Bronze-level article

Roman Catholic Church

From RationalWiki
(Redirected from Catholics)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Catholic religious objects.
Christ died for
our articles about

Icon christianity.svg
Devil's in the details
And speaking of my friends the Catholics, when John Cardinal O'Connor of New York and some of these other Cardinals and Bishops have experienced their first pregnancies and their first labor pains and they've raised a couple of children on minimum wage, then I'll be glad to hear what they have to say about abortion. I'm sure it'll be interesting. Enlightening, too. But, in the meantime what they ought to be doing is telling these priests who took a vow of chastity to keep their hands off the altar boys! Keep your hands to yourself, Father! You know? When Jesus said 'Suffer the little children, come unto me', that's not what he was talking about!
—George Carlin in his 1996 HBO special, Back in Town[1]

The Roman Catholic Church is the world's second largest religious body after Sunni Islam,[2] and the largest Christian denomination in the world,[3] with an estimated 1.2 billion adherents. Frequently, and for simplicity's sake, they just call themselves Catholics. Like most religions, they believe that they are the only universal valid faith, and the Catholic Church teaches that it is the one true Church, to the exclusion of non-Catholic Christians; naturally, other Christians disagree. Even in Ireland, a relatively conservative country, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church seems to be increasingly out of touch with what ordinary Catholics want.[4]

As of 2009, it is impossible to formally defect from the Roman Catholic Church. However, public or "notorious defection" (as it is called in the Church's Canon Law) from the Catholic Church is of course possible, as is expressly recognised in the Code of Canon Law. Even private defection (through "heresy", "schism", or "apostasy") is subject to the penalty of excommunication laid down in Canon 1364 of the Code of Canon Law.[5]

Basic beliefs[edit]

Unlike most Christian denominations, for which finding out what they actually believe can be as hard as nailing jelly to a wall, Roman Catholicism has the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which all Catholics are meant to agree to (they don't all, but it's the official statement of beliefs). Other statements by influential Catholics (such as the Pope) are not normally strict Roman Catholic doctrine — they are about as important as statements made in a press conference by a President or Prime Minister.

The Roman Catholic Church believes that it is God's representative on Earth and that this gives them an authority in moral matters. It is fully aware that quite a few former Popes have been interesting and even downright dangerous individuals. Because of this, what the Pope says under normal circumstances can be taken with a pinch of salt. There is a specific set of circumstances known as Papal Infallibility, but in 2000 years, there have been few enough infallible statements that they can be counted on your fingers. Most of them have been on obscure subjects or subjects that are from day-to-day irrelevant (such as the Immaculate Conception — i.e. the idea that Mary (mother of Jesus) was conceived without sin).

The Roman Catholic Church believes that it is God's representative on Earth, therefore God would not allow it to have persistently wrong teachings for a prolonged period of time (something known as Magisterial Infallibility). When the Roman Catholic Church has historically claimed something as morally wrong, there is no room for compromise (which is why their teachings on contraception and homosexuality are so screwed up).

Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has generally avoided clear moral statements, instead creating the illusion of unity through ambiguous essays that can be interpreted differently by conflicting groups within Catholicism.[6] For instance, imprecise writing has persuaded sections of the media that the Roman Catholic Church will change its teachings on the sinfulness of gay sex and extramarital sex. The public (including many lay Catholics) don't seem to understand how unlikely this would be[7] (Pope Francis, on the other hand, has been very clear on this point).[8]

Roman Catholic philosophy and ethics[edit]

St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Roman Catholic philosophy and ethics is based on a number of logical fallacies. The philosophy is generally Thomist — based on the works of Thomas Aquinas and also based on Aristotle. Aquinas was the poster child for carrying logical thought past the evidence and then mistaking the map for the territory. Once you've done that, it is unsurprising that you get a set of celibate old men laying down rules on contraception and marriage, despite being officially obliged to not have much to do with either. They are also teleological — rather than being a fancy name for the argument from design, they presuppose the designer and work from there. (This doesn't mean that the Roman Catholic Church is creationist or supporters of intelligent design; although statements supporting either position have been made by individuals, they are not official teachings.)

