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 postulates that the Popes have unique authority to interpret Scripture and establish doctrine, claiming they are infallible (without error) and their teachings together with church traditions are equal with those of the Bible.
3/. The RC view of salvation is that it is received by faith, but subsequent forgiveness of sin is achieved through church ritual, with the assistance of a priest in confession. Good works and participation in the sacraments as a means of grace are promoted to maintain one’s standing before God.
4/. 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.
5/. 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.
6/. 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.
7/. 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.
Use the Bible as your standard for evaluating beliefs
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).
Although the Bible mentions celibacy as being a desirable quality for its leaders the Roman Catholic Church has made this a binding requirement. This anti-biblical requirement has done much damage to those to whom God has not gifted or called to be celibate (1 Cor 7:2,7,9). It has resulted in tremendous failures in the areas of adultery, fornication and the abuse of children.
See also: Apocrypha, apostolic succession, baptism (water), Catholic, celibacy, heresy, interpretation, Luther, penance, Pope, Protestant, purgatory, reformation, salvation, traditions, transubstantiation.