Major World Religions Resource Sheet: Exploring Roman Catholicism
Founder: Catholics believe that Christ commissioned Peter as the first Pope of the church.
Locations: There are about 1 billion worldwide, with a focus within Latin America. Roman Catholicism is prominent in America.
God: Catholics believe in the Trinity, as do Protestants.
Jesus: Jesus is God’s Son and God in the flesh. As one person of the Godhead, Jesus is eternal.
Humans: God created humans to love and worship Him. Human since Adam have been born corrupted by the original Fall and are sinners both by nature and by choice.
Sin: Offending the holy nature of God by disobeying His commands. Sin is forgiven through church rituals and confession to a priest. Sins are classified as venial or mortal. Venial sins don’t jeopardize salvation (though they make a person weaker and more vulnerable to mortal sins) but mortal sins do.
Salvation: A person must be initiated into the Catholic Church to be saved, including being baptized, which may occur by pouring or immersion. Baptism forgives all sins committed before it and dispenses God’s saving grace. They use John 3:5, Acts 2:38, Romans 6:3-4 and verses about Jesus’ baptism such as Matt. 3:13-17 in support of this view. After baptism a person must confess sins to a priest to keep a right relationship with God. The act itself saves. The person is righteous, not just by God’s declaring him righteous but because he becomes righteous in and of himself.
Afterlife: All people are judged after death. Those who are right with God go to heaven. Hell is a place of punishment and includes limbo and purgatory. Purgatory is a place where a person may have to go for purifying before entering heaven.
Practices: Catholics view the Church and its Tradition (what has been passed down as truth authorized by the Church) as authoritative. Catholics practice many rituals. A person is initiated into the Catholic Church, and thus, right relationship with God by receiving 3 sacraments. Sacraments are rituals that Catholics believe provide saving grace in doing the act themselves. A person wanting the become Catholic must go through baptism, confirmation, and they partake of the holy Eucharist (which Protestants call the Lord’s Supper or communion.)
Catholics also practice confession to a priest who will have them complete acts of penance to remedy their sin. Catholics also attend Mass, which serves similar function as the Protestants worship service but is carried out with many rituals.
Keys to Sharing Christ with a Catholic:
1. Realize that for many Catholics, to renounce Catholicism is to renounce one’s family heritage. Even Catholics who do not regularly practice their faith rituals will struggle with conversion through repentance and faith only.
2. Practice sharing the basics of the Christian faith. Be prepared to share scriptures that speak of repentance and faith as the only requirement for salvation.
3. Review the scriptures listed above that relates to Catholics’ understanding of salvation through baptism and be prepared to discuss their meaning.
4. Remember that while we differ in very important beliefs, we have much to learn from Roman Catholics in terms of worship as sacred.
*Source: Catholic Encyclopedia