The Roman Catholic Church teaches deontological ethics. This means that what is important is following the rules set down by the Church rather than, as utilitarianism would suggest, working out what would do the most good. The idea behind this is twofold. First, it suggests that by providing clear guidelines, it means it is possible to do the right thing with incomplete information. Second, it posits the idea that even if the humans that make up the Roman Catholic Church are flawed, the Church as an institution is far better at reasoning than any one person and so can do better than you can by yourself.

Roman Catholics also believe in original sin — the doctrine that humans from the moment of conception are not in a state of grace and are unable to be in the presence of God due to the transgressions of Adam and Eve.

Apostolic succession and more[edit]

Ordination of priests.

The doctrine of apostolic succession is not unique to the Catholic Church: the various Eastern and Orthodox Churches assert their claim to be the true inheritors of the original Christian Church, with Catholicism having abdicated its authority due to heretical teachings such as the filioque doctrine. The Catholic Church agrees that the Orthodox Churches have apostolic succession, and the Orthodox Churches generally agree that the Catholic Church has apostolic succession.

Apostolic succession is essentially a franchising business model. The validity of anyone's consecration as a bishop depends on the validity of the consecration of the bishops who consecrated the new one.[9] There exist "wandering bishops", episcopi vagantes, people who were consecrated validly but illegally by bishops who had the power, but not the legal authority, to make bishops. These bishops are considered valid bishops, and partake of the benefits of apostolic succession, even if their rites are not considered lawful by the Roman Catholic or Orthodox denominations.[10]

The Anglican churches (that's the Church of England, also known as the Episcopalians to those of you in America) also claim apostolic succession, although the Catholics claim that the Anglican chain was broken on account of Edward VI changing the ordination rite while simultaneously requiring the clergy to assert that the Mass wasn't a sacrifice. Baptists and Restorationists, in general, deny that apostolic succession is a real thing, and tend to buy into the Trail of Blood that claims all the early Christians were Baptists and were oppressed by evil Romans who pretended to be Christian. This is where the Church thus lays claim to being "Roman".


The Catholic doctrine of "apostolic succession" holds that it is the original Christian Church — the direct chain of inheritance from Jesus to the apostles passed on via the "laying on of hands." Saint Peter, in particular, is claimed to be the leader of the first apostles, and his authority is said to have been transferred to the See (or diocese) of Rome. The Bishop of Rome (the Pope) is the inheritor of Saint Peter and thus the head of the earthly Church.

The present pope, (or Pontiff[note 1]) Francis was 76 on appointment. The outgoing pope, Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger), was elected in 2005. Ideally, the Pope is a wise man well-past normal retiring age, being instead chosen to relentlessly work for the well-being of humanity until God calls him to Heaven. (Or at least that's the plan. Some do, but many across history have been in it solely for the power.) Usually, however, the realistic administrator-types have made better popes than the more saintly ones.

Modern and traditional[edit]

Nowadays, Roman Catholicism can be divided into two groups, bluntly calling each other modernists and traditionalists, though there are many more subdivisions and nuanced positions. Different cultures are emerging and strengthening; Pope Francis may find it increasingly difficult to keep them together and speak for all Catholics.[11]

Modern Western culture increasingly encourages people to think for themselves, which steadily weakens the authority of the pope and the Church hierarchy. In many nations, including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, France, and Spain, more than 90% of Catholics support contraception, while worldwide 78% approve. Over 60% in Argentina, Brazil, Poland, Spain, and the United States, among others, believe that priests should be able to marry. In Europe and the United States, less than 40% agree that women should be barred from the priesthood. 54% of United States Catholics and 64% of Spanish Catholics accept gay marriage. African Catholics are much more conservative.[12][13]

A large survey of Catholic women in particular, released in 2023 and spanning 140 countries, was even starker. It found that an overwhelmingly majority (especially those in the older age brackets) of said women wanted the church to become more liberal on a slew of topics: contraception, LGBT issues, divorce, transparency, women's representation, etc.[14]


Modernism consists of groups ranging from the ordinary pro-choice Catholics to liberation theologians and the Nouvelle Théologie. Some famous Catholics belonging to this group are Joe Biden (pro-choice Catholic), Hans Küng (Nouvelle Théologie, denies papal infallibility and more[15]) and Gustavo Gutiérrez (the founder of liberation theology). Joseph Ratzinger, the later Pope Benedict XVI, was considered to adhere to the Nouvelle Théologie in his younger years, but he became increasingly conservative.[16] This progressive group tends to be politically progressive as well, though they aren't free of new age pseudo-science despite having abandoned creationism.


