The Basis of Catholic Belief

Catholic beliefs and doctrines have their roots in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ who founded the Catholic Church nearly 2,000 years ago. These beliefs have been codified in a few different sources, namely Scripture and Tradition. Ah, yes, it’s that hot, Catholic buzzword “Tradition.”

Some people shudder when they read it, others embrace it holding it up high for all to see like a beacon in the fog. But what exactly is it? I mean, what’s the big deal? Why are some people so darn repulsed by it and others understand it?

Catholic Tradition is not the horrendous “traditions of man” that are referenced in the Bible. In fact, for our purposes let’s just throw the word Tradition out the window right now.

The Catholic Church (a.k.a. the universal community of believers that received the faith from the apostles) has been around for a long time; about 2,000 years to be exact. The Church was born on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) when the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles and has been going ever since.

Imagine if you were 2,000 years old. You would have a lot of experience, a lot of wisdom and a lot of time for your faith to mature and develop. You would still be the original [insert name here] and the basic things about you would remain the same, but your understanding of those things would mature over time into something deep and powerful that only those who took some serious time to understand you might realize.

Looking in at you from the outside I might be pressed to ask, “How the heck did he/she ever come to that conclusion?” But I am sure that if I asked you, in all your 2,000 years of experience and wisdom, how you came to such and such conclusion you would be able to explain it to me.

It wouldn’t be all that fair if I had only heard from your half-friends and enemies (who, by the way, are all only about 400 years old or even younger) about the things you believed and the conclusions you made; relative to you they are in their infancy, disagree with you due to a lack of understanding the circumstances and are too stubborn to accept the conclusions you have drawn based on your 2,000 year experience and wisdom. I use this as an illustration of the Protestant churches facetiously, but the point still remains.

All Catholic belief is in Scripture, but the development of some of it happened over time. It was a maturing process based on much experience and the things handed down from previous generations. This is what the Catholic Church calls Tradition.

The Church never just made up doctrines out of thin air. What is commonly written in anti-Catholic literature about certain Catholic practices not appearing until the middle ages is really all a big misunderstanding. Often what they cite are the years and councils where the Church felt it was necessary to put an official stamp of approval or affirm practice that has been in Christianity since the beginning.

The Catholic Church did not make an “official” announcement on the canon of Scripture until the Council of Trent because before that time all Christians had accepted all books of the Bible. It was during the Reformation that the Church felt it was being challenged seriously enough so it decided it was time to make official what Christendom had believed for all the centuries prior.

The same thing is true for the belief in transubstantiation, purgatory, the sacraments, prayer to saints, etc. Some things that were decided at councils are not matters that are significant to salvation but merely better ways at making the Church run efficiently such as priestly celibacy. It’s a matter of Church discipline and could change tomorrow (although very unlikely). It has nothing to do with matters of faith.

Other things, such as prayer devotions like the rosary, didn’t develop until later. Saying that a devotional, like the rosary, is a man-made tradition of Catholicism and therefore not Christian is like saying that computers are horrible because they haven’t been around since the dawn of time. In order to get to the point where computers came into existence we had to start somewhere. Through time the steps were made to get to the point where we had enough knowledge to invent a computer. The same is true with the rosary.

Jesus taught us the basis of prayer: the Our Father. Does this mean that all other prayers that follow that mold or that are different are bad because Jesus didn’t teach us those specific words? Of course not, that would be ridiculous. Jesus gave us a formula to pray just as the rest of the Scriptures give us the formula for our faith.

The entire foundation for our belief is in Scripture. The rest is history.


  1. Daniel says

    Sorry for the misspellings. I hope my points came across clearly. This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you the Only True God and of the one You sent forth Jesus Christ. John 17:3.

  2. Daniel says

    I have read the Bible for my entire adolescent and adult life. Though there are many areas I do not agree with when it comes to Catholic doctrine or dogma ( the designation and praying through saints, since they were as imperfect as we are) doesn’t find any backing in the Bible. We are to pray to God through his Son Jesus Christ our Messiah. Through his name and the blood he shed we have the ability to approach God and have the opportunity of forgiveness of our repentant sins. We are not told to confess to any man not call any man, in a Spiritual sense, our Father. Priests are just as imperfect as we are. Only Jesus loves a Perfect life and have us a Perfect example to follow. I can’t rap my head around the Trinity. How can God who created the Son and Holy Spirit be the same with the same power. The Bible says that Jesus resides at the right hand of God. Was resurrected by God. Unlike God and Jesus, the Holy Spirit has never been assigned a name. It has always been shown to act as Gods power. Filling the 120 disciples at Pentecost 33 CE to perform many powerful works. There are so many things my wife who had been Catholic all her life is unable to explain. Why don’t Catholics being their Bibles to Mass to follow along to make sure what they learn is truly from the Word of God?

