The Catholic Church
"I most firmly assent that the image of the Christ, of the Mother of God, ever Virgin, and also of other saints ought to be had and retained, and that due honor and veneration are to be given them."
Image Worship
The Creed of Pope Pius IV
Infant Baptism
The practice of baptizing (or sprinkling) babies. The oldest group to practice infant baptism is the Roman Catholic Church, who teaches that all sins are forgiven by baptism.

Catholic doctrine teaches that while Christ is in Heaven, the Pope is the appointed head of the church on earth.
Papacy and Priesthood
1. Baptismal Regeneration
2. Celibate Priesthood
3. Confession
4. Denial of Eternal Security
5. Image Worship
6. Immaculate Conception
7. Infant Baptism
8. Mary Worship
9. Mass
10. Multiple Authorities
11. Papacy and Priesthood
12. Purgatory
13. Salvation through Works
14. True Church Theory
Catholics Basic Beliefs
50 Catholic Converts: Notable Churchgoers of the Last Century
Some of the Current
Catholic lawmakers
What Catholics Believe straight from a Bishop

Whether you grew up Catholic and no longer attend a Catholic church, or you’ve never known much about the Catholic faith, you may have questions about what Catholics believe. No worries! Here’s some basic information that will help you understand our Church.
What are the core beliefs of the Catholic faith?

The core beliefs of the Catholic faith are found in the Nicene Creed. Here’s what it says:

    I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.
    I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.
    I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified who has spoken through the prophets.
    I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Who started the Catholic Church?

We are the original Christian Church, which began when Jesus himself when he said to the Apostle Peter, “You are the rock on which I will build my church. The gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Every pope since then has been part of an unbroken line of succession since Peter, the first pope.
What do Catholics believe about the Bible?

Catholics believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. From the beginning of Christianity, the Catholic Church defined the canon of Scripture – the books you find in every Christian Bible – and defined what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Through the centuries, it’s the Catholic Church that preserved the Bible, as well as many other written works, through its monasteries and libraries.
What does the Church mean by “sacred tradition”?

In the early Church, the Gospel was preached by those who had known Christ, or who had known his Apostles. The Apostles handed on their preaching and writing to all generations through bishops, who continue to preach the truth revealed in the Gospel. This living transmission of the Word of God is called tradition, which is distinct from Scripture, but closely tied to it. Tradition infuses the entire life of the Church, and along with Scripture, comprises the deposit of the Word of God.
What happens at a Catholic Mass?

Early in the history of the Church, there was the belief that when Jesus said at the Last Supper, “Take this and eat – this is my body; take this and drink – this is my blood,” he was giving us the gift of his real presence in the form of bread and wine. We call this the Eucharist – a name that comes from the Greek word for thanksgiving. The Catholic Mass is a Eucharistic celebration and a celebration of God’s word in Scriptures.
Why do Catholics tell their sins to a priest?

The sacrament of reconciliation (also called penance or confession) was created by Jesus himself when he said, "‘As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’" (John 20:21–23). The idea of confessing our sins to another person is also in the Bible. In James 5:18, the Apostle tells us, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” The sacrament of reconciliation is known in the Church as a sacrament of healing.
What do Catholics believe about Mary?

Mary is honored as first among the saints because she is the mother of God and the mother of the Church. We believe Mary was conceived without sin (meaning, she didn’t have the stain of original sin), and that God preserved her from sin so that she could be a perfect vessel to bring his son into the world. Being human, however, she still had free will, which means she had the power to say “yes” or “no” to God when his messenger, the angel, came to her. The fact that she willingly said “yes” is an example for us of love and submission to the will of God. As with the saints, we ask Mary to pray for us to her son and to the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Why do Catholics pray to saints?

We believe that holy men and women who have come before us still pray for us and aid us. We call them saints, and many of our churches are named for them. When we pray to saints, we ask for their intercession (the same way you’d ask your family or friends to pray for you), so that God hears not only our prayers, but also the saints’ prayers on our behalf.
Do Catholics pray to statues?

