Unlike some other Christian faiths, Catholics can approach the concept of evolution from a scientific standpoint. For example, Catholics can believe in evolution as a scientific hypothesis which "seeks to determine the historical succession of the various species of plants and of animals on our earth... [and, which] does not consider the present species of plants and of animals as forms directly created by God." (Knight). However, this scientific theory does not concern itself with determining the origin of life, and leaves room for people to believe that life originated with a supreme being. Therefore, the scientific theory of evolution is not incompatible with Catholicism, with regards to plants and non-human animal life. However, Catholics believe in the creation of man by God, and do not believe that man could have evolved from brute animals, because, unlike other animals, humans have souls. (Knight).
Catholicism, like many of the major world religions, should be a lived religion. According to Catholics, their religion is integral to the purpose of life: "Catholics believe that the purpose of life is to have life and have it more abundantly. For this reason we follow to love God with all your heart, mind and soul and your neighbour as yourself." (the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane). A central reason for existence is to "learn to love ourselves and others as God loves us...In this way, we are gradually transformed into persons who can live and love like God does, becoming ready to live and love with God forever, which brings about an internal change and a conscious relationship with God." (the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane).
Who is Catholic?
Catholicism is a very widespread religion. In fact, the Catholic Church is the world's largest religious body. (Adherents.com).
Many nations are composed almost entirely of Catholics. These nations include Vatican City, Ireland, Luxembourg, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, Italy, France, Spain, Poland, Columbia, and Argentina. (Adherents.com). The United States, which many think of as a protestant country, is over one-quarter Catholic. (Adherents.com). Because the Catholic Church is so vast, it is impossible to give a profile of the average Catholic. In the United States, devout Catholics run the gamut from recent impoverished Hispanic immigrants along the Mexican-American border to the powerful and wealthy Kennedy family. Those differences are reflected worldwide, especially in countries with high Catholic concentrations. However, Catholics do share some common characteristics. For example, they appear more likely to drink alcohol and less likely to divorce or commit suicide than non-Catholics. (Adherents.com).
The Practice of Catholicism
Catholicism is also a very structured, ritualistic religion. For example, while most Protestant faiths observe two sacraments, baptism and communion, Catholics view many other rituals as religious sacraments. For Catholics, "sacraments are ceremonies that point to what is sacred, significant and important for Christians." (Martos). The seven Catholic sacraments are Baptism, confirmation, Holy Communion (the Eucharist), confession (penance or reconciliation), marriage, holy orders, and the anointing of the sick (extreme unction or last rites). Catholics do not view these rituals as meaningless or as holdovers from another time. On the contrary, Catholics view them as "celebrations of Christian tradition, of Christian life and of Christian hope. They share the dimensions of past, present and future that give ordinary celebrations meaning." (Martos).
Likewise, Catholics is a very gendered religion. The priesthood is composed entirely of men, and, because all of the upper leadership in the church derives from the priesthood, all significant leaders are male. All of these males are required to be abstinent and cannot marry. Women can take a religious role in the church by becoming nuns, but even high-ranking nuns cannot attain the same type of leadership positions as male clergy. Moreover, Catholics do not seem to feel that this exclusionary attitude is sexist or is likely to change. They believe that Christ's choice of only male priests was intentional, especially since many religions of his time had female priestesses and he had many appropriate female candidates. "From those twelve men a direct line of apostolic succession has given the Catholic Church the bishops and...
Though Catholics might acknowledge that Jesus lived in relatively unenlightened times when looking at the view of gender relationships, they stress that his time of living on earth was an intentional act; therefore, any trappings he took from that time were intentional. Moreover, they stress the allegory of the Church as the bride of Christ to further explain the nature of an abstinent-male-only church.
In prior times, Catholics relied heavily on pilgrimages to celebrate their religious status. The Canterbury Tales describes such a pilgrimage, and pilgrimages were frequent throughout the times of the Crusades. However, pilgrimages have become less important in the modern Catholic Church.
Though many modern Catholics continue to travel to the Holy Land and consider Jerusalem and its surrounding areas to be as holy and sacred as it is considered by fellow Christians, Jews, and Muslims, visiting the Holy Land is not a requirement for Catholics. However, that is not to suggest that Catholics do not continue to engage in pilgrimages. Catholics visit places were modern-day miracles are said to occur, because those places represent the saints interacting with the Earth.
Finally, unlike many other Christian denominations, Catholics do not rely solely on the Bible as their source of information from God. On the contrary, Catholics have developed extensive writings outside of the Bible to guide their life and choices, and many of these writings, such as the above-mentioned Athanasian Creed have taken on a ritualistic importance which frequently surpasses the ritualistic importance of most Biblical passages. In addition, the choice of which books to include in the modern Catholic Bible has been shaped by political and social choices, so that anti-Semitism and misogyny guided those initial choices, which helped shape official church policy. In addition to the Bible, the Church is guided by canon law, which is an entire legal system developed by the church. Moreover, the Church is guided by extra-biblical writings that have been written by Popes, because those Popes are presumed to be infallible and to have a direct connection to God. This may be the most fascinating aspect of Catholicism because some of those writings have caused tremendous embarrassment to the modern Catholic Church; for example, prior Popes have written very anti-semitic writings and have been responsible for atrocities like the Inquisition. While modern Popes have apologized for these results, the Church has not changed its doctrine of Papal infallibility.
The Church observes many of the same holidays as other Christian denominations. These holidays include the Octave of Christmas, the Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, Easter Sunday, Ascension Day, Pentecost, Holy Trinity, Body and Blood of Christ, Sacred Heart of Jesus, Assumption of Mary, All Saints Day, Christ the King, the First Sunday of Advent, the Immaculate Conception, and Christmas. The most important Catholic holiday is Easter Sunday, followed by Ascension Day, and then by Christmas. However, like many other Christians, Catholics may place more celebratory importance on Christmas. In addition to holidays, the Catholic Church recognizes other important days, such as Day of Penance, World Day for Consecrated Life, World Day of the Sick, World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Feast Day, Respect Life Sunday, Vocation Awareness Sunday, and World Mission Sunday.
Sharing the Gospel with a Catholic
Because Catholics already share a belief that Jesus Christ was the savior, it would appear that teaching the Gospel to them would be relatively simple. However, because they believe that they already know the Gospel, they may actually be less willing recipients than people who are first being introduced to the idea of Jesus Christ as a savior. On the contrary, Catholics feel that they already have an intimate and established relationship with Jesus, and that their relationship with him is actually superior to the relationship established by people of other faiths, because they come to the relationship through the true church established by Christ. Therefore, bringing the Gospel to Catholics requires more than simply teaching about Christ, his good works, and salvation.
Instead, bringing the Gospel to Catholics may require some extensive theological studies, so that one can argue about the true facts behind Christianity and the deception practiced by the Catholic Church. For example, one of the main tenets of Catholicism is that only celibate men can be members of the priesthood, based on the idea that Jesus only chose men as his Apostles. However, there is substantial scriptural and historical support for the idea that Mary, Mother of God, and Mary Magdalene were among Christ's first Apostles. Mary, Mother of God, certainly played an important role in the beginning days of Christ's church. Moreover, the Catholic Church has spent the last 2,000 years decrying the importance of Biblical writings that stress the equality of women, despite the fact that historical and Biblical experts place these books as part of the Bible.
Likewise, the Catholic belief that the Roman Catholic Church is the true church is based…
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