Monday, October 9, 2017

Modern Forms of Christianity - Catholicism

Major Religions of the world
Worldwide, more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group. A comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries and territories conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life estimates that there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84% of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.

The demographic study – based on analysis of more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers – finds 2.2 billion Christians (32% of the world’s population), 1.6 billion Muslims (23%), 1 billion Hindus (15%), nearly 500 million Buddhists (7%) and 14 million Jews (0.2%) around the world as of 2010. In addition, more than 400 million people (6%) practice various folk or traditional religions, including African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Australian aboriginal religions. An estimated 58 million people – slightly less than 1% of the global population – belong to other religions, including the Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism, to mention just a few.1

At the same time, the new study by the Pew Forum also finds that roughly one-in-six people around the globe (1.1 billion, or 16%) have no religious affiliation. This makes the unaffiliated the third-largest religious group worldwide, behind Christians and Muslims, and about equal in size to the world’s Catholic population. Surveys indicate that many of the unaffiliated hold some religious or spiritual beliefs (such as belief in God or a universal spirit) even though they do not identify with a particular faith.[i]

Major Christian Denominations

By far the largest form of Christianity in the world (53.10%). It has a particularly strong presence in western and central Europe. Several European nations, such as Ireland, Italy, and Poland have a strong sense of national identity which is closely linked to the Catholic Church. As a result of the colonial expansion of Spain and Portugal in the sixteenth century and Belgium and France in the nineteenth, there are particularly strong Catholic communities in North America, South America, southern Africa, and the Philippines
What is distinct about Catholicism is difficult to summarize because of the complexity of the movement. The following points are important though.

The Pope
1.     The Catholic Church has traditionally had a strongly hierarchical understanding of Church government, focusing on the Pope, cardinals and bishops. The Pope, also known as the pontiff, is Bishop of Rome and therefore the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church. The Pope has considerable influence over the appointment of bishops throughout the world and thus is a major influence on the entire Catholic Church. As happened recently, the College of Cardinals meets in secret sessions following the death or resignation of a pope, in order to elect his successor. A Cardinal is a priest or bishop, nominated by the Pope, who is entrusted with special administrative responsibilities.  The last three popes were John Paul II from Poland who died April 2, 2005 after 26 years of being the Pope, John Paul was followed by Pope Benedict from Germany who resigned February 28, 2013 after 7 years as the Pope. The current Pope is Pope Francis who is from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

