Many people seem to be very confused on what they think that Catholics believe in, versus what they ACTUALLY believe in. So here is a short list of ideas that people believe that Catholics believe in, and why they are just plain wrong. Archbishop Patrick John Ryan wrote an exquisite book on this subject, so be sure to check that out.
1. Just the life of the baby
Saying you’re pro-life doesn’t mean all we care about is the baby’s life until they are born. We care about the entire life of the baby, the mother, and anyone else involved in that baby’s life. This is why many pregnancy centers will provide complete care for the baby and the mother, including medicines, formula, clothing, diapers, etc., and they will also help the new mother with finding other help such as government assistance, shelter, job help, and personal protection (if needed). It may not come directly from them, but they work hard to find all the help that mother needs, before and after birth.
It also goes without saying, that we also believe in all life including the homeless, sick, hungry, under-employed, imprisoned, elderly, mentally ill, and anyone else who just needs a prayer and a helping hand. Catholics have charities for all of these conditions, and we want to protect the lives of the vulnerable, especially those who may be tempted to end their lives, such as the mentally ill, sick and the elderly.
2. Single issue voters
Nope, wrong. We are a complex group of voters which will look at all the issues on where a candidate stands and will decide to vote based on that candidate and their views according to our Catholic values. We can’t be just single issue voters, which is why voting is complicated. We must weigh all the values of the candidates against our own values.
Are their single issues that are weighted more than other issues, YES. Pro-abortion, death penalty, torture, war and other life/death issues are weighted more than non-life and death issues. But as Catholics, we must look at all the issues and support the candidate that most closely lines up with the Catholic values and morals.
3. Catholics only support Democrats/Republicans
(the picture above is in no way an endorsement for one candidate over another, it’s hilarious and that’s why we used it.)
Nope, wrong again. There is no “perfect candidate.” If you recall, 2000 years ago when Jesus was here, he didn’t teach according to the Democrats or preach that it was the Republicans will rule the best (by the way, there was no Representative Republic government back then). We were taught and live out a set of moral values and laws according to God’s way, and Jesus told us not to live by man’s rule alone. When the Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce, He told them that was Moses that gave them that law, not God (Matthew 19). Just because something is legal, doesn’t mean it’s moral.
We must also think ahead about if that candidate comes into office: will they be able to move the country/state/county/city closer to God or further from Him? When it comes to most candidates, that is a tough decision which only God help us make.
4. All other religions are going to Hell
Yep, it’s Catholic or nothing in Heaven.
Uh, no. That is only for God to determine. What I do know is that at the Transfiguration, Elijah and Moses talked to Jesus (I know He could pull anyone out of Hell but…) and they weren’t “Christians” in the sense that we know Christianity today (Matthew 17). We do believe is that we have the fullness of Christ in the Eucharist and that we are Apostolic, which means we have a line of leadership guided by the Holy Spirit all the way back to Peter. Are all popes great like Pope St. Leo the Great or Pope St. John Paul II? Nope. Pope’s have a human will, just as Peter did. Which leads me to my next false belief…
5. The Pope can do no wrong
Catholics don’t believe that the Pope can do no wrong! Yes, the pope can make mistakes and can even sin like the rest of us. We even have bad popes and anti-popes in the line of succession. We have pope’s that divided the Church, who didn’t stand up for her teachings, who were weak, who were given the papacy because of power or who they were, who were even put on trial for heresy after their death! (Check out Pope Formosus and the Cadaver Synod to read more about that crazy time). Men do not turn into Jesus (or even Jesus 2.0) when they become Pope.
What we do believe is that the Pope is only infallible when he speaks ex cathedra or “when in the exercise of his office as pastor and teacher of all Christians, he defines a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, by reason of the Divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter,” it is given to him by Jesus when defining doctrines of faith and morals. (check out Infallibility for more).
Onto a lighter topic…
7. We hate sex
(Where did all those babies come from???)
That’s pretty obvious…
Yes, we totally did not ignore God when he commanded us to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28, shall we say the real “first commandment” God gave us, besides not eating from the tree, but I digress). Really, Catholics love sex in the context of marriage. That is what we are given to do. Before marriage, we are to control our temptations and lusts for others.
We are called to be chaste and honor our future spouse by not giving ourselves away to others. After marriage, we are to honor our spouse, love one another, keep holy our marriage bed and be open to children. So, if you are married, go and be fruitful – God commands it. To learn more about God’s loving plan for us, check out Pope St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body.”
8. We hate Gays/Lesbians or anyone who doesn’t fit into our “Catholic mold”
Um, again wrong, wrong, wrong. We love all people and we see all people as “children of God.” We are sinners and all have our own crosses to bear. There is no perfect Catholic. There is no perfect person, other than two, Jesus and Mary. Whatever it is that we deal with, we are called to support one another along our journey and try to lead others out of sin (and also avoid sin ourselves). When someone doesn’t want to stop sinning, we can let them go just as Jesus commanded the Apostles to do for those who did not accept Jesus’ message, so that they might realize how much their sin is really hurting them but we must still pray for those people (commonly called “tough love”).
Do all Catholics feel this way about non-Catholics? Probably not, but then they really aren’t living out their faith. Jesus said to “love one another” (John 13:24-25) not “love one another, except those who don’t live a life as God commands.” As the Pope Francis said, “Who am I to judge.” His meaning?
I was paraphrasing by heart the Catechism of the Catholic Church where it says that these people should be treated with delicacy and not be marginalized. I am glad that we are talking about ‘homosexual people’ because before all else comes the individual person, in his wholeness and dignity, and people should not be defined only by their sexual tendencies: let us not forget that God loves all his creatures and we are destined to receive his infinite love. I prefer that homosexuals come to confession, that they stay close to the Lord, and that we pray all together. You can advise them to pray, show goodwill, show them the way, and accompany them along it.” (National Catholic Reporter)
To learn more about what Catholics believe (or do not believe), pick up the new book, Anti-Catholic Myths Debunked by Archbishop Patrick John Ryan (Sophia Press). This wonderful book exposes five common misconceptions of the Catholic faith with the complete arguments for and against why we believe what we believe. It is a quick read and explains the Catholic doctrine in clear language.