The Virgin Mary.

Traditionalism consists of groups ranging from, on the one hand, neoconservative Catholics who strictly follow Rome on sexual but not economic traditions and who, in some cases, observe an "extraordinary" (read: old) version of the Roman Rite with approval from the Church, to, on the other, capital-T Traditionalists, or Trads, like the Society of St. Pius X (the Society), who don't recognize the Second Vatican Council and who may not follow any pope since Pius the XII (the last pope before Vatican II). Most recent popes fall in the neoconservative camp, but Pope Francis, who is economically on the left, does not.

Marcel Lefebvre, the founder of the Society, was excommunicated together with the four bishops he consecrated. The four bishops have had their excommunication lifted. Richard Williamson, one of these bishops, vehemently denies the holocaust, and this RationalWiki editor heard him say that a "sane society executes homosexuals." Williamson was expelled from the society after breaking his gag order(s) countless times.[17] Of this group (unlike Pope Francis), the neoconservatives downplay Catholic Social Teaching on economic issues in favor of libertarian-type capitalism,[18] but accept theistic evolution. Members of the Society mostly adhere to absolute monarchism, and are either distributist or conservative. They reject the freedoms of speech and religion included in the American Bill of Rights as Modernist heresies, proclaiming that "error has no rights."[19] (These folk were absent that day in civics when teacher explained that rights inhere in individuals, not in the ideas — including errors — they propound.) Some of their members, especially in France and Spain, are far-right extremists, praising Vichy France and Francoist Spain. They are very likely to be young earth creationists.

Factions and attempted resolution[edit]

The Roman Catholic hierarchy is certainly dividing into factions, notably over sexual moral issues.[note 2] Should remarried divorcees receive Communion? As of 2014, Damian Thompson of The Spectator compared the divisions to what happened around the second Vatican Council and suspected that the authority of Pope Francis was seriously weakened.[20] Andrew Brown of The Guardian thought such a schism less likely[21] and David Gibson writing in the Huffington Post emphasised how unlikely he thought it.[22] By contrast, Ross DouthatWikipedia of the New York Times warned of a possible major schism and looming crisis with conservative Catholics breaking away from the pope.[23] Douthat also feared that allowing the eucharist to remarried divorcees redefined doctrine either on sin or on the sacraments; Douthat suggested later that a range of unconventional committed sexual relationships could become acceptable.[24][25]

In 2016, Pope Francis released a document, “Amoris Laetitia”; it appeared groundbreaking to some commentators, but others feel it restates traditional Catholic doctrine with minor changes. The language is a bit vague, which may please different factions.[26] Only heterosexual marriage, 'open to the transmission of life', conforms to God's plan and marriage is indissoluble. Committed gay relationships and other relationships can offer some stability with positive features. Still, they cannot be compared to heterosexual marriage endorsed by God; further gay acts are grave sin.[27] Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna believes the document allows the sacraments to sinners in certain cases and is therefore very significant.[26] Church doctrine on what is sinful has not changed, but people living in modern western society may be convinced that Church moral teachings are in some cases wrong. The Church sees this as not fully understanding the truth of Church teachings. Still, such people may not be fully culpable according to Church teachings and may therefore receive the sacraments.[28]

RationalWiki cannot predict the future, though as of 2016, a compromise may be developing.


