Catholics are often asked tough questions about our Catholic
faith and its relationship to the Bible. Here are the ten most-asked-
questions and the answers that should help you satisfy both your
questioner and yourself.
1 Are your beliefs found in the Bible?
All Catholic beliefs can be found in the Bible in some form, whether
plainly or by an indirect indication. It is not necessary for
everything to be absolutely clear in Scripture alone, because that is
not a teaching of Scripture itself. Scripture also points to an
authoritative Church and Tradition, as St. Paul says in his Second
Letter to the Thessalonians: “Stand firm and hold to the traditions
which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by
letter” (2 Thess 2:15 – see also 1 Cor 11:2, 2 Thess 3:6; 2 Tim
(1:13-14; 2:2). When the first Christians had a significant
disagreement, they didn’t simply open their Bibles (which didn’t
even exist at that point) to decide who was right; they held a
council, which made binding decrees (Acts 15:1-29). The very
books of the Bible had to be determined by the Church and that
didn’t happen until the late fourth century. Therefore, Sacred
Tradition and authority were necessary for us to even have a Bible
2 Why do you obey the Pope?
Catholics believe that Jesus commissioned St. Peter as the first
leader of the Church. Matthew’s Gospel has the most direct biblical
indication of the papacy: “And I tell you, you are Peter (meaning
literally “Rock”) and on this rock I will build my church … I will give
you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 16:18-19). Based on
this statement of Jesus himself, Peter is clearly portrayed in the
New Testament as the leader of the disciples. A pope can make
infallible, binding pronouncements under certain conditions.
Infallibility doesn’t mean that absolutely everything a pope says is
free from error. All Christians believe that God protected Holy
Scripture from error by means of inspiration, even though sinful,
fallible men wrote it. We Catholics also believe that God the Holy
Spirit protects His Church and its head from error (Jn 14:16) by
means of infallibility, even though sinful, imperfect men are
involved in it.
3 . Why do you call your priest “Father”?
“And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father,
who is in heaven” (Mt 23:9). In this passage, Jesus is teaching
that God the Father alone is ultimately the source of all authority.
But He is not speaking absolutely, because if so, that would
eliminate even biological fathers, the title “Church Fathers”, the
founding fathers of a country or organization and so on. Jesus
himself uses the term “father” in Matthew (15:4-5; 19:5, 19, 29;
21:31), John (8:56) and several other places. In the parable of the
Rich Man and Lazarus, Jesus actually presents Lazarus as using
the address “Father Abraham” twice (Lk 16:24, 30 – see also Acts
7:2; Rom 4:12; Jas 2:21). St. Paul also uses the term when he
writes, “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel (1
Cor 4:15 – see also 1 Cor 4:14-16) and refers to “our forefather
Isaac” (Rom 9:10).
4 . Why do you pray for the dead?
The Bible clearly teaches the rightness of prayers for the dead in 2
Maccabees (12:40, 42, 44-45): “Then under the tunic of every one
of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which
the law forbids Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this
was why these men had fallen … And they turned to prayer,
beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly
blotted out … For if he were not expecting that those who had
fallen would rise againn, it would have been superfluous and
foolish to pray for the dead …He made atonement for the dead,
that they might be delivered from their sin.” St. Paul teaches this in
a similar way: “Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized
on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are
people baptized on their behalf?” (1 Cor 15:29). This indicates
prayer and fasting for the dead. The word baptism often
symbolically refers to penances (Mk 10:38-39; Lk 3:16, 12:50). The
apostle Paul also appears to be praying for a dead person,
Onesiphorus, in 2 Timothy (1:16-18).
5 Why do you pray to idols (statues)?
No Catholic who knows anything about the Catholic faith has ever
worshiped a statue (as in pagan idolatry). If we cherish the
memory of mere political heroes with statues and that of war
heroes with monuments, then there can be no objection to
honoring saints and righteous men and women: “Honor all men.
Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Pet 2:17 –
see also Rom 12:10; Heb 12:22-23). Statues are simply a visual
reminder of great saints and heroes of the faith (Heb 11), who are
more alive than we are (2 Cor 3:18), as is evident by their praying:
“O Sovereign Lord … how long before thou wilt judge and avenge
our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?” (Rev 6:10 – see
also Ps 35:17). The saints in heaven were never intended by God
to be cut off from the Body of Christ on earth. They are involved in
intercession, just as the saints on earth are and they are described
as “so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1).