  3. Sean Conrad White Sr. says

    What is the difference between being a Christian and a Catholic? We all worship our ALMIGHTY GOD!!! Is it that they worship and praise GOD differently?

    • Shelly says

      Catholics are Christians. The Catholics focus much more on traditions rituals, and the saints. It’s not nessissary, but it doesn’t keep you from salvation, they do believe in the bible and Jesus. If different traditions bring you closer to Christ ok, no problem. But, if you find yourself focusing to much on how you worship, and not who you worship, look for a different denominations, or non- denominational church. God does not want to be turned into an idol. There are tons of denominations, most of them, Catholic included not bad. We are all different, are moved by the spirit, and in different ways. Be open to try different places and see what God has in store for you.

    • Alaina says

      Yes Catholics are Christians since Christians include anyone who believes in Christ as the Son of God; however the difference is that Catholics can trace the origin of their Church back to Jesus Christ directly whereas the other christian religions cannot. Most of the Christian religions were started by Catholics who for one reason or another decided to leave the Catholic church so that they could do what they wanted without someone telling them it was wrong or forbidding it. For example, King Henry VIII Broke away from the Catholic Church and started the Church of England all because he wanted to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, “And Pharasees came up to him and tested him by asking, “is it lawful to divorce ones wife for any cause?” and Jesus answered “Have you not read that he who made hem from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘ for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one’? so they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:3-9) If you are truly struggling with questions of which denomination then study the bible, and I do not mean the King James version because as it state it was revised by one man who could have left things out that he did not want in there; I would suggest actually studying a Catholic bible only because it was decided what books belonged in there by many different people who debated and prayed for guidance from the Holy Spirit on it for centuries before saying what went into it.

  4. Jo Villegas says

    Mary not a first desciple of Jesus? Who do you think ever first believed in Jesus as God the Son? Wasn’t it Mary? To whom was the annunciation made by Angel Gabriel? Wasn’t it Mary? When the announcement was made to Mary and she believed what the angel told her, doesn’t that make Mary a certified first desciple of Jesus? From the accounts in the Bible, Mary was with Jesus from His birth to His death. If there is more to this discipleship I do not know what. Think about it please Miho Valle.

    • Daniel says

      In the old testament there were many believers in the one and only true God. Abraham was given a promise that the promised messiah would come through his line of descent due to his unwaivering Faith. There are too many people to name as worshippers of the Only True God and who believed in a day when his Son would come and deliver all those who truly followed his Sons teachings, which he learned from his Father. Jesus said all he did was not of his own initiative but only from the Father had instructed him to teach. Begs the question how could he be God himself. The Bible said he was one with God and that he was as a god (small case) to those who had the privilege to see his miracles and listen to his teachings. Even the religious leaders were amazed at his knowledge when he was just 12 years old.

  5. Lee says

    To Dayelin, concerning prayers to Mary, or to any saint. Misunderstanding occurs when cultural practice or verbiage take place. For example, when a person says “communion” it has different understanding or meanings depending on who is saying it. When I say it, it most likely means something radically different than you would understand the word to mean if you were the one saying it. This seems to be what is happening when we, as Catholics, say that we pray to Mary. Prayer, for most Protestants, means worship. That is not what the word has always exclusively meant. For example, you may have asked someone: “Pray, tell me…” or “I pray that isn’t true.” In this situation “pray” is a simple request and not some act of worship as to the inquiry. So, if you read the text of the “Hail Mary” you will not find forms of adoration in it. It is, in fact, a recitation of a scriptural passage from the Gospel of Luke from Gabriel; the second half of the prayer asks for her intercession on our behalf, as well as veneration. Regarding veneration, this is not different than my promoting my own brother as someone who may be able to help you understand me better rather than someone who only knows me from work. Mary knows her Son better than any other human, and He knows His mother. At Cana, she asked Him to intercede and even though it did not seem that He wanted to, He did it because of her intercession. This is how we see this. We do not give Mary adoration, but since she is in heaven, and sinless there, we know that she can approach Him better than you can, for instance, who is debilitated by sin in this world.

    And really, perhaps you would be better served to ask Catholics how we believe about something rather than a non-Catholic or someone else who sees something from a different perspective. I would ask you about your faith and what you meant rather than ask a Catholic what you could possibly mean on a given subject.

    God bless

    • Jw says

      Evrey Human being is imperfect. How can Mary be sinless . What you just said about prayer makes no sense .

