This summary of Catholic faith is based on doctrinal statements contained in the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2006. Use this summary for personal reflection or small group discussion.
Catholics believe that God has planted in every human heart a hunger and longing for the infinite -- for nothing less than God. Only in God will we find the truth, peace and happiness for which we are always searching.
Catholics believe that God can be known with certainty from God's works in creation, from the spiritual nature of the human person, and from human reason. We can discern our spiritual soul and come to see that this could only have its origin in God by our openness to goodness and truth, our experience, our sense of moral goodness, the voice of conscience, and our desire for happiness.
However, we believe that that there is a deeper knowledge of God that comes to us only through Divine Revelation.
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Catholics believe that revelation is the self-disclosure of the living God. It shows us that God desires to have an intimate and loving relationship with us.
The process of revelation took centuries to unfold, as God gradually communicated the divine mystery by words and deeds. This experience established a relationship (a covenent) between God and God's People.
God's revelation reached its fullness in Jesus Christ, the definitive Word of God. No new public revelation will occur before the final manifestation of Jesus Christ.
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Catholics believe that Jesus Christ entrusted his mission to the Apostles, who transmitted Christ's Gospel through their witness, preaching and writing. Therefore, God's Revelation is transmitted through both Apostolic Tradition and Sacred Scripture; both flow from the same divine wellspring and work together toward the same goal.
The teaching office of the Church, the Magisterium (the pope and the bishops in communion with him, has the task of authoritatively interpreting the Word of God contained in Sacred Scripture and transmitted by Sacred Tradition.
The Catholic Church accepts and venerates as inspired the 46 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament.
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Catholics believe that faith is a gift from God. God not only enters into a relationship with us, but also gives us the grace to respond.
Faith involves the assent of the intellect and will to God's revelation. By faith we believe in all that is contained in the Word of God, written or handed down, and proposed by the Church as divinely revealed.
Faith is a free, conscious human act. It is both supremely personal and communal. Like reason, it is a way of knowing, but it is different from reason because it involves the whole of the human being.
Faith is necessary for salvation.
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Catholics believe that the mystery of the Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life.
We do not speak of three gods in the Trinity, but of one God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not three modes of God, but three distinct Persons who are the same divine being. All three are in relation to each other and work together in the creation, redemption and sanctification of creation.
God created the universe freely "out of nothing" to show and to share divine glory. We are called to share in God's truth, goodness and beauty.
Angels are spiritual creatures who glorify God and work for our salvation. The Church venerates angels who help us on the pilgrimage to God and protect every human being.
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Catholics believe that God created man and woman in God's image. Each of us is a unity of body and soul, called by God to love and serve God and to care for God's creation.
God directly creates the immortal soul of each human being.
God created human beings as male and female, equal to each other as persons and in dignity.
The account of the fall in Genesis 3 affirms a primeval event in which man and woman abused their freedom and transmitted to all future generations a human nature wounded by sin and deprived of original holiness and justice.
Humanity has been reconciled to God by the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
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The name Jesus means "God's saves." Catholics believe that Jesus Christ is the unique and eternal Son of the Father whose whole life, death and resurrection are the actualization of God's Word and the fulfillment of God's revelation.
The eternal Word became human at the appointed time without ceasing to be God. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He is like us in all things except sin.
In the Incarnation we behold the mystery of the union of the divine and human natures in the one person of God's Son. Jesus Christ is true God and true man united in one divine person.
As disciples of Christ, we are called to conform ourselves to him until he is formed in us.
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Catholics believe that our salvation flows from God's love for us.
Because God loves us God "sent his Son as expiation for our sins" (1 Jn 4:10). By forgiving sins, Jesus manifested himself to be the Savior. By his loving obedience to the Father he fulfilled the atoning mission of the suffering Servant anticipated by the prophet Isaiah.
The Son of God truly died and was buried, but his body underwent no corruption. His resurrection is an event that is historically attested to by the Apostles, and a mystery by which God the Father raises the Son from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Christ is the "firstborn from the dead" (Col 1:18) and so is the principle of our own resurrection. By his Ascension Christ precedes us into heaven and at the end of time he will come in glory to judge the living and the dead.
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Catholics believe that the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit are inseparable. From the fullness of his glory Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and the Church.
The Holy Spirit builds up, animates and sanctifies the Church. The Spirit opens our minds to understand Christ's death and Resurrection and prepares us to go out and bring others to Christ. The Spirit makes present for us the mystery of Christ, especially in the Eucharist, and brings us to communion with God so that our efforts may bear much fruit.
The life of the Blessed Virgin Mary shows us the power of the Holy Spirit. She was made by the Spirit into a witness of grace from the moment of her conception and by the power of the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus, the Son of God.