2.       The primacy of the Pope comes mainly from three texts that support Peter, and his successors:
a.        Matthew 16:18-19 “I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
b.       Luke 22:31-32 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
c.       John 21:17 “Feed my sheep.”
.       Partly on account of the Pope, the city of Rome has a significant place in the Catholic world. The term “Roman Catholic” which many of us use when speaking of the Church reflects the importance of Rome as the center of the movement.
2.       Within Rome itself – and a separate country itself, Vatican City is widely regarded as the epicenter of Catholicism. Vatican City is where St. Peter’s Cathedral is, along with the Pope’s residence. It is also where the two most recent councils were held, referred to as Vatican I (1869-70) and Vatican II (1962-5).
3.       Many Catholics make a pilgrimage to Rome on account of it’s strong association with early Christianity, especially the apostles Peter and Paul who were both martyred there and are believed to be buried in the city.
Visible Divine Institution
1.       To Catholics, the Church is generally seen as a visible divine institution, whose structures are grounded in divine reality. Of particular importance are the teaching role of the Church (magisterium) and papal infallibility
a.       As for the teaching office of the Church, the Council of Trent affirmed that no one was free to interpret Scripture “contrary to the send in which the Holy Mother Church, who is to judge the true sense and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures.” Translated, the Church controls what the beliefs of the Catholic Church because no one else is allowed to. Several issues have come up in recent years where the Church has been challenged on this including birth control, divorce, male clergy, married clergy, etc.
b.       Besides providing a trusted, unified voice to guide Catholics, the Magisterium also allows the Church to make official pronouncements on contemporary issues which Scripture might not directly address.
c.       Papal infallibility is a dogma of the Catholic Church that states that by virtue of the unbroken line of popes from Peter to the present day, and based on Jesus’ promise to Peter, the Pope is preserved from the possibility of error, “when in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.”
d.       Protestants believe no human is infallible and Jesus alone heads up the Church.
The Clergy
1.       Catholic clergy (priests) are of major local importance in everyday Catholic life. Catholics see the Church as having a vertical structure flowing from the Pope to the Cardinals and Bishops to the local Priests. This line alone has the ability to bind and loose, to forgive or withhold forgiveness through the sacraments and through penance.
2.       Protestants, on the other hand, view the Church as having a horizontal structure. From Luther on we have the ability to directly address God and petition his forgiveness; we also have the ability to confess our sins to one another and to pronounce forgiveness as the scripture says.
3.       Catholic clergy are not permitted to marry, which is one of the most noticeable differences between Catholicism and other forms of Christianity who permit their clergy to marry. Catholic priests are also exclusively male. Although women are permitted to undertake some pastoral and liturgical responsibilities, the Church remains committed to an exclusively male clergy.
4.       All main world religions integrate in some way the concept of celibacy, the vow of abstaining from marriage and sexual relations, and the Catholic and Protestant Churches are no exception. In the Catholic Church, celibacy if obligatory for priests. It is seen as a symbol of the undivided succession of Christ. The Protestant Church rejects this obligation for priests. Martin Luther (a Catholic Priest who got married) demanded its abolition as early as 1520. Luther, who married in 1525 finally determined that his marriage would “please his father, rile the pope, cause the angels to laugh, and the devils to weep.”[iii]
Eucharist or Lord’s Supper
1.       The Catholic view on the Eucharist also differs from most other movements.
a.       The Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation says that the edible ritual elements used during the mass literally become the body and blood of Christ upon the Priest saying, “This is the body of Christ.” Non-Catholics may not participate in Catholic communion
b.       For Protestants, the ritual only serves to commemorate Jesus’ death and resurrection and the elements are viewed as symbols of Christ’s body and blood not his actual body and blood.
Worship and Sacraments
1.       Catholicism is strongly liturgical – bells, smells, candles, robes and censors are used. The forms of worship are fixed and laid down centrally by the Church, a conviction that the way in which the Church prays and worships is inextricably linked to what the Church believes. In other words, the Liturgy (the mass) is seen as a public statement of the beliefs and values of the Church, and as a means of continuity with the apostolic tradition. You can’t arbitrarily change up the order and content of the Mass.
.       Until the Second Vatican Council (1965) the language of the Mass was Latin; the use of native languages is now permitted, although considerable care is taken to ensure that vernacular translations accurately reflect the sense of the original Latin versions of the Liturgy.
3.       All Catholics are expected to participate in the liturgical life of the Church (for most, daily), but personal prayer and devotions are entirely a matter of personal preference.
4.       Protestants typically elevate the sermon to the most important part of worship, Catholics view Communion as the high point.
5.       In the Catholic Church there are seven solemn rites, called sacraments; Baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, matrimony, penance, holy orders and extreme unction. Most Protestant Churches only practice two of these sacraments: baptism and the Eucharist.
6.       The most important sacrament is the Mass.
Marian Dogmas and the worship of Saints
Catholicism places an emphasis on the role of saints in general, and the Virgin Mary in particular. The saints and Mary are understood to act as intercessors for both the living and the dead.
1.       The Catholic Church reveres Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the “Queen of Heaven.” However, there are few biblical references to support the Catholic Marian dogmas. Those which Catholics claim include the Immaculate Conception, her perpetual virginity and her assumption into heaven. Protestants reject this.
2.       The doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary states that Mary was conceived without her sharing in the common human condition of original sin, thus providing a theological formalization for the high place of Mary in Catholic life and devotion
3.       The Catholic Church also practices the veneration of saints. These dead models of faith, recognized as “saints” by the Church through canonization, can be prayed to for help in maintaining faith in God. There are over 4,000 saints. Their remains are considered holy relics and are venerated.
4.       Catholic theologians and writers are careful to draw attention to the distinction between the veneration due to Mary (which is honorific) and the worship which is due to God and to Jesus Christ the Son of God.
5.       Prayer to, and veneration of saints is categorically denied by the Protestant Church as unbiblical. According to Reformation views, every person may pray directly to God.
6.       Although Catholics do not technically pray to saints, they are not praying for the saints to help them directly, but to intervene on their behalf. They are asking the saints (in the form of a prayer) to pray for them which Protestants reject.
Salvation and Grace
There are huge differences between Protestant and Catholic theology of salvation and grace mainly what is called “works righteousness.”
1.       In Protestant theology salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, without the contribution of works. Luther’s battle cry was the Latin “Sola Fide” which means faith alone.
2.       In Catholicism salvation is attained through baptism, keeping the commandments, and participation in the sacraments. Where Protestantism affirms justification by faith alone in Christ alone, Roman Catholicism denies it. Since these positions are opposite, they cannot both be true.
a.       CCC 2068 (CCC is the Catechism of the Catholic Church), "the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments."
b.       CCC 2027, "Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods."
3.       The Catholic Church teaches that Christ intended only "one true Church", and that this Church of Christ uniquely 'subsists in' the Catholic Church. It also sees itself as "the universal sacrament of salvation for the human race." Older versions of this, before Vatican II said that the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church. Some view Vatican II as a softening of the claim that they are the one true Church. But…
4.       In 2007 Pope Benedict XVI approved a document stating that non-Catholic Christian communities are either defective or not true Churches. It affirms that the Roman Catholic Church provides the only true way to salvation. By approving this document, the pope has reasserted the primacy of Roman Catholicism.[iv]

