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As a Catholic, I am called to defend my faith and when I see non-Catholics making false accusations about the Church it really upsets me. I recently saw this in a Facebook post so I wanted to call attention to the errors that I saw.
It is not meant to be argumentative or disrespectful towards your particular religion. It is an explanation of what the common misconceptions are and what we as Catholics actually believe. If you have any questions about anything I’m explaining below, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Misconception: Catholics worship Mary (See my video about this misconception)
We venerate (honor) Mary and all of the saints. We adore (worship) God alone. The Catholic Church forbids any type of worship directed to another being other than God.
To gain a full understanding on the emphasis we place on the Blessed Mother, I recommend reading Why Catholics Honor Mary written by Bishop Mark A. Pivarunas, CMRI
Misconception: So if you don’t worship Mary, why do you pray to her?
This is one of the most commonly misconceived topics of non-Catholics and one that is easily explainable. Before I get into explaining the communion of saints, let’s talk a little grammar. Let’s zone in on the verb “to pray.” We are using this verb in its ancient meaning of “to request” or “to ask.” So when we say “pray to” Mary or “pray to” a saint, we are requesting or asking that they pray WITH US and FOR US. Making a request of another to pray for us on our behalf is not worship. This is a hard notion for a non-Catholic to understand because in their world prayer is reserved for God alone. But, when we Catholics are asking a saint to pray for us, we are praying to God. The prayers are directed to Him and it is He who answers those prayers – not the saints. Protestants and other Christian denominations commonly ask one another to pray for them in a time of need.
Me: Hi mom, can you please pray for me? I’m not feeling well. (<—the request).
Mom: Yes, of course I will. I will pray for you to feel better. (<—intercession).
So what about the communion of saints? What does this have to do with praying to Mary? We believe (with biblical evidence) that those who have died and entered into Heaven with God are more alive than we are here on earth. Therefore, these faithful souls are a continuation of Christ’s Church on earth and are aware of our prayers. Confused? Let’s think about an army for just a minute. Would you go into battle alone? Probably not. We don’t ever go into prayer alone. A lot of times we pray when we are facing those battles on earth. When we lift up our voices in prayer to God, we can be confident to ask those already perfected by God in Heaven to direct our prayers to God. There is a whole army of saints and angels praying alongside of us.This is also intercession just as when my mom interceded for me.
Another common mistake by non-Catholics is that they think we pray to the dead which is considered necromancy and forbidden by God. Taking what I have said above, we know that the saints are not dead, but in fact alive and a part of Christ’s church. Asking a fellow Christian (whether here on earth or in Heaven) is not considered necromancy. We are not seeking to gain insight into the future or make contact with spirits (in a spooky sense). Wouldn’t you want all of the saints and angels in Heaven to hear what you are saying to God? They do, whether you realize or recognize it or not.
Misconception: Catholics go to Mary instead of going directly to God. This is a direct violation of 1 Timothy 2:5. (See my video about this misconception)
We can (and should) go directly to God. But as I mentioned above, asking another to pray for us in no way violates Christ’s mediation. Let’s look at 1st Timothy 2:5. Far too often, non-Catholics focus only on 1 Timothy 2:5:
“There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.”
HOLD IT RIGHT THERE! As with most of the scriptures in the Bible, we cannot and should not take one verse and proclaim it the be-all end-all truth without examining the entire surrounding context. Check out 1 Timothy 2: 1-4:
“I urge then, first of all that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving should be offered for everyone, for kings and others in authority, so that we may be able to live peaceful and quiet lives with all devotion and propriety. To do this is right, and acceptable to God our Savior.”
