The biggest christian church. Usually simply called catholic; the Roman prefix is used to distinguish it from other branches of christianity that do not recognise the Roman pope but are not part of the protestant branch either, such as the Greek orthodox and Russian orthodox churches.

The prefix Roman distinguishes it from other Catholic churches, but it is not correct to say that this excludes Protestant churches. The Church of England is known as the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of England.

I would suggest that a Catholic church is (roughly) one that accepts the Nicene Creed with the filioque, and believes in the apostolic succession.

(Later: isido, who seems to know a whole lot better than me (see Orthodox Christian) says it isn't that simple, and I'm sure it isn't. I don't know enough about Eastern Catholicism, and hope that isido or someone will write up the details.)

The Roman Catholic Church dislike the prefix 'Roman' because it smacks of those old Protestant terms of disparagement, like 'Romish' and 'popish' and 'papist'. So they (I am told) prefer to call themselves the Catholic Church. However, this is begging the question: the Pope claims to be head of all of the Catholic church, but other Catholic churches (such as the Church of England) firmly deny that he is. According to them, he is the Bishop of Rome and heads only the Roman branch of the church, and those Eastern ones in communion with it.

I grew up Catholic. My family wasn’t particularly strict in their attention to doctrine, but we attended mass on Sundays and for all the major feasts. My mother read scripture for mass every once in a while and was well acquainted with the priests. Even when I was eight or so, she told me honestly what she thought of them, that Fr. Aaron was a bit cold, that she liked Fr. Lou but couldn’t stand the smell of those cheap cigars he smoked, that sort of thing. She taught me how to pray, made sure I knew all the right words in the right order, but she never taught me how to feel during prayer.

My father did not care about the Church, and I could see the boredom in his eyes during mass. He set them in a cold stare throughout the service, sometimes going through the motions of prayer, mouthing the words indifferently, sometimes simply sitting, standing, and kneeling. That was the bare minimum of participation necessary to keep the parishioners from whispering conspicuously to one another after mass. I knew my father was indifferent to the pageantry and incense of life as a member of the Church, and that knowledge was probably the seed of my own divorce from the institution my mother holds closest to her heart.

My earliest memories of mass are from about age three or so. The church we attended then was the church of my baptism, in a Polish neighborhood in Utica. My father grew up there; it’s where he attended mass as a child. Then, of course, the only way one could hear mass and understand it was by speaking Polish or Latin, and perhaps this was the root of my father’s disinterest in the Church. St. Mark’s is a cathedral in those early memories of mine, with high, vaulted ceilings and gilded pulpits, marble altars and ancient, time-softened pews. The light was always golden. The few memories I have of that place lead me to believe that it was there that I felt the holiest, there that the Holy Ghost lit on my head, and there that I last held any unmarred faith in the power of the Church to unfailingly produce purity and light.

In later years, I was sent to classes meant to teach me the faith. We learned all the requisite prayers: the Act of Contrition, the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Apostolic Creed. They came to us through textbooks designed to look like the sort of thing we encountered in school, with chapters relating a biblical story and questions at the end meant to review and apply the reading to some hypothetical situation we might encounter. It was a brilliant method of teaching religious doctrine, especially for a by-the-book faith like the Catholic Church. Make the sacred look like a fact, just like math class. It infuriated me, not for the reasons it does now, but because I was always bored witless. The prayers I knew by heart from years of attendance at mass, and by the third grade I had read nearly all of the New Testament during mass out of the same boredom that plagued me in those classes. So began my fall from grace. When I was twelve and confirmation was fast approaching, tension began to mount. I had come to despise the early Sunday mornings spent shivering in that cold church, and I held the classes in equal contempt. I began to protest fiercely against my confirmation. I told my mother I wanted nothing to do with it; she told me I had no choice. I asked questions in class that weren’t supposed to be asked, and I’m sure word got around the parish rather quickly that Mary Jo’s son was a troublemaker. Finally, I simply refused to be confirmed. If my mother wanted to see me made an adult in the eyes of the Church, she could go on wanting that forver; I made it known that I would be nothing more than a confirmed unbeliever.

My father played the peacemaker throughout the ordeal, and it was he who forged the fragile peace between my mother and me. It was agreed, days before the start of confirmation classes, that I would not be confirmed, but that I must attend every class, every function, and every trial run in preparation for confirmation. I had won, and I hated myself for it. I learned then a little of the joyless victory of war.

The aftermath is strange. In my fight to remain forever a child in the eyes of the Church, I spat on every holy thing I could. The excesses and absurdities of the Church were my stones; my free will, acknowledged even by the Church itself, was my sling. I picked the ground clean looking for missiles to continue the fight. I had wounded myself, too, though.

