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Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole.<ref name="McBrien">McBrien, Richard P. (1994). Catholicism. HarperCollins, 3–19. ISBN 9780060654054. </ref> Depending on the understanding of the word "Catholic", it may refer to the Roman Catholic Church, namely the Christians living in communion with the Church of Rome.<ref name="Rausch">Rausch, Thomas P.; Catherine E. Clifford (2003). Catholicism in the Third Millennium. Liturgical Press. ISBN 9780814658994. </ref> More broadly, it refers to many churches, including the Roman Catholic Church and others not in communion with it, that claim continuity with the Catholic Church before separation into Greek or Eastern and Latin or Western.<ref>McBrien, Richard P. (1995). The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism, Theodore M. Hesburgh, HarperCollins. ISBN 9780060653385. </ref> Churches that make this claim of continuity include the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox churches, the Assyrian Church of the East,the Old Catholic churches and the churches of the Anglican Communion.<ref>Gros, Jeffrey; Eamon McManus, Ann Riggs (1998). Introduction to Ecumenism. Paulist Press, 154–155. ISBN 9780809137947. </ref> The claim of continuity may be based on Apostolic Succession, especially in conjunction with adherence to the Nicene Creed.<ref>Parsons, Evelyn C. (2007). It Makes a Difference Being a Catholic. AuthorHouse. ISBN 9781434314772. </ref> Some interpret Catholicism as adherence to the traditional beliefs that Protestant Reformers were denied, as with the Oxford Movement.<ref>Connor, Charles Patrick (2001). Classic Catholic Converts. Ignatius Press. ISBN 9780898707878. </ref>

Catholicism is distinguished from other forms of Christianity in its particular understanding and commitment to tradition, the sacraments, the mediation between God, and communion.<ref name="McBrien"/> Catholicism can include a monastic life, religious orders, a religious appreciation of the arts, a communal understanding of sin and redemption, missionary activity, and, in the Roman Catholic Church, papacy.<ref name="Rausch">Rausch, Thomas P.; Catherine E. Clifford (2003). Catholicism in the Third Millennium. Liturgical Press. ISBN 9780814658994. </ref>


The term "Catholic Church"

The earliest surviving evidence of the use of the term "Catholic Church" is a letter that Saint Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch wrote in about 107 to Christians in Smyrna (Smyrnaeans, 8).[1] Saint Ignatius used the term to designate the Christian Church in its universal aspect, excluding heretics, such as those who "confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again" (Smyrnaeans, 7).[2] He called such people "beasts in the shape of men, whom you must not only not receive, but, if it be possible, not even meet with; only you must pray to God for them." (Smyrnaeans, 4).[3]

Yet more explicit was the manner in which Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (circa 315-386) used the term "Catholic Church" precisely to distinguish this Church from heretical "Churches". He urged: "If ever thou art sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord's House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God" (Catechetical Lectures, XVIII, 26).[4]

Only slightly later, Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) wrote:

"In the Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep (Jn 21:15-19), down to the present episcopate.
"And so, lastly, does the very name of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house.
"Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church, as it is right they should ... With you, where there is none of these things to attract or keep me... No one shall move me from the faith which binds my mind with ties so many and so strong to the Christian religion... For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church."
— St. Augustine (354–430): Against the Epistle of Manichaeus called Fundamental, chapter 4: Proofs of the Catholic Faith[5]

On the 27th of February AD 380, the term "Catholic" was defined under Roman Imperial law by Emperor Theodosius when he issued an edict in Thessalonica and published in Constantinople, declaring Catholic Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire thus:

Theodosian Code XVI.i.2:
It is our desire that all the various nations which are subject to our clemency and moderation, should continue the profession of that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it has been preserved by faithful tradition and which is now professed by the Pontiff Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the apostolic teaching and the doctrine of the Gospel, let us believe in the one Deity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since in our judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of divine condemnation and the second the punishment of our authority, in accordance with the will of heaven shall decide to inflict.<ref>Extract of English translation from Henry Bettenson, ed., Documents of the Christian Church (London: Oxford University Press, 1943), p. 31, cited at Medieval Sourcebook: Theodosian Code XVI by Paul Halsall, Fordham University. Retrieved Jan 5 2007. The full Latin text of the code is at IMPERATORIS THEODOSIANI CODEX Liber Decimus Sextus (170KB download), archived from George Mason University. Retrieved Jan 5 2007. </ref>