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Catholics believe that the Church is the sacrament of salvation, the sign and instrument of our communion with God. It is variously referred to as the People of God, the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, and theTemple of the Holy Spirit.
Christ is the head of the Body and we are its members. There is a diversity of members and roles in the Body of Christ, yet everyone is linked together by Christ's love and grace, especially the poor, the suffering and the persecuted.
The Church is a communion which is rooted in our union with Jesus Christ. This relationship gives us a share in the communion of the Persons of the Trinity and leads to a communion among all men and women. This communion calls us to become a source of unity for all peoples.
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Catholics believe that the Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic.
"One" means that we profess "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians 4:5). This is a unity sustained by the Holy Spirit that includes a diversity of gifts, talents, cultures and rites.
"Holy" means that the holiness gained through the death and resurrection of Jesus is made available to us by the Holy Spirit, especially through the Sacraments.
"Catholic" (which means "universal") means that all the means of salvation are found in the Church. It also means that Jesus commissions us to bring the Gospel to all peoples at all times.
"Apostolic" means that the Church is built on the foundation of the Apostles and hands on the teaching of the Apostles through all generations.
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Catholic believe that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the Apostles chose bishops to succeed them. Bishops teach the faith, celebrate the Sacraments, and guide the Church. They are helped by priests and deacons.
Lay people share in Christ's priesthood through their baptism. They are called to holiness, to a prophetic witness in the world, and to a responsibility to sanctify the world by their words and deeds.
Some individuals in the Church consecrate their lives to God by professing the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability. They promise to surrender their lives to God with an undivided heart, making themselves available to serve God, the Church and the needs of others.
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Catholics believe that it was an essential part of God's saving plan for the mother of Jesus to be conceived free of Original Sin and full of grace. (This is the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.)
Beginning with the Annunciation, the Virgin Mary cooperated freely, in the obedience of faith, with the plan of salvation.
Catholics consider Mary the Mother of God (or Theotokos, which means "birth-giver of God") because she is the mother of the Son of God made man. Mary is also called the New Eve and the Mother of the Church.
Catholics believe that Mary was always a virgin, and that at the end of her life Mary was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven. (This is the doctrine of the Assumption.)
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Catholics believe in the Communion of Saints, which includes the faithful on earth, the souls in purgatory, and the blessed in heaven.
We believe that the soul is immortal and does not perish when it separates from the body at death; it will be reunited with the body at the final resurrection.
We believe that immediately after death each person comes before God and is judged individually. At the end of time, a final judgment will occur when all are assembled before God and their relationship to God is made public.
Those who die in the state of grace but are not fully purified must undergo a purification to attain the holiness needed to enter heaven. This process is called "purgatory."
The Church warns us of the sad reality of eternal death, called hell, which is brought about by a person's free and permanent rejection of God and God's love.
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Catholics praise and adore God as the source of all blessings through liturgy (which means "public work").
Liturgical celebrations use signs and symbols drawn from creation, human life and salvation history; integrated into faith, these signs become bearers of the sanctifying action of Christ.
Sacred song and music lead to prayer, invite participation, and reflect the sacred character of the liturgy. Sacred images nourish faith in the mystery of Christ.
In the course of the Liturgical Year, the Church unfolds the mystery of Christ's Incarnation, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension.
Sunday and its vigil celebrate Christ's resurrection; it is the day that the faithful are obliged to attend Mass, rest from work, and engage in charitable works.
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Catholics believe that Sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church.
Sacraments communicate grace to each person. Grace is a participation in God's life and a growth of love and witness in the Church; grace is the result of God's favor and initiative.
Christ, the Son of God made flesh, acts in the Sacraments; he communicates his saving power for his Body, the Church.
The Holy Spirit prepares the faithful for the Sacraments by helping us to welcome the Word of God in faith.
The Church celebrates the Sacraments as an assembly of all the baptized, led by the ordained, each having a special role to play in the celebration.
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Baptism is one of the Sacraments of Initiation. Catholics believe Baptism is necessary for salvation and entry into the Church.
The rite of Baptism consists in immersing the person in water three times or pouring water on the person's head three times while invoking the Holy Trinity: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
The effects of Baptism are: delivery from all sins; reception of the grace of divine adoption, which makes us a member of Christ and a temple of the Holy Spirit; initiation into the Church; and sharing in Christ's mission as priest, prophet and king.
Baptism seals the person's soul with a permanent spiritual character and cannot be repeated.
Catholics believe that people who die for the faith, catechumens who die before being baptized, those who do not know Christ or the Church through no fault of their own but seek God sincerely and do God's will can be saved without being baptized. The Church trusts in God's mercy and confidently hopes for the salvation of children who die without Baptism.
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Confirmation is one of the Sacraments of Initiation.
