This article is Part II of a series of 2 articles entitled: What Catholics Really Believe (Our Beliefs Explained). To read the 6 beliefs we already discussed, please go to Part I of this article

Belief #7: Jesus gives us grace through the sacraments

We believe that Jesus gives us grace in many ways but in a special way through the sacraments: Baptism, Eucharist, confirmation and reconciliation. The sacraments in the catholic church are visible signs of an invisible reality; the invisible reality being God’s presence in our life giving us his grace. The other 3 sacraments would be the sacrament of matrimony, anointing of the sick, holy orders

Mark 16:16 says he who believes and is baptized will be saved. John 3:5 talks about how we must be born again through water and the Spirit, which refers to baptism, in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven. So sacraments aren’t just rituals we are adding to work our way to heaven. These are commands that Christ has given us, and Catholics obey those things that he has laid down. We have given a lot of biblical proof for each sacraments in other articles or videos on our YouTube channel. This is because Catholics have all of their beliefs coming from Christ but always found explicitly or implicitly in sacred scripture.

 

Belief #8: Sacred scripture and sacred tradition

We believe that along with the Bible, the catholic tradition handed down through the teaching authority of the magisterium of the church are all important and all necessary. This is a major difference with Protestants who follow the Bible alone. Since protestants have no central teaching authority but merely personal interpretations of the bible, a lot of contradictions, deviations and rising of innumerable new denominations have become the norm in Protestantism.

Christ gave a teaching authority to his church. There’s so much more that was not written down in the Bible. There’s so much more that was already established for 400 years before the Bible was written by the Catholic church. Thus, we believe that it is a deposit of faith given to us by the entirety of the Tradition, not just the part that was written down in sacred scripture.

In fact, this sacred Tradition given to us by the apostles helps us to understand and interpret the scriptures correctly. It is the magisterium of the church that has that authority from Christ to interpret the Bible correctly. It is the same authority that the Catholic church used to make the Bible infallible in the first place. Some people erroneously think that Catholics hold Tradition above the Bible. The tradition is in a sense a servant to the Bible. And in some sense, it is a little bit below the Bible because the Bible is the word of God, but it helps us to understand what is truly revealed in sacred scriptures.

We can find this importance of the Tradition in passages like Thessalonians 2:15, where Paul tells us to hold onto the traditions that he handed on. So in summary, Catholics acknowledge that scriptures are the word of God. They are infallible from beginning to end. But they also need the tradition which came before sacred scriptures to complement the written word.

 

BELIEF #9: Jesus started a hierarchical and authoritative church through apostolic succession traceable over 2000 years

We also believe that Jesus started the Catholic church on the rock of Peter in Matthew 16:18-19. He said: “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Rock means actually Peter’s name. He literally changed Peter’s name to rock. And then he gave Peter alone, in the singular form in Greek, the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Now the other apostles received a similar authority in other passages, like in Luke 10: 16, Matthew 18:15- 18, Matthew 28:19 and in John 20:21-23, but only Peter received the keys of the kingdom, which is why he has a primacy and a head authority.

So we believe that Jesus started a teaching and preaching authoritative church. He did not start a Bible church. He could not since nobody could even read. Most of the world couldn’t even read till modern times. And in fact, there was no Bible until the year 400 when the Catholic church made the first Bible. We also add that it took three years to copy a single Bible. So bibles were extremely rare for centuries. And even after that, they were extremely expensive and most people could not afford them.

Moreover, the catholic church is hierarchical by nature. Although we believe that it is the people of Christ who form the church and that the church is the body of Christ, but as the bible says, the structure of the church is made up of bishops, priests and deacons. These are three offices mentioned in scriptures, and any church which does not have these three offices is not the true church. These offices represent the authority of Christ passed down. As mentioned in the bible, through the laying on of hands, this authority was passed down from Christ to the apostles to the bishops and so on and so forth. The catholic church is an invisible and visible organization. It is visible through the apostles. The Bishopric, priests, deacons are a point of visible reference. When problems, disputes or disagreements arise, the visible authority in the 3 offices is indispensable.

 

Belief #10: The pope is the head of the church and all he says is NOT infallible

We believe that the Pope is a Bishop. He is Bishop of Rome and has a special primacy because, as we mentioned, Peter alone, and thus his successors, received the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Receiving “keys” is mentioned in Isaiah 22: Anyone who receives the key, receives an office of special primacy and of special authority, which all the other authorities in the land did not have. So Peter received this special authority, and that’s why we believe the Pope is the head of the church and his office comes with a certain infallibility.

