Catholic q&a

Your questions about the Catholic faith answered

The What We Believe page describes the Catholic faith in general. Here we provide you with answers to specific questions about Catholicism. The questions and answers are provided by the Bible Christian Society, a Catholic apologetic website. Within each topic, you will find common questions asked by Catholics and non-Catholics about certain Catholic beliefs.

The late Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, “It is easy to find truth; it is hard to face it, and harder still to follow it.” Pray that Christ will lead you to find truth, and that your heart will be open to the truth wherever you may find it.

The Eucharist

  • 1. Why do Catholics believe in the Real Presence?

    The Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence is the belief that Jesus Christ is literally, not symbolically, present in the Holy Eucharist—body, blood, soul and divinity. Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist because Jesus tells us this is true in the Bible:“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh. The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:48-56).Furthermore, the early Church Fathers either imply or directly state that the bread and wine offered in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is really the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In other words, the doctrine of the Real Presence that Catholics believe today was believed by the earliest Christians 2,000 years ago!

    This miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him.

    More Scripture about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist:

    • (John 6:53-56 RSV) So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; {54} he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. {55} For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. {56} He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.
    • In the Aramaic language that Our Lord spoke, to symbolically “eat the flesh” or “drink the blood” of someone meant to persecute or assault them. See the following… (Psa 27:2 KJV) When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.
    • (Isa 9:18-20 RSV) For wickedness burns like a fire, it consumes briers and thorns; it kindles the thickets of the forest, and they roll upward in a column of smoke. {19} Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts the land is burned, and the people are like fuel for the fire; no man spares his brother. {20} They snatch on the right, but are still hungry, and they devour on the left, but are not satisfied; each devours his neighbor’s flesh,
    • (Isa 49:26 RSV) I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine. Then all flesh shall know that I am the LORD your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
    • (Micah 3:3 RSV) who eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them, and break their bones in pieces, and chop them up like meat in a kettle, like flesh in a caldron.
    • (2 Sam 23:17 RSV) “Far be it from me, O LORD, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it. These things did the three mighty men.
    • (Rev 17:6 RSV) And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her I marveled greatly.
    • (Rev 17:16 NIV) The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.


    Thus, if Jesus were only speaking symbolically about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, as the Protestants say, then what He really meant was “whoever persecutes and assaults me will have eternal life” — which, of course, makes nonsense of the passage!

    Bread and wine are not normal or natural symbols of flesh and blood. To call a man a “fox” is an understandable symbol for cleverness. To call a man “bread” is not an understandable symbol, without some explanation. Either the symbols would have been clearly explained (which is not the case) or Jesus spoke literally (which is the case!).

    Taken from Beginning Apologetics, How to Explain and Defend the Catholic Faith, by San Juan Catholic Seminars, P.O. Box 5253, Farmington, NM 87499-52539889

  • 2. Why can't non-Catholics receive holy Communion?

    Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, meaning that what appears to be bread and wine is really Jesus’ body and blood—not just a symbol of his body and blood. When Catholics receive Holy Communion, it is an expression of the unity among all those in communion with the Catholic Church throughout the world, who maintain the belief in the Real Eucharistic Presence of Christ. Therefore, only those who believe in the True Presence may participate in this sacrament of oneness with Christ and his Church. “… [T]he celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice is wholly directed toward the intimate union of the faithful with Christ through communion” (CCC 1382).

    Ultimately, Catholics believe that we cannot celebrate this unifying sacrament with other Christians while there are disagreements about the Eucharist itself. However, Catholics pray for the day when we can reconcile with other Christians and share in the unity of God’s people through the Holy Eucharist.

  • 3. Why do Protestants not believe in John 6 when it says that Jesus' flesh is real food and that His blood is real drink?

    In Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22, Jesus says of the bread, “This is my body.” He says of the wine, “This is my blood.” Rather than saying, “this is symbolic of,” or “this represents,” He says, “this IS.” In John 6, He repeats Himself, like He does nowhere else in Scripture, to emphasize the fact that He expects us to eat His flesh and drink His blood and that His flesh is real food and that His blood is real drink.There are several facts that point to the literal meaning that Christ meant to convey here. Fact #1: The Jews took him literally in verse 52. Fact #2: His disciples took him literally in verse 60. Fact #3: the Apostles took him literally in verses 67-69. If everyone who heard him speak at the time took Him literally, then all of us today, 2000 years after the fact, are also called to take Him literally, in accordance with the Scriptures.Also, in verse 51, Jesus says that the bread which He will give for the life of the world is His flesh. When did He give His flesh for the life of the world? On the Cross. We know that Jesus was not speaking symbolically here. Since we conclude that Jesus was speaking literally of dying on the Cross, we should also conclude that He meant what He said about eating His flesh and drinking His blood.

    When we believe that Jesus is talking symbolically here in John 6, we come across a real problem when it comes to John 6:51. Did Jesus give His real flesh and blood for the life of the world, or was it only His symbolic flesh and blood?

  • 4. Is the Catholic Mass really the same all around the world every time it is celebrated?

    Yes! No matter where or when you go to Mass, you will always know what you’re going to get!

    Jesus Christ celebrated the first Mass with His disciples at the Last Supper, the night before He died. He commanded His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The celebration of the Mass then became the main form of worship in the early Church, as a reenactment of the Last Supper, as Christ had commanded.

