Catholic Church

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Emblem of the Holy See
Catholic Church
Ecclesia Catholica
Saint Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, the largest Catholic church building in the world
TheologyCatholic theology
GovernanceHoly See and Roman Curia
Particular churches
sui iuris
Latin Church and 23 Eastern Catholic Churches
native languages
LiturgyWestern and Eastern
HeadquartersVatican City
Origin1st century
Judaea, Roman Empire[2][3]
Members1.39 billion (2022)[4]
Primary schools95,200[6]
Secondary schools43,800
Official Edit this at Wikidata

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the

Rome, of which the pope is head of state

The core beliefs of Catholicism are found in the

successor to Saint Peter, upon whom primacy was conferred by Jesus Christ.[18] It maintains that it practises the original Christian faith taught by the apostles, preserving the faith infallibly through scripture and sacred tradition as authentically interpreted through the magisterium of the church.[19] The Roman Rite and others of the Latin Church, the Eastern Catholic liturgies, and institutes such as mendicant orders, enclosed monastic orders and third orders reflect a variety of theological and spiritual emphases in the church.[20][21]

Of its

dogmas and devotions.[23] Catholic social teaching emphasizes voluntary support for the sick, the poor, and the afflicted through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The Catholic Church operates tens of thousands of Catholic schools, universities and colleges, hospitals, and orphanages around the world, and is the largest non-government provider of education and health care in the world.[24]
Among its other social services are numerous charitable and humanitarian organizations.

The Catholic Church has profoundly influenced

music, law,[25] and science.[11] Catholics live all over the world through missions, immigration, diaspora, and conversions. Since the 20th century, the majority have resided in the Southern Hemisphere, partially due to secularization in Europe and increased persecution in the Middle East. The Catholic Church shared communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church until the East–West Schism in 1054, disputing particularly the authority of the pope. Before the Council of Ephesus in AD 431, the Church of the East also shared in this communion, as did the Oriental Orthodox Churches before the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451; all separated primarily over differences in Christology. The Eastern Catholic Churches, who have a combined membership of approximately 18 million, represent a body of Eastern Christians who returned or remained in communion with the pope during or following these schisms for a variety of historical circumstances. In the 16th century, the Reformation led to the formation of separate, Protestant groups. From the late 20th century, the Catholic Church has been criticized for its teachings on sexuality, its doctrine against ordaining women, and its handling of sexual abuse cases
involving clergy.


church father Saint Ignatius of Antioch in his Letter to the Smyrnaeans in c. 110 AD.[26] Ignatius of Antioch also is credited with the first recorded use of the term Christianity ten years earlier, in c. 100 AD.[27] He died in Rome, with his relics located in San Clemente al Laterano

Catholic (from

Since the

Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, when those who ceased to be in communion became known as Protestants.[33][34]

While the Roman Church has been used to describe the pope's Diocese of Rome since the Fall of the Western Roman Empire and into the Early Middle Ages (6th–10th century), Roman Catholic Church has been applied to the whole church in the English language since the Protestant Reformation in the late 16th century.[35] Further, some will refer to the Latin Church as Roman Catholic in distinction from the Eastern Catholic churches.[36] "Roman Catholic" has occasionally appeared also in documents produced both by the Holy See,[note 3] and notably used by certain national episcopal conferences and local dioceses.[note 4]

The name Catholic Church for the whole church is used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1990) and the Code of Canon Law (1983). "Catholic Church" is also used in the documents of the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965),[37] the First Vatican Council (1869–1870),[38] the Council of Trent (1545–1563),[39] and numerous other official documents.[40][41]


Apostolic era and papacy

Painting a haloed Jesus Christ passing keys to a kneeling man.
A c. 1481–1482 fresco by Pietro Perugino in the Sistine Chapel showing Jesus giving the keys of heaven to Saint Peter
last supper of Jesus and his twelve apostles on the eve of his crucifixion. Most of Jesus' apostles are buried in Rome
, including Saint Peter.


bishop of Rome are the successors to the Apostles.[48]

In the account of the Confession of Peter found in the Gospel of Matthew, Christ designates Peter as the "rock" upon which Christ's church will be built.[49][50] The Catholic Church considers the bishop of Rome, the pope, to be the successor to Saint Peter.[51] Some scholars state Peter was the first bishop of Rome.[52] Others say that the institution of the papacy is not dependent on the idea that Peter was bishop of Rome or even on his ever having been in Rome.[53] Many scholars hold that a church structure of plural presbyters/bishops persisted in Rome until the mid-2nd century, when the structure of a single bishop and plural presbyters was adopted,[54] and that later writers retrospectively applied the term "bishop of Rome" to the most prominent members of the clergy in the earlier period and also to Peter himself.[54] On this basis, Oscar Cullmann,[55] Henry Chadwick,[56] and Bart D. Ehrman[57] question whether there was a formal link between Peter and the modern papacy. Raymond E. Brown also says that it is anachronistic to speak of Peter in terms of local bishop of Rome, but that Christians of that period would have looked on Peter as having "roles that would contribute in an essential way to the development of the role of the papacy in the subsequent church". These roles, Brown says, "contributed enormously to seeing the bishop of Rome, the bishop of the city where Peter died and where Paul witnessed the truth of Christ, as the successor of Peter in care for the church universal".[54]

Antiquity and Roman Empire

A 19th-century drawing by Henry William Brewer of Old St. Peter's Basilica, built in 318 by Constantine the Great

Conditions in the Roman Empire facilitated the spread of new ideas. The empire's network of roads and waterways facilitated travel, and the Pax Romana made travelling safe. The empire encouraged the spread of a common culture with Greek roots, which allowed ideas to be more easily expressed and understood.[58]

Unlike most religions in the Roman Empire, however, Christianity required its adherents to renounce all other gods, a practice adopted from Judaism (see Idolatry). The Christians' refusal to join pagan celebrations meant they were unable to participate in much of public life, which caused non-Christians—including government authorities—to fear that the Christians were angering the gods and thereby threatening the peace and prosperity of the Empire. The resulting persecutions were a defining feature of Christian self-understanding until Christianity was legalized in the 4th century.[59]

In 313,

Justinian, who in the areas under his control definitively established a form of caesaropapism,[65] in which "he had the right and duty of regulating by his laws the minutest details of worship and discipline, and also of dictating the theological opinions to be held in the Church",[66] re-established imperial power over Rome and other parts of the West, initiating the period termed the Byzantine Papacy (537–752), during which the bishops of Rome, or popes, required approval from the emperor in Constantinople or from his representative in Ravenna for consecration, and most were selected by the emperor from his Greek-speaking subjects,[67] resulting in a "melting pot" of Western and Eastern Christian traditions in art as well as liturgy.[68]

Most of the Germanic tribes who in the following centuries invaded the Roman Empire had adopted Christianity in its

heretical.[69] The resulting religious discord between Germanic rulers and Catholic subjects[70] was avoided when, in 497, Clovis I, the Frankish ruler, converted to orthodox Catholicism, allying himself with the papacy and the monasteries.[71] The Visigoths in Spain followed his lead in 589,[72] and the Lombards in Italy in the course of the 7th century.[73]

Western monasticism, exerted an enormous influence on European culture through the appropriation of the monastic spiritual heritage of the early Catholic Church and, with the spread of the Benedictine tradition, through the preservation and transmission of ancient culture. During this period, monastic Ireland became a centre of learning and early Irish missionaries such as Columbanus and Columba spread Christianity and established monasteries across continental Europe.[74]

Middle Ages and Renaissance

Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France, completed in 1220
The Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo; the Renaissance period of the 15th and 16th centuries was a golden age for Catholic art.

