What sets Catholics apart

By Vicki Hyatt | Apr 17, 2017

Conflicts within congregations are as old as churches themselves, crossing all denominations, including the oldest church on record, the Catholic Church.

Catholics are taught their church is the one founded by Jesus Christ, a belief traced to Matthew 16:18 where Christ tells Simon Peter “upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” The Catholic popes through the centuries are considered to be successors Simon Peter.

Those belonging to the church currently led by Pope Francis have beliefs that set them apart from other Christian religions, denominations that started hundreds of years after the Catholic, which was the single Christian church until it split in the 11th century, with the Eastern Orthodox Church breaking away in allegiance to the pope.

It wasn’t until 500 years later that Martin Luther started the Lutheran church, and since that time, more than 30,000 Christian religions have been started.

David Hains, who is in charge of communications for the Charlotte diocese overseeing Catholic churches in Western North Carolina, explained several of the main tenets that set the church apart from other Christian religions.

1.  The Eucharist

Many faiths offer a communion service with bread and wine using the words and actions of Jesus at the Last Supper. Catholics differ in their belief that when a priest follows the scripture text, the elements are actually transformed into a new substance, the body, blood, soul and divinity of of Jesus Christ.

“When he said  ‘do this said in memory of me,’ he didn’t say ‘have some bread and wine and think of me,’” Hains said. “It was change this into my body and blood and consume it.”

For Catholics, the Holy Eucharist, which is part of every Catholic Mass, is the most holy part of the service and so powerful that it overshadows everything else.


2. Reverence for Mary

Many often refer to Catholics as “Mary worshippers,” something Hains said is just not true.

“Mary is a unique person in human history who said yes when God said he’d like to make her the mother of of his son,” Hains said. “She became pregnant without sexual contact, and God lived inside of her alone for nine months. The role she played throughout his life, at the wedding feast, at the foot of cross, it was even more significant than the apostles. She was with him from the day he was conceived. Because of that, she is revered. We ask her to intercede for us much like we pray to St. Anthony after something is lost or St. Christopher, who is the patron saint of travel.”


3. Purgatory

Catholics believe in purgatory, a place between heaven and hell where souls are purified before entering heaven. While souls are believed to be judged immediately upon death, there are those not sufficiently holy to enter heaven, but not so sinful to spend an eternity in hell. After a period of purification, where the living can pray for the dead, these souls able to enter heaven.

Some of the scriptures referring to purgatory are in the original Catholic bible but were omitted in later versions used by other Christian denominations. Other references about praying for the dead or chasms that are fixed between earth and the thereafter.

“The Jewish faith references to praying for the dead and the dead going someplace in between heaven and earth,” Haines said, discussing passages Catholics interpret the same way.

After a church modernization effort in the 1960s known as the Vatican II Council emphasized, among other things, a more open dialogue with other Christian religions, some priests veered away from purgatory references in sermons.