Questions Frequently Asked by Non-Catholic Christians
I’m not Catholic, but I am a Christian, so why should I care about the Catholic Church?
First of all, it’s great that you’re a Christian! The Catholic Church is the world’s oldest, largest, and most diverse community of Christian believers and we care about YOU, and seek to learn from YOU. Just as you probably do, we believe that having a personal relationship with God is undoubtedly one of the most important elements of being a Christian. We also understand that Jesus wanted his followers to form one blessed community, or church. That is why today the Catholic Church leads the global effort of ecumenism—or attempting to reunite all Christians and all people of God everywhere. We do not ignore our important doctrinal differences with other religions, yet we always recognize the “real, though imperfect union” all Christians share.
What are some things I should look for when deciding on a Church to attend?
Jesus teaches us to judge a tree by its fruit, so there are many obvious things to look for when deciding on a church. Most Christians seek a church that is very active, because we know that Christ commands us to share His good news (Mt 28:19, Mk 16:15). They also want a Church that honors the Bible and teaches Holy Scripture at every service. Others choose based on the kindness of people at a Church, and whether or not the people there live lives of love. Others want a church that focuses on the family, or provides a great singles ministry to help people find friends with Christian values. Still others seek a Church that really reaches out into the world with charity. These are all excellent reasons for deciding on a church, and every Catholic Church in the world provides these things.
But we should also look at the core of the fruit before deciding to eat it. It is in this deeper investigation that we find that the Catholic Church was established by Jesus Christ, Himself . . . certainly one of the best reasons for becoming a Catholic.
Does the Catholic Church teach the Bible?
Yes! Biblical readings are a central part of every Catholic Mass (Sunday service). Our love for the Word of God is also expressed in the fact that the Bible is carried high during our Eucharist. And after a passage of the Bible is read every Catholic proclaims, “Thanks be to God!”
The Catholic Church also has a most distinguished history in its relationship with the Bible. In addition to establishing the New Testament at the Council of Hippo in 393 AD, Catholics defended the scriptures, to the death at times, against persecutions by certain Roman Emperors, and against the barbarians who conquered the Roman Empire in the fifth century. Catholics used the Bible to convert these same barbarian tribes over the next few centuries. In the Middle Ages thousands of Catholic Monks spent their entire lives copying Bibles by hand. Furthermore, Gutenberg, the inventor of the first printing press in about 1450 AD, was a Catholic. Thus, the first book ever printed with a machine was a Bible, in the Catholic Latin Vulgate translation, in about 1453—long before the Reformation! By the time of Luther’s split in 1517, the Catholic Church had sponsored well over 124 printed editions, with many translations in German, Italian, French, Bohemian, Flemish, and Russian. No wonder St. Augustine (354-430 AD)—a man all Christians venerate—once declared, “I would not believe in the Gospels were it not for the authority of the Catholic Church.”
What if I don’t believe in institutional religion?
If by “institutional” you mean a dry, dusty, impersonal organization, governed by a far removed hierarchy and arbitrarily defined rules, we don’t believe in it either! Catholics don’t—or, at least, shouldn’t—go to Mass every week simply to fulfill an obligation. We go because it is a CELEBRATION of the risen Christ. Also, in Hebrews 10:25 Paul implores the faithful “not to stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some.”
How do we know Jesus Christ established the Catholic Church?
The New Testament shows that Christ established one church with a distinct identity, organization, belief, and practice. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus declares, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” In 1 Timothy 3:15 St. Paul explains that “the church of the living God . . . is the pillar and foundation of truth.” This church Christ established is obviously not just some abstract idea. And Matthew 18:17 makes no sense at all if Christ did not plan to establish an identifiable, institutional church. It reads, “If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” And when Paul was writing his many Epistles he was writing to the church in places like Corinth (hence Corinthians) in Greece, instructing it on matters of organization and practice. The Catholic Church is the only Church that has survived with continuity since apostolic times.
What if I believe in being a non-denominational Christian?
If this means you love and respect people of all faiths, the Catholic Church certainly agrees with you and works everyday to these ends! In that sense being Catholic means being inter-denominational. In fact, the word Catholic means “universal” in Greek, the language of early Christians.
At the same time, we must recognize that there really is no such thing as a non-denominational faith. Everybody draws his or her line somewhere. Does a non-Catholic look to the Pope for leadership? Do Christians bow down before the image of Buddha? Obviously not! So everyone has institutional lines of practice and belief. That is why Catholics cling to the Catholic Church and why we invite you to be a part of this community.
But some people don’t like what certain Catholics, past or present, do . . .
We don’t like everything every “Catholic” has ever done, either—but we still love them and every person who lives and has ever lived. We are a forgiving family, while setting high standards for each other and holding each other (bishops and pastors included) to accountability. We acknowledge our sinful ways—and the sinfulness of all of humanity—and strive to do better in the future, through Christ. It’s unfortunate that many people have called themselves “Catholic” when they never really understood their faith nor embraced its expectations in their lives.
When thinking of the Church it helps to vision Christ, Himself. The Church is all God and all human at once. The Holy Spirit works in the Church so that its teachings on faith and morals is infallible – for example, the Catholic Church will never waver from proclaiming that Jesus is Lord or that God calls us to live virtuous lives. But imperfect people also make up the Church, too, so that while the doctrine is pure, our own conduct is not always so. We all remember Judas. There were eleven others. Can we name each one of them? Its easier to ignore sin in our own lives than it is in someone else’s. For this reason, we are called to hold ourselves accountable to God and each other recognizing Christ’s gift of mercy, forgiveness and healing.
How can I become Catholic or learn more about the Catholic faith?
Simply call or visit your local Catholic Church and start attending the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) classes. It’s a powerful, life-changing experience which is 100% free, non-obligation, confidential, and rewarding. If you are part of the local Oceanside area, call St. Margaret Parish (760) 941-5560 and ask us about it. Or simply drop in. Introduce yourself to the pastor on Sunday after Mass. Even if there are regular parishioners talking with him, he knows how important your enquiry is. You can be assured, he has more interested in helping you in your journey of faith than making sure everyone has enough coffee and doughnuts!