The Catholic Church was the dominant influence on Western civilization from

Western civilization".[77]

In Western Christendom, the first universities in Europe were established by monks.[78][79][80] Beginning in the 11th century, several older cathedral schools became universities, such as the University of Oxford, University of Paris, and University of Bologna. Higher education before then had been the domain of Christian cathedral schools or monastic schools, led by monks and nuns. Evidence of such schools dates back to the 6th century CE.[81] These new universities expanded the curriculum to include academic programs for clerics, lawyers, civil servants, and physicians.[82] The university is generally regarded as an institution that has its origin in the Medieval Christian setting.[83][84][85]

The massive Islamic invasions of the

Poitiers halted the Islamic advance in the West and the failed siege of Constantinople halted it in the East. Two or three decades later, in 751, the Byzantine Empire lost to the Lombards the city of Ravenna from which it governed the small fragments of Italy, including Rome, that acknowledged its sovereignty. The fall of Ravenna meant that confirmation by a no longer existent exarch was not asked for during the election in 752 of Pope Stephen II and that the papacy was forced to look elsewhere for a civil power to protect it.[87] In 754, at the urgent request of Pope Stephen, the Frankish king Pepin the Short conquered the Lombards. He then gifted the lands of the former exarchate to the pope, thus initiating the Papal States. Rome and the Byzantine East would delve into further conflict during the Photian schism of the 860s, when Photius criticized the Latin west of adding of the filioque clause after being excommunicated by Nicholas I. Though the schism was reconciled, unresolved issues would lead to further division.[88]

In the 11th century, the efforts of

Gregorian Reforms regarding the independence of the clergy from secular authority. This led to the Investiture Controversy between the church and the Holy Roman Emperors, over which had the authority to appoint bishops and popes.[89][90]

In 1095,

papal authority. The Fourth Crusade and the sacking of Constantinople by renegade crusaders proved the final breach.[93]
In this age great gothic cathedrals in France were an expression of popular pride in the Christian faith.

In the early 13th century mendicant orders were founded by Francis of Assisi and Dominic de Guzmán. The studia conventualia and studia generalia of the mendicant orders played a large role in the transformation of church-sponsored cathedral schools and palace schools, such as that of Charlemagne at Aachen, into the prominent universities of Europe.[94] Scholastic theologians and philosophers such as the Dominican priest Thomas Aquinas studied and taught at these studia. Aquinas' Summa Theologica was an intellectual milestone in its synthesis of the legacy of ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle with the content of Christian revelation.[95]

A growing sense of church-state conflicts marked the 14th century. To escape instability in Rome, Clement V in 1309 became the first of seven popes to reside in the fortified city of Avignon in southern France[96] during a period known as the Avignon Papacy. The Avignon Papacy ended in 1376 when the pope returned to Rome,[97] but was followed in 1378 by the 38-year-long Western schism, with claimants to the papacy in Rome, Avignon and (after 1409) Pisa.[97] The matter was largely resolved in 1415–17 at the Council of Constance, with the claimants in Rome and Pisa agreeing to resign and the third claimant excommunicated by the cardinals, who held a new election naming Martin V pope.[98]

In 1438, the Council of Florence convened, which featured a strong dialogue focussed on understanding the theological differences between the East and West, with the hope of reuniting the Catholic and Orthodox churches.[99] Several eastern churches reunited, forming the majority of the Eastern Catholic Churches.[100]

Age of Discovery

The Age of Discovery beginning in the 15th century saw the expansion of Western Europe's political and cultural influence worldwide. Because of the prominent role the strongly Catholic nations of Spain and Portugal played in Western colonialism, Catholicism was spread to the Americas, Asia and Oceania by explorers, conquistadors, and missionaries, as well as by the transformation of societies through the socio-political mechanisms of colonial rule. Pope Alexander VI had awarded colonial rights over most of the newly discovered lands to Spain and Portugal[101] and the ensuing patronato system allowed state authorities, not the Vatican, to control all clerical appointments in the new colonies.[102] In 1521 the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan made the first Catholic converts in the Philippines.[103] Elsewhere, Portuguese missionaries under the Spanish Jesuit Francis Xavier evangelized in India, China, and Japan.[104] The French colonization of the Americas beginning in the 16th century established a Catholic francophone population and forbade non-Catholics to settle in Quebec.[105]

Protestant Reformation and Counter-Reformation

In 1517, Martin Luther (left), originally an Augustinian friar, posted and published Ninety-five Theses (right), detailing Luther's opposition to what he saw as the Catholic Church's abuse and corruption by Catholic clergy, including their sale of plenary indulgences, which were certificates supposed to reduce the temporal punishment in purgatory for sins committed by the purchasers or their loved ones. Luther's publication and release of the document is widely credited with launching the Reformation.

In 1415,

declaration of nullity concerning his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. When this was denied, he had the Acts of Supremacy passed to make himself Supreme Head of the Church of England, spurring the English Reformation and the eventual development of Anglicanism.[110]

The Reformation contributed to clashes between the Protestant

religious toleration to French Protestants.[111][112]


religious scepticism during and after the Enlightenment.[114]

Enlightenment and modern period

Ruins of the Jesuit Reduction at São Miguel das Missões in Brazil

From the 17th century onward, the Enlightenment questioned the power and influence of the Catholic Church over Western society.

Napoleon Bonaparte's General Louis-Alexandre Berthier invaded the Italian Peninsula, imprisoning Pope Pius VI, who died in captivity. Napoleon later re-established the Catholic Church in France through the Concordat of 1801.[118] The end of the Napoleonic Wars brought Catholic revival and the return of the Papal States.[119]

In 1854,

conciliarism. Controversy over this and other issues resulted in a breakaway movement called the Old Catholic Church,[123]


Lateran Treaties, whereby the Holy See acknowledged Italian sovereignty over the former Papal States in return for payment and Italy's recognition of papal sovereignty over Vatican City as a new sovereign and independent state.[125]

Catholic missionaries generally supported, and sought to facilitate, the European imperial powers' conquest of Africa during the late nineteenth century. According to the historian of religion Adrian Hastings, Catholic missionaries were generally unwilling to defend African rights or encourage Africans to see themselves as equals to Europeans, in contrast to Protestant missionaries, who were more willing to oppose colonial injustices.[126]

20th century

Members of the Canadian Army's Royal 22nd Regiment in audience with Pope Pius XII on 4 July 1944, following the Battle of Anzio, which liberated Rome from Nazi German and the Italian fascist occupation during World War II
Bishops listen during the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s
Pope John Paul II and then U.S. president Ronald Reagan (pictured with his wife Nancy) meeting in June 1982; both Pope John Paul II and Reagan were credited with contributing to the Revolutions of 1989, which led to the fall of communism and the end of the Cold War two years later, in 1991.