My sense of the sacred was founded in the Church, and in divorcing myself I burned the icons and left myself singed, lacking any spiritual identity. My poetry and artwork came to reflect the loss, and I came to regret a little of what I had refused. I could not extinguish my fascination with the sublime alchemy of passion and joy. A depiction of the Virgin could bring me almost to tears, and the Stations of the Cross held mysteries in which I knew I could never revel. Whenever I felt a pang of regret, I chided myself for my weakness and sentimentality. I encountered Joseph Campbell a few years later, and the pieces of my broken faith began to coalesce into something new. I came to believe that my attachment to the iconography of the Church was not an attachment to the Church itself, but to the archetypal matrix the Church provided. Thus it was that I came to make my peace with the Church, and set out anew, cutting my own path through what Robert Pirsig called the “high country of the mind”. I began to assemble a new spirituality, one that is not now and will never be complete, but whose image is sharper and more rich with each passing day. A mosaic. Birdsong is part of it, and so is the pattern formed by the cracks in the asphalt of the road that runs past my house. The Church is part of it as well, but no greater a part than the elegance and the beauty of the Portuguese man o’war. Each day,I look for a new piece. Some days I find one, and I pick it up, put it in my pocket, and keep it there until I know where it goes. Some days I don't. But every day, I look.

Disclaimer--I am no longer a Catholic. I am an Agnostic.

This w/u was originally a response to a troll named LogiKing; however, I shall make it a general response to misinformation about the Roman Catholic Church:

"It's all about the money when it comes to any organized religion these days."
Perhaps--but as they say, your radical ideas about religion... etc. In truth, religion cannot be simply made about money; now, the intersection of religion and capitalism may do so (see the P2 scandal), but overall, it is more about salvation.

"But we all know that Catholicism takes the cake.
You've obviously never dealt with an Evangelical Christian or televangelist.

"The Lord sacrificed his own life for you, the least you could do is sacrifice 2/3 of your weekly pay for him." Is this too much to ask? YES!... Hello, people do have bills. Even if we didn't have bills, why should we give money to an organization that is exempt from taxes anyway. Hey, if you people want to throw away your hard earned bucks on a Spiritual Bank Account go right ahead.
Catholics don't even tithe (give 10%), much less give 66% of their income. I don't know where you're getting this information from, but it is highly mistaken. Anyway, my parish always made their money through bingo and beef&beers.

Who the fuck is the pope?
Spiritual leader of the terrestrial and temporal Roman Catholic Faith. God's representative on earth, who is infallible only if speaking ex cathedra on matters of dogma--not doctrine. He is the bishop of Rome.

Why is he necessary?
That's what Martin Luther asked. That's what most people ask. Catholics deem him necessary as a leader, like the Dali Lama or an Archdruid.

Why is his translation of holy scripture any more valuable than ours?
His interpretation is taken as more valid because of his authority. He has yet to translate it. At any rate, it's a matter of tradition--reject it and be a Protestant. No big deal.

There is not even mention of a pope in the Bible.
Depends on whether you accept St. Peter as the first pope. If--as tradition and possibly history does--you do, then yes, the pope is mentioned.

The Roman Catholic Church is the largest branch of the Christian Church in the world, with over 1,000 million members, under the jurisdiction of the pope (the Bishop of Rome). In the early Church the Bishop of Rome, as the successor of St Peter, exercised a limited measure of authority over all Christians. With the East-West Schism of 1054 however, his authority was restricted to the Western Church. Despite this, the Church and papacy reached the zenith of their international power during the Middle Ages.

At the Reformation of the 16th century this authority was diminished by the secession of the Protestant Churches. It was at this time that the term Roman Catholic Church came to be used, initially by Protestants as a somewhat derogatory term to imply that the Roman Church was at most one branch of the Christian Church. But the term was also acceptable to many Roman Catholics, inasmuch as it asserted the primacy of the pope over Christians.

From the mid-16th century the Catholic Church responded to the challenge of Protestantism with the movement known as the Counter-Reformation, which brought various reforms and a tightening of Church discipline (Inquisition). Important developments included the founding (1533) of the Jesuit order, which took a leading role in missionary work, and the convoking of the Council of Trent (1545-63), which determined Catholic teaching, organization, and liturgy for the next 400 years.

During the 18th century the Church came under attack from the sceptical spirit of the Enlightenment and the anticlerical ideology of the French Revolution. Under Pius VII the papacy signed a concordat (1801) with Napoleon, restoring Catholicism in France, but Pius's refusal to support the Continental System against Britain led Napoleon to occupy Rome and the Vatican.

In the 19th century the Church and the papacy reacted defensively to the modern world, responding to challenges to their teaching and authority by stressing strict obedience and uniformity of belief. In Prussia, Bismarck's attempts to subordinate the Church to the state (Kulturkampf) failed because of the passive resistance of the clergy and the Catholic population. Following the reunification of Italy (1870) the pope's temporal powers were restricted to the Vatican. At the same time the First Vatican Council (1869-70) under Pius IX, declared the infallibility of the pope in matters of doctrine. Catholic missionaries continued to promulgate the faith beyond Europe, into Latin America, Asia and Africa.

