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Roman Catholic Church


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The Catholic Church, Catholicism or the Roman Apostolic Catholic Church is the largest denomination of Christianity headquartered in the Vatican City in Rome, claims Apostolic succession and also that there is "No Salvation Outside the Church".[1][2][3] The Catholic Church teaches the Messiahship and Divinity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and professes worship of the God of Abraham, of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Catholic Church has a single leader or head, the Pope, the Bishop of Rome. The current Pope is Francis. Present day governance of the Church is divided hierarchically into dioceses, each overseen by a diocesan bishop, who in turn oversees diocesan priests and deacons on the level of the individual parish.

The word "catholic" means "universal" and refers to the non-Jewish church or gentile church that emerged in the first century. Its use as a name for the Church comes from Nicene-Constantinople Creed of 381, which defines the church as, "one, holy, catholic and apostolic." In the Christological controversy of the fourth century, Catholics opposed the heresy of Arianism.

The Catholic Church has always been pro-life and its leadership is mostly conservative, as illustrated by how it "launched a crackdown on the umbrella group that represents most of America's 55,000 Catholic nuns" for "a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith." The Church noted that "the group was not speaking out strongly enough against" abortion.[4]

Members believe that theirs is the oldest Christian denomination in the world. It is certainly the largest, with more than 1.3 billion officially baptized adherents, or 17.4% of the world's population; over 64 million of these are in the United States. In recent years growth has been greatest in Africa and Latin America, while membership and influence have declined in Europe.

The Roman Apostolic Catholic Church asserts that the Pope is the divinely-chosen successor of St. Peter, believing him to be the 'rock' (Matthew 16:18) upon whom Jesus built his Church. The Catholic Church consists of those Christians who are in full communion with the Pope. This includes members both of the Latin Church and of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches. The Eastern Catholic Churches were once known as the "Uniate" Churches; though once used with pride at remaining in union with Rome after the East-West Schism, this term has fallen out of use due to derogatory connotations that have come to be associated with it over the centuries.

The Catholic gentile church has suffered several schisms over its history. Most notable are those involving the Church of the East following the First Ephesian Council, the Oriental Orthodox churches following the Council of Chalcedon, the Eastern Orthodox Church following the Great Schism of 1054, and the several Reformations of the 16th century leading to the development of Protestantism.

The Protestants made the most radical break. Two of the principal issues raised by Protestants were sola scriptura, the doctrine that the Bible alone is the final authority for Christians (which is also a denial of the infallibility of Sacred Tradition, the Pope, and the infallibility of ecumenical Church councils as being preserved and guided by God the Holy Spirit in ignorance of Colossians 2:8) and sola fide, the doctrine popularized by Martin Luther that faith alone, as opposed to the need for both faith and good works together, is sufficient for salvation (as is written in Ephesians 2:8-9).

Catholics in the world.


The Pope and the international leadership of the Church are based in Vatican City, a sovereign elective monarchy and an enclave of Rome established by the 1929 Lateran Treaty.

The Catholic Church has a complex hierarchy of clergy, including (in descending order of rank):

The key roles are played by the Pope and the bishops, and the question of whether secular governments should play a major role in ecclesiastical appointments has been a major issue for centuries. The Investiture Controversy in the Holy Roman Empire was over this question, as was the dispute between Gallicanism and ultramontanism in France.

Roman Catholic Church Rites (branches)

The Catholic Church has many Rites (branches) [5] The Latin Rite is directly under the Pope. The others recognize the Pope as their shepherd but are administered by either a Patriarch, a Major Archbishop, a Metropolitan, or have some other arrangement. Patriarchs are elected by a synod of bishops of their Rite, and then request ecclesiastical communion from the Pope. Major Archbishops are also elected by a synod of bishops of their Rite, but then are approved by the Pope before they take office. Metropolitans are picked by the Pope from a list given by a synod of bishops. These Rites choose their own bishops. Each has its own cannon law and choose it own bishops; many rites have married catholic priests. These Rites may have their own dioceses in North America and South America. Most people only know of the Latin Rite dioceses. Below is a list of the Rites

  • Latin Rite is directly under the Pope and has more than 90 percent of Roman Catholics.
  • Armenia Rite in Armenia.
  • Maronite Rite in Lebanon.
  • Chaldean Rite in Iran and Iraq.
  • Syriac Rite based in Syria.
  • Malankarese Rite in India.
  • Malabar Rite in India.