Francisco Franco meeting with Catholic clergy.
The Church has always sold itself to those in power, and agreed to any bargain in return for immunity. It would have been fine if the spirit of religion had guided the Church; instead, the Church determined the spirit of religion. Churchmen through the ages have fought political and institutional corruption very little, so long as their own sanctity and church property were preserved.
Albert Einstein, quoted in Einstein and the Poet by William Hermanns

Politically, the Catholic Church has long been a very conservative force. For centuries, the Church has fought the creation of liberal democracy, vehemently opposing almost every progressive change in Europe and North America during the 18th and 19th centuries. As recently as 1864, Pius IX's infamous Syllabus of Errors declared that liberalism, rationalism, and freedom of religion were all heretical. For most of the 20th century, it was little better, often supporting monarchies, dictatorships, and fascist regimes against democracies and republics (Spain, Italy, and Latin America were all areas where the Church was a bulwark to fascism and militarism).

Economic policy[edit]

Their policies were largely reactions against the French Revolution, with its strongly anti-clerical turn, and later, against the rise of Communism and similar socialist movements, all of which they strongly opposed. In order to oppose the left-wing idea of class struggle by the working class, the Church attempted to create its own, contrary, political ideology. This was developed in a series of Papal encyclicals, including Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum ("Of Revolution...", 1891)[29] and Pius XI's Quadragesimo Anno ("Forty years later...", 1931).[30]

This Catholic political ideology sought to instill nationalism and ethnic solidarity, hoping that emphasizing the claims of unique national characters would encourage moral traditionalism, and hoping that ethnic solidarity would take the place of class solidarity. In order to attempt to quell the discontents caused by capitalist greed and resulting inequality, they advocated a "third way" system, sometimes called "distributism", under which government, industry, and labor work together under the direction of a powerful, strongman government. Not a liberal democracy — that was still heresy — but a government with the power to expropriate and redistribute property and enforce traditional morality. These governments were of course supposed to cede control of parts of their laws and institutions, such as their educational systems, and their laws on sex, marriage, and divorce, to the Church. This ideology had a way of not working all that well when translated into a political blueprint. The constitutions of Vichy France, Franco's Spain, and Antonio Salazar's Portugal all referenced these documents as having inspired their polities.[31]

After the war[edit]

Forced conversion of Orthodox Serbs in fascist Croatia.

During the second half of the 20th century, the Church's posture changed somewhat: the environment of the Cold War meant that the Church's fanatical opposition to Communism landed it on the side of pro-democracy activists like Lech Wałęsa in Poland. In the 1960s, Catholic clergy in Latin America began challenging, instead of supporting, local elites, using the gospel as a basis. This so-called "liberation theology" was viewed dimly by the central hierarchy due to its links with Marxism and radicalism, but it attracted considerable support among ordinary Catholics. The Church remains vehemently opposed to gay rights and homosexuality, leading to complaints this makes life for millions of gay Catholics a tad difficult,[32] though it's not actually illegal in any predominantly Catholic countries, including Vatican City.[33] Church opposition to abortion causes problems for victims of incest and rape, and women who are not in a position to care for a baby. Just saying no to birth control also cause serious problems for everyone in families that are too big and poor to support their children well without commie government handouts (although the Church does at least advocate state support to the poor). Still, the Church has taken a stand against the death penalty, unprovoked aggression, and torture, apologizing for past witch hunts, Crusades, and the Inquisitions which they engaged in. It has also made some effort to ameliorate its generally appalling record on the treatment of women, while still absolutely prohibiting the creation of women clergy: at least they're now allowed to learn how to read a Bible, and in a language that isn't Latin even.

In the 21st century, the Church still has trouble accepting full democratic freedom. Voting in ways the Church dislikes can become mortal sin. That means before receiving Communion, Catholics who voted against the direction of the Church should go to confession and listen penitently while the priest explains why they should have voted differently.[34] Remember, God sees how a person votes, so for believing Catholics and many other people, there is no secret ballot.

