The branch of Christianity that is headed by the Pope and a hierarchy in Rome. Although today often the Roman Catholic church is just called the Catholic church (or RC), the original meaning of Catholic meant universal and encompassed the Christian faith worldwide, without the bias of Rome. Its deviation from the foundations of Christianity began in AD 312 when the Roman Emperor Constantine professed a conversion to Christianity and there was a mixing of state and religion together with some ungodly practices. Centuries later Martin Luther spearheaded the Reformation of the church resulting in its division into Catholic and Protestant branches.
Key features of Roman Catholic doctrine which differ from Protestant teachings
1/. RC beliefs differ from those of other Protestant or Holy Catholic Churches because of different interpretations of Scripture or different emphases. In addition, Roman Catholics accept the books of the Apocrypha as part of the Bible while Protestants only recognize the 66 books of the OT and NT.
2/. The RC Church claims apostolic succession – that is, the line of Popes can be traced back to the Apostle Peter and therefore the Pope is the head of the universal church. This belief claims that the Popes have unique authority to interpret Scripture and establish doctrine, alleging they are infallible (without error) and their teachings together with church traditions are equal with those of the Bible. While Peter had a leadership role among the disciples nowhere in his writings (1 and 2 Peter) did he claim any special role or authority over the chuch, with a wrong assumption claimed that the church would be built on Peter (Mt 16:18). Peter himself points us to the true shepherd and overseer of the church, Jesus Christ (1 Pet 2:25). The RC church considers it is the only true church, with all other branches of Christianity fallen away from the true teachings of the 'mother church'. However, a better view is how close a particular churches beliefs and practices conform to that of the church in the book of Acts.
The Bible is the standard for evaluating beliefs
maintain one’s standing before God. The Bible's teaching is the new nature produces righteous living, not in order to be saved, but because we have been saved (Eph 2:8,9; 1 Jn 3:7-10).
4/. There is a strong emphasis on the necessity of confessing one's sins to a human priest, for without this a person cannot be saved and are, cursed for eternity. However, the Bible states, "There is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 2:5).
5/. Much emphasis is put on saints in the RC faith and statues are erected and venerated. Mary, the mother of Jesus is highly regarded and considered to have been without sin when she was conceived, hence the term Immaculate Conception. In prayer, Mary and other saints are called on to intercede on their behalf.
6/. RC’s believe the elements of the Lord’s Supper (Mass/communion) literally become the body and blood of Jesus by transubstantiation – a miracle believed to occur at the Prayer of Consecration. Protestants consider the cracker and juice purely as symbols.
7/. The RC’s (and some Protestants) believe Infant Baptism regenerates the child whereas most Protestants consider baptism is an outward testimony of a prior salvation experience.
8/. The RC’s teach that the dead spend a time in purgatory after death during which their souls are purified before they can enter heaven while Protestants deny the existence of purgatory.
Do not exchange God's revealed truth for a humanistic system
than Scripture. We are instructed to do our best to correctly interpret the Word of God and the early Christians were commended for their diligence in daily examining the Scriptures themselves to ensure what they received from their leaders was really in keeping with the written Word (Act 17:11; 2 Tim 2:15). The conclusion is a different religion has been created than the Christianity portrayed in the Bible.
Although the Bible mentions celibacy as being a desirable quality the Roman Catholic Church has made this a binding requirement for its leaders. This anti-biblical requirement has done much damage to those to whom God has not gifted or called to be celibate (Mt 19:11,12; 1 Cor 7:2,7,9). It has resulted in tremendous failures in the areas of adultery, fornication and the abuse of children.
Despite these unbiblical beliefs and practices there are genuine believers who attend Roman Catholic churches, for salvation is determined by a person's relationship to God through Jesus, not by connection to a religious organisation. The unbiblical beliefs and practices expounded have often given the enemies of Christ reason to blaspheme.
See also: Apocrypha, apostolic succession, baptism (water), Catholic, celibacy, heresy, interpretation, Luther, penance, Pope, Protestant, purgatory, reformation, salvation, traditions, transubstantiation.