A contemporary of Augustine, St. Vincent of Lerins, wrote in 434 under the pseudonym Peregrinus a work known as the Commonitoria ("Memoranda"). While insisting that, like the human body, Church doctrine develops while truly keeping its identity (sections 54-59, chapter XXIII), he stated: "[I]n the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense 'Catholic,' which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors" (section 6, end of chapter II).

Divergent interpretations of the term "Catholic"

Many individual Christians and Christian denominations consider themselves "catholic" on the basis, in particular, of Apostolic Succession. They fall into four groups:

  1. The Western and Eastern Churches of the Roman Catholic Church (which almost always refers to itself simply as "the Catholic Church"). These understand "Catholic" to involve unity with the Bishop of Rome,[6] and hold that "the one Church of Christ ... subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure."[7]
  2. Those others that, like the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Old Catholic, Anglican, and some Lutheran and other denominations, claim unbroken Apostolic Succession from the early Church. Some of these identify themselves as the Catholic Church (the Orthodox Churches), while others see themselves as constituent parts of it (the Old Catholics, Anglicans, and others).
  3. Those who claim to be spiritual descendants of the Apostles but have no discernible institutional descent from the historic Church, and normally do not refer to themselves as catholic.
  4. Those who have acknowledged a break in Apostolic Succession, but have restored it in order to be in full communion with bodies that have maintained the practice. Examples in this category include the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada vis-à-vis their Anglican and Old Catholic counterparts.

For some confessions listed under category 2, the self-affirmation refers to the belief in the ultimate unity of the universal church under one God and one Saviour, rather than in one visibly unified institution (as with category 1, above). In this usage, catholic is sometimes written with a lower-case "c". The Western Apostles' Creed and Nicene Creed, stating "I believe in...the holy Catholic church..." is thus recited in worship services. Among some denominations in category 3, "Christian" is substituted for "catholic" in order to denote the doctrine that the Christian Church is, at least ideally, undivided.[8][9][10]).

Brief organizational history of the Church

The early Catholic Church came to be organized under the three patriarchs of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch, to which later were added the patriarchs of Constantinople and Jerusalem. The Bishop of Rome was at that time recognized as first among them, as is stated, for instance, in canon 3 of the First Council of Constantinople (381) - many interpret "first" as meaning here first among equals - and doctrinal or procedural disputes were often referred to Rome, as when, on appeal by St Athanasius against the decision of the Council of Tyre (335), Pope Julius I, who spoke of such appeals as customary, annulled the action of that council and restored Athanasius and Marcellus of Ancyra to their sees. The Bishop of Rome was also considered to have the right to convene ecumenical councils. When the Imperial capital moved to Constantinople, Rome's influence was sometimes challenged. Nonetheless, Rome claimed special authority because of its connection to Saint Peter<ref>St Peter is sometimes called "the first pope". However, if "pope" is defined as "successor of St Peter", St. Linus is the first pope. The Catholic Church teaches that the college of the bishops has succeeded, in the Church, to the group of the apostles, not that the bishops are apostles; and that, among the bishops, primacy belongs to the Bishop of Rome, as primacy among the apostles belonged to St Peter, not that the pope is on the same level as the Apostle Peter (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 880-881).</ref> and Saint Paul, who, all agreed, were martyred and buried in Rome, and because the bishop of Rome saw himself as the successor of Saint Peter.

