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Catholic Church

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Populations of Roman Catholics

The Catholic Church (Latin: Ecclesia Catholica), also known as the Roman Catholic Church (Latin: Ecclesia Catholica Romana), is the largest branch of the Christian religion. It maintains that it is both organizationally and doctrinally the original Christian Church, founded by Jesus Christ upon the Apostles, among whom Simon Peter held the position of chief apostle, and claims an unbroken Apostolic Succession with grace transferred through the laying on of hands. It is both the largest and the oldest continuously operating institution in existence.

History

The Catholic Church, the largest single Christian body, is composed of those Christians who acknowledge the supreme authority of the bishop of Rome, the pope, in matters of faith. The word catholic comes from the Greek adjective καθολικός, katholikos which means “universal” and has been used to designate the church since its earliest period, when it was the only Christian church.

The Catholic Church regards itself as the only legitimate inheritor, by an unbroken succession of bishops descending from Saint Peter to the present time, of the commission and powers conferred by Jesus Christ on the twelve apostles. The church has had a profound influence on the development of European culture and on the introduction of European values into other civilizations.

The early Christian church became organized under five patriarchs, the bishops of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople and Rome. While Rome could claim an authority descending from St. Peter, Constantinople had become the residence of the Emperor and the Senate. The fact that the bishop of Rome did not recognize the supremacy of the emperor in ecclesiastical matters, led to the split in 1054 which divided the Church into the Roman Catholic Church in the West and the Eastern Orthodox Church in the East (Greece, Russia and much of the Slavic lands, Anatolia, Syria, Egypt, etc.); this is called the Great Schism (Conversely, most Eastern Orthodox believe the split arose because the other patriarchs failed to recognize the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome in ecclesiastical matters, particularly regarding the addition of the filioque clause to the Nicene Creed). The next major split of the Catholic Church occurred in the 1500s in the Protestant Reformation, where many of the Protestant (protesting) denominations began.

Traditional Catholicism

Crucifixion by Berlinghieri Berlinghiero. c. 1220

A traditionalist Catholic is a Roman Catholic who believes that there should be a restoration of the liturgical forms, public and private devotions, and presentation of Catholic teachings that prevailed in the Catholic Church before the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).

Sedevacantism

Sedevacantists are traditionalist Catholics who regard the post-Vatican II "Church" as actually a counterfeit "Catholic" sect with new teachings, new practices and a New Mass – which all contradict the Catholic Faith of all times and the teaching of the Catholic popes in history. Vatican II was a council which took place from 1962-1965; this council started a revolution against the Catholic Faith and gave birth to this new counterfeit "Catholic" sect.

Sedevacantists also believe that John XXIII (r. 1958-1963), Paul VI (r. 1963–1978), John Paul I (r. 1978), John Paul II (r. 1978–2005), Benedict XVI (r. 2005-2013) and Francis (r. 2013- ) have been neither true Catholics nor true popes. They hold that the Catholic Church is currently in a state of sede vacante ("vacant seat"), just as when a true pope dies, and has now been reduced to a remnant in a situation similar to the Arian crisis of the 4th Century.

Being that traditionalist Catholics and Sedevacantists adhere to the traditional Catholic Faith which was taught prior to Second Vatican Council, they generally also hold the Biblical and traditional view of a literal Six Day Creation.

Eastern Catholic Churches

Main Article: Eastern Catholic Churches

The Eastern Catholic Churches are autonomous (sui iuris) particular Churches that are in full communion with the Catholic Church and the Bishop of Rome—the Pope. They are described by Canon 27 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches as: "A group of Christian faithful linked in accordance with the law by a hierarchy and expressly or tacitly recognized by the supreme authority of the Church as autonomous is in this Code called an autonomous Church." Traditionally these Churches were located in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and India but are now found throughout the world.

These Churches have also been known as Eastern Rites which refers to the liturgical rites used by many of these ancient Eastern Christian Churches that, while being part of the Catholic Church, are distinct from the Latin Rite or Western Church.

Beliefs and Practices

Beliefs

Catholic Churches share certain essential distinctive beliefs and practices:

"And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven."Matthew 16:18-19 (DRA)

  • Belief that the elements in the Eucharist become really, truly, the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ at consecration, resulting in the Real Presence of Christ.
  • 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 (John 13:20 (DRA)).
  • 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 and efficacy of sacraments.
  • The use of sacred images, candles, vestments and music, and often incense and water, in worship.
  • Veneration of Mary, the mother of Jesus as the Blessed Virgin Mary or Theotokos, and veneration of the saints (Catholics do not worship Mary, as is often claimed by anti-Catholics).
  • The use of prayer for the dead (2 Maccabees 12:43-46 (Douay-Rheims)).
  • Requests to the departed saints for intercessory prayers (1 Timothy 2:1-4 (DRA), Revelation 5:8 (DRA)).

Sacraments

The Catholic Church administers seven sacraments or "divine mysteries" traditionally listed in the following order:

Demographics

Its total membership in the late 1990s was about 1 billion (about 52% of the total number of affiliated Christians, or 16% of the world population). The church has its greatest numerical strength in Europe and Latin America but also has a large membership in other parts of the world.

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