However, the Pope is only infallible on issues of faith and morals. Most people think the infallibility of the pope is absolute and they do not know that the pope does not make infallible statements often. The pope cannot preach on science or math, the pope is not without sin. Actually, the pope can have a wide range of sayings that spreads from his opinions all the way up to infallible teachings and anything in between. So we have to always look at the pope statements individually.

 

Belief#11: Heaven, purgatory and Hell

As Catholics, we believe in heaven and in hell for eternity. Jesus himself said in Matthew 7, there are two roads, one leads to heaven, and it is hard to find and to travel on. Most people do not find it, whereas the road to hell is easy and widely paved.

If we believe and follow Jesus Christ, we can be saved. Jesus will forgive anyone from any sin anytime, anywhere. God wants to bring everybody to heaven which is eternal bliss, eternal happiness, and eternal relationship with God. But we also believe in eternal damnation which is an eternal choice of rejecting God. This is the destiny of people who, by their life choices, choose evil and alienation of God. However, it is very important to stress that we can be forgiven whenever we freely choose to seek this forgiveness because of what Jesus did on the cross.

Finally, we believe in purgatory, which we wrote previous articles about. In summary, it is a spiritual place where you are not quite perfect enough to get to heaven and you are being purified from whatever is remaining in your soul that could be an obstacle for you to be in the full presence of God.

 

Belief #12: Communion of saints, heaven’s hall of fame

We also believe in the communion of saints. Our God is not a mean father, who doesn’t like you to talk to your brothers and sisters, your mother, or anyone else in your family and gets enraged if you talk to anyone except for him. This is a very common anti-Catholic Protestant mentality, and we completely reject it. For Catholics, heaven is a family. We are all part of the body of Christ. We are all part of the family of God. In Hebrews 12, it talks about the cloud of witnesses who surrounds us. Those people in heaven who are constantly watching over us, constantly cheering us on holiness are the saints. They are constantly praying for us to get to heaven like they already did.

To make it a bit more relevant to today’s world, it is almost like they are the heavenly hall of fame. They did it to perfection. They followed Christ with an extraordinary life, extraordinary holiness. They did things that were kind of ridiculous and impossible. They faced all odds. They faced persecutions. And so for us, they are really just hall of Famers. They are people whose example we want to follow. In Corinthians, Paul says, imitate me and follow me as I imitate Christ. And it is the same thing with all the saints. We have a whole army of brothers and sisters in heaven. Catholics do not see them as competition to Jesus. In fact, it is the complete opposite. We are all praying for each other. We are all loving each other, and we are a family. And that’s what the body of Christ is (1 Corinthians 12:12-27, Hebrews 12:1 Ephesians 5 etc.)

As we mentioned above, the saints can pray for us and their prayers are powerful because the prayer of the righteous man avails much with God, as it says in James 5:16 that the saints are perfectly righteous in Christ’s righteousness. When we go to heaven, we are going to be perfected in the same way.

 

Belief #13: We do not worship Mary, we honor her

We also believe that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was especially blessed by God. All God’s choices are perfect. God especially chose to bring salvation into this world through Mary. God blessed her in a special way. In fact, in Luke 1:28, he greeted her, hail full of grace. Now many times in the Bible, when God or his messengers greeted someone, he told them their strength or something defining about them or their ministry. But Mary was hailed as full of grace, meaning she was perfected in God’s grace. God perfected Mary so that she could perfectly bear the son of God and that she could be made a tabernacle for his heavenly majesty.

Now, when it comes to the immaculate conception, meaning her being conceived without sin, this has nothing to do with Mary. Mary is a creature and as St Louis de Montfort puts it in the beginning of his book about the consecration to Mary, Mary is absolutely nothing without God. She is almost dirt or dust compared to his eternal wisdom. All that Mary has, including being Queen of heaven and earth, is a grace and a gift of God who had no need for Mary and who still does not need Mary today, but who chose Mary as part of his plan to bring salvation into the world.

God raised up and honored Mary and her immaculate conception has nothing to do with her and everything to do with Jesus. Jesus Christ is infinitely Holy that God prepared his tabernacle ahead of time so that he could sinlessly be conceived and born as the son of God.

Now, scriptures tell us that to honor God, we must honor those who God honors and bless who God blesses. God honored Mary and God blessed her. Luke 1:48 says all generations will call me blessed. So many people misunderstand our Marian devotions and confuse them with worship. They think we are bowing down to Mary or trying to be saved by her and nothing could be further from the truth than such statements.