The 431 Council of Ephesus, the Third Ecumenical Council, was chiefly concerned with Nestorianism, which emphasized the distinction between the humanity and divinity of Jesus and taught that, in giving birth to Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary could not be spoken of as giving birth to God. This Council rejected Nestorianism and affirmed that, as humanity and divinity are inseparable in the one person of Jesus Christ, his mother, the Virgin Mary, is thus Theotokos, God-bearer, Mother of God. The first great rupture in the Church followed this Council. Those who refused to accept the Council's ruling were largely Persian and are represented today by the Assyrian Church of the East and related Churches, which, however, do not now hold a "Nestorian" theology. They are often called Ancient Oriental Churches.

The next major break was after the Council of Chalcedon (451). This Council repudiated Eutychian Monophysitism which stated that the divine nature completely subsumed the human nature in Christ. This Council declared that Christ, though one person, exhibited two natures "without confusion, without change, without division, without separation" and thus is both fully God and fully human. The Alexandrian Church rejected the terms adopted by this Council, and the Christian Churches that follow the tradition of non-acceptance of the Council - they are not Monophysite in doctrine - are referred to as Pre-Chalcedonian or Oriental Orthodox Churches.

The next great rift within Christianity was in the 11th century. Longstanding doctrinal disputes, as well as conflicts between methods of Church government, and the evolution of separate rites and practices, precipitated a split in 1054 that divided the Church, this time between a "West" and an "East". England, France, the Holy Roman Empire, Scandinavia, and Western Europe in general were in the Western camp, and Greece, Romania, Russia and many of other Slavic lands, Anatolia, and the Christians in Syria and Egypt who accepted the Council of Chalcedon made up the Eastern camp. This division is called the East-West Schism.

The fourth major division in the Church occurred in the 16th century with the Protestant Reformation, after which many parts of the Western Church either entirely rejected the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and became known as "Reformed" or "Protestant", or else repudiated Roman papal authority and accepted decisions by the civil ruler in religious matters (e.g., in Anglicanism and parts of the Lutheran Church).

A much less extensive rupture occurred when, after the Roman Catholic Church's First Vatican Council, in which it officially proclaimed the dogma of papal infallibility, clusters of Catholics in the Netherlands and in German-speaking countries formed the Old-Catholic (Altkatholische) Church and other Independent Catholic Churches.

All of the preceding groups, excluding some Protestants, consider themselves fully and completely Catholic, either as part of the Catholic Church or as the one and only Catholic Church.

The Roman Catholic Church

Fulda a stronghold of Catholicism in Germany
"The Catholic Church" most often refers to the Roman Catholic Church.[11] With some 1.1 billion members, it is the world's largest single religious body.

While some others use the term "the Roman Catholic Church" to imply that it is only the "Roman" section of a larger entity that they call "the Catholic Church" and that, in their view, also includes sections not in communion with Rome, this Church calls itself "the Roman Catholic Church" only in correspondence with and in drawing up joint documents with other Churches. Even in these contexts, in particular in relations with the Lutheran World Federation and the Assyrian Church of the East, "the Catholic Church" is often used. In internal documents, "the Catholic Church" or simply "the Church" are its most common self-designations.

Some of its own members also, especially among its Eastern Catholic Churches, apply the term "the Roman Catholic Church" not, as in the Church's official documents, to the Church as a whole, but only to its Latin Rite component. Unlike the outsiders just mentioned, these consider communion with the See of Rome essential for membership of the Catholic Church, in spite of referring to only part of it as "the Roman Catholic Church".[12]

Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy

The Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches, as well as the Assyrian Church of the East, each consider themselves to be the universal and true Catholic Church. In various permutations, these bodies typically regard each other and Western Catholics as heretical and as having thus left the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. The patriarchs of these Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches are autocephalous hierarchs, which roughly means that each is independent of the direct oversight of another bishop, although still subject, according to their distinct traditions, either to the synod of bishops of each one’s jurisdiction, or to a common decision of the patriarchs of their own communion. They are willing to concede a primacy of honor to the Roman See, but not of authority, nor do they accept its claim to universal and immediate jurisdiction. This is similar to the position taken by the Lutheran World Federation, the Anglican Communion, and the Old Catholic Church.