    Each and every Mass since commemorates Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross through the Holy Eucharist. Because the Mass “re-presents” (makes present) the sacrifice on Calvary, Catholics all around the world join together to be made present in Christ’s timeless sacrifice for our sins. There is something fascinating about continuing to celebrate the same Mass—instituted by Christ and practiced by the early Church—with the whole community of Catholics around the world…and in heaven.

  • 5. I often feel that Mass is boring. What can I do?

    First of all, a lot of things seem boring to us if we haven’t taken the time to really learn about them. Perhaps you can think of a sport that seemed really dull and confusing to you until you learned the rules of the game. Then, everything became much more exciting. Why? Because you were “in the know,” and that made participating so much better. The more we learn about the Mass, the more we fall in love with it and can get more out of our experience at Mass. If you learn about the biblical roots of the Mass parts, why we do what we do (sit, stand, kneel, cross ourselves, use holy water, etc.), and how important the Eucharist is in our lives, you will begin looking forward to participating in all of these things when you go to Mass because you’ll know what’s going on! Also, practicing your faith is like practicing a sport. Sometimes, practicing can be difficult, but we have to remember that practice points toward a goal—the game. At each and every Mass, we practice what it will be like to worship God in heaven, which will bring us supreme joy and no boredom. Start using Mass as an opportunity to practice prayer, practice talking to God, practice learning the story of the Bible through the readings, and so on. Use the resources we have provided below to help you learn more about the Mass so you will no longer feel bored or confused!

The Sacraments

  • 1. Why does the Church baptise infants?

    The Church’s practice of infant baptism stems from her teachings regarding original sin (what we have) and baptism (what we do about it). After the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden, all people are now born with original sin due to our fallen human nature. Through the gift of grace in Baptism, God washes away this stain of original sin and makes us a part of His family and offer us eternal life. Children, who are born with the stain of original sin, are also in need of Baptism, in order to free them from the bondage of original sin and make them children of God. Our loving Father does not wish to withhold His love and grace from anyone, including children. Baptism simply requires openness.

    “The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.” (CCC 1250).

  • 2. Some say baptism is a symbolic act and nothing to do with salvation. How can I answer them?

    Simple. By showing them what the Bible says. First, nowhere does the Bible say that Baptism is merely a “symbolic” act…that passage simply does not exist. Second, let’s see what the Bible does say about Baptism: Ezek 36:25-27, it says:

    “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses…a new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you…and I will put My spirit within you…”

    Here, in the Old Testament, we have a foreshadowing of New Testament baptism. Now, let’s see if the New Testament corresponds to what we just read in Ezekiel. Acts 2:38:

    “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

    Note that there is no symbolic language here…this is real! The Book of Acts says:

    “Be baptised for the forgiveness of your sins.”

    Ezekiel says:

    “I will sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be clean from your uncleanness.”

    The Book of Acts says:

    “…and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

    Ezekiel says:

    “…and I will put My Spirit within you.”

    Do you begin to see how God, in the Old Covenant, was preparing us for what He gives us in the New Covenant?

    Acts 22:16 –

    “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins…”.

    1 Cor 12:13 –

    “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” What body was that? The Body of Christ. 1 Ptr 3:21: “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you…”

    Scripture simply does not support the non-Catholic notion that Baptism is symbolic. Scripture does very directly and very clearly support the Catholic teaching that Baptism saves us; that Baptism makes us members of the Body of Christ; that Baptism washes away sin; and that through Baptism we receive the Holy Spirit…just as the Catholic Church teaches!

  • 3. Why should I go to confession?
    If you haven’t been to Confession in a while, the Catholic Church wants to welcome you back, and invite you to participate in this beautiful sacrament of healing. Take a step in faith. You’ll be surprised about how free you feel after taking part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. So many Catholics describe incredible feelings of peace, joy, relief, and love that they never expected. Jesus is calling you to experience His mercy in this way too.
  • 4. Why do Catholics confess to priests and not directly to God?
    Well, the quick answer is because that’s the way God wants us to do it. In James 5:16, God, through Sacred Scripture, commands us to “confess our sins to one another.” Notice, Scripture does not say confess your sins straight to God and only to God…it says confess your sins to one another. In Matthew, chapter 9, verse 6, Jesus tells us that He was given authority on earth to forgive sins. And then Scripture proceeds to tell us, in verse 8, that this authority was given to “men”…plural.In John 20, verses 21-23, what is the 1st thing Jesus says to the gathered disciples on the night of His resurrection? “Jesus said to them, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’” How did the Father send Jesus? Well, we just saw in Mt 9 that the Father sent Jesus with the authority on earth to forgive sins. Now, Jesus sends out His disciples as the Father has sent Him…so, what authority must Jesus be sending His disciples out with? The authority on earth to forgive sins. And, just in case they didn’t get it, verses 22-23 say this, “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. ‘”Why would Jesus give the Apostles the power to forgive or to retain sins if He wasn’t expecting folks to confess their sins to them? And how could they forgive or retain sins if no one was confessing their sins to them? The Bible tells us to confess our sins to one another. It also tells us that God gave men the authority on Earth to forgive sins. Jesus sends out His disciples with the authority on earth to forgive sins. When Catholics confess our sins to a priest, we are simply following the plan laid down by Jesus Christ. He forgives sins through the priest…it is God’s power, but He exercises that power through the ministry of the priest.
  • 5. What are the benefits of going to Confession?

