Roman Catholicism: The Basics

Roman Catholicism: The Basics

Roman Catholicism: The Basics

Roman Catholicism: The Basics


From the basic ideas and terms, to its structures and practices, this book offers a plain-speaking introduction to Roman Catholicism. It covers:

  • Roman Catholic beliefs and traditions
  • practices and devotional life rituals, prayer, mass
  • Church structures and authorities from Vatican to parish church
  • Church hierarchies and people from bishops to the laity
  • the role of the Church in society.

With a glossary, further reading sections and an appendix on the history of the Papacy, this is the perfect guide for anyone wanting to understand more about Roman Catholicism.


A book with the title Roman Catholicism: The Basics might quite properly be expected to begin with a chapter on what Catholics believe. And in a sense it is an easy question to answer. What Catholics believe is summed up in a series of short, formal statements called ‘creeds’ (from the Latin credere meaning ‘to believe’). There are a number of these creeds, mainly dating from the earliest centuries of Christianity when they were used as statements of faith for people being initiated into the religion. The best-known creed, the Nicene creed, comes from the fourth century and takes its name from a gathering of bishops of the Church which took place in AD 325 at Nicaea, the modern Iznik in Turkey. The formulation that is now in use (see box) is a development of the AD 325 version, and is accepted by most, if not all, Christian Churches—though one important group object to the phrase ‘and from the Son’, not because they do not believe it so much as because it was added to the Nicene creed much later.

While it is true that this is the statement of faith which Catholics and others recite when they go to church on Sundays, there are a great many problems with it as a guide to Christianity. First of all, it is very difficult to understand. A good deal of it reflects rather arcane debates in the fourth century which very few people nowadays know anything at all about. Second, it certainly does not cover everything that Catholics or other Christians believe —as we shall see in the rest of this book. And third, because most Christians accept it, it does not really serve to distinguish Roman Catholics from other Christian groups.

None the less it states some things about Christianity which anyone coming to the study of Christianity needs to know about the faith before they begin more detailed examination of Roman Catholicism.

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