The Church and the Papacy

AnswerWhy do Catholics believe the Catholic Church is the one true Church, founded 2,000 years ago by Jesus Christ Himself?

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.
(How old is your Church?)

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.

AnswerWhere does the Pope get his authority to lead the Church on earth? 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.

What does it mean to say that the pope is infallible? Answer

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 center 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.

As Catholics, do we have to accept everything the Church teaches? Answer

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It is important to realize 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 baptized 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.

How come I don’t feel like I was being fed in the Catholic Church?Answer

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 practicing 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 realize 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.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 ).

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst…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’” (John 6:35,51).

Catechism and the Catholic Church
Church Fathers
Suggested Books

Pope Fiction: Answers to 30 Myths and Misconceptions About the Papacy
By Patrick Madrid
This exciting new apologetics book offers a tour-de-force refutation of 30 major arguments raised against the papacy. Using Scripture, Church history, and common sense (with a dash of wit added for good measure), Patrick Madrid explains why these commonly believed “pope fictions” simply don’t hold water.

The Faith of the Early Fathers: A source-book of theological and historical passages from the Christian writings of the pre-Nicene and Nicene eras
By W. (William) A. Jurgens

One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic; The Early Church Was the Catholic Church
By Kenneth D. Whitehead
Very often in the history of Christianity, “reformers”, by whatever name, have aspired to return to “the early Church”. The Church of their own day, for whatever reason, fails to live up to what they think Christianity should be: in their view there has been a falling away from the beautiful ideals of the early Church.

The Fathers of the Church, Expanded Edition

By Mike Aquilina
The Fathers of the Church, first published a decade ago, has become the standard popular introduction to the great teachers of early Christianity. Now, this new edition presents more material from more of the Fathers — including authors from little-known traditions of Egypt, East Syria, North Africa, and the lands that make up modern Iran and Iraq. Also new with this edition is a section on selected “Mothers of the Church,” holy women from Christian antiquity.

The Shepherd and the Rock: Origins, Development, and Mission of the Papacy
By J. Michael Miller

Upon This Rock: St.Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church

By Stephen K. Ray
As an Evangelical Protestant, Stephen Ray realized that the real issue dividing Catholics and Protestants was authority. Everything else was secondary to the issue of authority. Protestants accept the authority of the Bible alone, whereas Catholics understand the authority to be residing in the Magisterium, the Scriptures and the Sacred Tradition. Ray goes through the Scriptures and writings from the first five centuries of the early Church to demonstrate that the early Christians had a clear understanding of the primacy of Peter in the See of Rome. He tackles the tough issues in an attempt to expose how the opposition is misunderstanding the Scriptures and history. He uses many Evangelical Protestant scholars and historians to support the Catholic position. This book contains the most complete compilation of Scriptural and Patristic quotations on the primacy of Peter and the Papal office of any book currently available.

The Papacy Learning Guide
By Stephen K. Ray, R. Dennis Walters
Catholics revere the pope as the head of their Church; but how much do we know about the papacy itself? This guide will lead you to a deeper understanding of the Holy Father’s office. Here you’ll find answers to common objections to the papacy, a discussion of historically prominent popes, and explanations of terms such as “papal infallibility.” Each section ends with a list of study questions that help you recall important points from the preceding pages. The book includes a glossary of important terms and a chronological list of every pope who has succeeded Peter. “The Papacy” provides readers with everything they need to know to understand the papacy, and to defend it to those who do not. Informative and interesting, this guide is a must for any apologetics library.

Catholic Christianity: A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church
By Peter Kreeft
For the first time in 400 years the Catholic Church has authorized an official universal catechism which instantly became an international best-seller, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Using this official Catechism, the highly-regarded author and professor Peter Kreeft presents a complete compendium of all the major beliefs of Catholicism written in his readable and concise style. Since the Catechism of the Catholic Church was written for the express purpose of grounding and fostering catechisms based on it for local needs and ordinary readers, Kreeft does just that, offering a thorough summary of Catholic doctrine, morality, and worship in a popular format with less technical language. He presents a systematic, organic synthesis of the essential and fundamental Catholic teachings in the light of the Second Vatican Council and the whole of the Church’s Tradition. This book is the most thorough, complete and popular catechetical summary of Catholic belief in print that is based on the universal Catechism.