The Catholic Church is the only religious denomination to have full legal, internationally-recognized control of its own state, the Vatican City State in Rome.[note 3] Historically, from about the mid-7th century onwards, the Popes controlled the Papal States, a territory covering a significant part of central Italy.[note 4] In 1860, however, most of the Papal States were lost as part of the wars that led to the unification of Italy. Rome was finally occupied by Italy in 1870, leading to a 59-year conflict between the Popes and the government of Italy. This conflict was finally resolved by the Concordat of 1929 with Fascist Italy that established the present-day Vatican City as a sovereign state.

Shortly before his death in 2012, the late Cardinal Carlo Martini commented that the Church was 200 years behind the times — just about in step with the Napoleonic era. The late cardinal was liberal by RC standards, and he was widely respected and even considered as a possible pope. Martini was concerned about declining attendance and confidence in the church by its members and worried that official RC policy was alienating its followers.[35]


Portuguese graffiti depicting a Catholic priest chasing two children.
Do you know who'd be the last person to be ever accepted as a Prince of the Church? The Galilean carpenter. That Jew – they would kick him out before he tried to cross the threshold, he'd be so ill at ease in the Church. What would he think of the wealth, the power, the self-justification, and the wheedling apologies?
Stephen Fry[36]

There are ongoing scandals involving child abuse, leaked dossiers[37], and other matters. It can be confidently predicted that more dirt will be uncovered in the future.[38] In 2012, documents were stolen from Benedict XVI and later published that revealed backbiting, cronyism, and other problems high up in the Church. There were concerns raised about money launderingWikipedia and accusations of corruption at the Vatican Bank.[39] Pope Francis has done a great deal to reform the Vatican Bank, though since the Vatican is notoriously secretive, outsiders can no more than guess how much remains unreformed.

Some cardinals blame the Curia for preventing a more decisive response to the child abuse problem.[40] Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò claimed in leaked documents that there was corruption over Vatican contracts that cost the Holy See millions of dollars. Later, the Pope sent Archbishop Viganò as an ambassador to Washington, which gave him the chance to explain said problems to American Cardinals and author Massimo Franco. In a book. Franco claims the Vatican is "falling apart" with financial scandals, internal strife, and the child sexual abuse issue, weakening the Church worldwide. Franco claims Benedict XVI sacrificed himself since he could not improve the situation.[41] Others claim Ratzinger never wanted to be Pope, and so it may not have been a big sacrifice.

In 2007, a senior Vatican official was secretly filmed making gay advances to another man and, in 2010, a chorister allegedly tried to procure gay prostitutes for someone within the Vatican. Rumours have circulated about Vatican priests frequenting gay-affiliated places in Rome and being blackmailed. Links to organised crime have also been alleged, notably through the Vatican Bank. All of this was reported in the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica and reprinted extensively elsewhere. According to La Repubblica, some members of the Curia may be open to blackmail because they belong to a "gay network" and organise "sexual meetings" in Rome and the Vatican.[42] These allegations have not been conclusively proven, but the Vatican refuses to deny them.[43]

These scandals are nothing new and there have been many periods where the church has been challenged over corruption, such as the Protestant Revolt, or attempts to change the Catholic Church instead of splitting from it, such as the Counter-Reformation. Although the Catholic Church's history is tainted with these deeds, it has not yet ceased its existence.


That the church does not offer its moralizing with entirely clean hands should be obvious. Among the morally repugnant activities of its clergy have been the psychological, physical, and sexual abuse of persons in its custody. The Magdalene laundries scandal is well known in Ireland. In Spain, there is a growing scandal about newborn babies taken from their mothers and sold for adoption while authorities pretended the babies had died.[44]

Child sex abuse[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church

Pedophilia and pederasty are not the sole preserve of the Irish Roman Catholic Church, with allegations emerging in virtually every country with a sizable Roman Catholic population, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany. For decades, the church tried to cover up abuse. Basically, abuse victims were told to keep quiet about harm done to them, while abusers were in most cases moved on to other parishes (where, far too often, other victims were abused). The whole criminal policy was written in Latin, which obfuscates its meaning from most people, but our article, Crimen sollicitationis, explains things in plain English.


Galileo before the Roman Inquisition.