Some of the leaders of the Rites below reside in the same nation as the leader of an Orthodox Church that became separate churches due to the Great Schism in 1054.

  • Byzantine Rite 2nd largest Rite. The churches using the Byzantine liturgy include the Albanian, Belarussian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Greek, Hungarian, Italo-Albanian, Melkite, Romanian, Russian, Ruthenian, Slovak, and Ukrainian.
  • Alexandria Rite in Alexandria Egypt.
  • Ge'ez Rite based in Ethiopia.


Pope John Paul II reigned 1978-2005

The chief teachings of the Catholic church are set out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in order to foster and promote the Profession of the Faith (first part), the Celebration of the Christian Mystery (second part), the Life in Christ (third part), and Christian Prayer (fourth part). They are:

  • God's objective existence.
  • God's interest in individual human beings, who can enter into relations with God through direct and intercessory prayer and through the intercession of a priest ordained by Holy Orders.
  • The Holy Trinity and divinity of the person of Jesus Christ.
  • The immortality of the soul of each human being, each one being accountable at death for his or her actions in life, with the award of Heaven or Hell.
  • The resurrection of the dead.
  • The historicity of the Gospels.
  • The divine commission of the Church and infallibility of revealed scriptural interpretation.
The Church teaches the doctrine of the Social Reign of Jesus Christ.[6][7][8]

The Catholic Church stresses that since the members, living and dead, share in each other's merits, the Virgin Mary and other saints and the dead in Purgatory are never forgotten,[9] may be addressed in prayer, and intercede with God on the behalf of the living. The very physical and spiritual body and blood of Christ are believed to be present in the Eucharist, the bread and wine being Jesus himself, replacing the material of bread and wine. The principal sources for the essential beliefs of the Catholic Church are the Sacred Scriptures (the Bible), Sacred Tradition, and the Living Magisterium of the Church.

The term "Catholic" is frequently used as an adjective meaning, "pertaining to the Catholic Church." Protestants sometimes take exception to this use, as the defined meaning of "catholic" (the adjective) is "universal" (from the Greek καθολικός, or katholikos, meaning "universal"). The Anglican Communion and other Protestants also speak of themselves as part of the "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church."[10] The Orthodox Church understands herself to be the one universal Catholic Church and rejects the claims of Rome.

The Catholic Church teaches respect for all human life. It opposes the practices of contraception, abortion,[11] euthanasia and (in most cases) capital punishment.[12] The Church is in favor of social justice and "the common good."[13] Some Catholics take this idea further, espousing a "consistent life ethic," under which all killing of humans is said to be unlawful. This position should logically entail pacifism, although the Catholic Church is not opposed to war under all circumstances in the manner of some "peace" churches. (See just war.)

The Catholic Church allows evolutionist research, but not any denial that God was the creator of all things. The only Evolutionism that Catholics are allowed to believe in is Theistic Evolution.

The Church recognizes Jesus Christ as King over all aspects of human life, both personal and societal and talks about his Social Reign doctrine.

St. Thomas Aquinas: "To be subject to the Roman Pontiff is necessary for salvation."

St. Augustine: "No man can find salvation save in the Catholic Church. Outside the Catholic Church he can find everything except salvation. He can have dignities, he can have the Sacraments, can sing ‘Alleluia’, answer ‘Amen’, accept the Gospels, have faith in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and preach it, too, but never except in the Catholic Church can he find salvation."

St. Peter Canisius: "Outside of this communion— as outside of the Ark of Noah—there is absolutely no salvation for mortals: not to Jews or Pagans who never received the faith of the Church; not to heretics who, having received it, forsook or corrupted it; not to schismatics who left the peace and unity of the Church; finally, neither to excommunicates who for any other serious cause deserved to be put away and separated from the body of the Church like pernicious members... For the rule of Cyprian and Augustine is certain: he will not have God for his Father who would not have the Church for his Mother."[3]


Early Church

Christ Giving the Key to St. Peter. (Matthew 16:18-20)

The original Christian community was founded by Jesus Christ and led by the Apostles. The Catholic Church considers itself to be the sole and uninterrupted continuation of the first-century Church founded during Pentecost on the year 33. St. Paul the Apostle was the most prolific contributor to the New Testament and the most notable of the Early Christian missionaries. Christians were subjected to persecution, first under Nero in A.D. 64 and again, more severely, under the emperors Domitian, Marcus Aurelius, Decius, and Diocletian, in the second and third centuries.