What does this mean? So we have scriptural proof that asking each other to pray for us (intercession) is right and acceptable to God. We Catholics agree that there is only one mediator between God and men – Christ Jesus – because He is the only one of us who is BOTH God and man. This does not mean that there can’t be other mediators. Christ is the only mediator of redemption, but I can mediate for you and you can mediate for me. So going back to the question: Why do we go to Mary instead of going directly to God? Because we can have confidence that it pleases God when we ask others to join in and pray with us and for us! Asking each other to pray for us is part of Christ’s mediation. All intercessory prayer has Christ at its roots so when we are going “to Mary” we are really going to God. There is a common phrase that speaks this truth: To Jesus through Mary. Not to Mary through Jesus. Protestants commonly object to this simply because they are ignorant of what the Catholic Church teaches versus what their preacher/minister may teach them. Who better to direct our prayers to her Son than His mother? God allows us the benefit of having a host of parties (saints, angels, etc) pray with us. Isn’t that amazing?
Misconception: Catholics believe that good works are necessary to get to Heaven when my Bible says faith alone is enough.
Do you have faith in Jesus Christ? Good. So, what does Jesus call us to do? Feed the hungry? Check. Clothe the naked? Check. Visit and care for the sick? Check. I can say that I am a Christian and believe in God all that I want. What my faith requires of me is to put forth good works that go hand in hand with what I’ve just said. If I’m a Christian – a true Christian, I’m going to have to put some work into my life to do what God has called me to do. God doesn’t want me to sit idle and not go into the world to seek others for Him. Therefore, Catholics believe that faith ALONG WITH good works are necessary for salvation, but do not believe that people are saved by their works. Growing up in the Baptist church I was always taught that just accepting Jesus as my Savior is enough to get me to Heaven. Even murderers accept Jesus and believe in Him. But if they are not carrying out his commandments, what good is their faith? As James 2:17 tells us:
“Faith of itself, if it does not have work, is dead.”
So, Catholics are saying that it is not enough for one to desire to be righteous, but must actively work towards it. None of us will ever say – there, I’m done, God. I’m ready for Heaven. Name me one person that you know that can honestly say that.
Misconception: Catholics baptize babies. My church teaches no person should be baptized unless they are at the proper age to be “born again” and have “accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.”
Peter explains in Acts 2:38-39:
“Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you AND YOUR CHILDREN and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to Him.”
Does Peter say: Don’t baptize babies? Does he impose any type of restriction? Absolutely not. This would be in violation of Jesus’ commandment we see in Matthew:
“Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven”
So if we refused to baptize our children then we are hindering them from going to Jesus. Our Lord did not require infants and children to make a conscious act to accept Jesus. Their mothers brought them to Him. Children are exactly the people He wants to come to Him and receive His kingdom. Who are we to say “no?” If I lived in the time of Christ and took my infant to Jesus, do you think He’d say, “I’m sorry, come back when your child is 8 years old. I can’t baptize him now.” Of course not! Babies can and should receive the Sacrament of Baptism! What a great gift God offers all of us!
Misconception: Purgatory is something that was made up by the Catholic Church. When someone dies, they immediately get judged and go to either Heaven or Hell.
The word “purgatory” itself is not in the Bible. But, neither is “trinity” yet most Protestant churches baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (TRINITY!!). Let’s take a look at what Catholics ACTUALLY believe about Purgatory. So, Purgatory is not a place. People don’t “go”there. Purgatory is a state or condition. The CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church) defines purgatory as a
“purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven,” which is experienced by those “who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified” (CCC 1030).
This cleansing/purification is separate from the punishment of the damned. Those in purgatory ARE going to Heaven! Purgatory is not a “second chance.” I think most non-Catholics view purgatory as God’s punishment. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Purgatory is all about God’s mercy for us! Very few of us can say we are ready to stand before God! But wait, we confess that we believe in God and are Christian. So why aren’t we ready? Because we, by human nature, are sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God. So we need purification before we are ready to enter Heaven. Purgatory’s purpose is to pay off the debts of an individual who has been forgiven for their sins but they have not done sufficient penance on earth. What does this mean? Ok, take this scenario for an example. I’m driving along in my car and at the same time am talking to someone on the phone. We get into a deep argument and I begin using foul language and belittling this person. Five seconds later I get hit head on by a car going the wrong way and I die. So, am I prepared to enter Heaven? What I just did 5 seconds before death violated the commandment to love thy neighbor! I’m unclean, but I am still bound for Heaven – but thanks to God’s mercy, I am able to get purified and cleansed of this sin through purification before I enter Heaven (the Bible says “nothing unclean shall enter Heaven”). None of us, absolutely none of us, can say I’m ready for Heaven because I’m 100% clean. We aren’t. And God knows that we aren’t. That’s why His mercy prepares us in the state of purgatory to be cleaned and enter eternal life.