The Roman Catholic Church accepts the Big Bang model of the origin of the universe[45] (indeed, the originator of the theory was a Catholic priest who was also a trained physicist,Wikipedia and many secular physicists at the time rejected the idea of a Big Bang on the basis that the idea of a "beginning of time" with a defined creation event was too religious[citation needed]) and accepts a fair amount of science. The Church believes in Non-Overlapping Magisteria, but where science conflicts with the Roman Catholic faith position, it gets confusing; see Adam and Eve and original sin below.

Church hospitals keep up on the latest life support system technologies, and volunteer their services to people who signed Do Not Resuscitate Orders, at affordable unmercenary prices. It's a miracle God helped them invent: Total parenteral nutrition, Mechanical ventilation, Heart/Lung bypass, Urinary catheterization, Dialysis, Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, Defibrillation, and Artificial pacemakers all on their own without help from atheists or Protestants, or else it might look like they lack the healing proficiency of Jesus and rely on science instead like the rest of us muggles.


Since 1950, when Pope Pius XII issued the EncyclicalWikipedia Humani Generis, the official position of the Roman Catholic Church has been to accept that the theory of evolution is consistent with Roman Catholic faith.[46] John Paul II went further, saying that scientific evidence points to evolution being real.[47] The Roman Catholic Church accepts some type of theistic evolution, and teaches evolution in its schools, though Roman Catholics are not required to believe it.[48]

Roman Catholics are, however, required to believe in Adam and Eve who were the universal parents of all mankind, and Roman Catholics must believe in original sin.[49] PZ Myers considers this unscientific and unreasonable. Myers claims that introducing God into evolution violates parsimony. Further, universal descent from Adam and Eve would lead to a recent genetic bottleneck (i.e., massive incest), which would be observable in the genome and has not been found. However, some Catholics believe in a nonliteral reading of Genesis, using the sheepskins God clothes Adam and Eve in as an allegory for Jesus, turning Genesis into a story about salvation instead of creation. However, this is categorically a retranslation, and the concepts of god as a creator versus god as a savior are conflated and not considered mutually exclusive by the church.[50] However, some Roman Catholics have been rejecting the "Adam and Eve" myth; unfortunately, as they don't really understand what "Monogenism" and "Polygenism" is, their statements can be confusing.[51][52][53]

26% of ordinary Catholics are Young earth creationists, 33% accept theistic evolution, and another 33% accept natural evolution.[54]

Relationship with other Christians[edit]

Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

While most people in the West accept the idea that the Catholic Church is the oldest branch of Christianity (whether or not due to some geopolitical quirk of the Rome-centred Roman Empire or of post-Empire Western Europe), other Eastern followers of Christ consider their ecclesiastical institutions as old as the Roman Catholic Church, which they claim has fallen into heresy (an opinion reciprocated by the Catholics). Recently, the Catholic Church has made efforts to reconcile with some of these smaller churches, with some success. Despite the RCC's status as the largest branch of Christianity, however, some fundamentalist Protestants refuse to recognize it as Christian at all. The RCC recognizes that the Eastern Orthodox Churches have valid orders,[55] but it regards the orders of the Anglican Communion as utterly null and absolutely void.

The Catholic Church considers all persons baptized with the Trinitarian formulaWikipedia to be members; if they are above the "age of reason", they must profess the Catholic faith to be members of the Church. But the Catholic Church also states that Protestants and Eastern Orthodox may be in imperfect communion with the Catholic Church if their "heresy" and "schism" are material, i.e., if they are "invincibly ignorant" of the truth of Catholicism. Unlike Protestants and Eastern Orthodox, the Eastern-Rite Catholics, such as the Byzantine or Syro-Malabar Catholics, are members of the Church just as Roman-Rite Catholics are. The Eastern Orthodox are considered to be very close indeed, but the Eastern Orthodox churches are still considered to be "in schism", and thus to Catholics, they do not belong to the Church. Lutherans, Methodists, and other Protestants are acknowledged to be Christians, but they are considered "separated brethren" and at least materially heretical. Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Oneness Pentecostals are considered to be members of non-Christian sects due to what the Catholic Church holds to be their view of the Holy Trinity.