  6. APA says

    “Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” Revelation 1:11 (NRSVCE).

    From the above scripture we can see seven churches. Churches are many, so there is no need for an argument that there is only one church. If u take Greek orthodox churches, they say they are more older than Roman Catholic church, ya its true. But, Syrian Orthodox Churches says, they are even more older than Greek orthodox churches, which is established by Peter. Its all true.

    But, what is church mean?
    Its not the buildings like Greek orthodox churches buildings, Syrian Orthodox Churches buildings, St.peter’s church building or Roman catholic churches buildings, Lutheran Churches buildings, Anglican churches buildings and Pentecostal churches buildings. Meaning and Etymology of the word Church is: its an assembly, gathering, ecclesiastical. Its not the building but grouping of people, that it means.

    Church is different from temple.

    We can gather in any place in the name of Jesus that is called church, even if two or more stands in street and pray in the name of Jesus that is also called Church.

    Many are fighting that I am this church, I am that church, but what Apostle Paul says about Divisions in the Church
    “Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas (Peter),” or “I belong to Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?. (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).

    This what happening today in the name of church denominations. Those who say that I am belong to that denomination or this denomination, they only belong to denominations but not to Jesus Christ. Let us leave the names of denominations, but we have to say that we are Christian or followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ cannot be divided by the name of denominations.

    “For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?
    1 Corinthians 3:3-4

    “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11.

    So, The foundation is only Jesus Christ.

    The early churches was gathered in Jerusalem(started in Jerusalem first), Damascus(Syria, where Paul goes to trouble the Christians) & Antioch (which is also in Syria), Alexandria(Egypt), Turkey (which was Asia province, where Paul preached), Greek(where Paul preached), Cyprus island(where John saw Revelation) and Rome(where Paul and Peter preached lastly and died).

    Truth is true Christians are strangers for this world, they have headquarters in heaven but not in earth.

    “You are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. Matthew 23:8-10.

    But many christian religious leaders are against this above verse of Jesus.

    “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24.
    church which is wrongly meant by many christian people as a building is not required for our God to be worshiped. Those buildings cannot be called sacred place.

    Thus says the Lord:
    “Heaven is my throne
    and the earth is my footstool;
    what is the house that you would build for me,
    and what is my resting place?
    All these things my hand has made,
    and so all these things are mine,
    says the Lord.
    But this is the one to whom I will look,
    to the humble and contrite in spirit,
    who trembles at my word.
    Whoever slaughters an ox is like one who kills a human being;
    whoever sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck;
    whoever presents a grain offering, like one who offers swine’s blood;
    whoever makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol.
    These have chosen their own ways,
    and in their abominations they take delight. Isaiah 66:1-3

    from the above verse God does not requires man made things.

    Further scripture says:
    “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

    Each one is called living temple for God.

    “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

    2 Corinthians 6:14-18 says like this
    “The Temple of the Living God
    Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship is there between light and darkness? What agreement does Christ have with Beliar(satan)? Or what does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
    “I will live in them and walk among them,
    and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
    Therefore come out from them(idol worshipers, immorality peoples),
    and be separate from them, says the Lord,
    and touch nothing unclean(idols);
    then I will welcome you,
    and I will be your father,
    and you shall be my sons and daughters,
    says the Lord Almighty.”

    Dear bothers and Sisters let us walk in Spirit and Truth, repenting from our ignorance and shall walk in the way to heaven through the word of god.

    • matt says

      whatever the purpose for you to put this on here, i will pray to God that God will mature you in understanding of all things and will give you a sense of respect and love for other christian denominations for we are all one through christ jesus. just because there are different ways of growing closer to God in different denominations doesn’t mean we broke away from God or divided jesus. i don’t know your bib cal background but i urge you to study revelations under a 15 year experience pastor because revelations is very hard book to interpret and understand. a lot of people with little or no theology training/backround misinterprets the book of revelations.

      • APA says

        Dear brother matt,
        thanks for your prayer, but did you really prayed for me through Holy Spirit?.

        Since you said me to love and respect other denominational Christians, I am compelled by you to tell how I loved and loving other denominational Christians. I myself helping financially for those who study theology at Catholic seminaries.

        From the age of 17, in Burma, I had started giving testimony for Jesus, especially started witnessing Jesus to jehovah witness and argued with them to show Jesus is the Almighty God. I am a full-time evangelist and served Catholic Church all over India and Andaman Island for 16 years at free of cost without getting a single rupee from those churches. For 35 years I am reading this Bible, but I could not finish it. I also finished my theological studies long back. And I also did teaching to Catholic priests, nuns, college students and pentecostal pastors.