After almost 300 years of persecution against the Church failed to stop the growth of Christianity, the Emperor Constantine I had a religious experience and, by the Edict of Milan issued in the early fourth century, legalized Christianity. Going to war with the co-Emperor of the east Lucinius over his continued persecution of Christians, Constantine won and became sole Emperor. The age of persecution was over, until the inquisitions. Some view Catholicism as a pagan "Christianity" started by Constantine, a topic better covered in the essay Reasons the Catholic Church is Unbiblical.


Barbarians converted

Until the early fourth century AD Christianity enjoyed a mixed reception in the Roman Empire, and Christians were frequently subject to persecution. After its legalization, the Christian Church became increasingly powerful in the Roman Empire, although Arianism remained strong. In 380 AD, Theodosius I established the Church as the official religion of the Roman Empire and proscribed the former pagan practices. There was a brief pagan revival in the West under the usurper Eugenius, but that was brought to an end with his death. While the Empire continued to decline, Christianity continued to grow both among those directly under the Empire and among the barbarians, until the time that Rome was sacked by Alaric in 410. Alaric was an Arian Christian.

After the collapse of the Western Empire, the Catholic Church became the most powerful political and religious force in Latin-speaking Europe, and by the 8th century it had achieved near total religious dominance.

Aggressive missionary activities accomplished the conversion of most of the pagan tribes in Europe by the year 1000 AD. The last pagan country in Europe to be converted was Lithuania, in 1387.

Great Schism

Numerous disputes between the eastern and western churches became more pronounced from the ninth century onwards. The Church experienced the Great Schism in 1054 that divided it into a Western (Latin) branch, which has been called the Catholic Church, and an Eastern branch, which has become known as the Eastern Orthodox Church. Both traced their roots to the time of Jesus, but the Eastern Orthodox Church rejected the claims of the Pope to universal jurisdiction.

The Schism's causes were not purely religious. Cultural and geographic elements also played a role. Later attempts at reconciliation occurred, such as at the Council of Basel, but the two churches remain separate to this day.

Late Middle Ages

The Crusades, a series of religious wars instigated by the Church against the Muslims and other groups in the Holy Land, began in 1092 and continued until the end of the 13th century. Despite the focus on regaining the Holy Land from Muslim control, the Crusaders also massacred Jews and sacked the Christian city of Constantinople.

During this time period, the Inquisitions started and would continue through the time of the Protestant Reformation and beyond. The medieval inquisition focused on rooting out Cathars, while the later inquisitions, such as the Spanish Inquisition, focused on people who were believed to be secretly practicing Judaism or Islam following the legally mandated conversion to Christianity of all Jews and Muslims remaining in Spain.

Reformation and Counter-Reformation

In 1517, Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation with a public protest against the sale of indulgences. It grew into a movement that covered a wider variety of issues. Eventually, Protestants rejected the notions of saintly intercession, the authority of the Pope, and any sacraments other than Baptism and Communion. This movement eventually led to a Catholic revival (the "Counter-Reformation") and a series of religious wars in Europe. The Protestant-Catholic split became one of the dominant themes in European and American events until recent times.

The Lepanto Battle was won by the Christian alliance against the Turks by praying the Rosary, having the intersetion of the Virgin Mary.[14]

Evangelization of the New Discovered lands by Spain

See also: History of Spain#Hispanic Catholic Monarchy
Artist's rendition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, based on the venerated image. The original image was made by God himself by allowing the Virgin Mary's apparition.[15][16]

The Spanish Empire converted into Catholicism the indigenous people of the Americas and the Philippines, having the miracle of the Virgin of Guadalupe that helped to convert millions in the New Spain Viceroyalty (Mexico nowadays).

The Catholic Monarchs asked the Salamanca University if the people of the New World were worthy of being evangelized, the answer was yes and this they were considered humans with a soul, like the Europeans. The Encomienda system was put in place, being reformed with the Burgos Laws against slavery.[17] Queen Isabel the Catholic prohibited slavery on June 20, 1500,[18] following the Catholic doctrine and the advice of the Salamanca University.[19][20]

Thanks to the Spanish Conquistadors, human sacrifices made by the Aztecs, Mayas and other groups ceased, having as allies other indigenous groups that were victims of the demonic system. Hernán Cortés liberated those groups with the help of them.