During the 20th century, the church's global reach continued to grow, despite the rise of anti-Catholic authoritarian regimes and the collapse of European Empires, accompanied by a general decline in religious observance in the West. Under Popes

fall of communism in Europe, and a new public and international role for the papacy.[127][128]
From the late 20th century, the Catholic Church has been
ordain women, and its handling of sexual abuse cases


His successor

1939 Invasion of Poland and reiterated Catholic teaching against racism.[132] He expressed concern against race killings on Vatican Radio, and intervened diplomatically to attempt to block Nazi deportations of Jews in various countries from 1942 to 1944. But the Pope's insistence on public neutrality and diplomatic language has become a source of much criticism and debate.[133] Nevertheless, in every country under German occupation, priests played a major part in rescuing Jews.[134] Israeli historian Pinchas Lapide estimated that Catholic rescue of Jews amounted to somewhere between 700,000 and 860,000 people.[135]


Slovak State, which collaborated with the Nazis, copied their anti-Semitic policies, and helped them carry out the Holocaust in Slovakia. Jozef Tiso, the President of the Slovak State and a Catholic priest, supported his government's deportation of Slovakian Jews to extermination camps.[140] The Vatican protested against these Jewish deportations in Slovakia and in other Nazi puppet regimes including Vichy France, Croatia, Bulgaria, Italy and Hungary.[141][142]

Around 1943,

antisemitism by its teachings[147] and not doing enough to stop Nazi atrocities.[148] Many Nazi criminals escaped overseas after the Second World War, also because they had powerful supporters from the Vatican.[149][150][151] The judgment of Pius XII is made more difficult by the sources, because the church archives for his tenure as nuncio, cardinal secretary of state and pope are in part closed or not yet processed.[152]

The Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) introduced the most significant changes to Catholic practices since the Council of Trent, four centuries before.[153] Initiated by Pope John XXIII, this ecumenical council modernized the practices of the Catholic Church, allowing the Mass to be said in the vernacular (local language) and encouraging "fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations".[154] It intended to engage the church more closely with the present world (aggiornamento), which was described by its advocates as an "opening of the windows".[155] In addition to changes in the liturgy, it led to changes to the church's approach to ecumenism,[156] and a call to improved relations with non-Christian religions, especially Judaism, in its document Nostra aetate.[157]

The council, however, generated significant controversy in implementing its reforms: proponents of the "

Traditionalist Catholics, such as Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, however, strongly criticized the council, arguing that its liturgical reforms led "to the destruction of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the sacraments", among other issues.[159] The teaching on the morality of contraception also came under scrutiny; after a series of disagreements, Humanae vitae upheld the church's prohibition of all forms of contraception.[160][161][note 5][162]

In 1978, Pope

21st century

Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople of the Eastern Orthodox Church,[174] the first time since the Great Schism of 1054 that the Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has attended a papal installation,[175] while he also met Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, head of the largest Eastern Orthodox church, in 2016; this was reported as the first such high-level meeting between the two churches since the Great Schism of 1054.[176] In 2017 during a visit in Egypt, Pope Francis reestablished mutual recognition of baptism with the Coptic Orthodox Church.[177]


Simon Peter; the triple crown papal tiara symbolizes the triple power of the pope as "father of kings", "governor of the world" and "Vicar of Christ
"; the gold cross symbolizes the sovereignty of Jesus.

The Catholic Church follows an

Holy See, papacy, Roman Curia, and College of Cardinals

ex officio as bishop of Rome and sovereign of Vatican City, was elected in the 2013 papal conclave


Apostolic See (meaning the see of the apostle Peter).[190][191]
Directly serving the pope is the Roman Curia, the central governing body that administers the day-to-day business of the Catholic Church.

The pope is also

orders of chivalry originating from the Middle Ages

While the famous

privileges accredited to the Holy See.

The position of

cardinal is a rank of honour bestowed by popes on certain clerics, such as leaders within the Roman Curia, bishops serving in major cities and distinguished theologians. For advice and assistance in governing, the pope may turn to the College of Cardinals.[194]

Following the death or resignation of a pope,[note 7] members of the College of Cardinals who are under age 80 act as an electoral college, meeting in a papal conclave to elect a successor.[196] Although the conclave may elect any male Catholic as pope, since 1389 only cardinals have been elected.[197]

Canon law

Catholic canon law (

particular churches sui iuris

Positive ecclesiastical laws, based directly or indirectly upon immutable divine law or

Supreme Pontiff—who possesses the totality of legislative, executive and judicial power in his person,[203] while particular laws derive formal authority from promulgation by a legislator inferior to the supreme legislator, whether an ordinary or a delegated legislator. The actual subject material of the canons is not just doctrinal or moral in nature, but all-encompassing of the human condition. It has all the ordinary elements of a mature legal system:[204] laws, courts, lawyers, judges,[204] a fully articulated legal code for the Latin Church[205] as well as a code for the Eastern Catholic Churches,[205] principles of legal interpretation,[206] and coercive penalties.[207][208]

Canon law concerns the Catholic Church's life and organization and is distinct from civil law. In its own field it gives force to civil law only by specific enactment in matters such as the guardianship of minors.[209] Similarly, civil law may give force in its field to canon law, but only by specific enactment, as with regard to canonical marriages.[210] Currently, the 1983 Code of Canon Law is in effect for the Latin Church.[211] The distinct 1990 Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO, after the Latin initials) applies to the autonomous Eastern Catholic Churches.[212]

Latin and Eastern churches

In the first thousand years of Catholic history, different varieties of Christianity developed in the Western and

Latin: "of one's own right"). The largest and most well known is the Latin Church, the only Western-tradition church, with more than 1 billion members worldwide. Relatively small in terms of adherents compared to the Latin Church, are the 23 self-governing Eastern Catholic Churches with a combined membership of 17.3 million as of 2010.[213][214][215][216]

The Latin Church is governed by the pope and diocesan bishops directly appointed by him. The pope exercises a direct

Christian denominations that trace their origins to the Protestant Reformation.[217]

The Eastern Catholic Churches follow the traditions and spirituality of Eastern Christianity and are churches that have always remained in full communion with the Catholic Church or who have chosen to re-enter full communion in the centuries following the East–West Schism or earlier divisions. These churches are communities of Catholic Christians whose forms of worship reflect distinct historical and cultural influences rather than differences in doctrine. The pope's recognition of Eastern Catholic Churches, though, has caused controversy in ecumenical relations with the Eastern Orthodox and other eastern churches. Historically, pressure to conform to the norms of the Western Christianity practised by the majority Latin Church led to a degree of encroachment (Liturgical Latinisation) on some of the Eastern Catholic traditions. The Second Vatican Council document, Orientalium Ecclesiarum, built on previous reforms to reaffirm the right of Eastern Catholics to maintain their distinct liturgical practices.[218]

A church sui iuris is defined in the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches as a "group of Christian faithful united by a hierarchy" that is recognized by the pope in his capacity as the supreme authority on matters of doctrine within the church.[219] The Eastern Catholic Churches are in full communion with the pope, but have governance structures and liturgical traditions separate from that of the Latin Church.[214] While the Latin Church's canons do not explicitly use the term, it is tacitly recognized as equivalent.