        I humbly request you to understand this now.

        Paul says in Acts 22:3
        “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today.

        here paul says that he did his theology under Gamaliel but he was torturing Christians and his eyes were not opened to understand The Truth of the salvation through Jesus christ.

        This same Paul says in Galatians 1:11-12
        “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.  For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

        what Paul learnt from Gamaliel is gone in vain for him to preach the gospel, but what he received through the Holy Spirit still remains.

        so i humbly request you to learn and not to boast for fleshly matters, since the Holy Spirit wants us to understand from 1John 2:27
        “The anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him”.

        I only believe in learning through the Holy Spirit.

        Let your Actions be as fruits and your words as the Sword of the Spirit. God bless you.

        • Daniel says

          Jesus stated that broad and spacious is the road leading to destruction and many would go in through it. Narrow and cramped the road leads to life and few will be the ones who find it. How can all these devicive religions be correct? Jesus taught one way. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. How many wars and perverse things have been done in his name by persons who truly believed Christ was on their side? The Bible says that Satan is the god of this system of things, until Christ comes and puts him and his demons in the abyss how do we know that these conflicts in Jesus name are not just another way he has tricked humankind. He tried Jesus himself on three occasions. A perfect man. How much easier to trick us?

    • Jw says

      The lord and the almighty is two different persons. Lord is Jesus our lord and savior. And the bible clearly states who the almighty is .

  7. Michael Costigan says

    Jon — interesting article, but it seems substantively incomplete. Allow me to pose to you a question I was asked 15 years ago. “How can you believe what you believe?” I was floored, not knowing how to respond. In the 10 years that followed, I read Scripture — not just what we as Catholics know as the Old and New Testament, but also the Koran, and parts of the Kitáb, Gita, and Talmud. It dawned on me that all faith in God is fundamentally the same. So what separates Christianity, and more specifically, Catholocism from all other faiths? The answer is surprisingly simple in God’s Revelation to John. First, God is infinite — the beginning and the end (1:8). Second, we (as humans) cannot judge God’s motives, except to the extent that He revealed his intent to us in Scriptures (whole Revelation). It is these two fundamental beliefs that allow us to believe the rest of what Scripture tells us, and refutes two key challenges to the Catholic faith: “He could not do that” (e.g., be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — He is infinite, therefore He can manifest Himself to us in any way He chooses, at any time, even in mulitple forms), and “He would not do that” (who are we to judge God?). Belief in His infinity and our inability to judge Him gives our the rest of our faith a rock on which to stand, which cannot be refuted.

    To Dayelin — I understand your position and confusion. If you examine “Hail Mary,” it is not a prayer to her as much as it is a request asking her to intercede on our behalf before God… “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners…” Would you deny your mother’s request? Given the 4th commandment (“Honor thy father and mother”), I find it hard to believe that our Lord would deny His mother’s requests.

    To all that read this — may God’s blessings be upon you this day and always.

    • Miho Valle says

      Where in the bible did anyone instructed to ask Mary to pray for us? That’s the work of the Holy Spirit ( and please be careful how any of you respond towards The Holy Spirit) Mark 3:28-30.
      Romans 8:28-” likewise the Spirit (Holy Spirit) also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makers intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered”.
      And this passage is not talking about Mary. She is a human being, not deity, and cannot intercede for us.
      John 14:23-” And whatsoever ye ask in My name (Jesus talking, not Mary) that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
      If anything, Jesus Himself would have told us in His Word to ask us to ask Mary to intercede for us. So hence, because my Lord and Savior did not mention anything about salvation thru Mary , I certainly won’t accept that doctrine, and I’d rather follow Jesus, than any non-biblical teachings.

  8. Dayelin Navarro says

    But the bible doesn’t tell us to pray to Mary. That would be breaking one of the ten commandments (you shall not have any other gods before me). when you dedicate a prayer to her, you are not following this commandment.This is why I am against catholics

    • AJ says

      Dayelin- Do you ask others to pray for you? This is what Catholics do when they ask Mary to intercede for us in prayer. The best example of this is in John 2 when Mary is interceding at the wedding in Cana.

      Catholics also DO NOT place Mary within the Holy Trinity and they DO NOT worship her. Worship is do to God alone. Mary is a creature just like the rest of us, but she is highly respected within the church because of the extremely important role she played in being the first believer and disciple of Jesus.

      • Miho Valle says

        Mary was NOT Jesus’ first disciple! Non of His disciples were female. Matthew 4:18 identified Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother was called to follow Him. Read Mark 3:31-35. Mary and His brothers was seeking Jesus from outside, Jesus replied, ” who is my mother, or my brethren?

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