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?
(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’?
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
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
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
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).
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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.
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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!
Articles and More
Mother Angelica reflects on the Church
Articles on Infallibility
“Holy Church”by Leon Suprenant
What’s Your Authority?
“The Splendor of the Catholic Church”by Scott Hahn
“Toward Reuniting the Church”
“Why I am a Catholic”by G.K. Chesterton
“Without the Church There is No Salvation”by Philip Gray
“How Can Catholicism Be True When Catholics Are So Dead?”by Gary Hoge
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope John Paul II
Learn more about the Popes!
Prayer for the Church