Catholicism which is markedly different from Pentecostal Christianity has been bedevilled with a lot of accusations over the years with millions of people harbouring misconceptions about the religion.
Here are five of the most believed misconceptions about Catholicism:
Misconception: Catholics worship Mary and are, therefore, committing idolatry
In Catholic theology there are three types of worship – one of which is condemned in the Bible if offered to anyone but God:
1) Latria – this is adoration which is given to God alone – giving this type of worship to anyone else is considered to be a mortal sin and it is the idolatry condemned in the Bible.
2) Hyperdulia – this is a special type of worship given to Mary the Mother of Jesus – it is only given to her and it is not considered to be idolatry as it is not adoration, merely reverence.
3) Dulia – this is the special type of worship given only to the saints and angels – it is also not idolatrous as it, too, is a form of reverence.
The distinction was made by the 2nd Council of Nicaea in 787 AD. The council was called to condemn the people who claimed that it was idolatrous to have statues and images of saints. The canons of the Council can be read here.
A Catholic who may kneel in front of a statue while praying isn’t worshipping the statue or even praying to it, any more than the Protestant who kneels with a Bible in his hands when praying is worshipping the Bible or praying to it.
The images of saints (whether it be in statue form or painting) serves as a reminder of the holiness of the person depicted.
Misconception: Catholics aren’t Christians
In fact, Catholics are the first Christians. When reading over the early Christian writings, you can see clearly that their doctrines and teachings are the same as the Catholic Church today.
You hear of Bishops, virgins living in a community (nuns), priests, confession, the baptism of infants, the Bishop of Rome as head of the Christian religion, and reverence for the saints.
Here are some comments by the early Church fathers who were, in many cases, the apostles of the Biblical apostles:
The Papacy: “[From] Ignatius . . . to the church also which holds the presidency, in the location of the country of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of blessing, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and, because you hold the presidency in love, named after Christ and named after the Father” (St Ignatius, Letter to the Romans 1:1 [A.D. 110]).
Holy Communion: “This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us.
“For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God’s Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.” — St. Justin Martyr, “First Apology”, A.D. 148-155.
From these quotes, it is obvious that the practices of the modern Catholic Church are the closest to the practices of the apostles and early Christians.
It should also be said that the majority of historians accept that the Catholic Church was the first Christian Church as it is verifiable from ancient texts.
Misconception: Indulgences let you pay to have your sins forgiven
First of all, we need to understand what an indulgence is. The Catholic Church teaches that when a person sins, they get two punishments: eternal (hell) and temporal (punishment on earth while alive, or in purgatory after death).
To remove the eternal punishment of hell, a person must confess their sins and be forgiven. But the temporal punishment remains. To remove the temporal punishment a person can receive an indulgence.
This is a special “blessing” in which the temporal punishment is removed if a person performs a special activity such as doing good deeds or reading certain prayers
Misconception: Catholic Priests can’t get married
In order to clear this one up, we need to first understand the nature of the Catholic Church.
Within the universal Church, there are sections (also called churches but not in the sense that they are separate) – the most common one is, of course, the Roman (or Latin) Catholic Church. Then there is the Eastern Catholic Church (not to be confused with the Orthodox which is a different religion).
Both of these churches fall under the jurisdiction of the Pope and all believe the same doctrines. There are a lot of differences between the two groups but these are all in matters of the style of worship and certain rules.
In the Eastern Church, priests are allowed to be married – but a married priest can’t become a Bishop. It also happens that occasionally in the Latin Church, pastors who convert from other religions such as the Church of England are allowed to become priests even though they are married, so married priests can be found in all parts of the Roman Catholic Church.
Misconception: The Church added books to the Bible
The Catholic version of the Old Testament differs from the Protestant version in that the Catholic edition contains seven more books than Protestant Bibles.
These “extra” books are the reason that many people consider the Church to have added to the Bible, but in fact these books were considered the official canon (list of books) by all Christians until the Protestant Reformation during which Martin Luther (leader of the revolution) removed them.
Interestingly some of these books contain affirmations of Catholic doctrines which Luther rejected. The reason that the Catholic Church uses the Greek edition is that the apostles used it exclusively in their preaching.
Luther decided to use the Jewish Masoretic canon (circa 700 – 1000 AD) instead of the Apostolic canon. The seven books he removed were: Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, and Baruch.
While initially wanting to remove at least one book (The Epistle of James, because it contradicts Luther’s teaching that faith alone is needed for salvation [James Chapter 2]) from the New Testament, Luther ultimately decided to keep the Catholic New Testament in full.
Interestingly, Hanukah is mentioned only in 1 and 2 Maccabees, which is not included in either the Jewish or Protestant versions of the Old Testament.