The Roman Catholic Church is headed by the Pope (Supreme Pontiff), the Bishop of Rome, currently Pope Benedict XVI. It is the largest Christian denomination in the world, with more than 1.3 billion officially Baptized adherents (In the United States more than 64 million.) The Roman Catholic Church is the oldest institution in the western world. The Roman Catholic faith teaches that the Pope is the successor of St. Peter, the 'rock' (Mat 16:18) upon whom Jesus built his church. The term Catholic Church is, literally, the Universal Church of Jesus Christ (from the Greek katholikos, "universal").
"The chief teachings of the Catholic church are: God’s objective existence; God’s interest in individual human beings, who can enter into relations with God (through prayer); the Trinity; the divinity of Jesus; 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; and the divine commission of the church. In addition the Roman 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."  The presence of Christ is believed to be present in the Eucharist, the bread and wine is Jesus himself. Another essential belief is the veneration of Mary, the mother of Jesus as the Blessed Virgin Mary and veneration of the saints.
The principal sources for the essential beliefs of the Catholic Church are the Sacred Scriptures (the Bible), Sacred Tradition, and Living Magisterium of the Church.
The term Catholic is frequently applied to the Roman Catholic Church. Although many Protestants object to Roman Catholics monopolizing the term, because the defined meaning of Catholic is "universal" and comes from the Greek word Katholikos.The Eastern Orthodox Church also refer to themselves as, "one holy, Catholic, and apostolic church..." Conversely, many Roman Catholics dislike the adjective "Roman" because it implies, contrary to (Roman) Catholic doctrine, that their church is not the universal Church of Christ.
The original Christian community was founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ and led by the Apostles. St. Paul the Apostle was, together with Saint Peter, the most notable of Early Christian missionaries. After an initial period of persecution, Christianity was legalized in the fourth century by Constantine I. In 380, Emperor Theodosius I accepted Catholic Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. During the Middle Ages the Church underwent a time of missionary activity and expansion. This Catholic Christian Church underwent in 1054 a great schism that divided the Church into a Western (Latin) branch, which has been called as the Catholic Church and an Eastern branch, which has become known as the Orthodox Church. The second schism was the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. As a reaction to the increasing popularity of Protestantism the Roman Catholic Church began to undertake some reforms. Firstly from 1869–1870 during the First Vatican Council. It was during the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) that the most comprehensive reforms were undertaken. The Roman Catholic Church stretched relations with other Christian communities and other religions. The Roman Catholic Church also issued directions for a revision of the liturgy.
The term "The Catholic Church" refers to any one of several Rites, but in the United States is often used synonymously for the largest Rite, the Latin Rite. Other Rites include the Byzantine, Alexandrian, Syriac, Armenian, Maronite, and Chaldean Rites. Some Eastern rites have significant differences in liturgy, history, discipline and hierarchy from the Roman Catholic Church, but still recognize the primacy of the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) and are in communion with Rome. These Eastern Rite churches are Catholic and do not belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Despite important differences in doctrine, the Roman Catholic Church recognizes the Orthodox Church's Holy Orders (priesthood) as valid; however, the Orthodox generally follow a theory of ordination for place and purpose -- so the notion of being ordained outside the Orthodox Church is meaningless, and no theory of validity is held to.
The Roman Catholic Church historically regarded Protestant Christianity as heretical, that is, being against Roman doctrine. However, this changed in the 1960's when Pope John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council, where the doors of the Church were opened wide, and Protestants referred to as "our separated brethren". Protestants were neither impressed nor taken in by this apparent openness, noting that much of what had caused the Protestant Reformation had not changed within the Roman Catholic Church.
The Anglican Church (Episcopalian in the United States) occupies an odd situation, because it encompasses within it factions ("Low Church") that emphasize its Protestant aspects and factions ("High Church") that emphasize its Catholic aspects. Anglo-Catholics regard the Anglican church as part of the Catholic Church, and in the unbroken line of the Apostolic Succession. The Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern branches take a position that could be described as saying that the Anglican Church is almost but not quite Catholic. There have long been unification overtures, and Anglican priests who wish to adopt Catholic Holy Orders are often provided with an abbreviated path to that goal.
The Nicene Creed, the great historical statement of Christian belief, contains the line "I [or we] believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic church". The Apostles' Creed contains a similar affirmation. However, Protestants and Catholics place different interpretations on the term "universal", or "catholic". Protestants believe that it refers to the general, over-arching spiritual unity of all Christian believers, Jew or gentile, which transcends individual churches and denominations. Catholics, on the other hand, believe that the Roman Catholic Church, as the single true church founded by Christ, is the universal Catholic Church in which there is neither Jew nor gentile. Some prefer not to refer to their own church as the "Roman" Catholic Church, on the grounds that such formulations implicitly deny this point of doctrine.
Saint Paul's Writings
St. Paul is the second most prolific contributor to the New Testament. Thirteen letters are attributed to him and fully known as the "Catholic (or Universal) Epistles of Paul". The letters are written in Greek. The epistles contain the basis of Christian doctrine, interpretation and commentary from earlier scriptures. They are full of expositions of what Christians should believe and how they should live.
St. Paul reminded the Christians how they should live. They should think about the things in heaven (Colossians 3:2), because they belong with Christ (Colossians 3:3-4). They should not do evil deeds (Colossians 3:5-11). Instead, they should love other people (Colossians 3:12-14). And they should serve God (Colossians 3:15-17). If we invite Jesus into our lives, we will become friends of God (Colossians 1:15-23).
St. Paul's influence on Christian thinking has been more significant than any other single New Testament author.
St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan from 374 to 397, was one of the most illustrious Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and fitly chosen, together with St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Athanasius, to uphold the venerable Chair of the Prince of the Apostles in the tribune of St. Peter's at Rome. 
There has been much controversy in recent years about Catholic priests in relation to the abuse of children in their care. Cases of inappropiate sexual contact have been discovered in many churches across the world with many of the instances of abuse resulting in little or no repercussion for the priests involved. In some cases, bishops were aware of the abuse but did not effectively deal with it, allowing the abusive priest to continue to remain in contact with minors. Although words like pedophile were often used in the press, in truth 90% of the cases involved priests making overtures towards teenage boys, and not pedophilia. It was a case of breaking vows and homosexuality..
On July 15 2007 in Los Angeles, the Catholic church paid a $660 million dollar settlement over a priest abuse scandal. More than five hundred lawsuits dating back to the 1930's were filed in Los Angeles from abuse victims of over two hundred priests and lay people. The U.S. Catholic church has paid out more than $2 billion in abuse claims dating back to 1950.
Incidents of abuse are not unique to the Catholic Church. A recent article from Associated Press (June 19, 2007) reported that three companies which insure the majority of Protestant churches in America indicated that they receive 260 reports annually of young people being sexually abused by clergy, church staff etc. showing that the issue of inappropriate relations is not limited to the Catholic religion. There is a general consensus that this type of abuse is not a problem relegated to any church in particular, but a systemic societal issue.