    1. Confession helps us to better “know thyself.”

    St. Augustine and countless other saints and doctors of the Church talk about the importance of knowing ourselves well. Through coming to know ourselves better, we realized how fallen we are, and how badly we need God’s help and grace to get through life. Frequent Confession helps remind us to rely on God to help rid us of our sins.

    2. Confession helps us overcome vice.

    The grace we receive from the Sacrament of Confession helps us combat our faults and failings and break our habits of vice much more easily and expediently than we could otherwise do without the sacramental grace.

    3. Confession brings us peace.

    Guilt from the sins we commit can make us feel all mixed up inside and cause us to lose our peace and joy. When we hear God’s forgiving words to us from the lips of the priest in Confession, a burden is lifted off our shoulders and we can again feel the peace of heart and soul that comes from being in a good relationship with God.

    4. Confession helps us become more saintly, more like Jesus.

    Jesus was perfectly humble, perfectly generous, perfectly patient, perfectly loving—perfectly everything! Don’t you wish you could be as humble, generous, patient, and loving as Jesus? Saints throughout history have felt that way too, and they have frequented the Sacrament of Reconciliation to help transform them into people who are more like Christ. Little images of Christ—that’s what saints are!

    5. Confession makes our will stronger.

    Every time we experience the Sacrament of Confession, God strengthens our will and our self-control to be able to resist the temptations that confront us in our lives. We become more resolute to follow God’s will and not our own whims.

    Of course, the list of benefits of the Sacrament of Confession goes on and on! But you have to go to reap the benefits! Going to Confession regularly will truly change your life.

    The words of absolution in the Confessional are truly beautiful: “I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus is waiting to forgive you—all you have to do is ask! Don’t miss out any longer on the healing power of Confession.

  • 6. What are the different names for Confession and what are the effects of it?

    Here, the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the Sacrament of Reconciliation, its various names and the graces that flow from the sacrament:

    “Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labours for their conversion (CCC 1422).

    “It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin.”

    “It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner’s personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction.”

    “It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a ‘confession’ – acknowledgment and praise – of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man.”

    “It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest’s sacramental absolution God grants the penitent pardon and peace.”

    “It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the love of God who reconciles: ‘Be reconciled to God.’ He who lives by God’s merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord’s call: ‘Go; first be reconciled to your brother’” (CCC 1423).

  • 7. How do I make a good Confession?

    So you’ve decided you want to go to Confession. But how exactly do you make a good Confession? The basic requirement for a good confession is to have the intention of returning to God with your whole heart, like the “prodigal son,” and to acknowledge your sins with true sorrow before the priest.

    Modern society has lost a sense of sin. As Catholic followers of Christ, we must make an effort to recognise sin in our daily actions, words and omissions.

    The Gospels show us the importance of the forgiveness of our sins. The lives of the saints prove that a person who grows in holiness has a stronger sense of sin, sorrow for sins and a need for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. No wonder the saints are filled with joy! They have realized the key to handing over their burdens to Christ through the Sacrament of Confession, so they can be free to serve Him with love and energy.

The Church and the Papacy

  • 1. Why do we believe that the Catholic Church is the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ 2000 years ago?

    The Catholic Church is the only church today that can claim to be the one church founded by Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago. Other denominations can trace their origins back to various human founders at a later date in history.

    In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said to Peter,

    “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.”

    Jesus handed the authority to guide the Church in His name to Peter and the apostles, to be passed down through the centuries. The Church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 5:23). Christ established only one Church—one body—so that there would not be multiple “bodies” with conflicting doctrines. After all, God cannot contradict Himself. Christ also wanted His Church to be visible, so all may see that the Church is indeed one, just as Christ and the Father are one (John 17:22).

    This one, visible church, with divine authority and consistent doctrine that Christ established 2,000 years ago is the Catholic Church, the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15). As Paul asks in 1 Corinthians, “Is Christ divided?” (1 Corinthians 1:13). No. That is not what the Christ intended. So, He established one Church.

  • 2. Where does the Pope get his authority? What do Catholics believe about "apostolic succession"?
    Again, Matthew 16:18 is key to understanding Christ’s intent to pass on the authority to lead the Church to Peter and the apostles. Christ tells Peter that he is the rock on which He will build His church. When Catholics use the term apostolic succession, they are referring to the line of bishops that stretches all the way back to the apostles—to Peter—the first Pope. Apostolic tradition (the authentic teaching of the apostles) was handed from Christ to the apostles, and from them to their successors. This unbroken line of popes (the bishops of Rome) and all other bishops have guided the Church for the past 2,000 years, just as Christ intended (Matthew 28:19-20).Christ sent His apostles out into the world with authority to teach and heal (Luke 9:1-2) and to forgive sins (John 20:23). This God-given authority is exercised by the bishops within the Catholic Church to this day.
  • 3. Why do we say the Pope is infallible?
    Just as Christ established a visible Church, He also provided a visible person to guide the Church—the pope. Because the pope is guiding and teaching the Church in Christ’s name, His teachings must be infallible. Christ’s profound love for the Church is manifested in the doctrine of papal infallibility, which asserts that the pope is preserved by God from error when teaching on matters of faith and morals. How does this show Christ’s love for us? He didn’t want to leave His Church in darkness! He wanted His doctrines to be consistent so His people could be guided by truth. The core of papal infallibility is faithfulness to Christ. All of the Catholic Church’s teachings are Christocentric—they point toward Christ, who is at the centre of her teachings. That is why the Catholic Church doesn’t change her doctrines to adjust to the changes in society and culture. The pope helps to uphold and preserve the teachings of Christ. Jesus Himself promised us, “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:20). To make true His promise, Christ gifted the Church with an unbroken line of popes for 2,000 years, teaching with the papal infallibility that Christ bestowed on their office.
  • 4. As Catholics, do we have to accept everything the Church teaches?