Handbook of Catholic Apologetics: Reasoned Answers to Questions of Faith
By Peter Kreeft, Ronald Tracelli
Unbelievers, doubters and skeptics continue to attack the truths of Christianity. Handbook of Catholic Apologetics is the only book that categorizes and summarizes all the major arguments in support of the main Christian beliefs. Also included is a Protestant-friendly treatment of Catholic- Protestant issues. The Catholic answers to Protestant questions show how Catholicism is the fullness of the Christian faith. Handbook of Catholic Apologetics is full of the wisdom and wit, clarity and insight of philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli. This is an informative and valuable guidebook for anyone looking for answers to questions of faith and reason. Whether you are asking the questions yourself or want to respond to others who are, here is the resource you have been waiting for. Topics include: faith and reason, the existence of God, God’s nature, creation and evolution, providence and free will, miracles, problem of evil, Bible’s historical reliability, divinity of Chris, Christ’s resurrection, life after death, salvation, the Eucharist, Catholic hierarchy and more.

Go in Peace: A Gift of Enduring Love
By Pope John Paul II
Why do we suffer? How can we pray? How can we live as followers of Jesus in an unbelieving world? These are some of the questions the late Pope John Paul II addresses in this collection of his most intimate words, drawn from his many writings during his quarter century as pope. The material in Go in Peace is arranged in twelve chapters that correspond to the themes that dominated his papacy. Editor Joseph Durepos emphasizes the words John Paul directed to lay Catholics and to the world at large. They are memorable, heartfelt, often striking words that articulate an astonishingly powerful vision of what it means to be a Christian in today’s world. Go in Peace displays and preserves the compassion, intellect, and poetry of the most visible and influential Christian leader of modern times.

Peter: The Keeper of the Keys
Directed by Stephen Ray
The first film in a projected 10-video series, The Footprints of God: The Story of Salvation from Abraham to Augustine, join host Stephen Ray, best-selling author and dynamic speaker, on an amazing journey of adventure about Peter, the rugged fisherman Jesus chose to lead His Church. Filmed completely on location in Rome and the Holy Land, you will follow Peter from Galilee to Rome to discover answers about the major role of the Papacy in the saga of salvation. All in a fast-paced, entertaining format that is a combination of a biography, travel documentary, Bible study and an apologetics course!

David and Solomon: Expanding the Kingdom
Directed by Stephen Ray
Why is Jesus called the Son of David and why is that important to understanding Our Lord? How did the Kingdom of Israel prefigure and anticipate the Kingdom of God and the Catholic Church? Join Steve Ray in this edition from the Footprints of God series as he takes you on a fast-paced adventure through the mountains and deserts of Israel to discover not only where David and Solomon lived and reigned, but also the meaning of their lives and kingdoms. Witness Steve as he makes a lion roar, leads a flock of sheep, slings a stone and swings a sword, and wades through the underground water tunnels of ancient Jerusalem. Comprehensive study guide included.

Apostolic Fathers: Handing on the Faith
Directed by Stephen Ray
Born into a pagan world of gods and goddesses, they blazes a new trail to follow the living God. With the words of the Apostles still ringing in their ears, these champions passed the fullness of the faith on to the next generation. With the tradition and practice of the Apostles still fresh in their minds, these heroes died rather than betray Our Lord. Join the adventure as Stephen Ray, best-selling author and popular Bible teacher, takes you on an exciting journey to the Roman Empire and the world of the first Christians. You’ll sit at the feet of the apostles, celebrate the Eucharist in hiding, and tremble at the suffering they endured for Jesus Christ. Retrace their steps through Israel, Turkey, France and Italy. All this in a fst-paced, entertaining biography, travel documentary, Bible study, apologetics course and Church history study rolled into one remarkable adventure! Comprehensive study guide included. Included in this documentary are Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, Polycarp of Smyrna, Irenaeus of Lyons and Justin Martyr.

Footprints of God: Over Holy Ground
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Puts you in the skies above the Holy Land and beyond, giving you a bird’s-eye view of such significant sites as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the pyramids of Egypt, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and many,many more. All complemented by relevant passages of scripture, and backed by a moving musical score. Over Holy Ground takes inspirational filmmaking to new heights!