No. We pray to God. Along with the words of Scripture, images can illuminate the Gospel message and inspire us with the memory of saints. We believe God is present in beauty – and so we have commissioned and preserved some of the world’s greatest artworks. Without the sponsorship of the Church, Michelangelo would never have painted his famous Sistine Chapel nor carved the Pietà.
What is the Catechism of the Catholic Church?

The word “catechism” comes from the Greek word, catechesis, or oral teaching. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a compendium of the essential teachings of the Catholic faith. It’s available online for free.
How does someone come back to the Catholic Church?

There’s a saying, “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.” If you were baptized into the Catholic Church, or if you received any of the sacraments when you were younger, you’re still a Catholic, even if you don’t go to Mass or pray anymore. In short, the Catholic Church will always be your spiritual home, and you’re welcome home any time. How? Just show up. Visit a parish, talk to the pastor or one of the priests or to a parishioner and let them know you’re there. We want to welcome you home and help you renew a relationship with Jesus Christ that will be the source of your happiness now and for all eternity!
III. Blessings of Couples in Irregular Situations and of Couples of the Same Sex

31. Within the horizon outlined here appears the possibility of blessings for couples in irregular situations and for couples of the same sex, the form of which should not be fixed ritually by ecclesial authorities to avoid producing confusion with the blessing proper to the Sacrament of Marriage. In such cases, a blessing may be imparted that not only has an ascending value but also involves the invocation of a blessing that descends from God upon those who—recognizing themselves to be destitute and in need of his help—do not claim a legitimation of their own status, but who beg that all that is true, good, and humanly valid in their lives and their relationships be enriched, healed, and elevated by the presence of the Holy Spirit. These forms of blessing express a supplication that God may grant those aids that come from the impulses of his Spirit—what classical theology calls “actual grace”—so that human relationships may mature and grow in fidelity to the Gospel, that they may be freed from their imperfections and frailties, and that they may express themselves in the ever-increasing dimension of the divine love.

32. Indeed, the grace of God works in the lives of those who do not claim to be righteous but who acknowledge themselves humbly as sinners, like everyone else. This grace can orient everything according to the mysterious and unpredictable designs of God. Therefore, with its untiring wisdom and motherly care, the Church welcomes all who approach God with humble hearts, accompanying them with those spiritual aids that enable everyone to understand and realize God’s will fully in their existence.[22]

33. This is a blessing that, although not included in any liturgical rite,[23] unites intercessory prayer with the invocation of God’s help by those who humbly turn to him. God never turns away anyone who approaches him! Ultimately, a blessing offers people a means to increase their trust in God. The request for a blessing, thus, expresses and nurtures openness to the transcendence, mercy, and closeness to God in a thousand concrete circumstances of life, which is no small thing in the world in which we live. It is a seed of the Holy Spirit that must be nurtured, not hindered.

34. The Church’s liturgy itself invites us to adopt this trusting attitude, even in the midst of our sins, lack of merits, weaknesses, and confusions, as witnessed by this beautiful Collect from the Roman Missal: “Almighty ever-living God, who in the abundance of your kindness surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you, pour out your mercy upon us to pardon what conscience dreads and to give what prayer does not dare to ask” (Collect for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time). How often, through a pastor’s simple blessing, which does not claim to sanction or legitimize anything, can people experience the nearness of the Father, beyond all “merits” and “desires”?

35. Therefore, the pastoral sensibility of ordained ministers should also be formed to perform blessings spontaneously that are not found in the Book of Blessings.

36. In this sense, it is essential to grasp the Holy Father’s concern that these non-ritualized blessings never cease being simple gestures that provide an effective means of increasing trust in God on the part of the people who ask for them, careful that they should not become a liturgical or semi-liturgical act, similar to a sacrament. Indeed, such a ritualization would constitute a serious impoverishment because it would subject a gesture of great value in popular piety to excessive control, depriving ministers of freedom and spontaneity in their pastoral accompaniment of people’s lives.