    It is important to realise that if you want to call yourself Catholic, but you want to pick and choose for yourself which of the Church’s teachings to accept and which to reject, you give everyone else who calls themselves Catholic the right to do the same thing. For example, you believe women should be priests? In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1577 states, “Only a baptised man validly receives ordination…” For this reason the ordination of women is not possible!”

    Perhaps you believe that contraception is okay? Paragraph 2370 says contraception is intrinsically evil. When you choose to throw out certain teachings you don’t like, you undermine the authority that Christ gave to the Catholic Church, and you start to follow the “catechism of your own church” rather than the teachings of Christ’s Catholic Church.

    If we don’t believe in all of it, if we each appoint ourselves Pope and throw out a doctrine here or a doctrine there, then our faith is no longer Catholic. Yes, it can sometimes be a challenge to follow all of the teachings of Christ and the Catholic Church that carries on His teachings, but we should see those seemingly difficult teachings as traffic lights that help guide us on our journey and keep us from getting into accidents that can damage us and prevent us from living lives of happiness and grace.

  • 5. Why do I not feel spiritually fulfilled in the Catholic Church?

    Sadly, some former Catholics today have expressed a sense of emptiness in their spiritual lives. They may have gone to Mass on Sundays and found themselves just “going through the motions”. They may not have felt close to the Lord, or welcomed in their home parish. They may have thought the music wasn’t as good as it could be, or discovered that the people around them weren’t as friendly as they hoped they would be. All in all, those feelings may have led to some sensing like they were just not being fed in the Catholic Church. Sometimes, these feelings cause people to decide to drift away from the Church. Maybe they choose to just stop practising their faith altogether, or they go to a local non-Catholic church that seems more exciting and upbeat. But the solution to the problem of not being fed actually lies in the Catholic Church. Whether or not the music or preaching or programs are the way we may wish them to be, it is in the Catholic Church that we find the one and only place where we can be truly fed with the Bread from Heaven: Jesus Christ, in the Holy Eucharist. Our closest encounter Jesus is when He gives Himself to us, at each and every Mass in the Eucharist. It doesn’t get any more exciting than that.

    Once we realise that our deepest yearning can only be fulfilled in the Eucharist, we will begin to see that it is in the Eucharist that we find the true life and liveliness of our faith. Only the Catholic Church can feed us with this food that fully satisfies, and only with this food—the Eucharist—will your yearning be fulfilled, and your restlessness ended.


  • 1. Many Protestants believe we are saved by "faith alone" and they say Catholics believe they can "work" their way into Heaven. Is this true?
    The Catholic Church does not now, nor has it ever, taught a doctrine of salvation by works…that we can “work” our way into Heaven. Additionally, nowhere in the Bible does it teach that we are saved by “faith alone.” The only place in all of Scripture where the phrase “faith alone” appears is in James 2:24, where it says that we are not justified (or saved) by faith alone. The Bible says very clearly that we are not saved by faith alone. Works do have something to do with our salvation. Numerous passages in the New Testament that I know of about judgment says we will be judged by our works, not by whether or not we have faith alone. We see this in Romans 2, Matthew 15 and 16, 1 Peter 1, Revelation 20 and 22, 2 Corinthians 5, and many, many more verses. If we are saved by faith alone, why does 1 Corinthians 13:13 say that love is greater than faith? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? As Catholics we believe that we are saved by God’s grace alone. We can do nothing, apart from God’s grace, to receive the free gift of salvation. We also believe, however, that we have to respond to God’s grace. Protestants believe that, too. However, many Protestants believe that the only response necessary is an act of faith; whereas, Catholics believe a response of faith and works is necessary…or, as the Bible puts it in Galatians 5:6, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love…” Faith working through love…just as the Church teaches.
  • 2. How should I as Catholic respond to someone who asks me if I've been saved or born again?
    Answer with a resounding, “Yes!” Tell them that it is through Baptism that you were saved, just as the Bible says in 1 Ptr 3:20-21 and that it is through Baptism, water and the Spirit, that you are “born again,” just as the Bible says in John 3:5.You see, many Protestants believe that they are saved by making one single act of faith at one single point in time in their lives. Nowhere does Scripture say such a thing. As Catholics, however, we believe that salvation is a process which begins with our Baptism and continues throughout our lifetimes, just as the Bible teaches us.There are so many places in Scripture, which talk about how one is “saved”, but not one of them says we are saved by one act of faith at just one point in time. As I just mentioned, 1 Ptr 3:20 says we are saved by baptism. In Hebrews 12:14 it says that we will not see the Lord unless we are holy, and that we have to strive for this holiness. In Matthew 6:14-15, it says we must forgive others or we will not be forgiven. Can you attain salvation if God hasn’t forgiven you? No! So, our forgiving others is necessary for our salvation. 1 Tim 2:15 says that woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness with modesty. John 6:54 says we will have eternal life by doing something…eating the flesh and drinking the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In Matthew 19, verses 16 and 17, Jesus is asked directly what one must do to have eternal life. Did He say, accept me into your heart once and that’s it? No! Jesus said to keep the commandments and you will have life. Yes, as Catholics we are born again. And, as Catholics we believe that we were saved, as Paul says in Rom 8:24; that we are being saved, as Paul says in 1 Cor 1:18; and that we will be saved, as Paul says in Rom 5:9-10, provided we persevere and keep our eyes on the prize. Salvation is a process, just as Catholics believe, and just as the Bible clearly teaches.

