(This post is part of a series on ‘Living as a Catholic in a Secular World’)

As a foundation for the future posts, here is a bit about the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church is more than just another denomination or branch of Christianity.

Where many other Christian church denominations go back only a few centuries or even only a few decades, the Catholic Church as an institution goes back over 2000 years, back in fact to the time of Christ himself.

The Catholic Church was founded by Christ and is the original Christian Church, before the other denominations broke off (Orthodox in the 1000s, protestant churches in 1500s) for various reasons. So the Catholic Church has over 2000 years of experience on the matters it teaches about. The teachings of the Catholic Church, is the Gospel of the message of Christ, who was God and man on earth, passed down from the apostles, to their successors, to us today. The teachings of the Church stay constant and can be relied upon as the Truth that will not change.

The church teaches through Tradition and Sacred Scripture—both of them are closely bound together and are just as important as each other. Each of them makes Christ present.
Sacred Scripture is the written Word of God, the books of the Old and New Testaments. Think of where you hear most about scripture—in the readings and gospel. Each day different readings are read according to the church calendar, which gives us different areas of our lives to work on according to Christ’s teachings.

Scripture must be read and interpreted with the help of the Holy Spirit and read within context and the living Tradition of the Church. This is what is passed down to help us grow closer in relationship with God, and in community with each other. The church has preached the Word for over 2000 years.

The Pope and bishops have a special gift to teach the Word. Only the Catholic Church is able to say in the Compendium of the Catholic Church what 1 billion people believe in the Church. Other churches have no teaching authority only individual teachings. Teachings vary from church to church and aren’t universally accepted.

Then comes the idea of Papal Infallibility. Something that is often confused amongst people who think they know what the Catholic Church is about. Infallible means without error. The Pope isn’t infallible, but every now and then makes an infallible statement about a contentious issue in the church, a definition of something in relation to faith or morals. Pope John XXIII once said “I am only infallible if I speak infallibly but I shall never do that, so I am not infallible”. Popes have opinions just like the rest of us. And have been proved wrong. In order for something to be infallible it has to be a definition of something held by the universal church. An example of something infallible is the canonisation of saints, when after much research into their life and miracles God has performed through them, the Church declares they are in heaven. But Papal Infallibility has only been used 7 times throughout history. Ever. In 449, 680, 1336, 1653, 1794, 1854 and most recently 1950. About things such as the nature of Christ (God and man), condemning false teachings and defining misconceptions about Mary.

The Church essentially is based around the seven sacraments. Some which are person changing, like Baptism and Confirmation, Marriage and Holy Orders, and some which are essential to every day life like Eucharist, Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick.  These we believe give us the health and graces we need to continue on in our journey of life with Christ. It is more than physical health, it is spiritual health. And we believe that relationship witih our God through these things is an important part of everything we do. These sacraments help us through.

All this has been some kind of effort to introduce some foundation ideas, like Truth and Purpose and What the Church actually is, in order to talk about actual social issues and teachings…