During World War II Pope Pius XII, faithful to the Lateran Treaties with Italy, retained the strict neutrality of the Church. A second Vatican Council ('Vatican II', 1962-5) was summoned by John XXIII and reconvened by his successor Paul VI; it set out to modernize the Church's teaching, discipline, and organization. Contacts between the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Churches, and other faiths began to be established. In 1967 the Vatican issued a controversial encyclical that formalized the Church's opposition to artificial contraception. Under John Paul II (1978-), a Pole, the global mission of the papacy has been emphasized. John Paul's papacy has also been marked by his resistance to any change in the Church's teaching on contraception, abortion, divorce, homosexuality, and the celibacy of the priesthood. In 1984 the Church concluded with the Italian government a revision of the Lateran Treaties, formalizing the separation of the Church and state. By the year 2000 the majority of Roman Catholics will be living in Latin America, where 'liberation theology', the identification of the priesthood with the poor, became a source of controversy within the Church.

The Roman Catholic Church has an elaborately organized centralized hierarchy of bishops and priests, who must be celibate, under the pope, whose authority is based on the doctrine of the Petrine Succession (i.e., that the popes are the spiritual heirs to the power vested in St Peter by Jesus).

Owing to the paramount authority accorded to the pope, even rulings that are not technically infallible enjoy great authority. The Roman Catholic Church differs from Protestantism in the importance it attaches to tradition, in addition to the authority of the Bible. The importance of the seven sacraments and the celebration of the liturgy have developed as part of the traditions of the Church. The vast majority of worshippers follow the Roman rite, but there are five Eastern-rite groups which accept the authority of the pope. They are the Byzantine, Antiochene, Alexandrian, Chaldean, and Armenian rites, which encompass a number of different churches.

Veneration of the Virgin Mary and the saints is a further aspect of Roman Catholic traditionalism. The centralized authority of the Church has led to a high degree of elucidation of doctrine and belief, such as the different categories of sin and the qualities of purgatory, heaven, and hell.

Despite this traditionalism, the Church has recognized the need for reform and renewal; the liturgy, once universally held in Latin, is now held in the language spoken by the people. Monasticism remains important, but the importance of lay movements such as the South American 'base communities' is increasingly recognized. The Church participates in the ecumenical movement by sending observers to the World Council of Churches. In recent decades the Church has taken a more active role in world events, notably by its sustained opposition to communism in Eastern Europe and through the growth of movements such as liberation theology in the developing world.

The Exhaustive List of Catholic Related Nodes on E2

Catholicism is the oldest and largest single denomination of the Christian religion. It is based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, believed by Catholics to be the Son of God. While most Catholic dogma and tradition can be covered under a larger Christian setting, there are some aspects of it unique to itself.

First off, Catholicism is one of the few Christian denominations that claims to be Apostolic, or a direct descendent of the original Apostles. The Church has this claim to fame through Peter, the "leader" of the Apostles after Jesus's crucifixion and founder of the Catholic Church. As the original church created by the Apostles, it also is the oldest sect (there is some debate about this with the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Armenian Church, who also claim Apostolic descent through Peter, but I won't go detail about that).

The Catholic Church also has the most rigid hierarchy of all Christianity. Based in the Vatican, the Pope of the Catholic Church (the word is related to the Latin word for "father") has total and complete control over the religious teaching of the Church. He sets out policy for everyone from bishops to deacons, at least in theory. The Church's hierarchal tendencies also make it one of the most organized of all the Christian denominations and one of the most organized religions in general. Local areas of control, or dioceses, are headed by a bishop, a hand-picked Church official ordained by the Pope himself as the head of the Church in his area. The bishop manages hundreds of priests and other religious officials under him, from pastors (or heads of individual church "parishes") to deacons.

The Catholic Church is also unique in its veneration of saints, or people believed to have been especially holy during the course of their lives. While some other sects, notably the Eastern Orthodox Churches, venerate saints, they do not approach the degree of honor afforded them by their Catholic brethren. Catholics ask them to intercede on their behalf to God and celebrate various feast days in their honor, with St Patrick's Day and St. Joseph's Day serving as two prominent examples. Catholics especially revere Mary, the mother of Jesus, as Mother of the Church. She is also the patron saint of the United States.

Finally, the Catholic Church is also one of the denominations most focused on helping the poor, war-torn, and impoverished. The Church sends missionaries all over the world bringing aid to the poor and spreading the Gospel, or "Good News" of Jesus. In addition, the Church controls several relief organization such as Catholic Charities, the largest non-profit aid organization in the world. The Church, because of its tight-knit organization, is perhaps the most equipped out of all the churches to proselytize and minister to the needy.

Below are some important nodes found on E2 about Catholicism and important Catholic teachings, organization, discussion, etc. If you find any other nodes or you write one yourself, please /msg me so I can add it!

Catholic Hierarchy and Organization

Important Ecumenical Councils (in chronological order)

Catholic Music and Sacred Composers


The Pope

Important Events in Church History (arranged chronologically; note, all entries with a "*" are based on Church dogma and are not strictly historical)

Catholic Dogma, Beliefs, and Rituals

Amusing Miscellania

Church Feast-Days and Holy Days

(note: there are several saints' feast days for every calendar day of the year, I have just chosen the three that are most widely known and have the best food, e.g. svinge)

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