Mary and the Saints

  • 1. In 1 Timothy it says Jesus is our sole mediator, yet we pray to Mary and the saints. Is that going against the Bible?

    1 Tim 2:5 reads as follows: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” Many think that the practice of praying to the saints goes against the Bible, claiming that Catholics are making them mediators between God and man and thus diminishing Jesus‘ role as the sole mediator. But this is not an appropriate interpretation of the passage. Let‘s see why not…In the O.T. we see that Moses, Abraham, and Job interceded on behalf of others… that’s mediating between God and man. We know that it is okay to ask others here on earth to pray and intercede for us…. that’s mediating between God and man. So we have a situation here where a passage of the Bible is being misinterpreted and misunderstood.

    There is only one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ, but as members of the Body of Christ, He allows us to share in His mediation.

    Also, Scripture tells us that we have only one foundation, Jesus Christ (1 Cor 3:11); but, Scripture tells us that there is more than one foundation (Eph 2:19-20). Scripture tells us that we have only Lord, Jesus Christ (Eph 4:4-5); but, Scripture tells us there is more than one lord (Rev 19:16). Scripture tells us that we have only one Judge, Jesus Christ (James 4:12); but, Scripture tells us there is more than one judge (1 Cor 6:2).

    These are not contradictions in Scripture, not when these passages are all properly understood in context. Jesus is the only foundation; Jesus is the only Lord; and Jesus is the only Judge. But, we are members of Jesus‘ Body. Therefore, we are able, according to the graces given by Christ, to share in Jesus‘ role as foundation, as lord, and as judge, and in other aspects of Christ, as well. Another example, a father shares in God‘s role as Father, by His grace. And, so also, we, and the saints in Heaven, and the angels in Heaven, can share in Christ‘s role as Mediator.

  • 2. In Romans, chapter 3, it says that none is righteous and that all have sinned, but the Catholic Church teaches that Mary is without sin ... could you explain that in light of Romans 3?

    Romans 3, verse 10 says, “…as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one.’” Yet, James 5:16 says that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much. If absolutely no one is righteous, then who is James talking about? Luke 1 says that Elizabeth and Zechariah were righteous before God. If absolutely no one is righteous, then how can that be? Is Scripture contradicting itself? No. Rather, we have to make sure to interpret Romans correctly, and that means realizing that the key to understanding Romans 3:10 is the phrase, “it is written.” Here in Romans, Paul is quoting from the O.T., Psalm 14 to be exact. In Psalm 14 it says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God. They are corrupt…there is none that does good.’” But then that same psalm goes on to talk about the “righteous.” Well, if none has done good, who are these righteous the psalm is talking about? Obviously, when the psalmist says that none has done good, he is talking about the fools who say there is no God. He is not talking about absolutely everyone.The same goes for St. Paul when he quotes from this psalm. Paul is not saying absolutely no one is righteous; if he was, then how we would have a hard time explaining all the Old and New Testament passages that refer to the righteous. In Romans 3:11 it says that no one seeks for God. Does that mean that absolutely no one is seeking God? No, to interpret it that way would be strange.

    This also is true for verse 23, which says that “all have sinned.” Babies haven’t sinned. This is not an absolute. There are exceptions. It’s something to think about. So, it is perfectly legitimate to say that these passages from Romans, when interpreted in context, in no way conflict with the Church’s teaching on Mary being without sin.

  • 3. Why do Catholics call Mary the Queen of Heaven? Doesn't God rebuke the Israelites in the Old Testament for worshipping a false goddess called the Queen of Heaven? Should we not refer to Mary with that title, therefore, since it is the title of a false goddess?

    In Jeremiah 7:18, God is indeed upset with the Israelites for worshipping a false goddess called the “queen of heaven”. However, just because God rebuked them for worshipping the false queen of heaven, doesn’t mean that we cannot pay honour to the true Queen of Heaven…the Blessed Mother. That type of thinking would lead you to believe that just because people worship a false god that they call “god,” we, therefore, should not call the true God, by that same name…God…because that’s the same title the idolaters use for their god. That is faulty logic. In the same way, the fact that there is a false “queen of heaven,” does not lead to the conclusion that we worship a false goddess when we call Mary the “Queen of Heaven.” Just as the fact that there is a false “god,” does not lead to the conclusion that we worship a false god when we call our Father in Heaven God.