Misconception: Catholics are not Christians
Let’s rethink this one. Catholics are not only Christians, we were the first Christians. At every Mass, right before we receive communion, we recite the Nicene Creed:
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.
So, we ARE Christians, folks! Anyone who proclaims to put their faith in Jesus Christ is a Christian. Catholics do this and thus are Christians!
Misconception: Catholics worship statues and images
Catholics absolutely do not worship statues or images. We do, however, have these in our churches as a simple reminder of who the saint was. But, these are NOT graven images and we do not bow down and serve them. Misunderstanding as to why we have statues and images in our churches is complete ignorance of what the Bible says about the purpose and use of these. To make a long story short, let’s think about what YOU do in your own house. You put up images of your family, right? – both of those who are still with you as well as those who have since passed on. So, because you have these images in your house you are worshiping them, right? No, doesn’t that sound crazy? That’s exactly how it sounds to us when non-Catholics attack us for this very reason. You have a picture of your late mother on the wall of your house because you want to remember her and recall all of the wonderful memories you had with her, right? Well, Mary is our Heavenly Mother so we have statues and images of her for us to remember her and recall all of the wonderful things she did in responding “yes” to God’s ultimate plan to bring Jesus into the world! You may see the Pope kneel down to or kiss a statue. This is not worship. He is simply bowing in respect to honor the saint. The statue itself holds no power.
We also use statues and images as teaching tools in school and I know for a fact Baptists use images of Jesus and other characters from the Bible to teach children on Sunday. I don’t believe any Baptist would say they are worshiping those images.
Does your church put up a nativity scene during the Christmas season? Probably so, right? Do you worship the statues in that nativity scene? Of course not. This is the same as what Catholics practice. The statues/images are there simply as a visual reminder of what took place that cold night when Jesus was born. We aren’t worshiping them.
To aid with this discussion, let’s look at the three types of worship Catholics practice:
- Latria– Latria means “adoration” and is reserved for God only. The Catholic Church states to give another person this type of worship is a mortal sin and is idolatry.
- Hyperdulia – this is a type of reverence (not worship) that is given to Mary – and only to Mary. It is not considered idolatry.
- Dulia – this is, yet again, another form of reverence that is only given to saints and angels.
Misconception: Catholics confess to a priest when they should be only confessing to God
Why did Jesus Christ enter this world? To forgive our sins and to bring us to everlasting life! The Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) was instituted by Jesus Christ himself. When Jesus was on earth, he passed on his mission to forgive sins to those who were his ministers. Let’s look at John 20:21-23:
“As the Father has sent me, even so I send you…Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Jesus gives man the power to forgive or not to forgive sins.
Christ commanded us to ask for forgiveness. It’s required. But, we all sin so much and how is it even possible to confess everything that we’ve done. The Sacrament of Reconciliation requires that we confess only grave or mortal sins – those serious sins that separate us from God (such as murder, adultery, homosexuality, taking the Lord’s name, etc). Not only are we to confess our sins, but we are also to say we are truly sorry and we will work hard to avoid the occasion of sin (Act of Contrition). Jesus calls us to recognize our sin – know that it’s a sin and that it offends God. Second, he calls us to repent – to be truly sorry and try to do better. We want to make Him happy, right?