Some Eastern Catholic churches are governed by a patriarch who is elected by the

Congregation for the Oriental Churches, to maintain relations with them.[225]
The pope does not generally appoint bishops or clergy in the Eastern Catholic Churches, deferring to their internal governance structures, but may intervene if he feels it necessary.

Dioceses, parishes, organizations, and institutes

Percentage of Catholics by country (2010)
Number of Catholics by country (2010)

Individual countries, regions, and major cities are served by

eparchies in the Eastern Catholic Churches, each of which are overseen by a bishop. As of 2021, the Catholic Church has 3,171 dioceses globally.[227] The bishops in a particular country are members of a national or regional episcopal conference.[228]

Dioceses are divided into parishes, each with one or more

priests, deacons, or lay ecclesial ministers.[229] Parishes are responsible for the day to day celebration of the sacraments and pastoral care of the laity.[230] As of 2016, there are 221,700 parishes worldwide.[6]

In the Latin Church, Catholic men may serve as deacons or priests by receiving sacramental

altar servers. Historically, boys and men have only been permitted to serve as altar servers; however, since the 1990s, girls and women have also been permitted.[231][note 8]

Ordained Catholics, as well as members of the

"Religious institutes" is a modern term encompassing both "

religious congregations", which were once distinguished in canon law.[233] The terms "religious order" and "religious institute" tend to be used as synonyms colloquially.[234]

By means of Catholic charities and beyond, the Catholic Church is the largest non-government provider of education and health care in the world.[24]


Geographic distribution of Catholics in 2021[4]

As of 2020, Catholicism is the second-largest religious body in the world after Sunni Islam.[235] Church membership, defined as baptized Catholics, was 1.378 billion at the end of 2021, which is 17.67% of the world population.[4] Brazil has the largest Catholic population in the world, followed by Mexico, the Philippines, and the United States.[236] Catholics represent about half of all Christians.[237]

Geographic distribution of Catholics worldwide continues to shift, with 19.3% in Africa, 48.0% in the Americas, 11.0% in Asia, 20.9% in Europe, and 0.8% in Oceania.[4]

Catholic ministers include ordained clergy,

lay ecclesial ministers.[238]

Catholics who have committed to religious or consecrated life instead of marriage or single celibacy, as a state of life or relational vocation, include 49,414 male religious and 599,228 women religious. These are not ordained, nor generally considered ministers unless also engaged in one of the lay minister categories above.[4]


Catholic doctrine has developed over the centuries, reflecting direct teachings of early Christians, formal definitions of

ecumenical councils and in papal bulls, and theological debate by scholars. The church believes that it is continually guided by the Holy Spirit as it discerns new theological issues and is protected infallibly from falling into doctrinal error when a firm decision on an issue is reached.[239][240]

It teaches that revelation has one common source, God, and two distinct modes of transmission: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition,[241][242] and that these are authentically interpreted by the Magisterium.[243][244] Sacred Scripture consists of the 73 books of the Catholic Bible, consisting of 46 Old Testament and 27 New Testament writings. Sacred Tradition consists of those teachings believed by the church to have been handed down since the time of the Apostles.[245] Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition are collectively known as the "deposit of faith" (depositum fidei in Latin). These are in turn interpreted by the Magisterium (from magister, Latin for "teacher"), the church's teaching authority, which is exercised by the pope and the College of Bishops in union with the pope, the Bishop of Rome.[246] Catholic doctrine is authoritatively summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published by the Holy See.[247][248]

Nature of God

c. 1210 manuscript version of the traditional Shield of the Trinity theological diagram

The Catholic Church holds that there is one eternal God, who exists as a perichoresis ("mutual indwelling") of three hypostases, or "persons": God the Father; God the Son; and God the Holy Spirit, which together are called the "Holy Trinity".[249]

Catholics believe that Jesus Christ is the "Second Person" of the Trinity, God the Son. In an event known as the

messianic prophecies.[252]

The Catholic Church teaches dogmatically that "the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son, not as from two principles but as from one single principle".[253] It holds that the Father, as the "principle without principle", is the first origin of the Spirit, but also that he, as Father of the only Son, is with the Son the single principle from which the Spirit proceeds.[254] This belief is expressed in the Filioque clause which was added to the Latin version of the Nicene Creed of 381 but not included in the Greek versions of the creed used in Eastern Christianity.[255]

Nature of the church

The Catholic Church teaches that it is the "

Simon Peter, a position from which he derives his supremacy over the church.[263]

Catholic belief holds that the church "is the continuing presence of Jesus on earth"

reconcile humanity to God;[266] the Resurrection of Jesus makes him the firstborn from the dead, the first among many brethren.[267] By reconciling with God and following Christ's words and deeds, an individual can enter the Kingdom of God.[268] The church sees its liturgy and sacraments as perpetuating the graces achieved through Christ's sacrifice to strengthen a person's relationship with Christ and aid in overcoming sin.[269]

Final judgement

The Catholic Church teaches that, immediately after death, the

soul of each person will receive a particular judgement from God, based on their sins and their relationship to Christ.[270][271] This teaching also attests to another day when Christ will sit in universal judgement of all mankind. This final judgement, according to the church's teaching, will bring an end to human history and mark the beginning of both a new and better heaven and earth ruled by God in righteousness.[272]

Depending on the judgement rendered following death, it is believed that a soul may enter one of three states of the afterlife:

  • Heaven is a state of unending union with the divine nature of God, not ontologically, but by grace. It is an eternal life, in which the soul contemplates God in ceaseless beatitude.[273]
  • Purgatory is a temporary condition for the purification of souls who, although destined for Heaven, are not fully detached from sin and thus cannot enter Heaven immediately.[274] In Purgatory, the soul suffers, and is purged and perfected. Souls in purgatory may be aided in reaching heaven by the prayers of the faithful on earth and by the intercession of saints.[275]
  • Final Damnation: Finally, those who persist in living in a state of mortal sin and do not repent before death subject themselves to hell, an everlasting separation from God.[276] The church teaches that no one is condemned to hell without having freely decided to reject God.[277] No one is predestined to hell and no one can determine with absolute certainty who has been condemned to hell.[278] Catholicism teaches that through God's mercy a person can repent at any point before death, be illuminated with the truth of the Catholic faith, and thus obtain salvation.[279] Some Catholic theologians have speculated that the souls of unbaptized infants and non-Christians without mortal sin but who die in original sin are assigned to limbo, although this is not an official dogma of the church.[280]

While the Catholic Church teaches that it alone possesses the full means of salvation,

invincible ignorance are present, although invincible ignorance in itself is not a means of salvation.[282]

Saints and devotions

A saint (also historically known as a hallow) is a person who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness or likeness or closeness to God, while canonization is the act by which a Christian church declares that a person who has died was a saint, upon which declaration the person is included in the "canon", or list, of recognized saints.[283][284] The first persons honoured as saints were the martyrs. Pious legends of their deaths were considered affirmations of the truth of their faith in Christ. By the fourth century, however, "confessors"—people who had confessed their faith not by dying but by word and life—began to be venerated publicly.