    And there is a true Queen of Heaven, which we see quite clearly in Revelation 12:1: “And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars…” So in this passage, we read that there is a woman…she’s in Heaven…and she has a crown on her head. It is the true Queen of Heaven, Mary, the mother of the male child who is to rule the nations.

    As Catholics, we do not worship Mary; we honour her, just as Jesus honours her. So there is absolutely nothing wrong, from a scriptural point of view, in calling Mary the Queen of Heaven, and in honoring her just as Jesus honors her.

  • 4. The Bible clearly says that Jesus had brothers and sisters, but the Catholic Church teaches that Mary was a perpetual virgin ... how can you reconcile those seemingly different positions?

    Mark 6:3 says, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joseph, and Judas and Simon, and are not His sisters here with us?” We need to realize a few things here about these “brothers and sisters.” First, there was no word for cousin, or for nephew or niece, or for aunt or uncle in ancient Hebrew or Aramaic – the words that the Jews used in all those instances were “brother” or “sister.” An example of this can be seen in Gen 14:14, where Lot, who was Abraham’s nephew, is called his brother. Another point to consider: If Jesus had had any brothers, if Mary had had any other sons, it’s hard to believe that the last thing Jesus did on earth was to grievously offend his surviving brothers? What I mean by that is in John 19:26-27, right before Jesus dies, it says that Jesus entrusted the care of His mother to the beloved disciple, John. If Mary had had any other sons, it would have been a bit of a slap in the face to them that the Apostle John was entrusted with the care of their mother.Also, we see from Matthew 27:55-56 that the James and Joses mentioned in Mark 6 as the “brothers” of Jesus are actually the sons of another Mary. And, one other passage to consider is Acts 1:14-15: “[The Apostles] with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and with His brothers…the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty.” A company of 120 persons composed of the Apostles, Mary, the women, and the “brothers” of Jesus. There were 11 Apostles at the time. Jesus’ mother makes 12. The women were probably the same three women mentioned in Matthew 27, but let’s say it was maybe a dozen or two, just for argument’s sake. So that puts us up to 30 or 40 or so. So that leaves the number of Jesus’ brothers at about 80 or 90! It is hard to argue that Mary had 80 or 90 children.

    So Scripture does not contradict the teaching of the Catholic Church about the “brothers” of Jesus, when Scripture is properly interpreted in context.

The End of Times and Last Things

  • 1. Will there be a "rapture"?

    No, there’s not. The “Rapture” refers to a passage in First Thessalonians, chapter 4, which talks about Christians being “caught up” in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Many Christians believe, and the “Left Behind” books promote, that this being “caught up” to meet the Lord will occur before the Great Tribulation which is headed our way in the near future. Christians will simply vanish, meet Jesus somewhere in the air, and then return with Him to Heaven to await the end of time. But notice, in verse 17, Paul says that “…we who are alive, who are left,” shall be caught up. Remember that…those who are “left” get caught up to meet the Lord.

    The “Left Behind” books get their name from a passage in Luke 17 and a similar passage in Matthew 24 which talk about the coming of the Lord being like the days of Noah and the days of Lot. Matthew 24 puts it this way: “As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man…they ate, they drank, they married and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. Then two men will be in the field, one is taken and one is left. Two women grinding at the mill, one is taken one is left.”

    “See,” Rapture enthusiasts say, “One is taken, one is left…the Rapture! Jesus takes the Christians and leaves behind non-Christians!” Two problems with that interpretation: First, Jesus’ coming is being compared to the days of Noah and the days of Lot. After the flood, who was left? Noah and his family…the good guys…the bad guys were taken! After Sodom and Gomorrah went up in smoke, who was left? Lot and his daughters…the good guys…the bad guys were taken! Second, remember 1 Thessalonians? It says that those who are “left” get to meet Jesus in the air. The good guys are left behind to meet Jesus.

    In other words, you want to be left behind so that you can get caught up in the clouds to meet Jesus in the air and accompany Him back to earth at His 2nd and final coming. There will be no Rapture like the one the Left Behind books talk about…that view is not scriptural

  • 2. What do Catholics believe happens after death?

    The Church believes that a person faces the particular judgment at death. God judges our souls and finds us either able to enter heaven immediately, needing to go through further purification in purgatory or capable of hell because of our refusal to detach ourselves from sin and our unwillingness to repent. At the end of time, there will be a general judgment, at which time our bodies will be resurrected to join our souls in our eternal life, whether that be in heaven or hell.

    What happens to us after death is an indication of our own personal, free choice to choose God and the path to holiness or to turn against Him. What happens after death also indicates who our God is—a God of both justice and mercy.

    As Christians, we should not fear death, but rather ready ourselves for it, by growing in holiness and striving for eternal life.

  • 3. Why does the Catholic Church believe in purgatory?

    The Catholic Church’s belief in the existence of purgatory is indeed scriptural! First of all, it is important to understand what the Church believes purgatory is. The Catechism describes purgatory like this:

    “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (CCC 1030).

    Note that the Church believes that purgatory is not an eternal state, but rather a state of purification before entering eternal life with God in heaven.

    Scripture teaches us that nothing unclean can enter heaven (Revelation 21:27). Scripture also describes a place where a man goes and suffers loss, yet is still saved, but only through fire (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). Purgatory is this place that cleanses us of whatever impurity we have when we die, allowing us to enter into God’s presence without the stain of sin.