37. In this regard, there come to mind the following words of the Holy Father, already quoted in part: “Decisions that may be part of pastoral prudence in certain circumstances should not necessarily become a norm. That is to say, it is not appropriate for a Diocese, a Bishops’ Conference, or any other ecclesial structure to constantly and officially establish procedures or rituals for all kinds of matters […]. Canon Law should not and cannot cover everything, nor should the Episcopal Conferences claim to do so with their various documents and protocols, since the life of the Church flows through many channels besides the normative ones.”[24] Thus Pope Francis recalled that “what is part of a practical discernment in particular circumstances cannot be elevated to the level of a rule” because this “would lead to an intolerable casuistry.”[25]

38. For this reason, one should neither provide for nor promote a ritual for the blessings of couples in an irregular situation. At the same time, one should not prevent or prohibit the Church’s closeness to people in every situation in which they might seek God’s help through a simple blessing. In a brief prayer preceding this spontaneous blessing, the ordained minister could ask that the individuals have peace, health, a spirit of patience, dialogue, and mutual assistance—but also God’s light and strength to be able to fulfill his will completely.

39. In any case, precisely to avoid any form of confusion or scandal, when the prayer of blessing is requested by a couple in an irregular situation, even though it is expressed outside the rites prescribed by the liturgical books, this blessing should never be imparted in concurrence with the ceremonies of a civil union, and not even in connection with them. Nor can it be performed with any clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding. The same applies when the blessing is requested by a same-sex couple.

40. Such a blessing may instead find its place in other contexts, such as a visit to a shrine, a meeting with a priest, a prayer recited in a group, or during a pilgrimage. Indeed, through these blessings that are given not through the ritual forms proper to the liturgy but as an expression of the Church’s maternal heart—similar to those that emanate from the core of popular piety—there is no intention to legitimize anything, but rather to open one’s life to God, to ask for his help to live better, and also to invoke the Holy Spirit so that the values of the Gospel may be lived with greater faithfulness.

41. What has been said in this Declaration regarding the blessings of same-sex couples is sufficient to guide the prudent and fatherly discernment of ordained ministers in this regard. Thus, beyond the guidance provided above, no further responses should be expected about possible ways to regulate details or practicalities regarding blessings of this type.[26]

IV. The Church is the Sacrament of God’s Infinite Love

42. The Church continues to lift up those prayers and supplications that Christ himself—with loud cries and tears—offered in his earthly life (cf. Heb. 5:7), and which enjoy a special efficacy for this reason. In this way, “not only by charity, example, and works of penance, but also by prayer does the ecclesial community exercise a true maternal function in bringing souls to Christ.”[27]

43. The Church is thus the sacrament of God’s infinite love. Therefore, even when a person’s relationship with God is clouded by sin, he can always ask for a blessing, stretching out his hand to God, as Peter did in the storm when he cried out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” (Mt. 14:30). Indeed, desiring and receiving a blessing can be the possible good in some situations. Pope Francis reminds us that “a small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties.”[28] In this way, “what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ, who died and rose from the dead.”[29]

44. Any blessing will be an opportunity for a renewed proclamation of the kerygma, an invitation to draw ever closer to the love of Christ. As Pope Benedict XVI taught, “Like Mary, the Church is the mediator of God’s blessing for the world: she receives it in receiving Jesus and she transmits it in bearing Jesus. He is the mercy and the peace that the world, of itself, cannot give, and which it needs always, at least as much as bread.”[30]

45. Taking the above points into account and following the authoritative teaching of Pope Francis, this Dicastery finally wishes to recall that “the root of Christian meekness” is “the ability to feel blessed and the ability to bless [...]. This world needs blessings, and we can give blessings and receive blessings. The Father loves us, and the only thing that remains for us is the joy of blessing him, and the joy of thanking him, and of learning from him […] to bless.”[31] In this way, every brother and every sister will be able to feel that, in the Church, they are always pilgrims, always beggars, always loved, and, despite everything, always blessed.

Víctor Manuel Card. FERNÁNDEZ


Mons. Armando MATTEO

Secretary for the Doctrinal Section