What Do Catholics Believe?

Jesus Christ is the fullest revelation of God. That revelation is available in Scripture and tradition alike, not as two separate and distinct sources, but as rooted in a single source, which is the word of God. The response to this revelation is what we mean by faith. Catholicism rejects fideism (the belief that faith has no rational component) as well as rationalism (the view that we can believe only what can be rationally demonstrated to be true).

God created the world, so it is good. There is no question of an ongoing battle between two coequal (or nearly coequal) forces: God and Satan. The forces of evil have been overcome once and for all in Jesus Christ. The created order, although fallen and wounded by original sin and the actual sins of humankind, is nevertheless redeemed by Christ and renewed by the Holy Spirit.

Although God alone saves us, we cannot be saved without our own cooperation. This teaching is encapsulated in a formula attributed to Ignatius of Loyola (d. 1556); namely, that we should pray as if everything depended upon God, and work as if everything depended upon ourselves.

Grace really transforms and sanctifies us. Our sins are not simply covered over. We have become new creatures in Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Christ is our Redeemer, who is truly divine and human. Because he is divine, his suffering, death, and Resurrection on our behalf are of infinite value. And because he is human, we are taken up with him into the mystery of redemption.

The God who created us and who redeemed us is a triune God: creator, redeemer, and sanctifier; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each person is God, yet there is only one God.

Mary is the Mother of God and the Mother of the Church. She is the firstborn of those who have been redeemed and is a type, or symbol, of the Church through her faith in, and readiness to abide by, the word of God. The Church does not place Mary on a coequal basis with her Son, nor does it require its members to believe in any of the apparitions attributed to her by others.

The Church is necessary for salvation because it is the Body of Christ, continuing his mission for the sake of the coming reign of God. Although it will not come about until the end of history, God’s reign is already present in mystery, in the Church and in the world. God wills the salvation of all.

The Church is essentially sacramental, signifying and celebrating the presence and activity of God through the seven sacraments, especially the Eucharist.

We are called to live in accordance with the gospel in our own individual lives and also to contribute to the common good in the world around us. The sources of morality are to be found not only in the Bible and the official teachings of the Church, but also in every human heart (natural law).

We are all destined for eternal happiness in heaven, but it is at least conceivable that some few may totally and with full deliberation reject the gift of salvation. Hell is for them the state of eternal absence from God. For others a period of purification, called purgatory, may be necessary to prepare them for the vision of God. The once-popular belief that infants who die without Baptism enter a state of natural happiness known as Limbo is not an official teaching of the Church, and no Catholic is bound to hold it.

The Catholic Church has assumed many different organizational forms throughout its history. Although there is a fundamental equality of members by reason of Baptism, some are given special ministerial responsibilities. For Catholics, the Bishop of Rome has a unique ministerial function: to stand in Peter’s place as the proclaimer of faith to the universal Church and as an instrument of unity.

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