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Catholic theology

Study of the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church

Top 10 Catholic theology related articles

Catholic theology is the understanding of Catholic doctrine or teachings, and results from the studies of theologians. It is based on canonical scripture, and sacred tradition, as interpreted authoritatively by the magisterium of the Catholic Church.[1][2] This article serves as an introduction to various topics in Catholic theology, with links to where fuller coverage is found.

Major teachings of the Catholic Church discussed in the early councils of the church are summarized in various creeds, especially the Nicene (Nicene-Constantinopolitan) Creed and the Apostles' Creed. Since the 16th century the Church has produced catechisms which summarize its teachings, most recently in 1992.[3][4]

The Catholic Church understands the living tradition of the Church to contain the essentials of its doctrine on faith and morals and to be protected from error, at times through infallibly defined teaching.[5] The Church believes in revelation guided by the Holy Spirit through sacred scripture, developed in sacred tradition and entirely rooted in the original deposit of faith. This developed deposit of faith is protected by the "magisterium" or College of Bishops at ecumenical councils overseen by the pope,[6] beginning with the Council of Jerusalem (c. AD 50).[7] The most recent was the Second Vatican Council (1962 to 1965); twice in history the pope defined a dogma after consultation with all the bishops without calling a council.

Formal Catholic worship is ordered by means of the liturgy, which is regulated by Church authority. The celebration of the Eucharist, one of seven sacraments, is the center of Catholic worship. The Church exercises control over additional forms of personal prayer and devotion including the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, and Eucharistic adoration, declaring they should all somehow derive from the Eucharist and lead back to it.[8] The Church community consists of the ordained clergy (consisting of the episcopate, the priesthood, and the diaconate), the laity, and those like monks and nuns living a consecrated life under their constitutions.

According to the Catechism, Christ instituted seven sacraments and entrusted them to the Church.[9] These are Baptism, Confirmation (Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony.

Catholic theology Intro articles: 185

Profession of Faith

Human capacity for God

The Catholic Church teaches that "The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself."[10] While man may turn away from God, God never stops calling man back to him.[11] Because man is created in the image and likeness of God, man can know with certainty of God's existence from his own human reason.[12] But while "Man's faculties make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God," in order "for man to be able to enter into real intimacy with him, God willed both to reveal himself to man, and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith."[13]

In summary, the Church teaches "Man is by nature and vocation a religious being. Coming from God, going toward God, man lives a fully human life only if he freely lives by his bond with God."[14]

God comes to meet humanity

The Church teaches God revealed himself gradually, beginning in the Old Testament, and completing this revelation by sending his son, Jesus Christ, to Earth as a man. This revelation started with Adam and Eve,[15] and was not broken off by their original sin;[16] rather, God promised to send a redeemer.[17] God further revealed himself through covenants between Noah and Abraham.[18][19] God delivered the law to Moses on Mount Sinai,[20] and spoke through the Old Testament prophets.[21] The fullness of God's revelation was made manifest through the coming of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.[22]


Creeds (from Latin credo meaning "I believe") are concise doctrinal statements or confessions, usually of religious beliefs. They began as baptismal formulas and were later expanded during the Christological controversies of the 4th and 5th centuries to become statements of faith.

The Apostles Creed (Symbolum Apostolorum) was developed between the 2nd and 9th centuries. It is the most popular creed used in worship by Western Christians. Its central doctrines are those of the Trinity and God the Creator. Each of the doctrines found in this creed can be traced to statements current in the apostolic period. The creed was apparently used as a summary of Christian doctrine for baptismal candidates in the churches of Rome.[23]

The Nicene Creed, largely a response to Arianism, was formulated at the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople in 325 and 381 respectively,[24] and ratified as the universal creed of Christendom by the Council of Ephesus in 431.[25] It sets out the main principles of Catholic Christian belief.[26] This creed is recited at Sunday Masses and is the core statement of belief in many other Christian churches as well.[26][27]

The Chalcedonian Creed, developed at the Council of Chalcedon in 451,[28] though not accepted by the Oriental Orthodox Churches,[29] taught Christ "to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably": one divine and one human, and that both natures are perfect but are nevertheless perfectly united into one person.[30]

The Athanasian Creed, received in the Western Church as having the same status as the Nicene and Chalcedonian, says: "We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance."[31]

Catholic theology Profession of Faith articles: 15


Christianity regards the Bible, a collection of canonical books in two parts (the Old Testament and the New Testament), as authoritative. It is believed by Christians to have been written by human authors under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and therefore for many it is held to be the inerrant Word of God.[32][33][34] Protestants believe the Bible contains all revealed truth necessary for salvation. This concept is known as Sola scriptura.[35] The books that are considered canonical vary depending upon the denomination using or defining it. These variations are a reflection of the range of traditions and councils that have convened on the subject. The Bible always includes books of the Jewish scriptures, the Tanakh, and includes additional books and reorganizes them into two parts: the books of the Old Testament primarily sourced from the Tanakh (with some variations), and the 27 books of the New Testament containing books originally written primarily in Greek.[36] The Catholic and Orthodox canons include other books from the Septuagint Greek Jewish canon which Catholics call Deuterocanonical.[37] Protestants consider these books apocryphal. Some versions of the Bible have a separate Apocrypha section for the books not considered canonical by the publisher.[38]

Catholic theology distinguishes two senses of scripture: the literal and the spiritual.[39] The literal sense of understanding scripture is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation.