The Holy Inquisition was not applied to natives.

While the Church lost many souls in Europe, many more were gained in the Americas and the Philippines.

1815 to 1914


The Madonna of the Rosary by Miguel Cabrera.

After 1800 the Papacy became the center of conservatism in Europe in reaction against the radicalism of the French Revolution. Pius VII (1800–23) was stripped of powers by Napoleon but made a striking comeback after Napoleon's fall in 1815. His unusually able Secretary of State Cardinal Consalvi won the restoration to the Pope of most of the territories in Italy which Napoleon had seized. He reinvigorated numerous monastic orders and helped create new societies for men and women, especially those engaged in teaching and missionary work. Most important was the restoration of the Jesuits in 1814. They grew more numerous and even more influential in the 19th century.

The Papacy recognized that throughout Europe millions of peasants and poor folk were devoted to the saints and traditions of the Church; the Popes responded energetically by promoting various Marian devotions (such as the Holy Rosary) (Luke 1:48; Luke 1:28: Luke 18:1). Rome had fallen into disrepair, and Pius VII began the restoration of the city's artistic glories, an enterprise that continues in the 21st century.[21]

Ultramontane vs Gallican

The "ultramontane" tendency in the Church centralized more power and authority in the Papacy. It was opposed by the "Gallican" tendency, especially in France, to give national churches more control over their affairs. The ultramontine forces generally won out, especially with the promulgation of Papal Infallibility at the First Vatican Council in 1870. The ultramontane forces cited the old doctrines of Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) and Francisco de Suárez (1548-1617) to bolster the papal claim to absolute power in spiritual matters.

Gallicanism in France was damaged by the rise of ultramontanism in the 1850s and the devotional revolution that shifted piety to devotions sponsored by Rome. Gallicanism was officially suppressed by the First Vatican Council in 1870, which established the paramount authority of the Pope as a matter of dogma. However informal manifestations of Gallicanism continue in some countries, especially China. In Canada, the Irish clergy fought for ultramontanism against the French clergy, who were Gallican. The Irish won out with the support of the Vatican.

Facing Modernity

Nineteenth century urbanization brought millions of peasants from the villages to industrial cities where church facilities were few. The Church escaped irrelevance by using the same means as emerging nation-states: promoting a homogeneous culture aided especially by universal use of Latin; authorizing new rites and folk devotions, especially those focused on Mary and other favored saints; promoting pilgrimages to holy sites; encouraging clergy to endorse and lead regional nationalist movements that focused on historic languages and cultures; creating many new teaching orders and schools; supporting intellectuals and publishing houses; cultivating an image of theological, canonical, and moral superiority; and establishing more administrative and doctrinal centralization (in Rome). Of special importance was the missionary activity, based especially in Germany, that was in competition with Protestant missions in China, India, Africa and other non-Christian lands. The Jesuits proved highly adept at promoting the Papal cause.

The resurgence of Papal leadership caused internal dissent among some Catholic intellectuals, such as the historian Lord Acton in Britain and the theologian Ignaz von Döllinger in Germany, who opposed the declaration of the dogma of papal infallibility. This caused further schisms, with breakaway groups centering on the Archbishop of Utrecht to form the Old Catholic Church.

Syllabus of Errors

The Syllabus of Errors of Pope Pius IX in 1864 rejected the liberal doctrines of the modern world.[22] It denounced pantheism, naturalism, nationalism, indifferentism, socialism, communism, freemasonry, theological rationalism, separation of church and state, and removal of public schools from Church control. The Pope claimed for the Catholic Church total control over science and culture. Liberals viewed this as a declaration of war by the Church on modern civilization. Opponents stressed the Papacy had become intolerant and medieval and largely political in nature.[23]

Facing Liberalism

In Germany in the 1840s the ultramontane movement used mass meetings and pilgrimages to combat the growth of liberalism and modernism. However, the anti-clerical press attacked these mass meetings, and in response a large number of Catholic newspapers emerged in Germany starting in the 1840s. To ensure their own survival, these newspapers championed a liberal idea--press freedom. In addition, local clubs were established to mobilize the Catholic working class. These clubs tried to end discrimination against ordinary Catholics by advocating other liberal concepts—freedom of religion and freedom of thought—and by entering the electoral process.