In the Catholic Church, both in Latin and Eastern Catholic churches, the act of canonization is reserved to the

Apostolic See and occurs at the conclusion of a long process requiring extensive proof that the candidate for canonization lived and died in such an exemplary and holy way that he is worthy to be recognized as a saint. The church's official recognition of sanctity implies that the person is now in Heaven and that he may be publicly invoked and mentioned officially in the liturgy of the church, including in the Litany of the Saints. Canonization allows universal veneration of the saint in the liturgy of the Roman Rite; for permission to venerate merely locally, only beatification is needed.[285]

Blessed Sacrament,[288] and the veneration of saintly images such as the santos.[290] The bishops at the Second Vatican Council reminded Catholics that "devotions should be so drawn up that they harmonize with the liturgical seasons, accord with the sacred liturgy, are in some fashion derived from it, and lead the people to it, since, in fact, the liturgy by its very nature far surpasses any of them."[291]

Virgin Mary


Catholic Mariology deals with the dogmas and teachings concerning the life of Mary, mother of Jesus, as well as the veneration of Mary by the faithful. Mary is held in special regard, declared the Mother of God (Greek: Θεοτόκος, romanizedTheotokos, lit.'God-bearer'), and believed as dogma to have remained a virgin throughout her life.[292] Further teachings include the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception (her own conception without the stain of original sin) and the Assumption of Mary (that her body was assumed directly into heaven at the end of her life). Both of these doctrines were defined as infallible dogma, by Pope Pius IX in 1854 and Pope Pius XII in 1950 respectively,[293] but only after consulting with the Catholic bishops throughout the world to ascertain that this is a Catholic belief.[294] In the Eastern Catholic churches, however, they continue to celebrate the feast of the Assumption under the name of the Dormition of the Mother of God on the same date.[295] The teaching that Mary died before being assumed significantly precedes the idea that she did not. St John Damascene wrote that "St Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon (451), made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to Heaven."[296]

Marian apparitions affirmed by the church, such as Lourdes, Fátima, and Guadalupe,[299] are also popular Catholic devotions.[300]


Mass at the Grotto at Lourdes, France. The chalice is displayed to the people immediately after the consecration of the wine.

The Catholic Church teaches that it was entrusted with seven sacraments that were instituted by Christ. The number and nature of the sacraments were defined by several

grace to all those who receive them with the proper disposition (ex opere operato).[302] The Catechism of the Catholic Church categorizes the sacraments into three groups, the "sacraments of Christian initiation", "sacraments of healing" and "sacraments at the service of communion and the mission of the faithful". These groups broadly reflect the stages of people's natural and spiritual lives which each sacrament is intended to serve.[303]

The liturgies of the sacraments are central to the church's mission. According to the Catechism:

In the liturgy of the New Covenant every liturgical action, especially the celebration of the Eucharist and the sacraments, is an encounter between Christ and the Church. The liturgical assembly derives its unity from the "communion of the Holy Spirit" who gathers the children of God into the one Body of Christ. This assembly transcends racial, cultural, social—indeed, all human affinities.[304]

According to church doctrine, the sacraments of the church require the proper form, matter, and intent to be validly celebrated.

sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance).[308] Catholics are normally obliged to abstain from eating for at least an hour before receiving the sacrament.[308] Non-Catholics are ordinarily prohibited from receiving the Eucharist as well.[306][309]

Catholics, even if they were in danger of death and unable to approach a Catholic minister, may not ask for the sacraments of the Eucharist, penance or anointing of the sick from someone, such as a Protestant minister, who is not known to be validly ordained in line with Catholic teaching on ordination.[310][311] Likewise, even in grave and pressing need, Catholic ministers may not administer these sacraments to those who do not manifest Catholic faith in the sacrament. In relation to the churches of Eastern Christianity not in communion with the Holy See, the Catholic Church is less restrictive, declaring that "a certain communion in sacris, and so in the Eucharist, given suitable circumstances and the approval of Church authority, is not merely possible but is encouraged."[312]

Sacraments of initiation


Baptism of Augustine of Hippo as represented in a sculptural group in Troyes Cathedral (1549), France

As viewed by the Catholic Church, Baptism is the first of three sacraments of initiation as a Christian.[313] It washes away all sins, both original sin and personal actual sins.[314] It makes a person a member of the church.[315] As a gratuitous gift of God that requires no merit on the part of the person who is baptized, it is conferred even on children,[316] who, though they have no personal sins, need it on account of original sin.[317] If a new-born child is in a danger of death, anyone—be it a doctor, a nurse, or a parent—may baptize the child.[318] Baptism marks a person permanently and cannot be repeated.[319] The Catholic Church recognizes as valid baptisms conferred even by people who are not Catholics or Christians, provided that they intend to baptize ("to do what the Church does when she baptizes") and that they use the Trinitarian baptismal formula.[320]


The Catholic Church sees the sacrament of confirmation as required to complete the grace given in baptism.

age of reason means that they should first be cleansed spiritually by the sacrament of Penance; they should also have the intention of receiving the sacrament, and be prepared to show in their lives that they are Christians.[327]


Pope Benedict XVI celebrates the Eucharist at the canonization of Frei Galvão in São Paulo, Brazil on 11 May 2007.

For Catholics, the Eucharist is the sacrament which completes Christian initiation. It is described as "the source and summit of the Christian life".[328] The ceremony in which a Catholic first receives the Eucharist is known as First Communion.[329]

The Eucharistic celebration, also called the

words of consecration reflect the words spoken by Jesus during the Last Supper, where Christ offered his body and blood to his Apostles the night before his crucifixion. The sacrament re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross,[331] and perpetuates it. Christ's death and resurrection give grace through the sacrament that unites the faithful with Christ and one another, remits venial sin, and aids against committing moral sin (though mortal sin itself is forgiven through the sacrament of penance).[332]

A Catholic believer prays in a church in Mexico.

Sacraments of healing

The two sacraments of healing are the

Anointing of the Sick


The Sacrament of Penance (also called Reconciliation, Forgiveness, Confession, and Conversion

seal of confession", absolute secrecy about any sins revealed to him in confession.[337]

Anointing of the sick

The Seven Sacraments Altarpiece triptych painting of Extreme Unction (Anointing of the Sick) with oil being administered by a priest during last rites. Rogier van der Weyden, c. 1445.