Other Catholics

In Western Christianity the principal groups that regard themselves as "Catholic" without full communion with the Pope are the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and churches in the Anglican tradition. Smaller groups include the Old Catholics, the Aglipayans (Philippine Independent Church), and the Polish National Catholic Church of America. Their spiritual beliefs and practices are similar to those of Catholics of the Latin Rite, from which they emerged, but they reject the Pope's claimed status and authority.

Anglicanism and other Reformation churches

Introductory works on Anglicanism (such as Sykes' and Booty's The Study of Anglicanism, pp. 219 ff.) typically refer to the character of the Anglican tradition as "Catholic and Reformed," which is in keeping with the understanding of the Church articulated in the Elizabethan Settlement and in the works of the earliest standard Anglican divines such as Richard Hooker and Lancelot Andrewes. Yet different strains in Anglicanism, dating back to its earliest formation, have emphasized either the Protestant, Catholic, or "Reformed Catholic" nature of the movement.

Anglican theology and ecclesiology has thus come to be typically expressed in three distinct, yet sometimes overlapping manifestations: Anglo-Catholicism (or "high church"), "Evangelicalism" (or "low church"), and Latitudinarianism (or "broad church"), whose beliefs and practices fall somewhere between the two. Though all elements within the Anglican Communion recite the same creeds, evangelical Anglicans regard the word Catholic in the ideal sense given above. In contrast, Anglo-Catholics regard the communion as component of the Catholic Church, in spiritual and historical union with the Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, and several Eastern Churches. Broad Church Anglicans tend to maintain a mediating view, or consider the matter one of adiaphora.

The Catholic nature of the Anglican tradition is expressed doctrinally, ecumenically (chiefly through organisations such as the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission), ecclesiologically (through its episcopal governance and maintenance of the historic episcopate), and in liturgy and piety. Anglo-Catholics (and some Broad Church Anglicans) maintain credence in the Seven Sacraments, practice Marian devotion, recite the rosary and the angelus, practice Eucharistic adoration, and seek the intercession of saints. In terms of liturgy, Anglo-Catholic (and some Broad Church) Anglicans use candles, incense, and sanctus bells in the Eucharist, which is often referred to by the Latin-derived word "Mass," and celebrate it facing the altar and tabernacle using a priest, deacon, and subdeacon. Most Anglicans believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, albeit mostly in a consubstantiationist sense.

The growth of Anglo-Catholicism is strongly associated with the Oxford Movement of the nineteenth century. Two of its leading lights, John Henry Newman and Henry Edward Manning, both priests, ended up joining the Roman Catholic Church, becoming cardinals. Others, like John Keble, Edward Bouverie Pusey, and Charles Gore became influential figures in the Anglican Church. The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is a patron of the Anglican organisation, Affirming Catholicism, a liberal Catholic movement within Anglicanism. Conservative Catholic groups also exist within the tradition, such as Forward in Faith.

There are parallel groups among other Protestant churches. For example, High Church Lutheranism, developed a movement known as Neo-Lutheranism, and there is a Scoto-Catholic grouping within the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Such groups point to their churches' continuing adherence to the 'Catholic' doctrine of the early Church Councils. The Articles Declaratory of the Constitution of the Church of Scotland of 1921 define that church legally as 'part of the Holy Catholic or Universal Church'. However, the Roman Catholic Church does not accept that these other churches are Catholic as it views communion with the Pope as being an indispensable part of what it means to be Catholic and a Church.

Distinctive beliefs and practices


Catholic Churches share certain essential distinctive beliefs and practices (though some Anglicans and Lutherans differ in regard to emphasis and particular pieties):