With the unification of Germany in 1870, the new nation faced the problems of consolidation, one of which was secularization. The laws dealing with secularization opened a political battle between Chancellor Bismarck and the Catholics, which struggle is called the "Kulturkampf." The Catholics organized their own political parties and protected their interests by voting as a bloc into the 1930s, when the Nazis closed down all other parties.


Freemasonry is a secret society that was, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, politically active in numerous countries. The Catholic Church opposed Freemasonry and forbade its members to belong to Masonic lodges. The Catholic Church first condemned Freemasonry in 1738. This was partially because Masons were often aligned with popular uprisings that had the objective of replacing traditional monarchs and class privilege with national independence and voting rights. A large number of the signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence had been Freemasons, for example. Some, though not all, of the French Revolution's leaders were Masons, although Robespierre was not a Mason. The Masonic role in the French Revolution was part of the reason the Catholic Church condemned Freemasonry.

The Papacy coordinated attacks against Masonry in countries such as Brazil, where the religious question in the 1870s centered on Masonry and the struggle between regalist and ultramontane forces. One method of Catholic action was to found Catholic universities. Ignace Bourget, second bishop of Montreal, Canada, founded Laval University, saying that the university would be the principal instrument for "wresting the elite from the clutches of liberalism." At the time, political Liberalism was closely associated with national liberation and democracy.


A spiritual revolution took place in the 19th century, moving individuals to a renewed interest in personal piety. There was a new emphasis on the role of Mary and a greatly increased involvement of women in the life of the Church. The number of sisters and nuns increased from 20,000 to 400,000 between 1815 and 1914.

Camp (1990) traced the treatment of women by the Church. In the late 19th century, the papacy began to revise its public teachings about the proper role of women in the Church and society. From Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) to Pope John Paul II (1978-2005), papal social pronouncements revealed an evolution in attitudes from the view that women are passive subordinates to men in all spheres of life to the current teaching that lay and clerical women are equal but complementary partners with men in religious, political, economic, and social endeavors. Nevertheless, the papacy has remained firm in the conviction that ordination is for men only.


Cerro de los Ángeles, Madrid, Spain.

The arts provided a refuge from modernity in the form of a nostalgic aesthetic. Church architecture saw the revival of the medieval Gothic style. Romantic literature, for example by Chateaubriand, helped inspire a Catholic revival. In music, Catholic churchgoers were likely to be exposed to an officially sponsored revival of a cappella singing in the manner of Palestrina. The rapid development of symphonic and operatic forms affected sacred music, resulting in many masses, requiems, and te deums for large orchestra and chorus, sometimes even composed by skeptics such as Berlioz and Verdi.


In politics, as democracy and popular government spread, religious motivations moved people into one party or the other. In Catholic countries such as France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, sharp confrontations emerged between clericals and anti-clericals; in countries with mixed Catholic and Protestant populations such as Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Britain and the U.S., political splits occurred along confessional lines. In the U.S. the great majority of the Catholics became Democrats. In Germany the Catholics formed their own Center party to fight off attacks from the Protestants, as during the Kulturkampf.

The British attempt to impose Protestantism on Ireland not only fueled the Catholic revival there but also contributed to its spread via emigration to the U.S. and Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and England itself, all of which increased the Catholic population. The Irish often took control of the Church in each of these countries. The Poles, having lost their nation state in the 1790s, turned to an intense religiosity that preserved national identity and which they carried with them to industrial centers in the U.S. and Germany. In the U.S., some Poles, frustrated with the Irish control of the Church, founded the Polish National Catholic Church.

20th century

Marian Apparitions in Fátima, 1917

Main article: Fatima

On Sunday, May 13, 1917, the children were tending their sheep in another patch of land called the Cova da Iria. Seeing what they thought was a flash of lightning, they started to return home when they noticed a Lady, radiantly dressed in white, hovering over a small holmoak tree. She told them not to be afraid, that she was from Heaven and wanted them to come to the Cova da Iria for six months in succession on the 13th day. She asked the children to pray the Rosary every day, in order to obtain peace for the world and an end to the first world war, which was taking place at the time.[24]


