Borrowed with permission
from the Catholic Information Resource
Why do Catholics worship Mary?
Catholics DO NOT worship Mary the Mother
of Christ as though she were a deity. Catholics are just as aware
as Protestants that Mary was a human creature and therefore not
entitled to the honors which are reserved to God alone. What many
non-Catholics mistake for adoration is a very profound love and
veneration, nothing more. Mary is not adored, first because God
forbids it, and secondly because the Canon Law of the Catholic Church,
which is based on Divine Law, forbids it. Canon Law 1255 of the
1918 Codex strictly forbids adoration of anyone other than the Holy
Trinity. However, Catholics do feel that Mary is entitled to a great
measure of exaltation because, in choosing her as the Mother of
Redemption, God Himself exalted her--exalted her more than any other
human person before or since.
Catholics heap tribute and honor on Mary because
they earnestly desire to be "followers of God, as most dear children"
(Ephesians 5:1). Mary herself prophesied: "For behold from henceforth
all generations shall call me blessed. Because he that is mighty,
hath done great things to me; and holy is his name" (Luke 1:48-49).
Catholics know that every bit of the glory they give to Mary reflects
to the glory of her divine Son, just as Mary magnified God, not
herself, when Elizabeth blessed her (Luke 1:41-55). They know that
the closer they draw to her, the closer they draw to Him who was
born of her. In the year 434, St. Vincent of Lerins defended Christian
devotion to Mary this way: "Therefore, may God forbid that anyone
should attempt to defraud Holy Mary of her privilege of divine grace
and her special glory. For by a unique favor of our Lord and God
she is confessed to be the most true and most blessed Mother of
Why do Catholics pray to Mary and the
When Catholics pray to Mary and the other Saints
in Heaven, they are not bypassing Christ, whom they acknowledge
as the sole Mediator between God and man. They are going to Christ
through Mary and the other Saints. They are asking Mary and other
Saints to intercede for them before the throne of Christ in Heaven.
"Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another,
that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great
power in its effects" (James 5:16). How much more availing
is the unceasing prayer of the sinless Mother of Our Lord Jesus
Christ! St. Paul asked his fellow Christians to intercede
for him: "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord
may speed on and triumph, as it did among you, and that we may be
delivered from wicked and evil men; for not all have faith" (2 Thessalonians
3:1-2). And again: "I appeal to you, brethren, by our Lord
Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with
me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered
from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem
may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God's will I may come
to you with joy and be refreshed in your company" (Romans 15:30-32).
Christ must particularly approve of our going to Him through Mary,
His Blessed Mother, because He chose to come to us through her.
And at Cana, He performed His first miracle after a word from His
Mother (John 2:2-11).
It is clear in Sacred Scripture that the Saints
in Heaven will intercede for us before the throne of Christ if they
are petitioned in prayer (Revelations 8:3-4), and it is clear in
the records of primitive Christianity that the first Christians
eagerly sought their intercession. Wrote St. John Chrysostom in
the Fourth Century: "When thou perceivest that God is chastening
thee, fly not to His enemies, but to His friends, the martyrs, the
saints, and those who were pleasing to Him, and who have great power."
If the Saints have such power with God, how much more His own Mother.
Why do Catholics believe in Purgatory?
Purgatory is also called the "Final Purification."
All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly
purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after
death they undergo purification so as to achieve the holiness necessary
to enter the joy of Heaven.
The Church gives the name "Purgatory" to this
final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from
the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine
of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and
Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts
of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire: "If any man's work is
burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved,
but only as through fire" (1 Corinthians 3:15). Also: "In
this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to
suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more
precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may
redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus
Christ" (1 Peter 1:7). And: "As for certain lesser faults, we must
believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire.
He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy
Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come.
From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven
in this age, but certain others in the age to come" [St. Gregory
the Great, Dial. 4, 39: PL 77, 396].
This teaching is also based on the practice of
prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore
[Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be
delivered from their sin" (2 Maccabees 12:46). From the beginning,
the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers
in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that
thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church
also commends almsgiving, indulgences and works of penance undertaken
on behalf of the dead: "Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's
sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt
that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let
us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers
for them" (St. John Chrysostom, 361).
For further reading, see our section on
Why do Catholics confess their sins to
Catholics confess their sins to priests because
it is clearly stated in Sacred Scripture: God, in the Person of
Jesus Christ, authorized the priests of His church to hear confessions
and empowered them to forgive sins in His Name. To the Apostles,
the first priests of His Church, Christ said: "'Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.' And when he had
said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy
Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you
retain the sins of any, they are retained'" (John 20:21-23).
Then again: "Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall
be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed
in heaven" (Matthew 18:18). Catholics confess their sins to
priests because priests are God's duly authorized agents in the
world, representing Him in all matters pertaining to the ways and
means of attaining eternal salvation. When Catholics confess their
sins to a priest, they are in reality confessing their sins to God,
for God hears their confessions and it is He who does the forgiving.
If their confessions are not sincere, their sins are not forgiven.
Check out Michael Dubruiel's
Guide to Confession.
What must I do to be saved?
To be saved, you must believe in the Lord Jesus
Christ (Acts 16:31). However, that's not all. Sacred Scripture clearly
shows other things you must also do to be saved:
The only Church that meets all the requirements of Salvation is
the Holy Catholic Church.
- You must endure to the end. (Matthew 10:22, Matthew 24:13,
- You must accept the Cross (suffering). (Matthew 10:38, Matthew
16:24-25, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, Luke 14:27)
- You must be baptized with water. (Mark 16:16, Titus 3:5,
I Peter 3:20-21)
- You must be a member in God's true church. (Acts 2:47)
- You must confess your sins. (James 5:16, I John 1:9)
- You must keep the Commandments of God. (Matthew 5:19-20,
- You must heed the words of St. Peter, the first Pope. (Acts
11:13-14, Acts 15:7)
- You must eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus Christ.
