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There exists many myths and falsehoods about Catholicism. Some of it has to do with intentional and malicious assaults on the Church driven by anti-Catholicism. But the majority of myths persist because of misunderstandings; either by a lack of research or interest in studying Catholicism by its critics, or by inappropriate behavior (moral, legal, or otherwise) of members of the Church. The intent of this article, therefore, is to dispel myths which surround Catholicism.
Dispelling the Myths
Catholics are not Christians
This is perhaps the most serious myth about Catholicism. It contends that because of Catholic theology, they are not Christian (and therefore regulated to Hell). This claim originated from anti-Catholic "ministers" which targeted Catholicism for a variety of political and social reasons between the 16th and 20th centuries. The malicious version of this myth has lost momentum but persists in a passive version inherited through a combination of social institutions. Not only is Catholicism a Christian denomination, it is the largest denomination in the world, with a little more than half of all Christians (about 2 billion) identifying themselves as Catholic. It necessarily played a central role in the development of Christian theology for nearly 1500 years until the Reformation, in which the first separate (and recognized) denominations were established in the West. This is often lost on Christians in America, where Catholics consist of about a fifth of the claimed Christian population. If having Christ at the center of one's life and worship constitutes one as Christian, then the Catholic Church is most certainly Christian.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
423. We believe and confess that Jesus of Nazareth, born a Jew of a daughter of Israel at Bethlehem at the time of King Herod the Great and the emperor Caesar Augustus, a carpenter by trade, who died crucified in Jerusalem under the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of the emperor Tiberius, is the eternal Son of God made man. He 'came from God',4 'descended from heaven',5 and 'came in the flesh'.6 For 'the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. . . And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace.'7
424. Moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit and drawn by the Father, we believe in Jesus and confess: 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'8 On the rock of this faith confessed by St. Peter, Christ built his Church". (Part One, Section Two, Chapter Two)
Catholics worship Saints
The doctrine of the Communion of the Saints and its associated practices often causes confusion because it does not exist in Protestant theology. It is often asserted that because Catholics pray to saints, that they are worshiped. This is not true. Catholics do not worship saints. Rather, Catholics respect the saints as brothers in Christ who are glorified with Him. Just as we pray for one another on earth, Catholics pray for one another in the life afterwards as well.
The Catechism states:
After confessing "the holy catholic Church," the Apostles' Creed adds "the communion of saints." In a certain sense this article is a further explanation of the preceding: "What is the Church if not the assembly of all the saints?"479 The communion of saints is the Church.
947 "Since all the faithful form one body, the good of each is communicated to the others. . . . We must therefore believe that there exists a communion of goods in the Church. But the most important member is Christ, since he is the head. . . . Therefore, the riches of Christ are communicated to all the members, through the sacraments."480 "As this Church is governed by one and the same Spirit, all the goods she has received necessarily become a common fund."481
948 The term "communion of saints" therefore has two closely linked meanings: communion in holy things (sancta)" and "among holy persons (sancti). (Part One, Section Two, Chapter Three, Article Nine, Paragraph Five)
Catholics ignore the Bible
Because Catholics do not rely upon the Bible as the exclusive and single authority on Christian doctrine, it sometimes claimed that Catholics ignore it. But this is false. Instead, the Bible is considered a part of the Deposit of Faith alongside Sacred Tradition (in other words, Apostolic Succession). The Bible is the written part of tradition. This is reinforced by the historical development of the Bible, which began in the 1st Century and ended with the present structure of the Bible with the acknowledgment of the Council of Trent in the 16th Century. Therefore, the Bible is not ignored, but is interpreted as a component of Church tradition. There are no sources in Catholic theology except for Scripture and Tradition.
The Catechism states:
101 In order to reveal himself to men, in the condescension of his goodness God speaks to them in human words: "Indeed the words of God, expressed in the words of men, are in every way like human language, just as the Word of the eternal Father, when he took on himself the flesh of human weakness, became like men."63
102 Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely:64
You recall that one and the same Word of God extends throughout Scripture, that it is one and the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers, since he who was in the beginning God with God has no need of separate syllables; for he is not subject to time. (Part One, Section One, Chapter Two, Article Three)
Lay Catholics are not encouraged to read the Bible
It is often said that because Catholics rely on the interpretative authority of the Church, lay Catholics are not encouraged to read the Bible. This is not true at all. Catholics are encouraged to understand theology for themselves, and to seek answers from Scripture. If a Catholic is able to become a theologian, this is certainly encouraged, and a Catholic will understand the context of his work within the community of the Church.
The Catechism states:
133 The Church "forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful. . . to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ. (Part One, Section One, Chapter Two, Article Three)
Catholics worship the Pope
The central role of the Pope and his leadership in the Church recognized by Catholics is often confused by Protestants as some kind of worship. This is absurd, as the Church clearly asserts its worship of God. Rather, Catholics respect the holiness and pivotal role of the Pope in the well-being of the Church. He is appointed by Christ, the head of the Church, to tend to the faithful.
The catechism states:
880 When Christ instituted the Twelve, "he constituted [them] in the form of a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from among them."398 Just as "by the Lord's institution, St. Peter and the rest of the apostles constitute a single apostolic college, so in like fashion the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are related with and united to one another. (Part One, Section Two, Chapter Three)
I am sure there are many other serious and pervasive myths which exist. If you know of any, feel free to e-mail them to me.
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