On July 13, 1917, Our Lady told the children: "Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times especially whenever you make a sacrifice: O Jesus, it is for the love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary."[25] As she spoke those last words, she opened her hands and pointed to an opening in the ground. The children saw a vision of hell where demons and souls in human form, burned like embers and shrieked with pain and despair. Our Lady told them: "You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world, devotion to my Immaculate Heart."[26]"To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays.[27] If my request are heeded, Russia will be converted and there will be peace.[28] If not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.[29] When you pray the Rosary, say after each mystery: O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need."[30]

The children faced much ridicule from their parents, the townspeople and even faced arrest and intimidation from the local authorities. However, increasing numbers of people did believe and accompanied them on their journeys to the Cova da Iria when they received the apparitions. Our Lady promised the children that on the 13th of October, she would perform a miracle for those who did not believe.

Francisco died on April 4, 1919 from bronchial influenza[31] and Jacinta died February 20, 1920 following complications from pleurisy.[32] Lucia became a nun and continued to receive apparitions from Our Lady and Jesus. She lived to be 97 and passed away on February 13, 2005 at the Carmelite Convent in Coimbra, Portugal.[33]

Today, Fátima is one of the world's most visited Marian sites. The site of the apparitions of Our Lady in the Cova da Iria is now called the Capelinha. During the evenings, the Rosary is said by visiting pilgrims from all over the world and a candlelight procession in the esplanade follows.

The third secret of Our Lady of Fátima is a mistery and there are many speculations.

Miracle in the Field

On October 13, 1917, a crowd of thousands gathered with Lucia, Francisco and Lucia in the rainy field. Our Lady told the children that she wanted a chapel to be built on the site in her honor; she called herself the Lady of the Rosary. She asked them to continue to pray the Rosary every day. "The war is going to end," she told them, "and the soldiers will soon return to their homes.'[34] Our Lady departed from the children and Lucia told the crowd to look at the sun. The people gathered in the Cova da Iria saw the sun turn into a huge silver disk. It spun like a wheel of fire, then rotated, casting hues of color onto the crowd below. Then, the sun fell from its orbit toward the earth, causing many people to make acts of contrition, thinking it was the end of the world. The sun though retracted and left the rain-soaked crowd dry and many of those who had arrived with infirmities, cured.[35] O Seculo, a free-thinking newspaper would report, "...the sun has trembled...unprecedented and outside of all cosmic laws - the sun has danced..."[36]

Vatican II

Pope John XXIII reigned 1958-63

The "Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican" (termed Vatican II), was called by Pope John XXIII and was in session from 1962 to 1965. It dramatically modernized and transformed church policies, with major changes to official theology and liturgy. Liturgical changes included the introduction of Mass in local languages instead of Latin. Theologically, the council deemphasized the centrality of Mary while also adding a new emphasis on individual and personal holiness. These were ideas previously associated with Protestantism and had, in some cases, been features in the opposition to the Catholic Church since the time of the Protestant Reformation. The Council asserted the Church's support for freedom of religion, declared that the Jews were not guilty of deicide, and recognized the possibility of salvation for Jews, Muslims, and Protestants.

After Vatican II, 1962–65, the controversy among Catholics over papal authority and infallibility largely ended, though some significant degree of opposition to it remains,[37][38][39] This dissent is mainly manifested in disagreement with Catholic teaching on birth control and abortion.[40] For example, 56% of U.S. Catholics said that the Pope is not infallible "when he teaches on matters of morals, such as birth control and abortion"; 80% of Catholics believed it is possible to disagree with the Pope on official positions on morality and still be a good Catholic.[41]

Reactions among Catholics to Vatican II fall into three camps. "Liberal" Catholics, drawing on the established Catholic belief in the "journeying" nature of the Church, see Vatican II and the new period that it marked in Catholic history as representing a significant advancement in man's understanding of the Gospels, which in turn justifies changes in Catholic belief and practice. "Conservative" Catholics (including the most recent Popes) hold that the decrees of the council, properly understood, are wholly in line with the historic Catholic faith, and that they should not be used as an excuse for unwarranted innovations. "Traditional" (or "traditionalist") Catholics regard the teachings of Vatican II as problematic, or even as heretical. Some of these Catholics reject the modernism of Vatican II and attend Traditional Latin Mass where is celebrated. The largest of the congregation that maintains tradition and celebrates Tridentine Masses is the Society of St. Pius X but there are other ones as well as the Christ the King Institute or the Society of St. Peter.