Catholicism is not a monolithic entity in and of itself; there are several branches, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, that are fundamentally part of the Catholic Church but not of the Latin Church to which most Catholics belong. In some places, splinter groups both liberal and traditionalist appear, which are not a part of the Catholic Church, having parted company over doctrinal differences such as gay rights, female priesthood, and the controversial Vatican II reforms of the 1960s. In addition, small groups such as Opus Dei and the Society of St. Pius X operate on the fringes of the Roman church (the latter is generally not on good terms with Rome, while the former, though a social fringe and according to some a cult, operates with the direct blessing of the Vatican).

Unlike Protestants, Catholics do not consider the Bible to be the sole source of religious truth.Wikipedia To Catholics (as to the Eastern Orthodox), the Bible is just one part of "Sacred Tradition" and cannot be interpreted outside of the Church's teaching. To the Catholic view, believing in the Bible without believing in the Church that wrote it is a confusion, analogous to thinking that the book The Origin of Species is good science but that Charles Darwin was a moron. The Catholic Church also teaches that human reason is a gift of God and can lead to a natural belief in God and morals without religion, albeit in man's "fallen state", it is necessary that the Church interpret the natural law when it becomes occluded by false reasoning. As a result, rationalist arguments based on Biblical contradictions are less challenging to Catholics than to Protestants — Catholics don't expect the Bible to make sense to an individual intellectually examining it outside the Church. The Roman Catholic hierarchy for England, Scotland, and Wales has formally accepted that parts of the Bible are not literally true; this applies to the first few chapters of Genesis, parts of Revelation, and to the idea that all Jews collectively are responsible for the death of Jesus.[56]

Eastern Rite[edit]

While most people associate the Catholic Church with the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), the Catholic Church is actually made up of the RCC and 23 other Eastern Catholic ChurchesWikipedia (ECC), which should not be confused with the Eastern Orthodox or the Oriental Orthodox Churches. ECCs are churches that practice Eastern liturgical traditions, but are in full communion with the RCC and recognize the Pope as leader of the wider Catholic Church, which they consider themselves to be part of. Most of their leaders use the titles of "archbishop" or "patriarch". A handful are cardinals within the RCC, meaning that as long as they're younger than 80, they get to elect popes. There are 23 Eastern Catholic churches:

The only church to have always been in full communion with the RCC are the Maronites. All the others reconciled with the RCC during and after the 16th century.

"But Catholics aren't Christians"[edit]

To claim that Catholics aren't Christian is to imply the following:

  • Christianity didn't exist before 1054Wikipedia (or at least 1517Wikipedia).
  • 1.2 billion (or 55%) of the 2.2 billion self-professed Christians aren't actually Christians.
  • Christianity has merely 1 billion followers, compared to Islam at 1.6 billion, Hinduism at 1 billion, and "unaffiliated" at 1.1 billion.
  • Europe is not ChristianWikipedia but instead secular — with 23% being agnostic or atheist, and merely 12% being Protestants.

Conspiracy theories[edit]

The Catholic church has been the subject of many conspiracy theories from wingnuts.[57] Generally, this manifests as accusing the Vatican as being secretly satanic, Masonic, or even worse, Jewish!

These theories are not to be confused with legitimate criticism of the Catholic Church, as they represent a particularly extreme form of anti-Catholic sentiment.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. the title Pontifex Maximus — literally "Master Bridge Builder" was originally a pagan Roman title held by the Emperors, which the popes claimed following the establishment of Christianity as Rome's official religion
  2. Priests struggling to remain celibate and struggling with continual sexual temptation sometimes obsess over sexual sin.
  3. Although the Orthodox monasteries on Mount Athos also enjoy considerable political autonomy from the Greek state, they do not, for example host diplomatic missions as the Vatican does. Saudi Arabia and Iran are examples of other states where the clergy have a fair amount of legal authority, although there is still a civil administration.
  4. The basis of Papal temporal authority was said to be the "Donation of Constantine" — a supposed testament of Emperor Constantine that gave the Pope's authority over central Italy. In fact, this document is one of history's most notorious forgeries.