  • Direct and continuous organizational descent from the original church founded by Jesus Mt 16:18).
    • 18: "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." It is common belief that Jesus was telling Peter that he would build the New Heaven as mentioned in Revelations which God calls his church. Therefore it reads in the common tongue "I tell you Peter, I will build my Church here."
  • Possession of the "threefold ordained ministry" of Bishops, Priests and Deacons.
  • All ministers are ordained by, and subject to, Bishops, who pass down sacramental authority by the "laying-on of hands", having themselves been ordained in a direct line of succession from the Apostles (see Apostolic Succession).
  • Belief that the Church is the vessel and deposit of the fullness of the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles from which the Scriptures were formed. This teaching is preserved in both written Scripture and in unwritten Tradition, neither being independent of the other.
  • A belief in the necessity of sacraments.
  • The use of sacred images, candles, vestments and music, and often incense and water, in worship.
  • Belief that the Eucharist is really, truly, and objectively the Body and Blood of Christ, through the Real Presence. Those that are quite distinctively Catholic believe that adoration and worship is due to the Eucharist, as the body and blood of Christ.
  • Veneration of Mary, the mother of Jesus as the Blessed Virgin Mary or Theotokos, and veneration of the saints.
  • A distinction between adoration (latria) for God, and veneration (dulia) for saints. The term hyperdulia is used for a special veneration accorded to the Virgin Mary among the saints. Some do not accept the distinction between hyperdulia and dulia.
  • The use of prayer for the dead.
  • Requests to the departed saints for intercessory prayers.

Sacraments or Sacred Mysteries

Catholics administer seven sacraments or "sacred mysteries", traditionally listed in the following order (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1210):

In Catholicism, a sacrament is considered to be an efficacious visible sign of God's invisible grace. While the word mystery is used not only of these rites, but also with other meanings with reference to revelations of and about God and to God's mystical interaction with creation, the word sacrament (Latin: a solemn pledge), the usual term in the West, refers specifically to these rites.

Baptism is the first sacrament of Christian initiation, the basis for all the other sacraments. Catholics consider baptism conferred in most Christian denominations "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (cf. Matthew 28:19) to be valid, since the effect is produced through the sacrament, independently of the faith of the minister, though not of the minister's intention. As stated in the Nicene Creed, Baptism is "for the remission of sins", not only personal sins, but also of original sin, which it remits even in infants who have committed no actual sins. Expressed positively, remission of sins means bestowal of the sanctifying grace by which the baptized person shares the life of God. The initiate "puts on Christ" (Galatians 3:27), and is "buried with him in baptism ... also raised with him through faith in the working of God" (Colossians 2:12).

Confirmation or Chrismation is the second sacrament of Christian initiation. Through it, the gift of the Holy Spirit conferred in baptism is "strengthened and deepened" (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1303) by a sealing. Some theologies consider this to be the outward sign of the inner "Baptism of the Holy Spirit," the special gifts (or charismata) of which may remain latent or become manifest over time according to God's will. Its "originating" minister is a validly consecrated bishop; if a priest (a "presbyter") confers the sacrament - as is done ordinarily in Eastern, Anglican, and Lutheran Churches and in particular cases in the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church - the link with the higher order is indicated by the use of chrism (also called myrrh) blessed by a bishop (in an Eastern Orthodox Church, by the patriarch). In the East, and among Anglicans and Lutherans, the sacrament is administered immediately after baptism. In the West, administration came to be postponed until the recipient's early adulthood; but in view of the earlier age at which children are now admitted to reception of the Eucharist, it is more and more restored in the Roman Catholic Church to the traditional order and administered before giving the third sacrament of Christian initiation. In the Lutheran and Anglican traditions, "Confirmation" has come to be seen as a mature expression of faith, graced by the laying-on of a bishop's hands, and separated as a rite from the actual conferring of the chrismation.

The Eucharist is the sacrament (the third of Christian initiation) by which, according to Catholic doctrine, Catholics receive their ultimate "daily bread," or "bread for the journey," by partaking of and in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and being participants in Christ's one eternal sacrifice. The bread and wine used in the rite are, according to Catholic faith, in the mystical action of the Holy Spirit, transformed to be objectively Christ's Body and Blood, his Real Presence. This transformation is suggested through the concept of transubstantiation or metousiosis.