21st Century

Current issues facing the Catholic Church include:

  • The effects of Obamacare and other liberal legislation on Catholic hospitals (such as funding for abortion)
  • The aftermath of a series of sexual abuse scandals by priests and other clergymen. In the early 2000s, it was found that bishops were privately settling cases of molestation of minors by priests, occurring primarily between the 1940s and 1980s. The attempted cover-up of this abuse by the church has caused many Catholics to become disillusioned with the church.
  • Increasing atheism and secularism in Europe

Islam has become a significant a threat to Catholicism as well. Sharia Law's rejection of religious freedom and the ongoing genocide of Chaldean Rite Catholics in Iraq are among these threats. There is a very strong trend of Muslim immigration into Europe, which is subverting the judicial system towards a Sharia theocracy. This trend is fueled through assassinations and threats towards anti-Islamic politicians (such as Theo Van Gogh and Geert Wilders). While Christianity remains the world's largest religion, all denominations of Islam combined now outnumber Catholicism (the most popular Christian denomination).

The Church has taken stances on recent controversial issues, including opposing the Iraq War,[42] supporting universal health care (including many aspects of Obamacare),[43] and supporting assistance to illegal immigrants.[44] Some high-ranking officials of the Catholic Church have falsely attacked conservative evangelical Christians and Catholics in the United States for holding conservative views and supposedly supporting a "theocratic state."[45][46] The Church continues to oppose birth control and abortion, as discussed above.

See also

External links

Virgin Mary and Child

Further reading

  • Bokenkotter, Thomas. A Concise History of the Catholic Church (2005) excerpt and text search
  • Brown, Peter. The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity 200-1000 AD (2002), 640pp
  • Chadwick, Owen. A History of the Popes, 1830-1914. (1998), 616pp; a standard recent history. online edition,
  • Holland, Joe. Modern Catholic Social Teaching: The Popes Confront the Industrial Age 1740-1958. Paulist Press, 2003. 404 pp.
  • Kung, Hans. The Catholic Church: A Short History (2003), by a leading Catholic scholar excerpt and text search
  • Latourette, Kenneth Scott. Christianity in a Revolutionary Age: A History of Christianity in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries 5 Vol (1958), a detailed history of Christianity 1800-1950 by a Protestant scholar. vol 1 online edition
  • O'Toole, James M. The Faithful: A History of Catholics in America (2008) excerpt and text search


  • New Catholic 'Encyclopedia (1967), complete coverage of all topics by Catholic scholars
  • Catholic Encyclopedia, (1913) online edition complete coverage by Catholic scholars; the articles were written about 100 years ago
  • Coppa, Frank J., ed. Great Popes through History: An Encyclopedia. (2002). 600 pp.
  • Kelly, J.N.D. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (1988). 349pp; scholarly short biographies; online edition