While chrism is used only for the three sacraments that cannot be repeated, a different oil is used by a priest or bishop to bless a Catholic who, because of illness or old age, has begun to be in danger of death.[338] This sacrament, known as Anointing of the Sick, is believed to give comfort, peace, courage and, if the sick person is unable to make a confession, even forgiveness of sins.[339]

The sacrament is also referred to as Unction, and in the past as Extreme Unction, and it is one of the three sacraments that constitute the last rites, together with Penance and Viaticum (Eucharist).[340]

Sacraments at the service of communion

According to the Catechism, there are two sacraments of

grace. Spouses marry so that their love may be fortified to fulfil duties of their state".[342]

Holy Orders

Priests lay their hands on the ordinands during the rite of ordination.

The sacrament of Holy Orders consecrates and deputes some Christians to serve the whole body as members of three degrees or orders: episcopate (bishops), presbyterate (priests) and diaconate (deacons).[343][344] The church has defined rules on who may be ordained into the clergy. In the Latin Church, the priesthood is generally restricted to celibate men, and the episcopate is always restricted to celibate men.[345] Men who are already married may be ordained in certain Eastern Catholic churches in most countries,[346] and the personal ordinariates and may become deacons even in the Latin Church[347][348] (see Clerical marriage). But after becoming a Catholic priest, a man may not marry (see Clerical celibacy) unless he is formally laicized.

All clergy, whether deacons, priests or bishops, may preach, teach, baptize, witness marriages and conduct funeral liturgies.[349] Only bishops and priests can administer the sacraments of the Eucharist, Reconciliation (Penance) and Anointing of the Sick.[350][351] Only bishops can administer the sacrament of Holy Orders, which ordains someone into the clergy.[352]


Wedding mass in the Philippines

The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a social and spiritual bond between a man and a woman, ordered towards the good of the spouses and procreation of children; according to Catholic teachings on sexual morality, it is the only appropriate context for sexual activity. A Catholic marriage, or any marriage between baptized individuals of any Christian denomination, is viewed as a sacrament. A sacramental marriage, once consummated, cannot be dissolved except by death.

canonical form, that Catholics must follow.[356]

The church does not recognize divorce as ending a valid marriage and allows state-recognized divorce only as a means of protecting the property and well-being of the spouses and any children. However, consideration of particular cases by the competent ecclesiastical tribunal can lead to declaration of the invalidity of a marriage, a declaration usually referred to as an

annulment. Remarriage following a divorce is not permitted unless the prior marriage was declared invalid.[357]


Catholic religious objects – Holy Bible, crucifix and rosary

Among the 24 autonomous (sui iuris) churches, numerous liturgical and other traditions exist, called rites, which reflect historical and cultural diversity rather than differences in belief.[358] In the definition of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, "a rite is the liturgical, theological, spiritual, and disciplinary patrimony, culture and circumstances of history of a distinct people, by which its own manner of living the faith is manifested in each Church sui iuris".[359]

The liturgy of the sacrament of the

1962 form
of the Roman Rite remains authorized in the Latin Church. Eastern Catholic Churches have their own rites. The liturgies of the Eucharist and the other sacraments vary from rite to rite, reflecting different theological emphases.

Western rites

The Roman Rite is the most common

rite of worship used by the Catholic Church, with the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite form of the Mass. Its use is found worldwide, originating in Rome and spreading throughout Europe, influencing and eventually supplanting local rites.[362] The present ordinary form of Mass in the Roman Rite, found in the post-1969 editions of the Roman Missal, is usually celebrated in the local vernacular language, using an officially approved translation from the original text in Latin
. An outline of its major liturgical elements can be found in the sidebar.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI affirmed the licitness of continued use of the

1962 Roman Missal as an "extraordinary form" (forma extraordinaria) of the Roman Rite, speaking of it also as an usus antiquior ("older use"), and issuing new more permissive norms for its employment.[363] An instruction issued four years later spoke of the two forms or usages of the Roman Rite approved by the pope as the ordinary form and the extraordinary form ("the forma ordinaria" and "the forma extraordinaria").[364]

The 1962 edition of the Roman Missal, published a few months before the

liturgical Latin.[366] These permissions were largely removed by Pope Francis in 2021, who issued the motu proprio Traditionis custodes to emphasize the Ordinary Form as promulgated by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II.[367]

Since 2014, clergy in the small

Anglicanorum Coetibus[368] are permitted to use a variation of the Roman Rite called "Divine Worship" or, less formally, "Ordinariate Use",[369] which incorporates elements of the Anglican liturgy and traditions,[note 12]
an accommodation protested by Anglican leaders.

In the Archdiocese of Milan, with around five million Catholics the largest in Europe,[370] Mass is celebrated according to the Ambrosian Rite. Other Latin Church rites include the Mozarabic[371] and those of some religious institutes.[372] These liturgical rites have an antiquity of at least 200 years before 1570, the date of Pope Pius V's Quo primum, and were thus allowed to continue.[373]

Eastern rites

Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in India, one of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion
with the pope and the Catholic Church

The Eastern Catholic Churches share common patrimony and liturgical rites as their counterparts, including

Eastern Christian churches who are no longer in communion with the Holy See. These include churches that historically developed in Russia, Caucasus, the Balkans, North Eastern Africa, India and the Middle East. The Eastern Catholic Churches are groups of faithful who have either never been out of communion with the Holy See or who have restored communion with it at the cost of breaking communion with their associates of the same tradition.[374]


Social and cultural issues

Catholic social teaching

Catholic social teaching, reflecting the concern Jesus showed for the impoverished, places a heavy emphasis on the

spiritual works of mercy, namely the support and concern for the sick, the poor and the afflicted.[378][379] Church teaching calls for a preferential option for the poor while canon law prescribes that "The Christian faithful are also obliged to promote social justice and, mindful of the precept of the Lord, to assist the poor."[380] Its foundations are widely considered to have been laid by Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical letter Rerum novarum
which upholds the rights and dignity of labour and the right of workers to form unions.

Catholic teaching regarding sexuality calls for a practice of chastity, with a focus on maintaining the spiritual and bodily integrity of the human person. Marriage is considered the only appropriate context for sexual activity.[381] Church teachings about sexuality have become an issue of increasing controversy, especially after the close of the Second Vatican Council, due to changing cultural attitudes in the Western world described as the sexual revolution.