The Priesthood

  • 1. Why can't women be priests?

    Church teaching on the ordination of only men to the priesthood finds its origins in the teaching and practices established by Christ. While He was on earth, Jesus chose men to be His apostles and He passed on authority to these men to carry out His work of preaching the good news (Luke 9:1-2) and forgiving sins (John 20:23).

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible” (CCC 1577). Furthermore, the Catechism informs us that “No one has a right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Indeed no one claims this office for himself; he is called to it by God” (CCC 1578).

    Jesus came to us on earth in the form of a man. It makes sense, then, that He chose His successors—his “representatives” on earth—to be men.

    Finally, though we cannot always know exactly why Christ made some of the choices He made, we do know that He did not view women as inferior to men. Christ simply made clear that this particular vocation—the priesthood—would be reserved for men. In obedience to the will of God, the Catholic Church has and will continue to follow this practice of ordaining only men to the priesthood.

  • 2. The Bible says call no man Father, so why do we call our priests "Father"?

    Matthew 23:9 says, “And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in Heaven.” Notice, however, that this makes no distinction between spiritual fathers, which is what our priests are to us, and biological fathers. In other words, if you interpret this passage to say, absolutely, that no man is to be called father, you cannot distinguish between calling a priest “father” and calling the man who is married to your mother “father.” But, is that actually what this passage is saying? Or is Jesus warning us against trying to usurp the fatherhood of God? The latter intention, in many ways, is what the Pharisees and Scribes were doing. They wanted all attention focused on them…they were leaving God, the Father, out of the equation, which is why Jesus goes on to call them hypocrites, liars, and whitewashed tombs.

    If you interpret this passage from Matthew 23 as an absolute ban against calling anyone your spiritual father, then there are some problems for you in the rest of Scripture. For example, Jesus, in the story of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16, has the rich man referring to Abraham as “father” several times. Paul, in Romans chapter 4, refers to Abraham as the “father” of the uncircumcised, the Gentiles. That’s referring to spiritual fatherhood, not biological fatherhood.

    In Acts 7:1-2, the first Christian martyr, Stephen, referred to the Jewish authorities and elders who were about to stone him as brothers and “fathers,” as does Paul in Acts, chapter 22. This is referring to spiritual fatherhood. So, if you interpret Matthew 23 as saying we cannot call anyone our spiritual father, then you would have to argue that Jesus, Paul, Stephen, and the Holy Spirit must have all gotten it wrong.

    It is okay to call priests “father,” just as it was okay for Jesus and Paul to call Abraham “father” and for Stephen and Paul to call the Jewish elders “father.” As long as we remember that our true Father is God the Father and that all aspects of fatherhood, biological and spiritual, are derived from Him, and as long as we do not allow anyone else to usurp that role in any way, shape, or form, as the Pharisees and Scribes were prone to do.

  • 3. Why don't Catholic priests marry?
    St. Paul notes that “…The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord” (Corinthians 7:32). The practice of celibacy allows for a priest to give his full attention to the work of building the Kingdom of God. St. Paul indicates numerous times that virginity is to be considered a “higher call.” Priests thus respond to that call, so they may number themselves among those who are set apart for this specific ministry. Furthermore, remaining celibate allows the priest to more perfectly live out the virtue of chastity, modelled in its entirety by Christ Himself. The Church does not force anyone not to marry. Those who decide to remain celibate in their vocation do so voluntarily. Priests are among those who have freely chosen to take this vow of celibacy for the sake of their earthly ministry and vocation. It makes sense that the Church—considered the Bride of Christ—is served by virgin priests, who fully devote themselves to Christ’s Bride. Priestly celibacy should be looked at as a beautiful offering to Christ, a wonderful testimony of a priest’s devotion to our Lord and to the Church.
  • 4. Why did all the priest scandals happen?
    All of us have heard stories about policemen, doctors, teachers, counsellors and priests that have betrayed a sacred trust. These individuals represent vocations we look to for guidance, hope and help. We want to be able to trust them. But when one of these people violates our trust, it seems much worse and even harder to comprehend than when other people in society fail. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean that we should abandon all respect for law enforcement, health care, education or the Church because people who work in those professions and vocations fail to live as Christ calls them to live. After all, the vast majority of people in those vocations serve in a heroic and exemplary manner. In Matthew 13:24-30Jesus Christ described His Church, the Kingdom of Heaven, as being a “field of wheat and weeds,” showing that there would be good and bad, saints and sinners and everyone in between in the Church until the day when He returned to judge the nations. This means that, sadly, there will be members of His Church — including priests and bishops — who have committed sins that have hurt others. In Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter entitled Tertio Millenio Adviente (Toward the Third Millenium), he affirmed that “…the Church should become more fully conscious of the sinfulness of her children, recalling all those times in history when they departed from the spirit of Christ and his Gospel and, instead of offering to the world the witness of a life inspired by the values of faith, indulged in ways of thinking and acting which were truly forms of counter-witness and scandal.” He went on to say that “Before God and man she always acknowledges as her own her sinful sons and daughters. As Lumen Gentium affirms: ‘The Church, embracing sinners to her bosom, is at the same time holy…’” The Church herself is indeed holy, but she is made up of sinful members. All situations of scandal, however, do not negate or disprove the truth that Christ transmitted to the world through His Apostles (Mark 16:15). As Christ promised, in spite of the weakness and sinfulness — and sometimes the scandal — caused by priests and other Catholics, “the gates of hell will not prevail against” the Church. (Continue reading here for more on the priest scandals).
  • 5. Why should priests wear a Roman collar?

