resurrection. ]

The Bishops possess the fullness of Christian priesthood; priests and deacons participate in the ministry of the bishop. As a body (the College of Bishops) are considered to be the successors of the Apostles. [cite web |title=Canon 42 |url= |publisher=Vatican |work=1983 Code of Canon Law] [cite web |title=Canon 375 |url= |publisher=Vatican |work=1983 Code of Canon Law] The pope, cardinals, patriarchs, primates, archbishops and metropolitans are all bishops and members of the Catholic Church episcopate or College of Bishops. Only bishops are allowed to perform the sacraments of holy orders and confirmation.

Each bishop heads a diocese, which is divided into parishes. A parish is usually staffed by at least one priest. Beyond their pastoral activity, a priest may perform other functions, including study, research, teaching or office work. They may also be rectors or chaplains. Other titles or functions held by priests include those of Archimandrite, Canon Secular or Regular, Chancellor, Chorbishop, Confessor, Dean of a Cathedral Chapter, Hieromonk, Prebendary, Precentor, etc. Permanent deacons preach and teach. They may also baptize, lead the faithful in prayer, witness marriages, and conduct wake and funeral services. [cite web |title=Frequently Asked Questions About Deacons |url= |author=Committee on the Diaconate |publisher=United States Conference of Catholic Bishops] Candidates for the diaconate go through a diaconate formation program and must meet minimum standards set by the bishops' conference in their home country. Upon completion of their formation program and acceptance by their local bishop, candidates receive the sacrament of Holy Orders.

While deacons may be married, only celibate men are ordained as priests in the Latin Rite. [cite web |title=Canon 1037 |url= |publisher=Vatican |work=1983 Code of Canon Law] [cite web |title=Canon 1031 |url= |publisher=Vatican |work=1983 Code of Canon Law] Protestant clergy who have converted to the Catholic Church are sometimes excepted from this rule. The Eastern Rites ordain both celibate and married men.cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title =Married, reordained clergy find exception in Catholic church | work = | publisher =Washington Theological Union | date =2003 | url = | format = | doi = | accessdate =2008-02-28 ] All rites of the Catholic Church maintain the ancient tradition that, after ordination, marriage is not allowed.cite web | last =Chisholm | first =Hugh | authorlink = | coauthors = | title =Encyclopedia Brittanica | work = | publisher =University of Virginia | date =1910 | url =,M1 | format = | doi = | accessdate =2008-02-28 ] A married priest whose wife dies may not remarry. Men with "transitory" homosexual leanings may be ordained deacons following three years of prayer and chastity, but men with "deeply rooted homosexual tendencies" who are sexually active cannot be ordained.cite news|url=|author=Pope Benedict XVI|publisher=Vatican|year=2005|title=Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders|date=29 January 2008]

Clerical celibacy

The Catholic Church's discipline of mandatory celibacy for Latin-Rite priests (while allowing very limited individual exceptions) is criticized for differing from Christian traditions issuing from the Protestant Reformation, which apply no limitations, and even from the practice of the ancient Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, which, while requiring celibacy for bishops and priestmonks and excluding marriage by priests after ordination, do allow married men to be ordained to the priesthood. Some also claim that mandatory priestly celibacy appeared only in the Middle Ages.

Some have argued that abolishing the rule of celibacy and opening the priesthood to women would update the Church's image as more relevant to modern society, and would help solve the problem of an insufficiency of candidates for priesthood in Western countries.

Many contend that maintaining the tradition in the modern age is unrealistic. In July 2006, Bishop Emmanuel Milingo created the organization Married Priests Now!. [cite news | url = | title = Archbishop launches married priests movement |date=July 14, 2006 | work = World Peace Herald | accessdate = 2006-11-16] Responding to Milingo's November 2006 consecration of bishops, the Vatican stated "The value of the choice of priestly celibacy... has been reaffirmed." [cite news | title = Vatican stands by celibacy ruling | url = | publisher = BBC News |date=November 16, 2006 | accessdate = 2006-11-16 ]

In the wake of the clergy sexual abuse scandals, some critics have charged that priestly celibacy was a contributing factor.

=Theological Differences within Roman Catholicism=

A theological spectrum exists within Roman Catholicism. Traditionalist Catholics hold to certain traditional positions that have been rejected by mainstream society in the last half-century.