The church has also addressed stewardship of the natural environment, and its relationship to other social and theological teachings. In the document

global warming.[382] The pope expressed concern that the warming of the planet is a symptom of a greater problem: the developed world's indifference to the destruction of the planet as humans pursue short-term economic gains.[383]

Social services

corporal works of mercy

The Catholic Church is the largest non-government provider of education and medical services in the world.[24] In 2010, the Catholic Church's Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers said that the church manages 26% of health care facilities in the world, including hospitals, clinics, orphanages, pharmacies and centres for those with leprosy.[384]

The church has always been involved in education, since the founding of the first universities of Europe.[81] It runs and sponsors thousands of primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities throughout the world[385][6] and operates the world's largest non-governmental school system.[386]

Religious institutes for women have played a particularly prominent role in the provision of health and education services,

Calcutta, India, founder of the Missionaries of Charity, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her humanitarian work among India's poor.[389] Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo won the same award in 1996 for "work towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor".[390]

The church is also actively engaged in international aid and development through organizations such as

Sexual morality

Allegory of chastity by Hans Memling

The Catholic Church calls all members to practise chastity according to their state in life. Chastity includes temperance, self-mastery, personal and cultural growth, and divine grace. It requires refraining from lust, masturbation, fornication, pornography, prostitution and rape. Chastity for those who are not married requires living in continence, abstaining from sexual activity; those who are married are called to conjugal chastity.[392]

In the church's teaching, sexual activity is reserved to married couples, whether in a

engagement to marriage, partners are called to practise continence, in order to test mutual respect and fidelity.[393] Chastity in marriage requires in particular conjugal fidelity and protecting the fecundity of marriage. The couple must foster trust and honesty as well as spiritual and physical intimacy. Sexual activity must always be open to the possibility of life;[394] the church calls this the procreative significance. It must likewise always bring a couple together in love; the church calls this the unitive significance.[395]

contraception, and for prioritizing moral doctrines over helping the poor and marginalized.[397][398]


The Catholic Church also teaches that "homosexual acts" are "contrary to the natural law", "acts of grave depravity" and "under no circumstances can they be approved", but that persons experiencing homosexual tendencies must be accorded respect and dignity.[399] According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided... Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.[399]

This part of the Catechism was quoted by Pope Francis in a 2013 press interview in which he remarked, when asked about an individual:

I think that when you encounter a person like this [the individual he was asked about], you must make a distinction between the fact of a person being gay from the fact of being a lobby, because lobbies, all are not good. That is bad. If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, well who am I to judge them?[400]

This remark and others made in the same interview were seen as a change in the tone, but not in the substance of the teaching of the church,[401] which includes opposition to same-sex marriage.[402] Certain dissenting Catholic groups oppose the position of the Catholic Church and seek to change it.[403]

Divorce and declarations of nullity

Canon law makes no provision for divorce between baptized individuals, as a valid, consummated sacramental marriage is considered to be a lifelong bond.

ecclesiastical tribunal determining that a marriage was invalidly attempted.[405] In addition, marriages among unbaptized individuals may be dissolved with papal permission under certain situations, such as a desire to marry a Catholic, under Pauline or Petrine privilege.[354][355] An attempt at remarriage following divorce without a declaration of nullity places "the remarried spouse ... in a situation of public and permanent adultery". An innocent spouse who lives in continence following divorce, or couples who live in continence following a civil divorce for a grave cause, do not sin.[406]

Worldwide, diocesan tribunals completed over 49000 cases for nullity of marriage in 2006. Over the past 30 years about 55 to 70% of annulments have occurred in the United States. The growth in annulments has been substantial; in the United States, 27,000 marriages were annulled in 2006, compared to 338 in 1968. However, approximately 200,000 married Catholics in the United States divorce each year; 10 million total as of 2006[update].[407][note 13] Divorce is increasing in some predominantly Catholic countries in Europe.[409] In some predominantly Catholic countries, it is only in recent years that divorce was introduced (Italy (1970), Portugal (1975), Brazil (1977), Spain (1981), Ireland (1996), Chile (2004) and Malta (2011)), while the Philippines and the Vatican City have no procedure for divorce (The Philippines does, however, allow divorce for Muslims.).


Pope Paul VI issued Humanae vitae on 25 July 1968.

The church teaches that

Evangelium Vitae, where he clarified the church's position on contraception, abortion and euthanasia by condemning them as part of a "culture of death" and calling instead for a "culture of life".[411]

Many Western Catholics have voiced significant disagreement with the church's teaching on contraception.[412] Overturning the church's teaching on this point features high on progressive agendas.[413] Catholics for Choice, a political lobbyist group that is not associated with the Catholic Church, stated in 1998 that 96% of U.S. Catholic women had used contraceptives at some point in their lives and that 72% of Catholics believed that one could be a good Catholic without obeying the church's teaching on birth control.[414] Use of natural family planning methods among United States Catholics purportedly is low, although the number cannot be known with certainty.[note 14] As Catholic health providers are among the largest providers of services to patients with HIV/AIDS worldwide, there is significant controversy within and outside the church regarding the use of condoms as a means of limiting new infections, as condom use ordinarily constitutes prohibited contraceptive use.[417]

Similarly, the Catholic Church opposes

in vitro fertilization (IVF), saying that the artificial process replaces the love and conjugal act between a husband and wife.[418] In addition, it opposes IVF because it might cause disposal of embryos; Catholics believe an embryo is an individual with a soul who must be treated as such.[419] For this reason, the church also opposes abortion.[420]

Due to the anti-abortion stance, some Catholics oppose receiving vaccines derived from fetal cells obtained via abortion. On 21 December 2020, and regarding

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith emitted a document stating that "it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process" when no alternative vaccine is available, since "the moral duty to avoid such passive material cooperation is not obligatory if there is a grave danger, such as the otherwise uncontainable spread of a serious pathological agent."[421][422] The document states that receiving the vaccine does not constitute endorsement of the practice of abortion, and that "the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one's own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good."[422] The document cautions further:

Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent. In particular, they must avoid any risk to the health of those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons, and who are the most vulnerable.[422]

Death penalty and euthanasia

The Catholic Church is committed to the worldwide abolition of the death penalty in any circumstance.

dignity of the person" and that the Catholic Church "works with determination for its abolition worldwide."[424] In his 2020 encyclical Fratelli tutti, Francis repeated that the death penalty is "inadmissible" and that "there can be no stepping back from this position".[425] On 9 January 2022, Pope Francis stated in his annual speech to Vatican ambassadors: "The death penalty cannot be employed for a purported state justice, since it does not constitute a deterrent nor render justice to victims, but only fuels the thirst for vengeance".[426]

There is controversy about whether the Catholic Church considers the death penalty intrinsically evil.[427] American Archbishop José Horacio Gómez[427] and Catholic philosopher Edward Feser argue that this is a matter of prudential judgement and that the church does not teach this as a de fide statement;[428] others, such as Cardinals Charles Maung Bo and Rino Fisichella, state that it does.[427]

The Catholic Church opposes active euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide on the grounds that life is a gift from God and should not be prematurely shortened. However, the church allows dying people to refuse extraordinary treatments that would minimally prolong life without hope of recovery.[429][430]

Holy orders and women

Women and men religious engage in a variety of occupations such as contemplative prayer, teaching, providing health care, and working as missionaries.

Religious sisters and nuns have been extensively involved in developing and running the church's worldwide health and education service networks.[432]

Efforts in support of the

latae sententiae, literally "with the sentence already applied", i.e. automatically), citing canon 1378 of canon law and other church laws.[436]

Sexual abuse cases

From the 1990s, the issue of

countries around the world
. The Catholic Church has been criticized for its handling of abuse complaints when it became known that some bishops had shielded accused priests, transferring them to other pastoral assignments where some continued to commit sexual offences.