The Reconciliation of a Penitent (or, simply, Reconciliation), Penance and Confession are names given to the first of the two sacraments of healing. It is also called the sacrament of conversion, of forgiveness, and of absolution (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1423-1424).[13] It is the sacrament of spiritual healing of a baptized person from the distancing from God involved in actual sins committed. It involves four elements: the penitent's contrition for sin (without which the rite does not have its effect), confession to a priest (it may be spiritually helpful to confess to another and doing such is actually encouraged within the Church, but only a priest has the power to administer absolution), absolution by the priest, and satisfaction (signs of repentance that help the penitent's growth). In early Christian centuries, the fourth element was quite onerous and generally preceded absolution, but now it usually involves a simple task (in some traditions called a "penance") for the penitent to perform, to make some reparation and as a medicinal means of strengthening against further sinning.

Anointing of the Sick (or Unction) is the second sacrament of healing. In it those who are suffering a serious illness are anointed by a priest with oil blessed specifically for that purpose. "Seriously sick" does not necessarily mean "in immediate danger of death". In past centuries, when such a restrictive interpretation was customary, the sacrament came to be known as "Extreme Unction", i.e. "Final Anointing", as it still is among traditionalist Catholics. It was then conferred only as one of the "Last Rites". The other "Last Rites" are Confession (if the dying person is physically unable to confess, at least absolution, conditional on the existence of contrition, is given), and the Eucharist, which, when administered to the dying, is known as "Viaticum", a word whose original meaning in Latin was "provision for a journey". Since the advent of the AIDS crisis, the conferring of Anointing of the Sick has become customary at Communion-time in many urban Anglican and Lutheran parishes.

The Sacrament of Holy Orders is that which integrates men into the Holy Orders of bishops, priests (presbyters), and deacons, the threefold order of "administrators of the mysteries of God" (1 Corinthians 4:1), giving the person the mission to teach, sanctify, and govern, the three functions referred to in Latin as the "tria munera". Only a bishop may administer this sacrament, as only a bishop holds the fullness of the Apostolic Ministry. Ordination as a bishop makes one a member of the body that has succeeded to that of the Apostles. Ordination as a priest configures a person to Christ the Head of the Church and the one essential Priest, empowering that person, as the bishops' assistant and vicar, to preside at the celebration of divine worship, and in particular to confect the sacrament of the Eucharist, acting "in persona Christi" (in the person of Christ). Ordination as a deacon configures the person to Christ the Servant of All, placing the deacon at the service of the Church, especially in the fields of the ministry of the Word, service in divine worship, pastoral guidance and charity. Married men may be ordained, but ordained men may not marry. Typically, some married men are ordained to no more than the diaconate in the West, but to the diaconate and priesthood in the East. Bishops East and West must be celibate. The alleged ancient tradition of ordained women deacons is not now found in Catholicism.

Marriage (or Holy Matrimony) joins a man and a woman for mutual help and love (the unitive purpose), consecrating them for their particular mission of building up the Church and the world, and providing grace for accomplishing that mission. In Roman Catholic theology, the primary purpose of marriage is seen as the bearing and raising of children (the procreative purpose), and marriage may only be between one man and one woman. Western tradition sees the sacrament as conferred by the canonically expressed mutual consent of the partners in marriage; Eastern and some recent Western theologies not in communion with the see of Rome view the blessing by a priest as constituting the sacramental action.




Additional reading

  • Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam by Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Basic Books, 0465006345, 2006).
  • Catechism of the Catholic Church — English translation (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2000). ISBN 1-57455-110-8 [14]
  • H. W. Crocker III, Triumph — The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church: A 2,000-Year History (Prima Publishing, 2001). ISBN 0-7615-2924-1
  • Eamon Duffy, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (Yale Nota Bene, 2002). ISBN 0-300-09165-6
  • K. O. Johnson, Why Do Catholics Do That? (Ballantine, 1994). ISBN 0-345-39726-6
  • Ludwig von Pastor, History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages; Drawn from the Secret Archives of the Vatican and other original sources, 40 vols. St. Louis, B.Herder 1898
  • Basic Catechism — Seventh Revised Edition (Pauline Books & Media, 1999). ISBN 0-8198-0623-4
  • Peter Lynch, The Church's Story: A History of Pastoral Care and Vision (Pauline Books & Media, 2005). ISBN 0-8198-1575-6

See also

External links

Original Source

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