Myths and Misconceptions About The Roman Catholic Church

Let me start out by saying that I'm not a Catholic. I just love to study religion of all kinds because I feel it gives me a great insight as to what makes people 'tick'...why they do the things they do. I find the Roman Catholic Church particularly interesting because, for better or worse, it has had an immense influence on human history. There weren't very many Catholics where I grew up, so a lot of misinformation was passed around. I'm just going to touch on the different areas because, well, thousand-page books have been written about this stuff and I'm not about to make you sit through that. :)

1) Catholics worship idols. Not true. Both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches (particularly the latter) use icons-statues and/or pictures of Mary, Jesus, the Cross, etc that serve as reminders and mental images of the deity a person is worshiping. People do not pray to the object, but remember to pray to God. Idols, on the other hand, are seen as 'proxies' bowing down/praying to the statue, a person is praying to the god it represents. The difference is subtle, so it's understandable that some people would miss it. That leads me to my next point-

2) Catholics worship Mary/saints/etc. Not exactly. While they might pray to a saint (basically, a deceased person who did great works in the Church during their lives) , they do not see the saint as a god so much as an intercessor-someone to pray for them. It's like someone asking a friend to pray for them or help them in a particular area. As for Mary (the mother of Jesus), she is venerated-meaning, given a special place of honor among the saints, but is not seen as a God in and of herself.

3) The Pope is seen as being 'infallible', meaning everything he says or does is without error. Not quite. It is believed that the pope is being guided by the Holy Spirit when he speaks 'ex cathedra'-meaning, in his official capacity. This applies to things such as statements about faith and morals, not his choice of draperies or pets. Seeing as the previous pope (Benedict XVI) loved cats, I'm sure 'dog people' are happy to hear that. :)

4) Priests are pedophiles. Yes, some priests have been found to have engaged in pedophilia, but the number is much lower than some make it out to be. In fact, one study shows that less than one percent of Catholic clergy have been involved in anything even remotely resembling pedophilia. This is one of those cases where one person's actions make the entire group look bad.

5) Catholics don't read the Bible. If you ever go to a Catholic Mass, you will hear at least three extensive passages read to go along with the lesson. As for independent study, there's no reason a Catholic wouldn't be encouraged to read on their own.

6) Catholics aren't Christians. People who say Catholics aren't Christians are usually referring to the differences between Catholics and Protestants, not Christianity in general. In fact, you could say that they are the original Christians; they trace their roots all the way back to Jesus and the original apostles. They regard Peter as being the first Pope in accordance to Jesus' declaration that he was the 'cornerstone' of His church. You can't get much more 'Christian' than that!

If you'd like more information, check out
The American Catholic and the Catholicism sections of Patheos and Beliefnet.

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