1.       Protestants deny the existence of purgatory. Catholics, on the other hand, believe purgatory is a place of purification after a person dies where he or she achieves holiness so as to enter in to the joy of heaven.
2.       Purgatory is a temporal third state before heaven. [v]
The Bible
1.       Protestants have 66 books in their Bible and believe the final authority.
2.       Catholics have 73 books in their Bible including the Apocrypha, which are books mainly about Old Testament days that did not make the Protestant Christian Canon.

      The grid [vi] below highlights some of the main differences between Protestant and Catholic beliefs.

Final authority is God's word
Final authority is the Pope and Magisterium. Pope is infallible when speaking "from the chair."
Celibacy not required
Celibacy required
Symbol of Christ's sacrifice on the cross
The elements (bread and wine) become, through the ritual and authority of the priest, the actual body and blood of Jesus
No Pope
Pope is final human authority
Considered honorable and blessed woman, deny assumption and mediatrix office of Mary
Mary is highly exalted. Assumption of Mary (CCC 966); "Advocate, Helper, Mediatrix" (CCC 969); Queen over all things (CCC 966); "All holy one" (CCC 2677); preserved from original sin (CCC 966); prayer is offered to Mary (CCC 971); second only to Jesus (Vatican Council II, p. 421); she crushed the head of the serpent (Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus)
Denies existence of Purgatory
Purgatory is a place of purification after a person dies where he achieves holiness so as to enter into the joy of heaven (CCC 1030).
All who are Christians are called saints
Saints are special individuals who do not have to pass through purgatory and have been declared by the Roman Catholic Church to be holy
Visible manifestation of God's work through Baptism and Communion
A means of grace and its infusion into the Catholic. The RC seven sacraments consist of Baptism, Confirmation, Communion, Confession, Marriage, Holy Orders, Anointing of the Sick.
By grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone
Through baptism, keeping commandments (CCC 2068), penance, and sacraments in the Catholic Church.
66 Books in the Bible, does not contain the Apocrypha
73 Books in the Bible, containing the Apocrypha
Tradition is subservient to Scripture
Tradition is equal to Scripture

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