In response to the scandal, formal procedures have been established to help prevent abuse, encourage the reporting of any abuse that occurs and to handle such reports promptly, although groups representing victims have disputed their effectiveness.[437] In 2014, Pope Francis instituted the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors for the safeguarding of minors.[438]

See also

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  1. ^ While the Catholic Church considers itself to be the authentic continuation of the Christian community founded by Jesus Christ, it teaches that other Christian churches and communities can be in an imperfect communion with the Catholic Church.[16][17]
  2. ^ Quote of St Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans (c. 110 AD)
  3. ^ Examples uses of "Roman Catholic" by the Holy See: the encyclicals Divini Illius Magistri Archived 23 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine of Pope Pius XI and Humani generis Archived 19 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine of Pope Pius XII; joint declarations signed by Pope Benedict XVI with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on 23 November 2006 Archived 2 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine and Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople on 30 November 2006. Archived 30 April 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Example use of "Roman" Catholic by a bishop's conference: The Baltimore Catechism, an official catechism authorized by the Catholic bishops of the United States, states: "That is why we are called Roman Catholics; to show that we are united to the real successor of St Peter" (Question 118) and refers to the church as the "Roman Catholic Church" under Questions 114 and 131 (Baltimore Catechism). Archived 23 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ While ruling contraception to be prohibited, Pope Paul VI did, however, consider natural family planning methods to be morally permissible if used with just cause.
  6. ^ According to Catholic teaching, Jesus Christ is the 'invisible Head' of the Church[184][185][186] while the pope is the 'visible Head'.[187][188]
  7. ^ The last resignation occurred on 28 February 2013, when Pope Benedict XVI retired, citing ill health in his advanced age. The next most recent resignation occurred in 1415, as part of the Council of Constance's resolution of the Avignon Papacy.[195]
  8. ^ In 1992, the Vatican clarified the 1983 Code of Canon Law removed the requirement that altar servers be male; permission to use female altar servers within a diocese is at the discretion of the bishop.[231]
  9. ^ Other councils that addressed the sacraments include the Second Council of Lyon (1274); Council of Florence (1439); as well as the Council of Trent (1547)[301]
  10. ^ For an outline of the Eucharistic liturgy in the Roman Rite, see the side bar in the "Worship and liturgy".
  11. ^ Marriages involving unbaptized individuals are considered valid, but not sacramental. While sacramental marriages are insoluble, non-sacramental marriages may be dissolved under certain situations, such as a desire to marry a Catholic, under Pauline or Petrine privilege.[354][355]
  12. ^ The Divine Worship variant of the Roman Rite differs from the "Anglican Use" variant, which was introduced in 1980 for the few United States parishes established in accordance with a pastoral provision for former members of the Episcopal Church (the American branch of the Anglican Communion). Both uses adapted Anglican liturgical traditions for use within the Catholic Church.
  13. ^ With regard to divorce in the United States, according to the Barna Group, among all who have been married, 33% have been divorced at least once; among American Catholics, 28% (the study did not track religious annulments).[408]
  14. ^ Regarding use of natural family planning, in 2002, 24% of the U.S. population identified as Catholic,[415] but according to a 2002 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of sexually active Americans avoiding pregnancy, only 1.5% were using NFP.[416]
  15. ^ According to Roman Catholic Womanpriests: "The principal consecrating Roman Catholic male bishop who ordained our first women bishops is a bishop with apostolic succession within the Roman Catholic Church in full communion with the pope."[435]


NOTE: CCC stands for

Compendium of the CCC are question numbers, of which there are 598. Canon law citations from the 1990 Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches are labelled "CCEO, Canon xxx", to distinguish from canons of the 1983 Code of Canon Law
, which are labelled "Canon xxx".

  1. ^ Marshall, Thomas William (1844). Notes of the Episcopal Polity of the Holy Catholic Church. London: Levey, Rossen and Franklin. ASIN 1163912190.
  2. ^ Stanford, Peter. "Roman Catholic Church". BBC Religions. BBC. Archived from the original on 6 January 2021. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  3. ^ Bokenkotter 2004, p. 18.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "The Pontifical Yearbook 2024 and the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae 2022". L'Osservatore Romano (in Italian). 4 April 2024. Retrieved 29 April 2024.
  5. ^ Calderisi, Robert. Earthly Mission – The Catholic Church and World Development; TJ International Ltd; 2013; p.40
  6. ^ a b c "Laudato Si". Vermont Catholic. 8 (4) (Winter ed.): 73. 2016–2017. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  7. Encyclopedia Britannica. Archived
    from the original on 15 June 2015. Retrieved 17 June 2021.
  8. ^ Mark A. Noll. The New Shape of World Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009), 191.
  9. from the original on 26 December 2022. Retrieved 8 December 2022.
  10. from the original on 26 December 2022. Retrieved 8 December 2022.
  11. ^ a b c O'Collins, p. v (preface).
  12. ^ "Statistics by Country, by Catholic Population [Catholic-Hierarchy]". David M. Cheney. 20 November 2005. Archived from the original on 4 March 2023. Retrieved 4 March 2023.
  13. ^ "Lumen gentium". Archived from the original on 6 September 2014. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
  14. ^ a b "Vatican congregation reaffirms truth, oneness of Catholic Church". Catholic News Service. Archived from the original on 10 July 2007. Retrieved 17 March 2012.
  15. ^ Bokenkotter 2004, p. 7.
  16. ^ "Responses to Some Questions regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church". Archived from the original on 13 August 2013. It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them.
  17. particular churches. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church. ... 'The Christian faithful are therefore not permitted to imagine that the Church of Christ is nothing more than a collection—divided, yet in some way one—of Churches and ecclesial communities
    ; nor are they free to hold that today the Church of Christ nowhere really exists, and must be considered only as a goal which all Churches and ecclesial communities must strive to reach.'
  18. ^ Holy Bible: Matthew 16:19
  19. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd ed.). Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 2019. Paragraph 890.
  20. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd ed.). Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 2019. Paragraph 835. The rich variety of ... theological and spiritual heritages proper to the local churches 'unified in a common effort shows all the more resplendently the catholicity of the undivided Church'.(cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium, 23)
  21. ^ Colin Gunton. "Christianity among the Religions in the Encyclopedia of Religion", Religious Studies, Vol. 24, number 1, page 14. In a review of an article from the Encyclopedia of Religion, Gunton writes: "[T]he article [on Catholicism in the encyclopedia] rightly suggests caution, suggesting at the outset that Roman Catholicism is marked by several different doctrinal, theological and liturgical emphases."
  22. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd ed.). Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 2019. Paragraphs 1322–1327. [T]he Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith
  23. ^ "The Four Marian Dogmas". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  24. ^
    S2CID 144793259
  25. ^ Raymond Wacks, Law: A Very Short Introduction, 2nd Ed. (Oxford University Press, 2015) p. 13.
  26. , p. 7
  27. ^ MacCulloch, Christianity, p. 127.
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