By contrast, "liberal Catholics" typically question some of the church's teachings on a variety of issues, eg. artificial contraception, clerical celibacy, sexual morality, and abortion.

Other doctrinal issues


Today, the official Church's position remains a focus of controversy and is fairly non-specific, stating only that faith and scientific findings regarding human evolution are not in conflict, specifically: [cite web | title = Adam, Eve, and Evolution | url = | accessdate = 2008-04-03]

Concerning human evolution, the Church has a more definite teaching. It allows for the possibility that man’s "body" developed from previous biological forms, under God’s guidance, but it insists on the special creation of his "soul".

This view falls into the spectrum of viewpoints that are grouped under the concept of "theistic evolution" (which is itself opposed by several other significant points-of-view; see Creation-evolution controversy for further discussion).

peaking in tongues

The practice of "speaking in tongues" is not expressly prohibited by the Catholic Church.cite web
url= | title = Gift of Tongues | accessdate = 2008-04-03


The Roman Catholic Church considers baptism, even for infants, so important that "parents are obliged to see that their infants are baptised within the first few weeks" and, "if the infant is in danger of death, it is to be baptised without any delay." [ [ Code of Canon Law, canon 867] ] It declares: "The practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church. There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on, and it is quite possible that, from the beginning of the apostolic preaching, when whole 'households' received baptism, infants may also have been baptized." [ [ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1252] ]

Catholic social teaching

Catholic social teaching is based on the teaching of Jesus and commits Catholics to the welfare of others. Although the Catholic Church operates numerous social ministries throughout the world, individual Catholics are also required to practice spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Corporal works of mercy include feeding the hungry, welcoming strangers, immigrants or refugees, clothing the naked, taking care of the sick and visiting those in prison. Spiritual works require the Catholic to share their knowledge with others, to give advice to those who need it, comfort those who suffer, have patience, forgive those who hurt them, give correction to those who need it, and pray for the living and the dead. The sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, however, is performed by a priest, who will anoint with oil the head and hands of the ill person and pray a special prayer for them while laying on hands.Kreeft, "Catholic Christianity" (2001), p. 373]

ee also

* Roman Catholic Church
* Catholic
* Catholicism
* Christianity
* Criticism of the Roman Catholic Church
* Indult Catholic
* List of canonizations
* Lists of Roman Catholics
* Roman Catholic calendar of saints
* Traditionalist Catholic


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Roman Catholic theology —  Римско католическая теология …   Вестминстерский словарь теологических терминов

  • Roman Catholic Mariology — This article is about Roman Catholic perspectives, and does not reflect the views of other segments of the Catholic Church such as Eastern Catholics. For general Christian views, see Mariology. A series of articles on Roman Catholic Mariology …   Wikipedia

  • Roman Catholic Marian art — The Blessed Virgin Mary has been one of the major subjects of Christian Art, Catholic Art and Western Art for many centuries. Literally hundreds of thousands of pieces of Roman Catholic Marian art covering a range of Marian artistic topics have… …   Wikipedia

  • Roman Catholic Relief Bill — • Sections on England and Ireland Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Roman Catholic Relief Bill     Roman Catholic Relief Bill      …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Roman Catholic Relief Bills — were attempted steps of legislation in the United Kingdom towards Catholic Emancipation. They sought to remove the legal tests and disabilities imposed on British and Irish Catholics, brought about by Henry VIII s state Protestant Reformation,… …   Wikipedia

  • Roman Catholic Church — The Roman Catholic Church, officially known as the Catholic Church, [] ] Norman, p. 12] Pope Benedict XVI summarized this mission as a threefold responsibility to proclaim the word of God, celebrate the sacraments, and exercise the ministry of… …   Wikipedia

  • Roman Catholic Diocese of Pasig — Diocese of Pasig Dioecesis Pasiginae Diyosesis ng Pasig Location …   Wikipedia

  • Roman Catholic dogma — Statue of Saint Peter at his basilica in Rome. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed… …   Wikipedia

  • Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland — Diocese of Oakland Dioecesis Quercopolitana Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland Location …   Wikipedia

  • Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix — Diocese of Phoenix Dioecesis Phoenicensis St. Mary s Basilica, Phoenix Location …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.