Home > apologetics, Catholic > Catholicism (and Christianity) in a Nutshell

Catholicism (and Christianity) in a Nutshell

crucifix“There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church, which is, of course, quite a different thing.”- Bishop Fulton Sheen


There are all kinds of ways to go about discussing Catholicism and what it is. Sometimes it’s easier to go by questions that a person has, but it can also be beneficial to lay some groundwork.

Here are some of the basic tenants…

Common to (virtually) all Christian faiths:

-God created us as free creatures with infinite dignity in His own image and likeness. He created us for our own sake out of love for us and a desire that we might love as well.

-Humanity fell from its original “likeness” with God through the conscious disobedience of our ancestors (Adam and Eve).

-God sent the law (commandments) and prophets in the Old Testament (>2000 years ago) to keep us on track and help us understand our purpose and when we were straying from it.

-Eventually, God sent His son, Jesus Christ, to teach us how to live through His life, and redeem and ransom our fallen humanity through His death and resurrection.

-He prefigured the gift of His life, death and resurrection at the last supper by offering bread and wine to His apostles saying, “this is my body…this is my blood… do this in memory of me.”

-The central belief of all Christian faiths is the belief that Jesus is the son of God made man, who died for our sins and rose from the dead.

-After Jesus ascended into Heaven, His apostles went out preaching the good news (gospel) of this truth to the world and appointing others to do the same. The major parts of this life and teaching along with that of the early church were written down and compiled into what we call the New Testament. These writings combined with those of the Jewish sacred scripture predating Jesus’ time on earth (Old Testament) are collectively known as the Bible and considered to be a divinely inspired and infallible guide and account of God’s love for us.

-If we live a life of faith and love for Christ and His teachings we will spend eternity with Him, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit.

-The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three distinct persons but one God eternally present in a union of love, known as the Trinity.


Specific to the Catholic faith:

-The apostles who preached the Gospel and spread the faith chose successors who continued the teaching and passed on that authority to future generations through the present day (now called bishops). This is called Apostolic Succession.

-Peter was designated by Jesus as the leader of the apostles and foundation of the church. When he transferred his apostolic authority, Peter also passed along that leadership role to one bishop along with the promise Jesus made that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church. This leader is known as the Pope.

-Although the Bible was inspired by God to give us infallible guidance, it does not contain all religious truth and aspects of the faith. Many were only passed down through word-of-mouth teaching and written down later. This is known as Sacred Tradition. God still speaks through the Pope, bishops and cardinals (Magisterium) as a reliable source of teaching on faith and morals.

-During the last supper, Jesus not only prefigured His life, death and resurrection; He also perpetuated it in making His body, blood, soul and divinity present in what looked and tasted like bread and wine. He gave the apostles the command and ability to perform that transubstantiation (which takes place at every Mass). This is known as the Eucharist.

-There are seven Sacraments (physical signs of divine realities instituted in the Gospel to strengthen us on our journey toward God). The Eucharist is one of them. The other six are Baptism, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick.

– Each one could be discussed for hours.

We Love Mary (Jesus’ mom):

  • We believe that she was conceived without sin (a preemptive act of grace through the merits of Jesus’ death and resurrection) in order to be able to fully open herself to God physically dwelling in her.
  •  Although the Bible clearly states and all Christians recognize that Mary was a virgin when she conceived and gave birth to Jesus, Catholics believe that she maintained her virginity throughout her life.
  • We believe that she was raised body and soul into Heaven at the end of her life.
  • We honor her as our spiritual mother, citing the fact that Jesus gave her to us on the cross when He told John to “behold your mother.”
  • We do NOT worship her.

-We believe that there are souls in Heaven and that those souls can offer intercessory prayers for us just like we can pray for each other on earth. This is called the Communion of Saints – not even death can separate the body of Christ.

-Purgatory is a temporary stop after death for some souls who have died with love of God in their hearts but are still marked with some aspect of sin. It is a cleansing in which all sinful desires, inclinations and previous actions which have been paid for and redeemed by the blood of Christ are fully removed from the soul in order to prepare it for an eternity with God.


There are many other beliefs specific to the Catholic Church about Mary, how we will be judged, how we are to live holy lives, and the link we have with those who have gone before us, but the ones I discussed earlier are the deeper theological differences. Feel free to ask or comment about any of these or other questions you may have.




“The problem is not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, but rather that it’s been found difficult and never tried.” ~ G.K. Chesterton

“The glory of God is man fully alive.” ~ Saint Irenaeus

  1. spookchristian
    April 9, 2014 at 5:41 AM

    Who are you trying to con / kid Mister…??
    christians know what catholicsim is reallly all aabout…it is certainly not a christian organisation..
    it’s more like a pagan paedophile club.

    • April 12, 2014 at 5:36 AM

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Spook. I’m not trying to kid anyone. Do you disagree with any of the first “common” claims I make about Christianity? The Catholic Church agrees with all of them. What is it that you consider the mark of Christianity? If you are looking for a group of people who are perfect, sinless and qualified to cast stones, then Catholicism isn’t it (and neither were the Christians that we read about in Acts). If, however you are looking for an organization which is centered on Christ and, despite individual failures, continues as an organization to strive to follow his teachings, then Catholicism is the only named Christian organization around that has any claim to existence before around 1000 A.D. If you don’t consider Catholics to be Christian, then I’m curious if you think anyone was Christian in, say, 800 A.D. And where did they get the bible that they used?

      P.S. I’m not going to approve comments that include links to inflammatory and/ or long winded videos or comments to the discussion. Please write any comments that you have to this post directly here. Thanks

  2. May 1, 2015 at 10:17 PM

    You wrongly stated, “He (God) created us for our own sake out of love for us and a desire that we might love as well.” But the Catholic Church teaches “not for our own sake” but that God created us that we may come to know him, love him and serve him; and to be with him forever in Heaven.

    • May 2, 2015 at 6:24 AM

      Thanks for pointing that out. You are absolutely right about the mission of man being not for himself but for knowing, loving and serving God. I am referring to the fact that God made all of creation for our sake. He made us simply because he loved us and wants us to love Him. The dignity of human beings demand that we see each other as an end and not merely a means. We are creatures, but are not merely animals.
      Gaudium Et Spes points this out in reference to the fact that we are made in God’s likeness, “This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.”

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