So, why can’t I go straight to God, ask for His forgiveness, say I’m sorry and perform a penance without telling a priest what I’ve done. What does the priest have to do with it? The priest is forgiving you “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” – not himself. He is acting in the place of God. As the confessor, we must make an honest confession of all of our sins – often using the Ten Commandments as our guide.
An Act of Contrition:
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy.
O my God, I am sorry for my sins because I have offended you. I know I should love you above all things. Help me to do penance, to do better, and to avoid anything that might lead me to sin. Amen.
Misconception: Catholics added books to the Bible
The Catholic Old Testament contains seven more books than the Protestant version. The truth is that these books were part of the official list of books by all Christians until Martin Luther removed them during the Protestant reformation. Luther removed these books because there were some Catholic doctrines contained within them that he rejected. So, the Catholic Church did not add books to the Bible.
Misconception: Catholics idolize Mary by praying the Rosary
To say that Catholics idolize Mary demonstrates a lack of complete understanding of the level of honor we place upon her so right from the start this statement is not true. So, let’s begin this discussion by talking about what the Rosary is, what prayers are contained within the Rosary, and the emphasis it places on Mary.
When you think of the Rosary, you probably imagine the Rosary beads and the repetitious prayers coming from the person reciting it. The Rosary is so much more than this. When the Rosary is recited, it involves much more than saying the prayers attached to it. It also involves meditation on a certain important events in life of Jesus Christ and also his mother, Mary. The Rosary is made up of five decades which is actually one forth of the entire Rosary. There are twenty mysteries that are reflected upon in the Rosary and are divided into the five Joyful Mysteries, the five Luminous Mysteries, the five Sorrowful Mysteries, and the five Glorious Mysteries. Each mystery is said on certain days depending on the season (Christmas, Lent).
Most non-Catholics often attack the Rosary as it appears (on the surface) to be vain and repetitious prayer which is forbidden by God. That would be true if the person reciting the Rosary was only reciting the words and not meditating on the mysteries associated with that decade. The entire essence of what the Rosary is comes from the meditation of those mysteries. The Rosary is not just a vocal prayer. When we recite it, we are meditating on the love and grace of God while venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Misconception: Catholics forbid other Christians from partaking of the Eucharist during Mass
Truth: Of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, none is as held so importantly to us than the Sacrament of the Eucharist (Communion). This is the entire focus of the Mass – to actually receive Jesus – body, blood, and divinity! Receiving our Lord and Savior in the Eucharist (Transubstantiation) is so personal and so intimate.
Let’s look at John 6:53-58
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever”
Many non-Catholic faiths receive communion, but do not believe that it is actually Jesus. They look at it as more of doing something “in memory” of Him. Scripture never supports this notion that we are to take it as a symbol. So, when a non-Catholic visits a Catholic Church, they are not to receive the Eucharist during Mass because of this separation. To receive the Eucharist one is saying that he or she is in communion with all of the teachings of the Catholic Church. Since other Christian faiths do not view the Eucharist as Catholics do, they are not allowed to partake in it.
There are additional guidelines on how Catholics are to prepare themselves prior to receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. 1) We must be in a state of grace 2) A good confession must have been made since our last mortal sin 3) Believe in the transubstantiation (the bread and wine have been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit into the actual body and blood of Jesus 4) Observe the fasting requirement prior to receiving the Eucharist (1 hour fasting for at least one hour prior to Holy Communion) and 5) Not be under an ecclesiastical censure (such as excommunication). This is another reason why non-Catholics are to refrain from receiving the Eucharist. Because there is one bread (1 Cor. 10:17) non-Catholic Christians would be proclaiming a unity to exist between them and the Catholic Church, which in reality does not exist. Those non-Catholics who reject that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist are eating and drinking judgment upon themselves (1 Cor. 11:29-30)
I’m sure there are more misconceptions, and if so, I can touch upon those next time I post about this. I hope this was informational and beneficial for you. Again, any questions? Please contact me!