6 Why do you confess your sins to a priest?
Jesus Christ gave His disciples – and by extension, priests – the
power not only to “loose” sins (that is, forgive in God’s name), but
also to “bind” (that is, impose penances): “Whatever you bind on
earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth
shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 18:18 – see also Mt 16:19). “If you
forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of
any, they are retained” (Jn 20:23). The priest serves as the
representative of God and of His mercy. Confession gives new
courage, confidence and a fresh start. One learns humility by this
practice, receives additional grace in order to avoid sin and attains
a certainty of forgiveness that is superior to mere feelings.
Confession is also indicated in Matthew (3:5-6), Acts (19:18) and 1
7 . Why do you worship Mary?
Catholics do not worship Mary. We venerate her because she is
the mother of God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Veneration is
completely different from the adoration of God. It is the honoring
of a person, not the worship of Almighty God, our Creator.
Catholics believe that Mary is the highest of God’s creatures
because of her exalted role. But of course, like any other human
being, she had to be saved by the mercy of God. She herself said,
“My spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Lk 1:47). We believe that
God saved her by taking away all stain of original sin at the
moment of her conception (the Immaculate Conception). The very
fact that God took on flesh and became man (Jn 1:1, 14) indicates
that he wished to involve human beings in His plan of salvation for
mankind. Mary was a key person for this purpose, so this is why
Catholics honor her so highly.
8 Why do you worship wafers?
A consecrated host or wafer at a Catholic Mass is the true Body
and Blood of Christ, not merely bread; so Catholics are worshiping
Jesus, not a wafer. In the Gospel of John (6:51-56), Jesus states
repeatedly that “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has
eternal life” (6:54). He is speaking literally and He is so firm that
many followers object and leave Him (6:52, 60, 66). St. Paul
agrees with this interpretation and writes that those taking
Communion “in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the
body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27 – see also 1 Cor 10:16).
We don’t sin against someone’s “body and blood” by destroying a
photograph (which is a mere symbol) of the person. Moreover, in
the Last Supper passages (Mt 26:26-28; Mk 14:22-24; Lk
22:19-20), nothing suggests a metaphorical or symbolic
interpretation. The Last Supper was the Jewish feast of Passover.
This involved a sacrificial lamb and Jesus referred to His imminent
suffering (Lk 22:15-16, 18, 21-22). John the Baptist had already
called Him the “Lamb of God” (Jn 1:29).
9 If you died tonight, would you go to heaven?
Catholics have an assurance of salvation if they are faithful and
keep God’s commandments (1 Jn 2:3). If they die in that state,
they are assured of heaven. But to enter heaven, one must be
perfectly holy, because “nothing unclean shall enter it” (Rev 21:27
– see also Is 4:4; Mal 3:2-4). The cleansing and purifying of any
remaining sin, which makes us fit for God’s holy presence, is what
Catholics call purgatory. This is clearly indicated in St. Paul’s
writings: “Each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will
disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire and the fire will test
what sort of work each one has done … If any man’s work is
burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but
only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:13, 15). “For we must all appear
before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive
good or evil, according to what he has done in the body” (2 Cor
10 Are you saved?
Catholics can be sure as anyone else that they are in God’s good
graces. The apostle John states that “you may know that you have
eternal life” (1 Jn 5:13 – see also Jn 5:24). But this “assurance”
has to be understood in light of John’s other teachings in the same
book: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his
commandments” (1 Jn 5:3 – see also 1 Jn 2:3-6). “We know that
any one born of God does not sin” (1 Jn 5:18). “He who loves God
should love his brother also” (1 Jn 4:21). “He who commits sin is
of the devil” (1 Jn 5:18 – see also 1 Cor 6:9). Likewise, St. Paul
does not regard salvation as a one-time event, but as a goal to be
sought after, one that can be lost: “Work out your own salvation
with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12 – see also 1 Cor 9:27, 10:12;
Gal 5:1, 4; Phil 3:11-14; 1 Tim 4:1, 5:1
Please, in the name of Jesus Mary and Joseph.
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So that many people will understand & join the Catholic faith.
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