6 Most Misunderstood Beliefs and Practices in the Catholic Church

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1. Venerating the Saints is Idolatry.

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Venerating the saints is not idolatry. Catholics are not actually praying to the saints but only honoring them as heroes of the Catholic faith and asking them to intercede for them to Christ. Catholics only worship God and not the saints according to official Church teachings. It’s true that worshiping material things is idolatry and a serious sin against God. But the statues inside the Church are mere symbols and representations of their personhood of the saints as true disciples of Christ, worthy of emulation. They help Catholics to recall their heroic deeds for God. A symbol, such as the statue, only points to the reality. The piece of wood or cement of the statue is not being worshiped by Catholics but only served as a visual aid to remind Catholics to imitate their extraordinary faith in Christ..

2. The Sacred Host in the Mass is only a Symbol.

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For some Protestant Churches which use the sacred host in their public rituals, the consecrated host is only a symbol but not the reality itself. This is not the Catholic Church’s official teaching. For the Church, the consecrated host during the Mass is not just a symbol but the reality itself. Under the Doctrine of Transubstantiation, the ordinary unleavened bread is transformed into the real Body of Christ after the consecration in the Eucharist.

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“Transubstantiation is the process by which the bread and wine of the Eucharist is transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Catholics believe that through transubstantiation, the risen Jesus becomes truly present in the Eucharist. The word transubstantiation is made up of two parts: ‘trans’ and ‘substantiation.’ The first part is a prefix that means ‘across’, ‘beyond’, or ‘through’. It suggests that some kind of change has taken place. The second part of the word, ‘substantiation,’ refers to the philosophical term substance. According to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, substance is a thing’s deepest being, what it is, in and of itself. The substance of a thing is what it really and truly is beyond all appearances” (Troolin). After the consecration of the priest, the substance of the bread and wine is transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.

3. The Personal and Moral Life of the Priest can Affect the Sacredness of the Mass He is Celebrating!

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It is true that persons who are ordained by Catholic bishops as priests remain human beings and sinners. But the sacrament of ordination has transformed them into ministers of Christ and the Church. What they are administering in the Church, such as the Eucharist and the sacraments, are not affected by their personal and immoral life as sinners. These public rituals are done by priests in the name of the Church of Christ and not in their own name and power. As ministers, they are only instruments, the real dispensers of divine grace in the sacraments is Christ Himself. Of course, it is ideal that the priest who administers the sacraments is also a holy person and a worthy human instrument of grace.

4. Direct Confession to God is Better than Confessing to the Priest.

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Direct confession to God is usually done by Protestant and Christian churches. But the Catholic Church only allows direct confession for venial or minor sins. Grave or serious sins must be confessed to the priest in the sacrament of reconciliation. In the Gospels, following his resurrection, Jesus appears to his disciples. After breathing upon them, he said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (Jn 20:22-23; see also Mt 18:18). The sacrament of reconciliation encourages us to go and to try to sin no more. This teaching is found also in Ephesians 4:25-32 and 1 John 1:5-10. By virtue of his ordination, the priest is authorized by the Church to forgive sins in the name of Christ.

5. Unbaptized Babies will go to Limbo!

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“It is clear that the traditional teaching on this topic has concentrated on the theory of limbo, understood as a state which includes the souls of infants who die subject to original sin and without baptism, and who, therefore, neither merit the beatific vision, nor yet are subjected to any punishment, because they are not guilty of any personal sin. This theory, elaborated by theologians beginning in the Middle Ages, never entered into the dogmatic definitions of the Magisterium….” (ITC).

“However, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992), the theory of limbo is not mentioned. Rather, the Catechism teaches that infants who die without baptism are entrusted by the Church to the mercy of God, as is shown in the specific funeral rite for such children. The principle that God desires the salvation of all people gives rise to the hope that there is a path to salvation for infants who die without baptism (cf. CCC, 1261) (Ibid).”.

6. Praying is Asking God’s Favor!

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Prayer is God’s gift. It has different forms. It is not always asking God’s favor. Not all prayers are petition or intercessory prayers. The Universal Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2259) describes the Church’s teaching on prayer as follows:

“Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.”2 But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or “out of the depths” of a humble and contrite heart?3 He who humbles himself will be exalted;4 humility is the foundation of prayer, Only when we humbly acknowledge that “we do not know how to pray as we ought,”5 are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. “Man is a beggar before God.”6

GIF Credits: Giphy.com

References

Troolin, A. (n.d.). Catholic Doctrine of Transubstantiation: Definition & Overview. Retrieved from https://study.com/academy/lesson/catholic-doctrine-of-transubstantiation-definition-lesson-quiz.html.

International Theological Commission (ITC) (n.d.). “The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized”. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20070419_un-baptised-infants_en.html.

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