  1. Jim Blackburn (May 1, 2010). What “No Salvation Outside the Church” Means. Catholic Answers. “One of the most misunderstood teachings of the Catholic Church is this one: "Outside the Church there is no salvation" (Extra ecclesiam nulla salus). Those trying to grasp the meaning of this teaching often struggle with its formulations by various Church Fathers and Church Councils down through history. Of course, to understand an isolated formulation of any Church teaching, one must study the historical context within which it was written: why it was written, what was going on in the Church at the time, who the intended audience was, and so on. One must discover how the magisterium (teaching office) of the Church understands its own teaching. If someone fails to do this and chooses, rather, to simply treat a particular formulation as a stand-alone teaching, he runs the risk of seriously misunderstanding it.”
  2. Mundabor (April 15, 2012). Archbishop Lefebvre on “Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus”. “The Church is the one ark of salvation, and we must not be afraid to affirm it. You have often heard it said, “Outside the Church there is no salvation”–a dictum which offends contemporary minds. It is easy to believe that this doctrine is no longer in effect, that it has been dropped. It seems excessively severe. Yet nothing, in fact, has changed; nothing can be changed in this area. Our Lord did not found a number of churches: He founded only One. There is only one Cross by which we can be saved, and that Cross has been given to the Catholic Church. It has not been given to others. To His Church, His mystical bride, Christ has given all graces. No grace in the world, no grace in the history of humanity is distributed except through her.(...) Does that mean that no Protestant, no Muslim, no Buddhist or animist will be saved? No, it would be a second error to think that. Those who cry for intolerance in interpreting St. Cyprian’s formula, “Outside the Church there is no salvation,” also reject the Creed, “I confess one baptism for the remission of sins,” and are insufficiently instructed as to what baptism is. There are three ways of receiving it: the baptism of water; the baptism of blood (that of the martyrs who confessed the faith while still catechumens) and baptism of desire...”
  3. 3.0 3.1 Doctors of The Church On "Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus"
  6. Stefano Fontana. The doctrine of the social reign of Christ - A still valid principle. “This doctrine belongs to the tradition of the Church and, as such, is also valid today and will always be”
  7. POPE PIUS XI (December 11, 1925). QUAS PRIMAS. The Catholic Church.
  8. Luis Cano Medina (2003) (in es). San Pío X y el reinado social de Cristo. Rome: FACULTAD DE TEOLOGIA - PONTIFICIA UNIVERSIDAD DE LA SANTA CRUZ. 
  9. The Columbia Encyclopedia
  11. Paul VI, Humanae Vitae (1968)
  12. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae (1995)
  13. Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate (2009)
  14. Lepanto: la batalla histórica contra los turcos que se ganó rezando el rosario (es). COPE (October 7, 2021).
  15. La Virgen de Guadalupe: ¿Cómo se apareció? ¿Qué hechos ocurrieron? ¿Cómo cambió el mundo? (es). Religión en Libertad (December 11, 2023).
  16. P. Jorge Loring. El misterio de la Virgen de Guadalupe mexicana (es).
  17. Leyes de Burgos, las reales ordenanzas para proteger a los indígenas del Nuevo Mundo (es). Zenda (Decemeber 27, 2023).
  18. 20 de junio de 1500 (es). Academia de Ciencia y Artes Militares.
  19. Desmontando "la falsa leyenda negra" de Isabel La Católica (es). Libertad Digital.
  20. Isabel la Católica, la reina que liberó a los esclavos (es). La Razón (February 28, 2019).
  21. Kelly (1999); Duffy (2006); Latourette (1958) vol 1.
  22. see text at
  23. Latourette (1958) vol 1 ch. 6
  24. Fatima in Lucia's own words (15th edition). Fr. Louis Kondor, SVD, editor. Secretariado Dos Pastorinhos, Fatima, Portugal. pages 174-176.
  25. ibid. page 178.
  26. ibid
  27. Letter from Sister Lucia dos Santos, transcribed by Rev. Fr. José Bernrdo Gonçalves, S.J. June 13, 1929.
  28. Letter from Sister Lucia dos Santos, transcribed by Rev. Fr. José Bernrdo Gonçalves, S.J. June 13, 1929.
  29. Fatima in Lucia's own words (15th edition). Fr. Louis Kondor, SVD, editor. Secretariado Dos Pastorinhos, Fatima, Portugal. pages 179.
  30. ibid
  31. Our Lady Comes to Fatima. page 34. Leaflet Missal Company. 1987.
  32. ibid. page 39.
  34. ibid. page 182.
  35. Our Lady Comes to Fatima. page 31. Leaflet Missal Company. 1987.
  36. O Seculo. October 15, 1917.
  37. such as by historian Garry Wills, author of Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit (Sophia Institute Press, 2003), and liberal theologian Hans Kung, author of Infallible?: An inquiry (1970)
  38. David Carlin, The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America,‎ appendix 2
  39. Raymond Taouk, What are Catholics to think of Vatican II?
  40. John M. Swomley, Infallibility in Ethical Perspective Christian Ethics Today, Issue 014 Volume 4 No 1 February 1996
  41. Time/CNN nationwide poll of 1,000 adults, conducted by Yankelovich Partners, Sept. 27-28, 1995
  42. Richert, Scott P. "What Is the Papacy's Response to the War in Iraq?" Catholicism.
  43. Clarke, Kevin. "Papal prescription for universal health care." January 16, 2011. U.S. Catholic.
  44. Kerwin, Donald. "Immigration Reform and the Catholic Church." May, 2006. Migration Information Source.
  45. Williams, Thomas D. (July 14, 2017). Papal Advisers Bash American Christians in Bigoted Screed. Breitbart News. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  46. Bowden, John (July 15, 2017). Top allies of Pope Francis criticize religious Trump supporters. The Hill. Retrieved July 15, 2017.