In the Western (or Latin) Church, it is administered after the age of reason and is normally conferred by the bishop. Like Baptism, Confirmation confers an indelible character and cannot be repeated.
The essential rite of Confirmation in the Western Church consists of the anointing with Chrism on the recipient's forehead and the laying on of the hand with the words "Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit."
The effects of Confirmation include a perfection of baptismal grace; an increase in the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit; a deepening of our identity as sons and daughters of God; a closer bond to the Church and her mission; and helps for bearing witness.
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Catholics believe that the Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's saving life, death and Resurrection. It is the summit and source of Christian life because the entire treasure of the Church--Jesus Christ--is found in the Eucharist.
Jesus instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice, the banquet of divine life, at the Last Supper. Acting through the ministry of the priest, Christ is both the priest offering the sacrifice and the victim being sacrificed in the Eucharist.
At Mass Jesus Christ is substantially present in a way that is entirely unique. The consecrated bread is Christ's body and the consecrated wine is Christ's blood. Christ is fully present under each form.
Catholics are urged to receive Communion at Mass and are obliged to do so at least once a year during the Easter season.
The fruits of Holy Communion are a deeper union with Christ; a closer identity with all of the faithful; a commitment to the poor; and a pledge of future glory.
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Catholics believe that Christ entrusted the power to forgive sins to the apostles when he gave them the Holy Spirit (John 20:22-23).
In the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, the acts of the penitent are contrition (sorrow), confession and satisfaction; the act of the priest is absolution. The priest proposes a penance to the penitent to repair the harm due to sin and to restore the penitent's commitment to be a disciple of Christ.
Individual confession of grave sins according to kind and number is the only ordinary way of receiving absolution and reconciliation. While it is not necessary to confess venial sins, the Church strongly recommends this practice.
The effects of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation include: reconciliation with God and the Church; peace of conscience and spiritual consolation; remission of eternal punishment due to mortal sin and some degree of temporal punishments; and a greater power to face spiritual challenges.
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Catholics believe that the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is for those who are seriously ill, in danger of death, or suffering from the difficulties of old age. The sacrament can be received each time a person falls seriously ill or an illness worsens.
The rite of the Anointing of the Sick includes the anointing of the forehead and hands of the sick or other parts of the body, accompanied by the liturgical prayer that asks for the grace of the Sacrament.
Only priests and bishops may administer the Sacrament of Anointing because one effect of this Sacrament can be the forgiveness of sin.
The gifts of this Sacrament include uniting the sick person with Christ's Passion for the person's well-being and that of the Church; strength to endure patiently the sufferings of illness and old age; the forgiveness of sins if the person was unable to receive the Sacrament of Penance; and preparation for the passage to eternal life.
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Catholics believe that through Baptism all the members of the church share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. This is called the "common priesthood of the faithful."
Catholics also believe that the Sacrament of Holy Orders confers another kind of participation in Christ's priesthood, the ministerial priesthood of bishop and priest. This differs in essence from the common priesthood because it confers a sacred power for the service of the faithful. The ordained ministry occurs in three degrees or orders: deacon, priest and bishop.
Bishops are the chief teachers, sanctifiers and shepherds in their dioceses. Priests form a presbyteral community with the bishop and assume with him the pastoral mission for a particular parish. Deacons receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders but not the ministerial priesthood.
Only men may be ordained. Normally ordination to priesthood is only conferred on those men who freely promise lifelong celibacy.
The essential rite of the Sacrament of Holy Orders for all three degrees consists in the bishop's imposition of hands and the bishop's prayer of consecration.
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Catholics believe that God is the author of marriage.
The matrimonial covenant by which a man and a woman establish a partnership of life is by its nature ordered to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. This covenant between Baptized persons has been raised by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament.
By their marriage the couple witnesses Christ's spousal love for the Church. The spouses are ministers of Christ's grace and mutually confer upon each other the Sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church.
Unity, permanent lifelong commitment and openness to having and caring for children are essential to marriage. Remarriage of persons divorced from a lawful living spouse is not permitted by God's law as taught by Christ.
Catholics believe that the Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith; for this reason the family is called "the domestic church."
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Catholics believe that sacramentals are sacred signs instituted by the Church which bear resemblance to the sacraments and signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church.
Among sacramentals, the most significant are blessings for persons, meals, objects, places and ceremonial occasions. Blessings praise God for his gifts; most blessings invoke the Holy Trinity through the Sign of the Cross and are sometimes accompanied by the sprinkling of holy water.
Exorcism is a form of sacramental blessing directed at the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to the Church.
Various popular devotions or expressions of piety extend the liturgical life of the Church but do not replace it. Such devotions are in some way derived from the sacred liturgy and should lead people to it because the liturgy by its very nature is far superior to any of them.
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