The spiritual sense has three subdivisions: the allegorical, moral, and anagogical (meaning mystical or spiritual) senses.

Catholic theology adds other rules of interpretation which include:

  • the injunction that all other senses of sacred scripture are based on the literal;[41]
  • the historical character of the four Gospels, and that they faithfully hand on what Jesus taught about salvation;[42]
  • that scripture must be read within the "living Tradition of the whole Church";[43]
  • the task of authentic interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the pope.[44]

Catholic theology Scriptures articles: 18

Celebration of the Christian mystery


There are seven sacraments of the Church, of which the source and summit is the Eucharist.[45] According to the Catechism, the sacraments were instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church.[9] They are vehicles through which God's grace flows into the person who receives them with the proper disposition.[9][46] In order to obtain the proper disposition, people are encouraged, and in some cases required, to undergo sufficient preparation before being permitted to receive certain sacraments.[47] And in receiving the sacraments, the Catechism advises: "To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition."[48] Participation in the sacraments, offered to them through the Church, is a way Catholics obtain grace, forgiveness of sins and formally ask for the Holy Spirit.[9][49][50][51][52] These sacraments are: Baptism, Confirmation (Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance and Reconciliation, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.

In the Eastern Catholic Churches, these are often called the holy mysteries rather than the sacraments.[53]


Pope Benedict XVI celebrates the Eucharist at the canonization of Frei Galvão in São Paulo, Brazil on 11 May 2007

Sunday is a holy day of obligation, and Catholics are required to attend Mass. At Mass, Catholics believe that they respond to Jesus' command at the Last Supper to "do this in remembrance of me."[54] In 1570 at the Council of Trent, Pope Pius V codified a standard book for the celebration of Mass for the Roman Rite.[55][56] Everything in this decree pertained to the priest celebrant and his action at the altar.[56] The participation of the people was devotional rather than liturgical.[56] The Mass text was in Latin, as this was the universal language of the Church.[55] This liturgy was called the Tridentine Mass and endured universally until the Second Vatican Council approved the Mass of Paul VI, also known as the New Order of the Mass (Latin: Novus Ordo Missae), which may be celebrated either in the vernacular or in Latin.[56]

The Catholic Mass is separated into two parts. The first part is called Liturgy of the Word; readings from the Old and New Testaments are read prior to the gospel reading and the priest's homily. The second part is called Liturgy of the Eucharist, in which the actual sacrament of the Eucharist is celebrated.[57] Catholics regard the Eucharist as "the source and summit of the Christian life",[45] and believe that the bread and wine brought to the altar are changed, or transubstantiated, through the power of the Holy Spirit into the true body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ.[58] Since his sacrifice on the Cross and that of the Eucharist "are one single sacrifice",[59] the church does not purport to re-sacrifice Jesus in the Mass, but rather to re-present (i.e., make present)[60] his sacrifice "in an unbloody manner".[59]

Eastern Catholic

In the Eastern Catholic Churches, the term Divine Liturgy is used in place of Mass, and various Eastern rites are used in place of the Roman Rite. These rites have remained more constant than has the Roman Rite, going back to early church times. Eastern Catholic and Orthodox liturgies are generally quite similar.

The liturgical action is seen as transcending time and uniting the participants with those already in the heavenly kingdom. Elements in the liturgy are meant to symbolize eternal realities; they go back to early Christian traditions which evolved from the Jewish-Christian traditions of the early church.

The first part of the Liturgy, or "Liturgy of the Catechumens", has scripture readings and at times a homily. The second part derives from the Last Supper as celebrated by the early Christians. The belief is that by partaking of the Communion bread and wine, the Body and Blood of Christ, they together become the body of Christ on earth, the church.[61]

Liturgical calendar

In the Latin Church, the annual calendar begins with Advent, a time of hope-filled preparation for both the celebration of Jesus' birth and his Second Coming at the end of time. Readings from "Ordinary Time" follow the Christmas Season, but are interrupted by the celebration of Easter in Spring, preceded by 40 days of Lenten preparation and followed by 50 days of Easter celebration.

The Easter (or Paschal) Triduum splits the Easter vigil of the early church into three days of celebration, of Jesusthe Lord's Supper, of Good Friday (Jesus' passion and death on the cross), and of Jesus' resurrection. The season of Eastertide follows the Triduum and climaxes on Pentecost, recalling the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus' disciples in the upper room.[62]

Catholic theology Celebration of the Christian mystery articles: 38