  2. Religious Diversity and Children's Literature: Strategies and Resources, ‎Sandra Brenneman Oldendorf - 2011, p 156
  4. Association of Catholic Priests discuss Church's future
  5. Code of Canon Law, canons 171 §1, 194 §1, 316 §1, 694 §1.
  6. The Vatican's latest foray into self-deception
  7. This Catholic ‘earthquake’ on homosexuality is splitting the Church
  8. Well, Pope Francis, as Cardinal Burke implored, has now firmly upheld the depositum fidei: but has he let loose forces he can’t control?
  9. Catechism of the Catholic Church, ss. 861 - 862
  10. Barrett, David, A Brief Guide to Secret Religions
  11. Pope Francis plays long game to reform Roman Catholic Church
  12. Poll: Catholic Beliefs at Odds With Vatican Doctrine
  13. Catholics support Pope Francis, but many split on teachings: poll
  14. Jordan Baker (March 6, 2023). "'Sick of it': Catholic women vent frustration over sex, power and abuse". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  15. Hans Kung, Daniel T. Spotswood
  16. The Guardian
  17. Catholic News Agency
  20. Watch out Pope Francis: the Catholic civil war has begunPope Francis and ‘the Great Division’: the Catholic civil war draws closer
  21. A Catholic church schism under Pope Francis isn’t out of the question
  22. Catholic Schism Unlikely Despite Conservative Suspicion Of Pope Francis
  23. The Pope and the Precipice
  24. Will Pope Francis Break the Church?.
  25. The culture war finally comes to the Catholic Church
  26. 26.0 26.1 Bishop: Amoris Laetitia’s ‘intentional ambiguity’ means people will do ‘whatever they want’
  27. In “Amoris Laetitia,” Pope Francis Says Same-Sex Relationships Are Not Equivalent to Marriage
  28. 'Amoris Laetitia' at three months: Communion question still debated
  29. Rerum Novarum
  30. Quadragesimo Anno
  31. See, e.g.:
    Nicholas M. Nagy–Talavera, The Green Shirts and the Others: A History of Fascism in Hungary and Romania (Iaşi and Oxford: The Center for Romanian Studies, 2001). ISBN 973-9432-11-5;
    Hugh Kay, (1970). Salazar and Modern Portugal. NY, USA: Hawthorn Books;
    David Littlejohn, The Patriotic Traitors: A History of Collaboration in German-occupied Europe, 1940-45. ISBN 0-434-42725-X;
    Robert Pyrah (2008). "Enacting Encyclicals? Cultural Politics and 'Clerical Fascism' in Austria, 1933–1938." In Clerical Fascism in Interwar Europe (Routledge). pp. 157–169.
  32. Gay priest: Roman Catholic Church 'violently homophobic'
  33. Erasing 76 Crimes, "77 countries where homosexuality is illegal"
  34. Can there be Mortal Sin in Voting?
  35. Cardinal Carlo Martini says Church '200 years behind'
  36. The Catholic Church is a force for good - Intelligence Squared debates
  37. The Vatican: Suspense and intrigue
  38. A New Pope Won't Save the Sinking Ship
  39. Rome conclave: Cardinals to resume papal deliberations
  40. Pope election: Where the Conclave really divides
  41. Vatican dysfunction looms ahead of papal conclave
  42. Vatican scandal cited in Pope resignation
  43. Papal resignation linked to inquiry into 'Vatican gay officials', says paper
  44. Giles Tremlett. "Spain seeks truth on baby-trafficking claims." The Guardian. 2011 January 27.
  46. Humani Generis
  47. The Vatican's View of Evolution: The Story of Two Popes
  48. Pope John Paul II, Darwin, and Evolution
  49. The Problem of Polygenism in Accepting the Theory of Evolution
  50. Sunday Sacrilege: Cant can’t
  54. After driving away 160,000 demons, Vatican’s chief exorcist goes to Heaven
  55. See the Wikipedia article on holy orders.
  57. Catholics and Conspiracies. Southern Poverty Law Center.