(John 6:51-58, I Corinthians 10:16, I Corinthians 11:23-29)
- Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is
favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond
to His call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers
of the divine nature and of eternal life. (CCC 1996, John 1:12-18,
John 17:3, Romans 8:14-17, 2 Peter 1:3-4)
See our titles under
Spiritual Reading for further guidance.
By what authority does the Pope rule over
the Catholic Church?
The Pope enjoys, by divine institution, "supreme,
full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls."
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, who exercises universal jurisdiction
over the whole Church as the Vicar of Christ and the Successor of
St. Peter. Jesus gave Peter special authority among the apostles
(John 21:15-17) and signified this by changing his name from Simon
to Peter, which means "rock" (John 1:42). He said Peter was to be
the rock on which He would build His Church (Matthew 16:18).
In Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, Simon's
new name was Kepha (which means a massive rock). Later this
name was translated into Greek as Petros (John 1:42), and
into English as Peter. Christ gave Peter alone the "keys
of the kingdom" (Matthew 16:19), and promised that Peter's decisions
would be binding in Heaven. He also gave similar power to the other
apostles (Matthew 18:18), but only Peter was given the keys, symbols
of his authority to rule the Church on earth in Jesus' absence.
Christ, the Good Shepherd, called Peter to be
the chief shepherd of His Church (John 21:15-17). He gave Peter
the task of strengthening the other apostles in their faith and
ensuring that they taught only what was true (Luke 22:31-32). Peter
led the Church in proclaiming the gospel and making decisions (Acts
2:1- 41, 15:7-12).
Early Christian writings tell us that Peter's
successors, the Bishops of Rome (who from the earliest times have
been called by the affectionate title of "pope," which means "papa"),
continued to exercise Peter's ministry in the Church.
The term "pope" derives from the Latin for "father,"
papa (Greek, pappas), also used to refer to bishops and to
priests in the Orthodox Churches. The Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria
is also known by the title "pope." But in Western Christianity,
this term refers exclusively to the Roman Pontiff, called His Holiness
the Pope, who governs the universal Church as the successor to St.
Peter. "The office uniquely committed by the Lord to Peter, the
first of the Apostles, and to be transmitted to his successors,
abides in the Bishop of the Church of Rome," who is "head of the
College of Bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the Pastor of the Universal
Church," and who possesses "by virtue of his office, ...supreme,
full, immediate, and universal ordinary jurisdiction power in the
Church" (Canon 331).
The Pope is assisted in carrying out his office
by the bishops, the cardinals and the various offices of the Roman
Curia. The Pope also has an enormously important international role
as a visible symbol of the unity of the Church and as a universally
acknowledged spokesman for justice, for world peace, for morality,
for the dignity of the human person and for the transcendent meaning
of all life on earth. In recent years, this role has been exercised
in particular through pastoral visits to many countries of the world
by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II.
Why does the Catholic Bible have more
books than others?
The "Canon" (derived from the Greek word for
"rule") of Scripture comprises books of the Bible received in the
Church as authentically inspired and normative for the Faith. The
Catholic Church, through her Popes and Councils, gathered together
the separate books that early Christians venerated; formed a collection
(drew up a list or catalog of inspired and apostolic writings);
and declared that only these were the Sacred Scriptures of the New
Testament. The authorities responsible for settling and closing
the "Canon" of Holy Scripture were the Councils of Hippo (393) and
of Carthage (397 and 416) under the influence of St. Augustine (at
the latter of which two Legatees were present from the Pope), and
the Popes Innocent I in 405 and Gelasius in 494, both of whom issued
lists of Sacred Scripture identical with that fixed by the Councils.
The Church never admitted any other; at the Council of Florence
in the Fifteenth Century, and the Council of Trent in the Sixteenth,
and the Council of the Vatican (Vatican I) in the Nineteenth, she
renewed her anathemas against all who should deny or dispute this
collection of books as the inspired word of God.
The Protestant Bibles have deliberately excluded
seven complete books that were in every collection and catalog of
Holy Scripture from the Fourth to the Sixteenth Century. Their names
are Tobias, Baruch, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, I Maccabees,
II Maccabees, and together with seven chapters of the Book of Esther
and 66 verses of the 3rd chapter of Daniel, commonly called "the
Song of the Three Children." These were deliberately cut out of
the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament
started in the Third Century B.C. in Alexandria, Egypt, and completed
around 100 B.C.), based on the criticisms and remarks of Luther,
Calvin, and the Swiss and German Reformers. Were it not for the
resistance of the more conservative Reformers, Luther would have
excluded the Epistle of St. James (which he called "an Epistle of
straw"), the Epistle of St. Jude, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and
the Book of Revelation from the Protestant New Testament as well.
When did the Church established by Jesus
Christ get the name "Catholic?"
Christ left the adoption of a name for His Church
to those whom He commissioned to teach all nations. Christ called
the spiritual society He established, "my church" (Matthew 16:18),
"the church" (Matthewt 18:17). In order to have a distinction between
the Church and the Synagogue and to have a distinguishing name from
those embracing Judaic and Gnostic errors we find St. Ignatius (50-107
A.D.) using the Greek word "katholicos" (meaning universal)
to describe the universality of the Church established by Christ.
St. Ignatius was appointed Bishop of Antioch by St. Peter, the Bishop
of Rome. It is in his writings that we find the word Catholic used
for the first time. St. Augustine, when speaking about the Church
of Christ, calls it the Catholic Church 240 times in his writings.
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