Scripture and Tradition

  • 1. My Protestant friends say that their church goes by the Bible alone, but that the Catholic Church has added a lot of man-made traditions to the World of God. Is that true?

    No, it is not true. Protestants have as their sole rule of faith the written Word of God, which we find in Sacred Scripture. The Catholic Church has as its sole rule of faith, the entire Word of God, as it is found in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. All of the Word of God was at one time passed on orally…Sacred Tradition. Eventually, some of Sacred Tradition was written down…this became Sacred Scripture, which is written tradition. However, Scripture itself tells us that not all of the things that Jesus said and did were written down. And listen to what Paul says about “tradition”:

    2 Thes 2:15, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” Traditions! Traditions taught by word of mouth, in other words, oral tradition, and traditions taught by letter. Traditions which they are being told to “stand firm and hold to”. Sacred Scripture and

    1 Cor 11:2, “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.” The Corinthians are being commended by Paul because they maintain the traditions that he passed on to them. Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

    2 Tim 2:2: “and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” What we have here in 2 Timothy is an instance, in Scripture, of Paul commanding the passing on of oral tradition.

    1 Thes 2:13, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers.” So, they received as the Word of God that which they heard, not simply that which they read in Scripture.

    In other words, the Bible clearly supports the Catholic Church’s teaching that the Word of God is contained in both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

  • 2. Why are Catholic and Protestant bibles different? Who originally compiled the Bible?
    Catholic Bibles contain—and have always contained—all of the books of the Bible that have been traditionally accepted by Christians dating back to the time of Jesus. These accepted books total 46 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. Protestant Bibles, however, have seven fewer books in their Old Testament. These seven books excluded in the Protestant Bible are Baruch, Sirach, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Tobit, Judith and the Wisdom of Solomon, plus portions of Esther and Daniel. These books were rejected by Protestant Reformers in the 1500s because elements in these books did not support certain Protestant theology and doctrines. Prior to the sixteenth century, however, all Christians used Bibles containing all 46 books of the Old Testament.During the first century, there was much debate among the early Christians as to what made up the canon of Scripture. The Church, having been given authority by Jesus Christ and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (see The Church and the Papacy), compiled the Bible in the form that it exists today.
  • 3. I had a theology teacher who told me that Adam and Eve were just myths, and that the rest of Genesis was all just legends. Is that what the Church teaches?

    No. The Church has always taught that Adam and Eve were real people and were the first human beings from whom all other human beings are descended. In 1950, Pope Pius XII, in Paragraph 37 of an encyclical entitled Humani Generis, states, “…the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from [Adam] as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents.” In other words, the Church teaches that all humanity descended from Adam and Eve. They had to be real for that to happen. Paragraph #38, states: “This [encyclical], in fact, clearly points out that the first eleven chapters of Genesis…do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense…” Again, Adam and Eve are not myths, and the rest of Genesis is not legend. They are history in a “true sense.”

    Paragraph #39: “Therefore, whatever of the popular narrations have been inserted into the Sacred Scriptures must in no way be considered on a par with myths or other such things…”
    And listen to what the Catechism says, Paragraph #375, “The Church…teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve…” No mention of a myth here.

    Paragraph #404: “By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin. Myths cannot commit personal sins.

    Adam and Eve are not myths. Genesis does not contain myth or legend. That is Church teaching. If anyone says otherwise, ask him or her to produce sources from a magisterial document. They won’t be able to do so.

  • 4. A friend of mine said that his church takes the Bible literally, but that the Catholic Church doesn't. Is that true?

    Actually, there is no truth to that, whatsoever. Catholics interpret the Bible in a “literal” sense, while many fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and others interpret the Bible in a literalist sense. The “literal” meaning of a passage of Scripture is the meaning that the author of that passage of Scripture intended to convey. The “literalist” interpretation of a passage of Scripture is: “that’s what it says, that’s what it means.”

    Let me give you an example to illustrate the difference. If you were to read a passage in a book that said it was “raining cats and dogs outside”, how would you interpret that? As Americans, in the 21st Century, you would know that the author was intending to convey the idea that it was raining pretty doggone hard outside. That would be the “literal” interpretation…the interpretation the author intended to convey. On the other hand, what if you made a “literalist” interpretation of the phrase, “it’s raining cats and dogs”?

    The “literalist” interpretation would be that, were you to walk outside, you would actually see cats and dogs falling from the sky like rain. No taking into account the popularly accepted meaning of this phrase. No taking into account the author’s intentions. The words say it was raining cats and dogs, so, by golly, it was raining cats and dogs! That is the literalist, or fundamentalist, way of interpretation.

    If someone 2000 years in the future picked up that same book and read, “It was raining cats and dogs outside,” in order to properly understand that passage in the book, they would need a “literal” interpretation, not a “literalist” interpretation. Now, think about that in the context of interpreting the Bible 2000-3000 years after it was written.

    Literal, or Catholic, interpretation vs. literalist, or fundamentalist, interpretation.