FAQ on Catholicism

What is the difference between Catholics and Protestants?

Both Catholics and Protestants share a great deal in their discipleship of Jesus and have much in common: in particular their love of the Scriptures and the central place of a eucharistic service.  Over the course of centuries there was a parting of the ways over particular issues and those differences of understanding and practice became entrenched. Three things mark out the Catholic way: one is that being part of the Church community is seen as an indispensable part of belonging to Christ, not an optional extra. To be a Christian is to be a member of the Church;  that is where Christ is found and served. Second, the Church is an institution with a real shape, not a vague association of the like-minded.  And it has a leader, the Pope, the successor of St Peter who was put in place by the Lord himself.  Third is the place of work of God’s grace in the sacraments, given to us to make us holy.  God does not count us holy when he knows we are not;  he makes us holy.

Worship and views of the bible?

Human beings are made for worship, for adoration. To worship God is to show him how much he is worth to us.  The Bible is a library of books written by different people in different circumstances over many centuries. It records the many ways in which God has made himself known, and the varied human response to that revelation.  Precious amongst its books are the four Gospels, making Christ present to us and powerful among us.

Pope’s role head church, and his relationship to God?  

Jesus formed a specific community of people to be the core of his people:  the apostles. Carefully he selected them and trained them. He appointed their leader, St Peter;  every Pope is seen by Catholics as his successor. Some have been good shepherds, wise and saintly.  Not a few have been rogues! Jesus promised Peter that ‘the gates of hell will not prevail’ against the Church under his leadership.  So even in bad times when things go wrong, the Church always remains the place where the light of truth is to be found; that light can never quite be snuffed out.

The influence of the saints and how they impact the Catholics’ faith?  

The saints are holy people: those in whose lives we can see God’s grace at work.  So for us they are models and examples, and our friends in Heaven. And we ask them to  pray for us, just as we may ask one another to pray for us.

What is Purgatory

The tradition of the Church speaks of a cleansing fire.  For example, St Gregory the Great (d604) writes:
As for certain lesser faults we must believe that before the Final Judgement there is a purifying fire.

Also in the Scripture:
 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
[Matthew 12:32].
From this sentence we understand that certain offences can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.

We note also in Scripture the practice of praying for the dead:
If he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin.
2 Maccabees12:45.  

Why are there sometimes ‘smells and bells’ in Catholic worship?  

When Catholics come to worship God, especially in the Mass, they want to use the things of this world to express and deepen their devotion.  Worship together is not a matter of sitting in a corner in silence with eyes shut to cut oneself off from the everyday world. Rather it uses the things of our world (the world God has given us of course) to show what he means to us:  music, singing, movement, paintings and sculptures, coloured robes, the fragrance of incense (‘worshipping God with one’s nose’, as it has been described!), and the ringing of bells to call our attention to the greatest moments.

What is Mary’s role?  

Jesus was not an alien visitor from another world.  He came as the real child of a real mother, and with her consent.  So we are ever grateful to her, and of all our friends in Heaven she is the greatest.  So we love her and lean on her, ask her prayers but never of course worship her; worship belongs to God alone.

Do Catholics see themselves as Christians?

Catholics are among all those around the world and through the ages who look to Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Lord of all:  all those who ‘profess and call themselves Christians’.

Confession?  

Confession, or the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is an important part of the Catholic way.  The Church today sees it as a sacrament of healing. By opening ourselves in honesty we allow the grace of God to work deep within us, forgiving our sins and healing their wounds.  As well as allowing us to be drawn back to God our loving Father, the sacrament reunites us more closely to the Christian community of which we are part and of which the priest is a representative.

Can I take the bread and the wine in a Catholic church?  

Catholics who are in full communion with the Church can receive Holy Communion.  Those of other Churches who have a real understanding of what the sacrament means, and are communicants of their own Church, may on special occasions receive Holy Communion too, having asked the priest beforehand.

Can I get married in a Catholic church?

 Talk to the priest to find out!

Can I get my child Christened in a Catholic church?

Parents can apply to the priest to have their child baptised.  At least once of the chosen godparents must be a baptised Catholic.

How do I become a Catholic?

Enquiry should first be made of the Parish Priest;  if it is all right for you to go ahead he will likely put you in touch with one or more lay people of the parish who will prepare you.  The simple ceremony of Reception into the Catholic Church is usually part of the Easter Vigil each year.  

Am I a Catholic if my parents were Catholics?

A person is a member of the Catholic Church by virtue of his or her own baptism, not the faith of parents.

Can I go to a Catholic Church and not convert to Catholicism?  

Any and all can come into a Catholic Church or attend a Mass. The congregation is comprised of people of all kinds and backgrounds: it is an inclusive, not exclusive, body of people, and visitors are always made welcome.